(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
Last Season: 42-35-5, 89 points, fifth in the Metro Division.
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
Better, if only for the addition of Brandon Saad. There aren’t many 22-year-old top line forwards with two Stanley Cup rings that hit the market, but the Chicago Blackhawks’ cap crisis was the Blue Jackets’ gain.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Brandon Saad, LW
Saad is coming off a 23-goal, 29-assist season and will slot in on star center Ryan Johansen’s line. His six-year, $36-million contract, combined with the bodies that were moved for him, raises expectations for Saad higher than they’ve ever been. There’s no Jonathan Toews or Marian Hossa to help shoulder the load; Saad has to become a star in his own right now with Columbus.
2. Ryan Murray, D
Murray as a chance to anchor a Blue Jackets’ blue line that needs someone to chew minutes and make plays, but Murray has had trouble staying healthy even going back to junior. He was limited to 12 games last season, after a 66-game rookie campaign. But he arrived at camp in great shape and ready to mesh with David Savard on the Jackets’ top pairing.
3. David Clarkson, RW
After being traded for a guy that’s never going to play again, Clarkson played only three games before missing the rest of the season with a torn oblique muscle. But without the entire population of Toronto sitting on his contract to crush him under its weight, perhaps Clarkson can get back to doing what he did for the New Jersey Devils: Scoring upwards of 15 goals while creating all sorts of room for potential linemates like Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky … and adding his unique brand of truculence to the proceedings.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, G
Officer Bobrovsky’s groin injury helped derail the Blue Jackets’ season, but his numbers weren’t really that sterling to begin with. In 51 games, he had a .918 save percentage and a 2.69 GAA, going 30-17-3 – down from the previous two years with the Jackets. Can Bob stay healthy and bounce back?
5. Alexander Wennberg, C
The top two center spots are rather solid with Johansen (71 points) and Brandon Dubinsky (36 points in 47 games). Wennberg is tasked with keeping the third line on point now that Dano’s gone, in a planned pairing with Scott Hartnell (28 goals) and Cam Atkinson (22 goals). The potential’s there for this to be a rather potent group if Wennberg can improve on his 20-point rookie season.
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
The scoring depth. The Jackets were 13th in the NHL with 2.77 goals per game last season, and that’s with all the injury disruptions. Saad joins a group that had four players over 20 goals. They’re going to be able to roll three lines with pop, and can have players like Rene Bourque and Matt Calvert chipping in as well. A very deep group.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
That blue line is still rather thin and rather porous. Murray and Savard, who earned a new contract, can be a good first pairing. Veteran Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson are both possession black holes, but at least Johnson add offense. Kevin Connauton, Dalton Prout, Justin Falk and Cody Goloubef will all be in the mix for the third pairing. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has to upgrade this group to compete in the East, or else you’re asking a ton from Bobrovsky.
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group
Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno and Jack Johnson. We like the chemistry and three-zone game of the forwards. And Johnson’s going to either win you the game or lose you the game by leading the rush.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Nine. Todd Richards received a mulligan last season due to the injuries, but the Blue Jackets have to make it back to the postseason in his fifth season (fourth full) as head coach. The cap numbers are growing as high as the expectations for this team. He is signed through 2017, however.
Awkward Old School Video Break
Go big or go home.
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
The Blue Jackets stay healthy, overpower teams with their depth at forward, get a return to form from Bobrovsky and roll into the Metro Division playoffs.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
They get off to another bad start – a hallmark of Richards’ tenure there – and end up going through another season of injury hell.
Fifth in the Metro, but in the playoffs. The Caps, Penguins and both New York teams inch ahead of them, but the Jackets make the cut via the wild card.
PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings/Florida Panthers/Detroit Red Wings/Dallas Stars