There was never much of a question as to whether trouble was brewing.

Regardless of the pronouncements made before the season, no matter how much loyalty was supposed to matter, the Columbus Blue Jackets were always going to be in a tough situation. Some teams can absorb the loss of their best player, some can hold on losing two of their three best. None can shed their two best forwards and an All-World goaltender and come out the other side looking competitive.

That’s especially true of a team that barely barely barely made the playoffs. That first-round stunner of a sweep against Tampa might have painted a rosier picture of what this team would be capable of, but we’re seeing the inevitable reality now.

There was a lot of talk about how they were going to be fuelled by all the bulletin-board material they got over the summer, and if there’s any team that can exceed expectation on spite alone, it’s one coached by John Tortorella. But there was never going to be enough talent in the lineup to make this team competitive. Especially because, to reiterate things for the millionth time: Their goalie tandem is a guy who went .893 over the last two seasons, and a guy who has never played in North America before.

Last night, they actually won in regulation, in Arizona, but for the season they still have just three regulation wins from 16 tries.