The NHL and their broadcast partners Disney and Warner Brothers Discovery announced their upcoming national TV schedule for the 2023-24 season last week in separate media releases. As was somewhat expected, the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t appear on them very much.
In fact, if it wasn’t for games being exclusive on ESPN+/Hulu, the Blue Jackets would have had exactly zero nationally televised games in the upcoming season. Despite having the likes of head coach Mike Babcock and star players like Johnny Gaudreau, Zach Werenski and Patrik Laine, that wasn’t enough to justify any significant time on the national TV airwaves.
While the Blue Jackets won’t appear (for now) on ESPN, ABC or TNT, they will make three appearances on ESPN+/Hulu. Those games are as follows.
- Nov 9 vs. Dallas.
- Feb 29 vs. Carolina.
- Apr 11 at Florida.
It is important to note that this schedule is subject to change depending on the flow of the season. Should the Blue Jackets perform better than expected, the networks could elect to make their later games available nationally.
This begs the question. Is this showing the Blue Jackets a lack of respect? Of all Eastern Conference teams based in the United States, every team except for one will be shown nationally a minimum of 11 times. The one exception is the aforementioned Blue Jackets with three.
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While it’s easy for fans to get riled up about the perceived lack of respect, this outcome is completely justified. Let’s talk about it.
Lack of National Exposure is Justified
Let’s start with a question. What exactly did the Blue Jackets do last season to earn more national exposure this season? While injuries were a huge factor in how their season went, the team still didn’t perform well even when they were at their healthiest early in the season.
Then when the Blue Jackets had a chance to perform on national TV, it didn’t go well. Remember what Tage Thompson did in the first period against them in Columbus on TNT? That was an embarrassing moment for everyone involved on the Blue Jackets’ side.
Now things have changed going into the new season. A new head coach in Babcock coupled with some new roster additions and a huge moment picking Adam Fantilli third overall at the NHL Draft does give the Blue Jackets momentum moving forward. But at the end of the day, the NHL like all sports is a results-driven business in which ratings are strongly considered.
Until the Blue Jackets can prove they can put it all together on the ice, don’t expect to see them on national TV very much. While the team is popular in Columbus as evidenced by the number of sellouts last season when they were out of the playoff race, they just don’t have the momentum on a national scale as of yet.
Why do teams like the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and others like them get national attention despite their lack of recent success? They get good ratings on a national scale. The Blue Jackets are not yet in that echelon of teams. The way to counteract that is to be a consistent winner. The Blue Jackets haven’t made the playoffs since John Tortorella was their head coach.
The Blue Jackets have to show everyone they deserve more attention and respect. They will have every opportunity this season to prove a lot of people wrong. But as it stands right now, getting only three national games in the initial release is perfectly justified.
How They Can Earn Respect
As we stated above, the way to earn respect in the league is to win. If the Blue Jackets can put a strong season together and hover in the playoff race, then perhaps we’ll see them more on the national airwaves later on.
The Blue Jackets do have a strong prospect pool. While the last few seasons have not gone the way the team has wanted, that has afforded them the chance to draft really good players. Eventually, these players could put the Blue Jackets on the national map more consistently. But we’re not at that stage yet.
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In order for the Blue Jackets to take the next step, they need to parlay their strong prospect pool into a good team who can consistently compete for the postseason and more. The 2023-24 season can be the start of that ascent. However it’s not going to happen overnight.
Just imagine what Blue Jackets’ life could look like in the coming years. Fantilli, Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko, David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk just to name a few. These are some of the best players at their age in their respective positions. The elements are there. The Blue Jackets are building. But it has to all come together.
For now though, don’t sweat the low number of nationally televised TV games for the Blue Jackets. They will have a chance to rectify that in time.
Consistent winning. That’s what the Blue Jackets need to strive for if they want to earn the respect on a national scale. That is currently a work in progress.