Last season: 34-35-11 81pts, 5th Central, Did not make Playoffs
Additions: Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, Curtis Sanford, Mark Dekanich, Radek Martinek, Ryan Russell, Cody Bass, Vaclav Prospal
Losses: Jakub Voracek, Anton Stralman, Sami Lepisto, Andrew Murray, Chris Clark, Craig Rivet, Ethan Moreau, Kyle Wilson, Jan Hejda, Mathieu Garon, Mike Commodore, Scottie Upshall, Mike Blunden
Offense: Sometimes, it seems, that El Capitan Rick Nash only gets to show his full prowess as a member of Team Canada, but with the addition of Jeff Carter you may see a very potent 1-2 punch from the CBJ top line this season. Derrick Brassard could be primed for his breakout season as well. If Vermette can have a rebound season, it will go a long way in Columbus’ success this year. Intrigued to see what a full season of Matt Calvert will bring. More youth, hunger, and speed from the bottom six hope to bring out some finer checking line play for the Jackets as well. I think Vinny Prospal will be a welcome addition for both his play and his interview prowess. While it is possible that Ryan Johansen makes the team out of training camp, I do personally still have the feeling of not rushing him into the lineup just yet. But if he has a great camp, how can you send him down?
Defense: The addition of James Wisniewski fills a great need for the CBJ blue line. A full year of Grant Clitsome (keep your jokes to twitter…and the comment section!!) as well should bring a good improvement to the offensive production from the blue line. Kris Russell could be a bit of a dark horse for a good year too pending his effectiveness after recovering from a broken leg. Marc Methot is the team’s stay-at-home stalwart and earned a nice new contract this offseason. Could very well be a solid, Rob Scuderi type, paired with either Russell or Clitsome. The effectiveness of Radek Martinek is going to hinge on how healthy of a season he has.
Goaltending: Steve Mason did take a step back to his rookie form although he will need to take more of a hop or a skip forward as his play will be one of the most important cogs in the CBJ wheel. Young Mark Dekanich will be Mason’s backup this season and should be solid in giving Mason the occasional spell. If Mason struggles and Dekanich needs to play much more often, it could pose difficulties for this season.
Standout Player: Samuel Pahlsson
I am going to go off the beaten path of just picking the no-brainer pick on this one. I feel with more depth down the middle and with more youth, speed and hunger among the 3rd and 4th lines you will see a very strong season from the checking line center. It may not quite be Selke worthy but will go a great ways in getting the Jackets back into the playoffs.
Prediction: 3rd Central, 7th Western Conference
While such roster overturn and some substantial spending presents their risks, I think it is going to payoff for the Blue Jackets with a 2nd ever playoff appearance. There are improvements in pretty much every department, scoring, center depth, offense from the defense, and team speed. Get a good step forward from Mason and you have the makings of happy times in the Arena District come April.