Sunday, September 5, 2010

2010-2011 Columbus Blue Jackets Preview

The Columbus Blue Jackets
Imagine being able to be whisked away to Columbus... Hi... I'm in Columbus...
One day... I'm just going to snap... but since I'm in Columbus, no one will notice.
Previous Year's Team Stats
32 wins, 35 losses, 15 OTL, 79 points, 28th overall in the league

Team Analysis

Contrary to popular belief there is a NHL team in Columbus, Ohio. Most of us just don't know about it because of a decade of woeful mismanagement and a largely disinterested ownership group. With the organization entering it's tenth season this year the Blue Jackets are beginning to make steps in the right direction. Just one year removed from the franchise's first playoff performance,  the Blue Jackets unfortunately crashed and burned last season finishing 28th overall in the league. Former Columbus head coach and 1990s relic Ken Hitchcock was fired mid-season. Hitchcock's replacement head coach Claude Noel was fired this off-season and switched places with highly sought after AHL head coach Scott Arniel. The Blue Jackets also signed uber successful juniors coach Bob Boughner to be an assistant. The Blue Jackets are a team that has a lot of young talent with much potential that just haven't been able to put it together yet. The question in Columbus this season will be can the youngsters find consistency and can the new coaching staff get this team to put in a respectable performance?

The Blue Jackets are led up front by captain Rick Nash, former number one overall pick and franchise winger. Nash had a poor performance by his standards last season only scoring 67 points in 76 games. Nash will look to return to the point per game pace he normally exhibits this season. Anchoring the top line will be Antoine Vermette who's blossomed into a legit top six two-way player in Columbus. Vermette had a career year last season scoring 65 points in 82 games. Vermette will again look to take the top line duties and be the Blue Jacket's main offensive pivot. Likely beginning the year on the top line will be streaky scoring winger Kristian Huselius who popped 63 points in 74 games for the Blue Jackets and will battle to get first line ice time. One of Huselius' competitors will be R.J. Umberger who has a career year last season scoring 55 points. Former 16th overall pick Umberger received rave reviews from Blue Jacket fans last season and could see significant offensive minutes this season.

The Blue Jackets have an impressive trio of young prospects who will play significant roles for the team this season. The most interesting of these may be former sixth overall pick 20-year old Nikita Filatov who some experts have drawn comparisons to Daniel Alfredsson in terms of play style and potential. Filatov was the subject of much e-ink last year for stealing head coach Ken Hitchcock's morning donut and was chased to Russia for the season in a highly public drama. Filatov managed to score 22 points in 26 games for his KHL club and will look for a fresh start in Columbus under new head coach Scott Arniel. Former sixth overall pick 22-year old Derick Brassard will look to center the second line. Brassard had a disappointing season last year only scoring 36 points and going -17 in 79 games. However Brassard did show flashes at the end of the season managing eight points in 15 games and played dramatically better out of the Olympic break. It will be interesting to see if Brassard's play improves under a youth oriented coach and a more balanced schedule. Former seventh overall pick 21-year old Jakub Voracek had a solid season for the Blue Jackets last season scoring 50 points in 81 games. Voracek's game has been compared to Marian Hossa's and has drawn favorable reviews from Columbus fans. Look for Voracek to crack the 60 point barrier this season under Arniel.

Columbus has always been a team that believes in having established grinders occupy their bottom six. This group will be led by one of the best defensive centers in the game Sami Pahlsson who has a reputation as a playoff performer. Pahlsson who scored 16 points in 79 games last season signed as a free agent in Columbus and will look to take the bulk of defensive minutes up front. Veteran winger and former Capitals captain Chris Clark will look to fill in on the bottom six. Clark who scored 20 points in 74 games last season is nearing the end of his career but will look to provide a honest grinder's game and leadership this season. The Blue Jackets also have former Oilers captain Ethan Moreau who found a home in Columbus after having to flee Edmonton with only what he could carry. Moreau who scored 18 points in 76 games with the Oilers last season was the subject of trade rumors at the deadline but was eventually claimed off waivers by the Blue Jackets. Moreau will bring a similar game to Clark's and will fill out the bottom six.

The bottom of the bottom six will likely feature scrappy enforcer Jared Boll who had 21 fights and 7 points in 68 games last season. Getting time on the fourth line this year will likely be agitating middle-weight Derek Dorsett who had 105 penalty minutes and 14 points in 51 games last season. Down the middle will be defensive center Andrew Murray who had 7 points in 46 games last season.

