Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

For a change, Blue Jackets fans are optimistic

AP - Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The top three topics on sports talk shows in this city are usually Ohio State football, Ohio State football recruiting and Ohio State football's spring practices.

The Columbus Blue Jackets haven't upset that pecking order, although they are elbowing their way into the conversation.

''The cultural change has settled in a little bit in the fact that we're just not a hockey team in the NHL, we're a good hockey club in this league,'' said John Davidson, director of hockey operations.

Dead last in the league early in the NHL's shortened last season, the Blue Jackets suddenly found the winning touch. They went 19-5-5 down the stretch, energizing their fan base and falling just short of the playoffs while shocking a lot of opponents used to walking over the 12-year-old franchise.

''We worked hard to gain that notoriety and that respect from everybody,'' forward Nick Foligno said. ''We should run with that. It shouldn't be something we should be afraid of or worried about.''

Here are five things to keep an eye on with the Blue Jackets:

BIG ADDITION: The club went out and pulled a bit of a stunner when it signed free agent Nathan Horton to a hefty seven-year, $37.1-million deal. Horton, who will be out until at least December after shoulder surgery, is a hard worker who has a knack for being in the middle of the action.

''I want to bring what I can to the team: scoring goals, battling, putting pucks on the net like a power forward does,'' Horton said. ''But I'll do anything it takes, wherever I'm slotted and wherever the coach wants me to play. I'll be happy to do it because I want to be in the playoffs and everybody else does and we've got the team to do it.''

THAT 'P' WORD: The Blue Jackets have only made the playoffs once (2009) in their 12 seasons - and were swept in four games.

They've talked about the postseason before, but that was just whistling past the Stanley Cup. Now they're serious.

''We expect nothing short of being in the playoffs this year,'' forward R.J. Umberger said. ''That's our goal.''

THE BACKSTOP: The Blue Jackets picked up goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from Philadelphia for the equivalent of a bag of pucks 15 months ago - three middling draft picks. He made Scott Howson, since fired as GM, look like a genius. Or a thief.

The Russian, who just turned 25 last week, went 21-11-6, had a 2.00 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage to win the Vezina Trophy, emblematic of the NHL's best goalie, going away.

The big question is: Was last year an anomaly or is he a franchise goalie for years to come?

''Bob is Bob,'' coach Todd Richards said. ''I have no doubt he can do it again.''

WHERE THE GOALS ARE: The Blue Jackets elected not to re-sign 38-year-old winger Vinny Prospal, who led the team with 30 points a year ago. Almost everyone else who scored last year is back.

Marian Gaborik has scored at least 30 goals seven times in a glittering NHL career. He had offseason surgery to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen and now says he's healthy and happy heading into the last year of his contract.

If he has a typical year - along with veterans Foligno, Umberger, Mark Letestu, Brandon Dubinsky, Blake Comeau and Artem Anisimov and youngsters Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Ryan Johansen and maybe rookie Boone Jenner all blossom as expected - goals shouldn't be a problem.

GO EAST: The Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference this year, eliminating a lot of West Coast games with fans unable to stay up that late, let alone those dreadful red-eye flights.

Columbus relishes going up against the likes of the New York Rangers, with whom they've made blockbuster deals the past two years involving Rick Nash and Gaborik, along with the nearby Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres.

''This going to the East in the new divisional concept, it's going to be a difficult time for any of these teams to make the playoffs,'' said Davidson, the former goaltender and announcer who rebuilt the St. Louis Blues before coming to Columbus. ''It's going to be a real battle. We have to have an understanding that, 'OK, we can be good and we can outwork teams because that's our M.O.' And we have some pretty good talent.

''So I like our chances.''


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (4)

Recommended for You

  • Mark Cuban made comments about the NFL six months ago and he was right

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated looks back at the comments from Maverick owner Mark Cuban about the future of the NFL. ESPN's Marc Stein has a great write up about the premiere of the Berlin Tall's new movie.

    SB Nation
  • Former CB Brian Baucham Sues USC and Lane Kiffin

    Former USC Trojans' cornerback Brian Baucham is suing the university and ex-coach Lane Kiffin, according to an Associated Press report. In the September 2012 game, Brian Baucham collapsed during the second half and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Baucham hadn't played in USC's previous…

    SB Nation
  • Rumor Roundup (Sept. 23, 2014): Sting, Austin Aries, Cesaro and the future of the Bellas

    Speculating on the rumors surrounding pro wrestling is a favored pastime of many fans, perhaps second only to actually watching the matches. In this daily column, we take a look at the latest rumors being churned out by the pro wrestling rumor mill. None of this has been confirmed as legitimate…

    SB Nation
  • DeSean Jackson doesn't realize the Washington Redskins lost to the Eagles

