Metropolitan Division 2014-15 Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets
COACH: Todd Richards
2013-2014 RECORD: 43-32-7, 93 points (fourth in Metropolitan, lost to Penguins in first round)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.8 goals per game (12th), 2.6 goals-against per game (13th); 19.3 power play pct. (11th); 82.1 penalty kill pct. (14th); shootout record: 5-2 (2nd)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: LW Scott Hartnell
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: LW R.J. Umberger, LW Blake Comeau, C Derek MacKenzie,RW Jack Skille, D Nikita Nikitin, D Nick Schultz
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Boone Jenner (broken hand) — Ryan Johansen — Nathan Horton (back injury)
Scott Hartnell — Brandon Dubinsky — Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno — Artem Anisimov — Corey Tropp
Matt Calvert — Mark Letestu — Jared Boll
OUTLOOK: The 2013-14 season was a banner campaign for the Blue Jackets as they notched their first-ever home playoff victory during a thrilling first-round loss to the Penguins. A growing fan base in Columbus will expect to improve on those gains, and reaching the second round of the postseason isn’t out of the question. The Jackets’ pugnacious style of play mixed with flashes of skill was boosted by the acquisition of ex-Flyer Scott Hartnell, whose wild-man locks go perfectly with his fearlessness in the high-traffic areas of the ice. Of course, it remains to be seen how detrimental star Ryan Johansen’s bitter contract dispute with the front office will be, but their reconciliation before the season's opening drop should settle any concerns the team has about its offensive production. Johansen will likely start slowly, though, but if Sergei Bobrovsky continues his commendable play in net and veterans Brandon Dubinsky and Jack Johnson continue to set the tone, Columbus could be looking to make even greater strides next spring.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ryan Johansen
All eyes in Columbus are on Johansen. After spurning the Blue Jackets’ offers over the summer, the 22 year-old will face a lot of pressure to improve on the 33-30-63 that he put up in 2013-14. Contract disputes can poison even the most tight-knit locker rooms, so it would serve him well to get this one over before it drags on much longer.
PREDICTION: 95 points (third in Metropolitan)