Columbus Blue Jackets:
Last season – 15th in the Eastern Conference
The Blue Jackets had a pretty horrible year last season, but still managed to finish above the Oilers though (take that Oil-change!). Going into this season they still have a lot of challenges.
The Blue Jackets main challenge is that they have too many mediocre NHL-players looked into too “expensive contracts”, and they lack a true number one center after trading Ryan Johansen.
GM – Jarmo Kekalainen
Jarmo Kelainen is going into his third full season as an NHL-GM. He is also one of those GM’s that goes his own ways. When many expected the team to select Puljujarvi, they went with Dubois. Not many expected they will trade away Ryan Johansen, but they got a 1st pair defenseman for a player who possibly didn’t have his heart in the team anymore.
His biggest challenge for the season is basically finding a way to unload a contract or two, then molding an identity for this team. As it is now, and as it has been for many years, the Blue Jackets are still anonymous with few real profiles.
Head Coach – John Tortorella
After being hired last season, coming into a 0-7-0 start. Tortorella kept the team at mediocracy (or got them up to it) with his 34-33-8 record. And looking at how their roster is before this season, his biggest challenge this year is to manage an improvement from that.
Sam Gagner (C), Pierre-Luc Dubois (LW), Scott Harrington (D),
5th round pick 2017 (conditional)
Fedor Tyutin (D – buyout), Kerby Rychel (LW)
The Blue Jackets signed their 3rd overall pick in Pierre-Luc Dubois. Which many were surprised they took, considering that most scouts saw Jesse Puljujarvi as the obvious choice. They also signed Sam Gagner and more importantly re-signed defenseman Seth Jones to a long-term deal, and William Karlsson to a short-term deal. Lastly they bought out Fedor Tyutin and let Jared Boll leave as an UFA.
Goaltending – 7/10
Bobrovsky is a solid goalie, and one would expect him to play as much as possible over the year. Their depth isn’t that great, and somewhat a little bit unproven. They will manage, but not among the best in the league.
Defense – 6/10
Their defense isn’t that bad, but not that great either. They got some solid pieces, but haven’t played nearly good enough as one would think. However, I think most of it is because of the pale looking offense, and with more confidence and some seasoning, this group aren’t as bad as their standing showed last season.
But, they won’t get a better grade until they prove their worth.
Murray – S. Jones
J. Johnson – Savard
Werenski – Prout
Harrington – Nutivaara
Forwards – 6/10
This forward group is just not that interesting. It’s a whole lot of middle-six or complimentary players and no real stars among them. Saad got a solid contract, but can’t drag this team alone. Jenner, Atkinson and Wennberg provide solid contributions for their salaries. Hartnell has declined and Dubinsky never got to where some thought he would.
Overall, I feel like Kekalainen can’t wait long enough for the youngster to take these spots from some of these guys and others.
Saad – Jenner – Atkinson
N. Foligno – Dubinsky – Bjorkstrand
Hartnell – Wennberg – J. Anderson
Calvert – W. Karlsson – G. Campbell
Team Composition – 5/10
The team looks like a team constructed after a model like the Kings are using. However, their defense isn’t as good yet, their forwards are a group without stars and there are not many winners on this team. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great and frankly too much mediocre.
Leadership presence – 3/10
Not that much presence. There is a few in Hartnell, Dubinsky and Johnson. Overall, I can’t see this specific group leading the team to anything close to a deep playoff run.
Skill Value – 6/10
There are some pieces here, both among the defense in Jones, Murray and Werenski, and with the forwards in Dubois, Bjorkstrand and Saad. They still lack more, and unless they find a way to implement more skill, they won’t reach the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.