Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, right, of Russia, chases the puck in front of New Jersey forward Jack Hughes, left, and forward Miles Wood Devils during the second period an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

A former nemesis in John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets reminded New Jersey Devils fans that hope isn’t in the near future.

Kyle McKenna

The Columbus Blue Jackets not only embarrassed the New Jersey Devils on the scoreboard Saturday night, but the Jackets are also doing a great job at making the Devils look bad from an organizational standpoint.

New Jersey’s rebuild began five years ago, or it was supposed to after the Devils ran general manager Lou Lamoriello out of town in favor of Ray Shero. Fewer than five seasons later, Shero is out as GM and the team is left with zero direction.

Columbus, on the other hand, was supposed to be bidding for a lottery pick this season. Head coach John Tortorella’s squad witnessed notable skaters such as Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin and two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky leave Columbus via unrestricted free agency this past summer.

There wasn’t any noteworthy publicity for the Blue Jackets and general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen this offseason. On the other hand, Devils fans were more excited for this team in 2019-20 than most people were for Popeyes bringing back its spicy chicken sandwich.

Entering this season, there’s no way a majority of Devils fans couldn’t name more than four players on Columbus—Cam Atkinson doesn’t count, either.

With the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline nearing, it’s safe to say that New Jersey’s fanbase can name more than a handful of Blue Jackets skaters and their goaltender in Elvis Merzlikins. Seriously, that’s his name.

Columbus has owned two draft picks higher than the No. 5 slot since 2011, while New Jersey has had three, two of which were No. 1 overall selections. Of the nine first-round picks the Devils have had in those years, only three are currently skating full-time with the Devils—let that sink in.

Yet, Columbus enters the week of Jan. 20 slotted in the top Wild Card spot for the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, New Jersey more than likely won’t win more than three-straight games the rest of the way out—the Devils haven’t accomplished that all season. What would change?

Columbus isn’t in salary cap trouble, has a wealth of promising young players like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Zach Werenski, and Seth Jones, in addition to a potential goaltending tandem that could turn around the league.

Perhaps Columbus is rewriting the book on how to build a contender, but that’s a conversation for another time.

The Devils might not be in salary cap trouble, but is there any hope for the direction of this team?

Columbus’s 5-0 win on Saturday night was a harsh reality for New Jersey and proved just how far behind the team is in relation to other clubs who are building or better yet, rebuilding.

We’ll spare you on the fact that the New York Rangers are head and shoulders above New Jersey during “their transition.” It’s a tale of two cities and not a good story for the one that dons red and black.

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.