The Blue Jackets’ loss to the Lightning on Thursday made it eight games in a row without a win for Columbus, and a mere two victories out of their last 17. And while technically speaking they’ve been a little bit better than, say, New Jersey, Buffalo, or Anaheim this season, this has been just a horrible, brutal year to be a member of this team, as Pierre-Luc Dubois’s early-season unhappiness—and then the instant friction between head coach John Tortorella and Patrik Laine, the guy they traded Dubois for—turned out to aptly foreshadow the misery that would continue to follow the team all year.
Nobody seems more bummed about it all than young Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who gamely took five minutes after his most recent loss to answer media questions that amounted to basically, “How tough is it to suck this much?” I’ve transcribed a chunk of his words below, but I think the video is also necessary to fully understand Merzlikins’s condition. He sounds so sad, and so stressed, and I feel absolutely terrible for him.
“I am tired of losing the game,” he said. “I know we are trying, but this is getting embarrassing. It is what it is. I am going to be honest with you guys. It’s painful. Sitting in that locker room, and trust me, we are trying. Like, we seriously are trying. We didn’t give up, but it’s just really such a bad year, I think. I just want to finish and delete this year and not think about it.”
From an individual standpoint, this has been a disappointing sophomore year for Merzlikins after a breakout rookie campaign, but he’s far from the main reason his team is struggling. His partner in net, Joonas Korpisalo, has played significantly worse; his defensemen have allowed the most shots on goal of any team in the league; and his forwards are scoring a mere 2.37 goals per game, which is worse than anyone but the Wings, Sabres, and Ducks.
“We have to get all together, close, you know?” Merzlikins said. “Like be really close to each other, I think. Again, I am honest. I would not lie to you, but the boys in the locker room, they seriously, they didn’t give up. We are trying. We really do. If you look at the technical stuff, we do really good things as well. It’s just, I do not know why the result is not coming, but this is the hockey. You have to be patient.
“I am the first guy who is not patient. I hate to wait. I want to do things right away, but we have to stay patient. What is left, six, seven games maybe? Seven. So you see, we are not going to the playoffs, so it’s not going to change anything, but still, it is just embarrassing for us and for our organization. We are embarrassing our organization and that is the bad part. But we are not doing this on purpose. We are really trying, but I don’t know. Seriously. I don’t know.”
The past year-plus in sports has clearly taken a toll on most athletes, with the isolation and the empty buildings and the dangers of traveling. But especially while on this losing streak, Merzlikins seems to really be having a tough time keeping it together off the ice while dealing with these unfamiliar failures.
“Personally, it’s bothering me,” he said. “I can’t sleep. What have we lost now, seven straight games? [Eight, actually.] This is really sad. You can’t imagine that because you are not part of our family and you don’t live this together with us in the locker room, so you can’t understand that, but it hurts. For me personally, it hurts. Seven games? [Eight.] That’s really heavy. That’s seriously heavy. I don’t want to get to Buffalo … even for them it was hard but they got somehow through it. They got that win and we have to find that way too.”
Will somebody please just let this boy leave and go to, like, Montreal or something?