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SEASON PREVIEWS
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January 12, 2013 | 4:53pm ET
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.

Forwards

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.

Defense

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.

Goalies

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.

Projected Outcome

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
 
Brandon Dubinsky
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.
Sergei Bobrovsky
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.
Ryan Johansen
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.

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