The Blue Jackets began the 2019-20 season with a lot to prove, but what they wound up proving wasn’t what they’d envisioned.
It wasn’t that the Jackets stayed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, holding the second wild card before the NHL froze the season for coronavirus concerns. Rather, it was how they did it that was stunning.
Using lineups consisting of NHL veterans, unproven rookies and call-ups from the American Hockey League, the Jackets overcame a slew of injuries that took out almost half of their usual lineup.
In fact, Columbus did it for two-plus months, going 19-2-5 in a 26-game stretch that saved the season and then gaining points in the middle of a 2-6-6 tailspin leading into a break in the season that may not restart.
The Jackets leaned on the “other guys” in the organizational depth chart — and they delivered in ways nobody expected. Not even the head coach.
“It’s been a great learning experience for me to see what a team can do playing as a team versus free agents and star players and attitudes and entitlement and all that (stuff) that comes with it,” coach John Tortorella said before a Feb. 18 game in Philadelphia.
“We are who we are and I think our guys have really understood that. I give them a lot of credit.”
Tortorella should, because his shifting group banded to keep alive a season that easily could have derailed…