As the Blue Jackets struggled to find their top gear down the stretch, Seth Jones was in the same boat personally.
And much like how Columbus found its game come playoff time, so did Jones.
He went from "frustrated," in his own words, to a player who turned heads across the NHL landscape. His impressive mix of skills has long been known, and he nearly won the Norris Trophy a year ago, but his name was all over the lips of the game's experts this postseason as he spearheaded the team's sweep of Tampa Bay and continued his strong play in the six-game loss to Boston.
It would be unfair to say a player chosen this season for the All-Star Game for the third straight time had a coming out party, but his play this postseason did seem to cement him among the game's cognoscenti as one of the league's best defenders.
Video: Jones meets with the media at exit day
Of course, good luck getting Jones to say that.
"I'm not sure," he said when asked if he reached a different level in the playoffs. "That's more for you guys to decide than me. I just try to go out there very night and be the best player I can, and individually I thought I grew in the postseason. Obviously with more postseason experience as a player you grow in this situation.
"I love playing under pressure and those big moments under the lights, so yeah I had a lot of fun."
Jones had key roles in both special teams units for the Jackets and played 28:32 per game this postseason, which sits second among all NHL players in the playoffs, and had three goals and six assists to give him nine points in 10 contests.
But it was more than just the impressive ice time and his ability to contribute on the offensive end that marked Jones' playoff performance. He showed he could snuff out possessions and scoring chances before they began for opposing teams, using his size, power and long reach to win countless battles for pucks and then start the Blue Jackets going in the right direction.
"I thought he was good down low as far as locking people out, not only closing people out but then coming up with the pucks," head coach John Tortorella said after Jones played more than 38 minutes in the Jackets' Game 2 win vs. Boston. "He's our engine as far as the tempo we play with.
"As I've said, he puts up numbers offensively, but I think something that goes unnoticed is how consistently he is defending and making key plays at key times defensively."
Video: TBL@CBJ, Gm4: Jones buries blistering slap shot
Others noticed as well. ESPN's John Buccigross tweeted that Jones "might be the best defenseman in the NHL" after that game, while NHL.com's Dan Rosen referred to his "monster night."
There's no doubt that when Jones is on, he's as good as any in the NHL at shutting teams down and playing at both ends of the ice. His next step is to keep improving and maybe even take home the Norris Trophy he has the talent to win.
"I thought my year was up and down at some points in the season," he said. "There were stretches throughout the middle of the season I wasn't playing my best and found myself frustrated a lot. I think this year I was just OK at controlling my emotions when it came to that and just moving on from game to game. But for the most part I thought my defense was pretty good this year. Obviously you can always improve though."