2014-15 NHL previews: Columbus Blue Jackets

2014-15 NHL previews: Columbus Blue Jackets
September 2, 2014, 5:00 pm
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As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division.

Today: COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

2013-14 record: 43-32-7 (93 points)

Where they finished: 4th in the Metropolitan; 7th in the East; tied for 14th in the NHL

Coach: Todd Richards (4th season)

Key additions: LW Scott Hartnell, C Brian Gibbons

Key subtractions: C R.J. Umberger, LW Blake Comeau, C Derek MacKenzie, RW Jack Sille, D Nikita Nikitin, D Nick Schultz

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Scott Hartnell – Ryan Johansen – Nathan Horton

Matt Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno – Artem Anisimov – Boone Jenner

Simon Hjalmarsson – Mark Letestu – Corey Tropp

Extras: Jared Boll, Dana Tyrell

Defense

Ryan Murray – James Wisniewski

Jack Johnson – Fedor Tyutin

Tim Erixon – David Savard

Extras: Dalton Prout

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky – Curtis McElhinney

Our take: The Blue Jackets surprised quite a few teams in the East last season by piling up 93 points to earn a playoff spot for the first time in six years. They did it mostly with a collection of gritty players who refused to quit.

Just ask the Penguins, who needed six hard-fought games to dispose of the Blue Jackets in the first round. Centered around the goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky, who followed up a Vezina Trophy season with a solid 32-20-5 record with a .923 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average, the Jackets are tough to score against because of a suffocating style of play under Todd Richards.

Columbus got even grittier and a bit more offensive with the acquisition of left wing Scott Hartnell, who came in exchange for R.J. Umberger after seven seasons in Philadelphia. Hartnell is just three seasons removed from scoring a career-high 37 goals and 67 points but leveled off at 20 goals in 78 games last season.   

Other than Hartnell the Blue Jackets look a lot like they did last season. The biggest issue surrounding the team is the uncertain future of star center Ryan Johansen, who is looking to hit a home run as a restricted free agent but instead is being met with resistance from the Blue Jackets.

That impasse could result in a training camp holdout by Johansen, who led the Jackets with 33 goals and 63 points. If the Blue Jackets can get things resolved with Johansen they are good enough to squeak into the playoffs for a second straight season.

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? It will be a dogfight with the Flyers and Caps, but yes.

Against the Capitals: Tue. Nov. 11 at Washington, 7 p.m.; Thur. Dec. 11 at Washington, 7 p.m.; Thur. Dec. 18 at Columbus, 7 p.m.; Tues. Jan. 27 at Columbus, 7 p.m.; Tues. March 3 at Columbus, 7 p.m.

RELATED: [Comcast SportsNet announces Caps TV schedule]