With 50 wins for the first time in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets put the league on notice in 2016-17.
Finishing the season with the fourth-best record in the NHL, the Jackets established themselves as one of the game’s top contenders, only to come up short in a tough first-round playoff assignment against the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite that strong showing, Blue Jackets defender Seth Jones isn’t ready to crown his club as one of the game’s legitimate best just yet.
“I think we need to earn more respect in this league and one year and a playoff appearance doesn’t do that,” Jones told BlueJackets.com’s Sydney McNulty on Wednesday. “I think we caught a lot of teams off guard, and I don’t think we are going to catch as many teams off guard this season, so we have to be even better and on top of our game for sure.”
That stellar one-year showing might not have earned Columbus the respect Jones covets, but the 22-year-old did acknowledge the impact his club’s playoff run had on the younger Blue Jackets.
“We hated how it happened last year in the first round. We thought we played good enough to make that season a little longer,” Jones said. “But I think it’s very good for our young guys. A lot of rookies last year and a lot of guys that played one year in the league didn’t know what it was like.
“It’s just a different atmosphere, different feeling. It’s going to help us for the future, the more and more appearances in the playoffs and consecutive appearances, which is obviously what we hope to do.”
Columbus should have a fair shot at repeating as one of the league’s top clubs in 2017-18, especially with newly acquired Artemi Panarin in the mix.
The former Chicago Blackhawk compiled 61 goals and 151 points in 162 games for the Windy City, and figures to be a central figure in the Blue Jackets’ offensive efforts next season.
Jones will undoubtedly play a key role in that regard as well. Suiting up for his fourth career campaign in 2016-17, he tallied a career-best 42 points in 75 games for Columbus, while leading all Blue Jackets skaters in average ice-time.