The Columbus Blue Jackets are among the youngest of the thirty NHL teams and inarguably considered one of the league’s underdogs. With only one playoff run in their decade-long existence, the Jackets are feeling some heat to produce. It can be argued that the offseason additions of Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, and Vinny Prospal could breathe some life into this rag tag team and give them a chance of sneaking into the number 7 or 8 slot of the Western Conference.
- Rick Nash- The man is the pillar of the franchise. He has been with the team for nine of its eleven years in existence. The 2002 numero uno draft pick has 259 goals and 488 points in his career with the Jackets. Nash consistently outplays his teammates and many wonder why he hasn’t jumped ship for a larger franchise where his skills can shine. This guy sees the potential of his team and many hope he’s repaid for his loyalty.
- Jeff Carter- The ladies man on skates, Carts left fans oohing and aahing as the right hand man to Philly’s big man on campus. Flyers fans wept at the loss of their franchise’s 2010-2011 top goal scorer (lit the lamp 33 times) while Columbus fans rejoiced. With Carter flanked by Nash and a former Flyer, RJ Umberger, the Jackets stand a chance at racking up the points this season. Carter can contribute to his teams success as long as he A) stays off the unhealthy scratch list and B) if he makes himself a prominent defensive forward. Here’s to hoping this summer in Sea Isle did him some good.
- Derick Brassard- Little Scrappy is beginning to make a name for himself. In each of his three seasons with the Jackets, Brassard has increased his production (up 11 points each year since 08-09). The young center’s skills are just beginning to show but with a center like Carter to emulate (hopefully strictly on-ice), Brassard should be able to raise his stock and contribute to his team in a big way but will need to fight with fellow Québécois Antoine Vermette for the 2nd line center slot.
- Defense- One of the Jackets’ major weaknesses has been on the defensive end. Acquisition of D-man James Wisniewski provides some veteran stability for the defensive line. Wiz had 51 points in the 10-11 season, split between the Islanders and Canadiens, however, one defenseman can only do so much.
- The Central Division – The Blue Jackets are unfortunate enough to be in the same division as the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and Nashville Predators, all of whom made it to the playoffs in 2011. Going against players like Pavel Datsyuk, Shea Weber, and Jonathan Toews is not an easy feat. Although this is practice for a potential post season, the ego can only handle so many blows. If the Jackets want to contend for a playoff spot, they need to hold their own against these teams.
- Goaltending- Goalie Steve Mason has a lot of responsibility to carry on his shoulders, despite the offseason acquisition of back up Mark Dekanich—as the franchise’s primary goaltender, fans will be watching as he saves the teams’ way toward the playoffs. If this goaltending duo can’t make the big saves, it’s likely the Jackets will start shopping come the February trade deadline
- The Rookies – As pointed out in a previous post, the Blue Jackets are short-handed. I’m happy they took my advice and picked up Vinny Prospal (you’re welcome, Columbus) but they are not out of the woods yet. Players like Tomas Kubalik and David Savard have shown some talent in their few NHL appearances. Players like Cam Atkinson and John Moore have the ability to work their way up the ranks and Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner could show to be forces to reckon with out of the gate. Whatever may happen with these players, someone needs to step up into the empty spots.