    Apparently Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not realize his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Yeah, Jackson scored, he taunted Eagles players and fans, and he got his 'revenge' on this play. Check the scoreboard, DeSean.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • View

    Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti faces the media (11 photos)

    All of the parties involved in the Ray Rice elevator-assault scandal are being called to account for their actions, or inactions, and the Baltimore Ravens, Rice's now-former team, are now in the spotlight. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a press conference

    Yahoo Sports
    Sun, Sep 21
    Baltimore23 - 21Cleveland
    Game Recap
  • Wayne Simmonds was ejected because his opponent was too slow

    Wayne Simmonds was kicked out of the third period against the Leafs on Monday night in the preseason opener. Korbinian Holzer of the Maple Leafs was really not alright with the above hit from Wayne Simmonds during the third period of the Flyers game against Toronto on Monday night. Simmonds gave…

    SB Nation
  • What's Your Definition of Success?

    Success means different things for different people, that’s why we’ve started “The Success Project”.

  • Report: Steelers signing James Harrison after losing Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones

    In order to bolster their linebacking depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers are signing former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a convincing 37-19 win over the Carolina Panther on Sunday, but it was costly. Jarvis Jones was placed on IR-Recall after suffering a…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Tennessee7 - 33Cincinnati
    Game Recap
  • GIF: Brock Lesnar Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions 2014

    At some point or another it was decided that the finish to the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena rematch at Night of Champions on Sept. 21, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee would feature a run-in from Seth Rollins. It was also decided that Lesnar, vulnerable thanks to Cena spamming finishers for the last 10…

    SB Nation
  • Diamondbacks to name new GM Thursday

    The Diamondbacks' search for a new head honcho seems to be coming to an end. The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be nearing a decision on who their new general manager will be, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the club plans to announce their choice on Thursday. Per Nightengale, former…

    SB Nation
    Tue, Sep 23
    5:10 PM PDT
    Arizona at Minnesota
    Preview Game
  • Gerald Wallace's contract is like a lottery ticket for the Boston Celtics

    Gerald Wallace was stoic last season. Wallace's three-year, $30.3 million contract was criticized by Celtics fans in a Bill Simmons piece published on Grantland. Eric in Springfield, Massachusetts: "Instead of a jersey number, could the Celtics convince Wallace to wear all the first-rounders we got…

    SB Nation
  • Darnell Dockett has tickets for Cardinals fan getting in a brawl with 49ers fans

    Sunday was kind of a wild day at the 49ers-Cardinals game. Aside from just the loss, 49ers and Cardinals fans got into a nasty brawl in the stands. It's a really nasty fight, with quite a bit of blood on the ground as the fight wrapped up. It seemed

    SB Nation
  • Undertaker rumors of poor health seemingly debunked by his wife, Michelle McCool

    Over the weekend, a weird rumor started making the rounds that Undertaker is in poor health or bad shape or whatever other term you want to use to signify someone is not doing well physically. The source for this was, apparently, Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, who reportedly dedicated a song…

    SB Nation
  • View

    Photos of the day - September 21, 2014 (34 photos)

    The Independence Monument is silhouetted against fireworks during City Day celebrations in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Oakland Raiders linebacker Kaluka Maiava tackles New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman in the first half of an NFL game and a boy

    Yahoo News
    Sun, Sep 21
    Oakland9 - 16New England
    Game Recap
  • Watch Yaya Toure give Eden Hazard a playful halftime slap around

    Before Frank Lampard scored the goal that will probably haunt him for the rest of his life, Chelsea and Man City were playing a hard-fought match — the physicality of which apparently carried over into the tunnel at halftime. As the two teams made their way back to the pitch for the second half,…

    Dirty Tackle
  • Asian Games 'Medal Ceremony Girls' join beauty battle

    North Korea has its "Army of Beauties", but the rival South is fighting back at the Asian Games with its "Medal Ceremony Girls". Many South Koreans were heartbroken when the rival North refused to send its renowned cheerleaders to the pan-Asian sporting event in Incheon, in a political wrangle. The…

  • Manning exposed: Seahawks win, Richard Sherman continues his season of subdued dominance

    Not nearly as easy as the Super Bowl, Seattle ended up just being a little better at defense than Denver was. Going into the Seattle Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, we had a very convenient frame of reference as far as what we might expect to see. After all, no other two teams…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Denver20 - 26Seattle
    Game Recap
  • Gareth Bale kicks the ball at Luka Modric's face

    You know what hurts more than seeing Gareth Bale and Luka Modric scoring amazing goals and winning trophies like we always hoped they would do for Tottenham Hotspur? Watching them turn on each other. GARETH BALE KICKED THE BALL AT LUKA MODRIC'S

    SB Nation