Straight Jackets: Early-season weirdness

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive
Artemi Panarin (9) celebrates with Nick Foligno.

In the last edition of Straight Jackets we wrestled with the notion of the CBJ as a first-place club, since we don't have a lot of history with the team knowing what that looks like.

But the truth is, the team has spent most of this season in or near first place in the Metropolitan Division. And yet, somehow, things don't seem dependable, reliable. We watch the games. There is very little that seems certain, except that the Jackets will give up a goal in the last minute or first minute or a period (and that really onlyseems certain).

There are a couple of interesting things with regard to the Jackets' results and the standings.

The success of the past couple of seasons has been aided by lengthy regular season winning streaks. While we're only about one-third of the way through this season, the Jackets' longest winning streak is … three. Conversely, the team hasn't lost more than two in a row, and has thus been able to put together a winning record. (Substitute dots and dashes for Ws and Ls, and the Jackets' schedule reads like Morse Code.) Of course, if the Jackets should manage a longer winning streak, as they have in recent seasons, it could really make a significant difference in the standings.

The other interesting thing about the standings is that the Metro isn't as strong as it has been. And while there's still balance, the division pales in comparison to the Atlantic. None of the top three Metro teams (at press time) would have been in a similar position in the Atlantic (where Tampa Bay, Toronto and, gasp, Buffalo are all a step ahead). Additionally, the two teams currently in the Eastern Conference Wild Card slots (the top three teams in each division make the playoffs, then the next two teams in the conference regardless of division) are Atlantic teams.

The other situation that bears watching is the ongoing Artemi Panarin contract saga. In a weird development in the past couple of weeks, Panarin's agent, Dan Milstein, met with team representatives in a meeting apparently encouraged by Panarin to discuss … fellow Milstein client and Russian player Vladislav Gavrikov, one of the CBJ's top defense prospects, who is currently playing in the Russian KHL.

Then there's the recent Panarin/Alexander Radulov (of the Dallas Stars) Instagram live exchange, in which Radulov asked, “Listen … are you becoming a pure passer now or what? You don't score at all.” To which Panarin replied, “Pffff… how can you score if no one gives you a pass?”

Was he joking, given the informality of the format? Or was it one of those “I'll say it sarcastically even though I really mean it” moments? Panarin, his lack of commitment to signing in Columbus long-term notwithstanding, appears happy on the ice and on the bench. He's at a point-per-game clip, but is doing it with fewer goals and more assists. What does it mean!??!