The Blue Jackets entered the season with high expectations after a significant offseason investment: Trading for Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers and signing free-agent defenseman James Wisniewski to a six-year, $33 million deal. Within the first five games of the season, Wisniewski was in the midst of a 8-game suspension and Carter had broken his foot.
There was constant talk that former coach Ken Hitchcock would replace Scott Arniel; instead, Hitchcock took over the St. Louis Blues (to incredible success) and Arniel was fired after a 11—25—5 record last season. Assistant coach Todd Richards took over, but the season was too far gone.
Then things got really interesting: The team announced it would listen to trade proposals for captain Rick Nash, which was later revealed to be a trade request from Nash during a defiant post-trade deadline press conference from GM Scott Howson.
He finally traded Nash during the summer to the New York Rangers, getting back a return that many felt was unworthy of a player of Nash's caliber.
Carter, a disaster, was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Jack Johnson. He later won the Stanley Cup.
Also, the Blue Jackets, despite being the most terrible team in the NHL, lost the Draft Lottery and the chance to take Nail Yakupov.
Brandon Dubinsky, C Artem Anisimov and D Tim Erixon — as well as the deletion of Nash, by far the team's most potent goal-scorer, from the roster.
The Jackets also traded defenseman Marc Methot to Ottawa for Nick Foligno, signing him to a new 3-year deal.
On the free-agent front, Adrian Aucoin joins the Jackets' blueline for one year at $2 million after coming over from the Coyotes. Defenseman Aaron Johnson left for Boston, while Kristian Huselius left for Europe — and looked back in anger.
For example: If Richards wanted to roll a top line of R.J. Umberger with former Rangers linemates Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, he'd have three players who could hound the puck in the attacking zone — and in Dubinsky, a player that'll visit the sin bin to the tune of 100 penalty minutes.
Foligno can be a pain to play against. Ditto Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll and Derek MacKenzie. It's going to have the pugnacious tenacity that someone like Brian Burke would covet … alas, it might also have the offensive depth of some of his Leafs teams.
Where are the goals coming from? Dubinsky's best offensive season was 24 goals. Vinny Prospal had 55 points last season but turns 38 next February. Cam Atkinson had 14 points in 27 games, but the operative phrase there is "27 games." Ditto promising center Ryan Johansen, who had 21 points in 67 games as a rookie. And can you believe Derick Brassard is somehow still on this team?
On defense … things are a bit more settled.
Wisniewski and Jack Johnson should form the team's top pairing, despite not fitting into the usual offense/defense paradigm. Wisniewski (24:47 TOI) had 27 points in 48 games in a truncated season. Johnson, acquired for Carter last season, had 14 points in his 21 games with the Jackets.
Fedor Tyutin was second on the Jackets in total ice time (24:08) and led them shorthanded (2:49). After some talk he could be on the block, he signed a 6-year extension with the Jackets. Nikita Nikitin, acquire from the Blues for Kris Russell and a revelation last season, should be back as his defense partner.
That leaves veteran Adrian Aucoin on the final pairing, where the Jackets will spin the wheel of partners: John Moore, Ryan Murray or David Savard, who might have the advantage.
In goal … Scott Howson believed in Steve Mason last season, and he ended up being one of the primary factors in the team's demise: 3.39 GAA, an .894 save percentage and supplanted by Curtis Sanford at times as the starter. Now it's Bobrovsky with a chance to either share the burden to steal the job. He followed an outstanding rookie season (2.59 GAA, .915 save percentage) with one in which he couldn't find a groove playing behind Ilya Bryzgalov. Is a change in scenery the solution?
"These Teams Are On My List" by Rick Nash, a reminder of the number of places he would have rather been than Columbus.He lost the room with the Wild; it's hard to imagine a similar power struggle in Columbus.
There's a Fire Scott Howson Facebook page. That it's request has yet to come to fruition remains startling given the team's fortunes and the failure of some of his high-profile moves (Carter, re-signing Mason, the Nash debacle). But there he is, trying to once again rebuild a team that's made the playoffs once in franchise history.the face of the franchise.
[Concerned Female Voice]
"The Columbus Blue Jackets claim they care about our children. But what kind of a hockey organization pledges its support to defend gangster rap …
Rebuild might be putting it kindly. But there are some pieces in place on defense; and like we said, it could be a tenacious group up front.
Are they the worst team in the conference on paper? Probably. Will they be a pushover? They'll compete every night.
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