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December 8, 2016 | 2:02pm ET
Blue Jackets riding the wave
Columbus is clicking, and that shouldn't come as a shock.

TORONTO, ON -- If you've been casually checking out the standings, you probably skipped over the Columbus Blue Jackets. You know, that team that some people are talking about. They're doing OK. But so far haven't generated too many big headlines, so whatever.

Well, it's time to start paying more attention.

The Blue Jackets are one point behind the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand, and they're doing it by committee.

Forwards Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad, Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell have all contributed nicely for the Blue Jackets in their first 24 games of the season.

Foligno and Gagner -- yes, Gagner -- lead the team with 10 goals each.

Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski is already having a Calder-like season, playing both ends of the ice, and having notched six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, so far.

The team boasts a league-best powerplay rating (24.6%), sit third in the NHL in goals-for per game (3.17), third in goals-against per game (2.17), and eighth in shots per game (31).

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Head coach John Tortorella credits a lot of the team's success this season with staying out of the box. As impressive as their offensive game has been, mixed in with the outstanding play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Torts believes having a more disciplined team -- and a healthy one -- has paid significant divides.

"It has been a real change for our team, our discipline, not sitting in the box," Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch this week. "That's been a huge improvement from last year as far as how many offensive-zone penalties we took. We were sloppy. That's concentration on the night of the game, being disciplined with your detail."

Wennberg's emergence this season has also played a factor. He's jumped into the top-line center role and hasn't seemed to miss a beat. It's made moving Ryan Johansen to Nashville for star defenseman Seth Jones that much simpler.

"He has the skills and talent and the vision -- he has got all of that -- but was he going to bring it consistently, with the work ethic and everything else, Foligno posed to the Dispatch. "That's what he's realizing right now.

"He's just so good with the puck and sees the ice so well. I think that's why our powerplay is so good right now -- he's such a good player on the half-wall. Just when you count him out he slips by a guy and makes a nice pass. He has the kind of talent to make those plays."

Columbus no doubt needs the play of Wennberg and the rest of the group to continue, or even step up -- Brandon Dubinsky has just seven points -- but they're poised for a run at the playoffs, and for the still fresh fan base in Ohio, that's a huge step.


Put aside their introductory video announcement debacle and the ridiculously embarrassing situation the Vegas Golden Knights (?) and the NHL currently find themselves in with this whole trademark rejection thingy, it appears the headaches surrounding the franchise extend way beyond their name and logo.

According to multiple sources close to the organization, almost every department outside of hockey operations has been categorized as "a mess" since the team officially took form in late-June.

Staff members have already been complaining over the club's day-to-day operations and how they are being handled, while some folks have already been let go -- I'm told one person was even publicly scolded and fired in front of a good chunk of employees.

How involved Bill Foley is on a daily basis with various divisions is unclear, but it has been indicated to me that he has been "a little too hands on," one source described.

Chalk these up to initial growing pains, for now, but the house will certainly need to get in order by the spring so the team can start preparing for its marketing and media initiatives once NHL players begin to join the fold.

NWHL chugging along, sort of

There are still plenty of questions that need to be answers and numerous items that need to straighten themselves out, but it's nice to see the NWHL moving ahead with its season.

The League announced on Wednesday that its 2017 All-Star Weekend will take place in Pittsburgh on Feb. 11-12.

"Our goal has been to grow our footprint outside of our markets so the elite athletes of the NWHL can demonstrate their amazing talents before new crowds," said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. "Since we started the league last year, we have received a lot of support from woman's hockey fans in Pittsburgh."

A smart decision became even smarter when they named Amanda Kessel and Kelley Steadman team captains -- Kessel's brother, Phil, plays for the Penguins, so there will be some local ties, although the Pens are in Arizona to play the Coyotes on the 11th. Perhaps Phil drops by on the 12th?

It sounds like the NWHL has enough funds to complete their season, but how much on-ice action happens after that remains a mystery.

According to multiple sources, the League still hasn't submitted contract addendums to their players to sign -- which I'm told most won't sign, anyway -- nor provided its players with any official updates in writing to their business plan/model, list of investors, or indicated who is on the League's Board of Governors or legal council.

Rylan has met with groups of players, informally, to discuss updates and generate ideas and opinions, but outside of a GoFundMe option, not much else has come forward. Not yet, anyway.

For the time being, it sounds like the season will play out, and the NWHL All-Star Game should generate some buzz in Pittsburgh, which is great, but there's clearly much more that needs to be done.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.



Nov. 22, 2016 Players in the dark as NWHL fails to provide answers

Nov. 18, 2016 NWHL hit with bad news

Oct. 26, 2016 Don't Forget the 'D'

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