Look To The Rafters: Columbus Blue Jackets (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Columbus Blue Jackets might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of Nationwide Arena someday.

Columbus Blue Jackets Current Retired Numbers

None

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! The Blue Jackets have yet to retire any number still, but that should change as soon as possible.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

18 Pierre-Luc Dubois

Columbus has long needed a certified homegrown number one center on their roster, then along came Dubois 3rd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. In his rookie season (2017-18), Dubois had 20 goals and 28 assists (48 points) in 82 games. Last season, he managed career-highs in goals (27), assists (34) and points (61) in 82 games.

Up until the abrupt end to the regular season due to the ongoing pandemic, Dubois had 18 goals and 31 assists (49 points) in 70 games and was on pace for about 57 points this season if the remainder of the regular season hadn’t been canceled.

Through 234 career games, Dubois has amassed 65-93–158 totals and brought a much more physical presence to the lineup that Blue Jackets fans likely haven’t seen since the days of Rick Nash.

With a little more time and development, perhaps Dubois can fine tune his scoring touch to emulate Nash. If not, he’s still shaping up to be in fine company and might see his No. 18 raised to the rafters of Nationwide Arena regardless.

61 Rick Nash

Nash formally retired in January 2019. Somehow Columbus doesn’t think there’s any reason to rush to put No. 61 in the rafters, but they should.

The franchise is approaching its 20th season and Nash was their first superstar while the rest of the team looked… well….

Sure you could argue that since his Blue Jackets relationship ended with him desperate to get out of Columbus and being traded to the New York Rangers on July 23, 2012, might take away some of that immediate response to honoring his legacy, but there have been other players in league history that have done less in greater lengths of time with one team then asked to be put out of their misery.

Nash had 289 goals and 258 assists (547 points) in 674 games with the Blue Jackets. He leads Columbus’ all-time stats in all four of those categories (goals, assists, points and games played).

Cam Atkinson is sitting at 571 games (2nd to Nash in franchise history) with Columbus, but with 198 goals (2nd to Nash), 170 assists (4th most all-time for Columbus) and 368 points (again, 2nd to Nash in franchise history) in his career.

Sure, Nash is destined to slide further down the top-10 list all-time one day, but he still drew eyes to the team in its infancy, put up all the points he pocketed without much of a supporting cast and, oh yeah, shared the 2003-04 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy honors with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk as the league’s leading goal scorers that season with 41 goals.

Besides, as the 1st overall pick by Columbus in 2002, at least Nash had more of a successful career than Patrik Stefan did with the Atlanta Thrashers and he lasted nine seasons with the Blue Jackets whereas Kovalchuk was only a Thrasher for parts of eight seasons.

No team has ever gone without growing pains. No team has ever made their first faces of the franchise that rightfully deserve to be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony, wait it out, and see if they stack up with other franchise greats 50 years later– that’s just not how a team goes about making history and setting their standards.

Nash’s No. 61 isn’t going to be put into circulation anytime soon, why not make it formal?

71 Nick Foligno

Foligno has now almost been in Columbus as long as Nash was. Next season, Foligno will tie Nash in longevity as a Blue Jacket. The current captain of the Blue Jackets has done a lot for the team and in the community. 

It only seems fitting that, while Nash carries the flash and scoring prowess, as well as the Columbus “pioneer” image for the team years from now in its history (assuming No. 61 gets proper retirement treatment), then Foligno’s No. 71 will be a testament to character, leadership and everything in-between.

Acquired by the Blue Jackets from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Marc Methot on July 1, 2012, Foligno has amassed 135-183–318 totals in 557 games with Columbus.

Drafted by the Senators in the first round (28th overall) in 2006, Foligno managed 148 points in his Sens tenure in 351 games from 2007-12.

He broke out with a career-year in 2014-15, scoring career-highs in goals (31), assists (42) and points (73) in 79 games with the Blue Jackets that season. Since then, he’s fallen more into a consistent role as a bottom-six forward, but still managed at least 30-points in the last three seasons.

In 67 games until the ongoing pandemic cut the regular season short, Foligno had ten goals and 21 assists for 31 points. He was on pace for about 38 points this season.

Oh and he won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award in 2016-17.

If longevity, consistency and charity alone can earn the ultimate sign of respect from a franchise and yield a jersey retirement, then Foligno has crossed off every checkmark on the list for his time in Columbus.

Final Thoughts

In 2000, the NHL expanded to Columbus and brought back a team in Minnesota with the introduction of the Blue Jackets and the Wild. 

Minnesota shocked the hockey world and upset the Colorado Avalanche in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, eventually going on a run all the way to the Western Conference Final before being swept by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Columbus didn’t win a playoff series until they also shocked the hockey world and swept the 2018-19 Presidents’ Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning.

Minnesota retired No. 1 for their fans before they even had their first puck drop.

Columbus didn’t resort to that, but probably should do something for their fans to make up for the many years of suffering on the outside looking in and/or playoff losses before making it out of the First Round.

Minnesota hasn’t made it back to the Second Round since 2015.

Columbus has at least made it to the Second Round since the Wild last made it.

The Vegas Golden Knights came into existence in 2017. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, which was their inaugural season (2017-18).

Retire Nash’s number in 2020-21.