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
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
Ryan Murray – James Wisniewski
Jack Johnson – Fedor Tyutin
Tim Erixon – David Savard
Extras: Dalton Prout
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.
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