The defense is led by surprising three zone defenseman Fedor Tyutin who scored 32 points and averaged over 23 minutes of ice time in 80 games last season. Tyutin will again look to receive the bulk of playing time on the Blue Jackets' back-end. Likely to be Tyutin's partner on the first pairing this season will be Jan Hedja who's quietly become one of the better defensive defensemen in the game. Hedja who averaged over 20 minutes of ice time a game scored 13 points in 64 games last season and will look to be the de facto shutdown man in Columbus again this season.

Likely to be featured on the second pairing this season will be frustrating Rostislav Klesla who had a disappointing injury plagued campaign last year. A former fourth overall draft pick, Klesla scored eight points in 26 games last season. Klesla has confounded Columbus fans since his NHL debut with a tantalizing skill set, however Klesla hasn't been able to stay consistent or healthy in the NHL. Klesla has averaged 30 games played the last two seasons and has to be doubtful as a consistent performer for the Blue Jackets. Big defensive defenseman Marc Methot will likely be a fixture on the Blue Jackets second pairing this season. Methot scored eight points in 60 games last season and will look to take the defensive assignments when Hedja is on the bench.

The bottom pairing in Columbus will see two young offensive defensemen and a veteran defensive defenseman battle for ice time this season. 23-year old Kris Russell had a strong campaign in his third year in the NHL scoring 22 points in 70 games while being the only Blue Jackets defenseman to have a positive +/- rating. Look for Russell to move up the depth chart this season while having a breakout year.   Defensive defenseman Mike Commodore had a rough season last year achieving 11 points, a minus nine rating and scorn from Blue Jackets fans. Commodore will look to have a bounce back year and get significant defensive minutes if he can stay healthy. Offensive defenseman Anton Stralman had a up and down campaign in his first full NHL season in Columbus. Stralman scored 34 points in 73 games while displaying a vastly underwhelming defensive game. Look for Stralman to get significant power play minutes and sheltered even strength minutes this year.

The Columbus Blue Jackets thought they had a franchise goaltender when a young Steve Mason exploded into the league straight from juniors with a Calder Trophy winning performance. However Mason dramatically fell back to earth last season with a largely disappointing sophomore campaign. Observers of the Columbus Blue Jackets feel this is largely because the team fell apart under Hitchcock. While it's not hard to think Mason will have a bounce back season this year under a new coach and a new system. It's hard to imagine Mason regaining his rookie form with largely the same team in front of him that crashed and burned last season. Backing up Mason will be long time 1B Mathieu Garon who will look to get significant minutes this year if Mason falters. Garon played 35 games last season for the Blue Jackets and could see quite a few games again this season if Mason falters.

Team Trending

While the Blue Jackets should improve with the arrival of youth oriented coaches Scott Arniel and Bob Boughner, this team simply doesn't have the talent to be much of a threat in the league. Columbus also plays in one of the toughest division in hockey right now with 16 games against the two former Stanley Cup winning teams and another eight against a perennial playoff contender. This year will be exciting to see what Arniel can do with the youth in Columbus and to see just how much this team 180s with their former failure head coach gone. Look for the Blue Jackets to come in somewhere between 23rd and 27th overall in the league.

BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up




Player Projections


Rick Nash - 42 G/40 A 82 P
Antoine Vermette - 25 G/40 A 65 P
Kristian Huselius - 22 G/34 A 56 P

Jakub Voracek - 24 G/40 A 64 P
Derek Brassard - 15 G/30 A 45 P
Nikita Filatov - 23 G/25 A 48 P

R.J. Umberger - 25 G/30 A 55 P
Sami Pahlson - 5 G/15 A 20 P
Chris Clark - 8 G/14 A 22 P

Ethan Moreau - 5 G/10 A 15 P
Andrew Murray - 6 G/6 A 12 P
Jared Boll - 4 G/4 A 8 P 


Fedor Tyutin -  5 G/25 A 30 P
Jan Hedja - 2 G/12 A 14 P
Kris Russell - 8 G/20 A 28 P
Rostislav Klesla - 3 G/12 A 15 P
Anton Stralman - 7 G/28 A 35 P
Marc Methot - 3 G/10 A 13 P


Steve Mason - 27-25-10 | 2.87 GAA | .906 Sv%
Mathieu Garon - 10-8-2 | 2.94 GAA | .902 Sv%

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