Puck Daddy’s NHL 2014-15 Emoji Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

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Puck Daddy’s NHL 2014-15 Emoji Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets
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(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!) 

Last Season In Emojis

Last Season, In Summary 

After another long absence, the Columbus Blue Jackets made an appearance back in the postseason in 2013-14. A 43-32-7 (93 pts.) record earned them one of the Eastern Conference’s two wild spots along with the Detroit Red Wings. 

The bright spots that Columbus showed down the stretch at the end of the 2013 campaign carried over into last season. Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t regress too harshly after a Vezina Trophy winning year. Ryan Johansen broke out and led the team in scoring, setting himself up for a raise as an RFA. It all broke right, for once, and a solid regular season set the Blue Jackets up for a first round match-up with their new Metropolitan Division mates in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Columbus put a scare into the the second-seeded Penguins, including a pair of overtime wins, but the Blue Jackets would eventually fall short in six games, five of which ended with a 4-3 scoreline.

Despite the unhappy ending, the franchise is now covered in good vibes heading into this season — well, outside of Johansen’s contract situation. There are playoff expectations for this team and anything short would be a disappointment.

Last Season’s Definitive Highlight 

Nick Foligno’s overtime goal in Game 4 gave the Blue Jackets a 4-3 win, their first ever playoff home victory. Just listen to the Nationwide Arena crowd.

Off-Season Transactions

The biggest move made by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen over the summer was swapping disgruntled R.J. Umberger with Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers. Somebody create a #HartnellDown board inside Nationwide Arena.

With more kids coming through the system, there were a number of players who became ex-Blue Jackets since last season. Nikita Nikitin was handed a two-year, $4.5 million deal by the Edmonton Oilers after being dealt for a fifth rounder in June. Blake Comeau moved on to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jack Skille signed on Long Island. Matt Frattin heads back to the Toronto Maple Leafs after being dealt for Jerry D’Amigo. 

Last season was all about Ryan Johansen. The young pivot broke out in a big way, scoring 33 goals and 63 points just in time to negotiate an extension as an RFA. As of Tuesday, the two side remain apart in talks, but there’s no doubt he’ll be in uniform at some point this season — the sooner, the better for Columbus. 

Behind Johansen, Columbus featured seven other scorers who reached double digit goals. Artem Anisimov (22) and Cam Atkinson (21) helped carry the offensive load, while Brandon Dubinsky (60 points) led the team in helpers with 34. 

The offense (2.76 goals per game) will get a boost this year if Nathan Horton can return at 100-percent. Off-season shoulder surgery and abdomen surgery late in the year limited him to only 36 games. A back injury is threatening his place in the lineup to start the season.

Aside from the big guns, there’s plenty of complementary scoring to round out the offense. Nick Foligno posted career highs in goals (18) and points (39), while Mark Letestu chipped in 34 points. Boone Jenner had a slow start, but rebounded to finish with 16 goals and 29 points, a solid rookie season. He could provide cover down the middle if the Johansen talks roll over into the season.

James Wisniewski (51 points) and Jack Johnson (33 points) will continue to eat most of the minutes in the back. Johnson and his partner, Fedor Tyutin (26 points), will once again be given the toughest assignments.

In his rookie season, Ryan Murray didn’t look like a first year player all that often. Chipping in 21 points, playing 19:52 per game and finishing with solid possession numbers, he showed promising signs for the future. He’ll likely be partnered with Wiz again.

David Savard (15 points, 17:49 TOI) took a step forward in his first full NHL season. Along with Dalton Prout and Tim Erixon, they’ll make up the third pairing.

Sergei Bobrovsky’s numbers weren’t as strong as they were when he won the Vezina in 2013, but he also played in 20 more games and faced over 1,000 more shots. But he still posted a strong .931 even strength save percentage. The numbers are still solid enough to provide the Blue Jackets with one less thing to worry about on a nightly basis. In Bob They Trust. And it's a big year for him as he's scheduled to become an RFA next summer.

As Anton Forsberg and Oscar Dansk wait their turn in the AHL, veteran Curtis McElhinney will be back to spell Bob when needed, which might be less this season if the no. 1s workload gets an increase.

Probable Text Conversation Within Organization

Special Teams

Columbus’s power play saw a five-percent increase in success from 2013, hitting on 19.2-percent of their opportunities. They’ll miss Umberger’s contributions (8 goals), but Hartnell (9 goals) can fill that void. An eventually-signed Johansen, an eventually-healthy Horton, and the duo of Johnson and Wisniewski in the back will keep the man advantage unit dangerous.

The penalty kill was OK for a second straight season (82.1-percent), featuring workhorses Johnson (2:58 SH TOI/game) and Tyutin (2:45 SH TOI/game) manning the top pairing. The Blue Jackets were tied for fourth in the NHL in shorthanded goals with 9, two of which came off the stick of the now-departed Derek MacKenzie.

GM and Coach

Kekalainen gave head coach Todd Richards a two-year extension after guiding the Blue Jackets to their first playoff berth since 2007. The two, along with team president John Davidson, have helped build a rootable on-ice product that’s attracted a growing number of fans in Columbus. The franchise feels like it's on the cusp of taking a huge step with that trio running things.

And Now, A Blooper 

Kevin Schroeder's dance moves are absolutlely hypnotic.

The Potential Best Thing About This Team

Johansen signs, Bob puts up Vezina-like numbers in a contract year and the positive momentum that the franchise has built continues, resulting in another playoff berth.

The Potential Worst Thing About This Team

The Johansen contract saga extends into the start of the regular season and the young center isn't able to match his production from 2013-14 once he signs. There is also the fear that the secondary scoring isn't able to bail out the top guns should they go quiet on any given night.

Single Emoji Prediction

Prediction: As long as the Johansen situation gets resolved with both parties getting what they want, another playof appearance should be in the cards for the Blue Jackets. Richards has proven to be the right man to guide this team and Kekalainen and Davidson have done an admirable job of pumping life back into the franchise. Could this be the season where Columbus finally gets their first playoff series victory? After seeing how they played against Pittsburgh, it’d be hard to bet against them this time around.