EDMONTON — The Columbus Blue Jackets were on the right track.
Having qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, they were expected to take another step forward this year.
Instead, the club is struggling and currently mired in an ugly losing skid that will most likely cost them any hope of a post-season berth this year.
“We believe we have really good young players,” said Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. “We’ve had some injuries. Derek Brassard, for example, has been hurt since December of last year with a shoulder surgery. He’s had tough first half of the year, but he’s going to be a really good player in the league.
“So you have to stick with these people. When these guys become good players we’ll become a good team and that’s the reality. We just have to keep adding little pieces.”
The Blue Jackets are built around superstar Rick Nash, who by regular standards is having a strong season, but may not be putting up the type of numbers he’s used to. Heading into last night’s game Nash had 19 goals and 20 assists in 44 games.
However, it’s in goal where the problems are most noticeable.
Steve Mason, who had such an outstanding rookie season, is struggling this year with a 3.31 goals against average and .890 save percentage.
As he struggles, so do the Blue Jackets.
“He’s going to be a good goalie, and will be for a long time, we believe that,” Howson said. “Nobody should be shocked he took a step back.
“Everything came so easy for him last year, but he had a knee surgery this summer, then came to camp and had another knee surgery. It came easy for him last year and all know how tough the league is. He’ll battle through this.”