A return to health may be all it takes to make the Columbus Blue Jackets a formidable playoff contender.
COACH: Todd Richards
2014-15 RECORD: 42-35-5, 89 points (fifth in Metro, missed playoffs)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.77 goals-for per game (13th); 3.02 goals-against per game (25th); 21.7 power play pct. (6th); 80.2 penalty kill pct. (23rd); PDO: 100.5 (20th); Corsi For pct.: 47.0 (25th); Fenwick For pct.: 46.5 (26th); face-off pct.: 49.3 (2nd)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: F Brandon Saad, F Gregory Campbell
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Brandon Saad – Ryan Johansen — Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell – Alexander Wennberg – David Clarkson
Matt Calvert – Gregory Campbell – Jared Boll
Jack Johnson – Fedor Tyutin
Ryan Murray – David Savard
Dalton Prout – Cody Goloubef
OUTLOOK: The Blue Jackets lost an NHL-high 508 man games to injury last season and they doused any playoff hopes they had, but their torrid 12-0-1 run to end the regular campaign sure rekindled them. Chief among the missing for significant chunks of the schedule were 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner, and defenseman Ryan Murray. With a full summer of recuperation and the addition of Brandon Saad to the front lines, thing are looking bright in Columbus. Speedy Saad, a two-time Stanley Cup winner at the age of 22, will join forces with Ryan Johansen, a still-emerging power forward who notched 59 goals and 134 points during the last two seasons, to create headaches for opposing defenses. There’s plenty of veteran can-do on on the roster in Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, late-season acquisition David Clarkson and free agent signee Gregory Campbell.
The defensive group will be anchored by Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin, and there are hopes that some of the team’s young blueliners will step into larger roles, chiefly Murray. If they don't develop quickly, it will leave a lot of pressure on Bobrovsky, who has battled groin issues during the last two seasons. The Russian netminder will be key to a fast start for Columbus, and he could be the difference-maker in the stacked Metropolitan division.
If the Jackets can stay on the ice and out of the trainer’s room, expectations will be high, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. This team is rugged, hardworking and built to reach the playoffs for the third time in franchise history. It might even make some noise when it gets there.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ryan Murray
No player is more emblematic of the Blue Jackets' recent injury woes than Murray, the second overall pick in 2012. In two NHL seasons, the hard-shooting two-way blueliner has missed 92 games, but he’s put together a 5-19-24 offensive line with four power play tallies in the 78 games for which he’s suited up. If he can stay healthy, Columbus may see its defenseman of the future now.
PREDICTION: 103 points, third in Metro