Columbus has talent, but not the horses to keep up in the Central
The 2008/09 campaign was the best in Blue Jackets history. They made the postseason for the first time, and signs were pointing up for a young team just breaking through. But last year didn’t go as expected. Steve Mason suffered from a sophomore slump, the defense battled the injury bug all year, and Ken Hitchcock was fired before the Olympic break.
Columbus looks to get back on track this season as one of the up-and-coming clubs in the league. That process started when GM Scott Howson hired Scott Arniel as the Jackets’ new bench boss.
Arniel comes over from Manitoba of the AHL, where he experienced solid success for four seasons. He brings a much different style to the table than Hitchcock did, and it might be better suited for the personnel in Ohio’s capital.
Jackets fans have been waiting for Derick Brassard, Nikita Filatov, and Jakub Voracek to finally live up to their potential. With Arniel on board, this is their best opportunity to break out.
Even though Columbus was included in numerous trade rumors to acquire a defenseman, they had a pretty uneventful summer when it came to moves.
The biggest acquisition made by Howson was gritty winger Ethan Moreau, who was picked up off waivers before the frenzy. Moreau was Edmonton’s captain the last couple years, and will bring veteran leadership and experience to a relatively young team.
Their most substantial subtraction was defenseman Nathan Paetsch, who played in just ten games after being acquired from Buffalo for Raffi Torres at this past spring’s deadline.
I believe this off-season was more about getting new blood and a new philosophy behind the bench, rather than changing things up in the locker room. Under Arniel, the Jackets finally have a coach that suits their offensive talent. When you look below at their top-six, they have a solid group if Brassard can put it all together this season.
One of the most important keys for Columbus this season is remaining healthy on the blueline. Between Mike Commodore, Rostislav Klesla, and Jan Hejda – their three best defensive defensemen – they missed a combined 101 games due to injury.
- Ryan Porth
Additions: Ethan Moreau
Subtractions: Nathan Paetsch
Fresh Faces From the Farm:
- The uber-talented Nikita Filatov may finally stick in the NHL for a full season.
- Defenseman John Moore should get some consideration in camp as he’s done in juniors and is a solid puck-mover.
X-Factor: R.J. Umberger
Umberger’s size and presence in front will be key as the Jackets possess a lot of skill up front.
Breakout: Derick Brassard
With a new offensive philosophy, look for Brassard to finally show his potential.
On the Hot Seat: Steve Mason
Mason is entering the third and final year of his entry level contract. He may want to shrug off last year’s dismal performance.
Bold Prediction: Steve Mason will perform in between his rookie and sophomore years, tallying a GAA around 2.50.
The Final Word: If Filatov makes the team out of camp and sticks, Columbus will be a fun team to watch this year… but they’ll have to win a lot of 4-3 and 5-4 games if they wish to return to the playoffs. With a below average blueline and question marks between the pipes accompanying a rookie coach, the Jackets have more growing pains on the way playing in a tough Central Division.
RLD Staff Predictions:
Anthony- 5th Central Division; 14th Western Conference
Patrick- 5th Central Division; 14th Western Conference
Ryan- 5th Central Division; 13th Western Conference
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Photo credit: Getty Images
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