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COLUMBUS Authentic
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, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets
played one more playoff game this season than last, but it’s all the same to
general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and coach John Tortorella. Not good enough.

And apparently there’s plenty of blame to go around.

”Everybody has to give skin here, from the coaches right on through, as far
as what happened,” Tortorella said in his exit interview with reporters
Thursday.

Article continues below ...

The Blue Jackets promising season fizzled out in the end. They overcame
injuries to key players and finished the regular season strong, making the
Stanley Cup playoffs for the second season in a row. They won the first two in
the first-round playoff series on the road against the Washington
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, only to drop the next four straight.

It ended with a thud in a 6-3 loss in Game 6 on home ice Monday night.

Despite how all that sounds, the team didn’t implode, Tortorella said.

”We were a good enough team to beat Washington this year,” he said. ”We just
did not make that big play and or get that big save at key times, and they
did.

”I like our team, I like our personnel Bills
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,” he said. ”The biggest thing is we need
to change our mindset here, (so) that we feel we belong in the playoffs. We need
to think stronger in how to find a way. I want us to be more aggressive in our
thinking and expect some more.”

The Blue Jackets undoubtedly will have some different faces next season. Just
how many remains to be seen. Kekalainen was coy when asked if the team needs
more talented players to get deeper into the playoffs.

”We’re always looking to upgrade, one way or another,” he said. ”I think
we’re going to get better again from inside. It’s going to be the same
approach.”

Kekalainen cited the surprise trade last summer that brought star winger
Artemi Panarin to town and the swift emergence of rookie center Pierre-Luc
Dubois. But he won’t talk strategy.

One the goals likely will be to sign Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
– the team’s biggest stars – to contract extensions. Both will be unrestricted
free agents in 2019, and the team would like to lock them up before that.

Defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Matt Calvert will be unrestricted free
agents on July 1, so the Blue Jackets will have to make a decision on whether to
sign them to new contracts. The 28-year-old Calvert Authentic
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, the longest tenured Blue Jacket at eight
seasons but never more than a bottom six player, tied his career-high season
point total with 24 and had three playoff goals.

The Blue Jackets also will have to decide whether to re-sign forwards Thomas
Vanek and Mark Letestu and defensemen Ian Cole, all of whom were added at the
trade deadline.

Columbus finished with 97 points, second most in franchise history after last
season’s 108, and qualified for the playoffs as a wildcard. The team punctuated
a furious comeback down the stretch with a 10-game winning streak in March.

But the playoffs were a bust. Again.

”We expected more out of ourselves this year,” defenseman Zach Werenski said
on his way out this week. ”Go up 2-0 on the road Authentic
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, come back home we don’t get a win. I just think
we have higher expectations, and we should. We are a good hockey team and we
fell short of our goals this year. At the end of the day, if you are not holding
the Stanley Cup, it’s kind of a failed season. This one definitely stings.”

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Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy

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