Season Preview: Columbus
By Tab Bamford, TheFourthPeriod.com
"How to make a GM look bad." Chapter One: The Rick Nash trade. After years of
speculation and months of on again, off again alleged trade talks, the Jackets
finally moved their captain in a deal that was, in the eyes of some,
underwhelming. With Nash now a member of the New York Rangers, Columbus fans
will have to get excited about the futures of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov
and Derick Brassard and Cam Atkinson.
In spite of Nashville and Detroit reloading and the injury concerns in Chicago,
Columbus is still a ways away from being a legitimate contender in the Central
Division. Their continuous rebuild isn't helped by the Central being arguably
the best division in the NHL, but the organization can now at least move forward
with the cloud of a potential Nash deal in the past.
Last season's beginning was full of hope with Jeff Carter joining Nash in
Columbus. But 16 months later, both of those players are gone.
Dubinsky was the headline name acquired from New York in the Nash deal, and
he'll certainly be a quality asset for Columbus moving forward. And there are
some young players matriculating their way to the NHL level, including Atkinson,
Ryan Johansen and Matt Calvert.
The Jackets might be a few years behind the Blues, but Columbus fans should look
to St. Louis' blueline as a model for their hopes. Jack Johnson and James
Wisniewski aren't going to be household names any time soon, but plenty of
people are excited about Ryan Murray, John Moore and David Savard. The addition
of Tim Erixon (acquired in the Nash deal) to that mix makes the collection of
talented young defensemen in Columbus arguably the best and deepest in the NHL.
Gone are the days of fans moaning Steve Mason into their beers on a nightly
basis. The Jackets traded three picks to Philadelphia for Sergei Bobrovsky, who
dropped on the depth chart by default when the Flyers threw a king's ransom at
Ilya Bryzgalov. This is a positive for both parties; the Jackets won't have
Mason on top of their depth chart any longer, and Bobrovsky gets another shot at
being an every-night netminder in the NHL.
Sadly, the chances of Columbus climbing out of the cellar in the Central are
long this year. The division's four other teams made the playoffs last year, and
even with the losses in Nashville and Detroit they could all be headed back to
the postseason this year as well.
However, there is cause for hope with some of the young players. Fans don't
always have patience with their team, but Jackets fans should afford them some
time to develop their prospects.
3 Players to Watch
After a couple up-and-down years with the Rangers, he'll get a chance to be
a big-minute player with the Blue Jackets. He might be the best offensive
threat on their roster every night, so there will be plenty of opportunity
for significant statistical improvement.
Yes, a goaltender in Columbus is someone to watch. The new location could be
great for Bobrovsky, though he might have to fight through some growing
pains from some of the young defensemen in the organization.
The fourth overall pick from the 2010 Draft played in 67 games last year,
but will get a chance to jump into the Jackets' top six if he can stay
healthy and play consistently.