September 24, 2013 by andymisek
Surprise, surprise! Yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets finish 8th on the NHL Season Countdown. How could they not finish in a higher position? Improvements to their offense and defense will give them a little extra to get into the post season after falling just short of their playoff push last year. Nathan Horton and Marian Gaborik will lead the offense while the rookie defenseman Ryan Murray will get his first crack at the NHL after missing last year with an injury. Get ready for a fun year in Columbus!
Many forget that Columbus was in a rebuilding phase entering 2013 and held a whopping three picks in the first round of the draft. They selected center Alexander Wennberg, 14th overall, left wing Kerby Rychel, 19th overall, and center Marko Dano, 27th overall. None should make the team out of camp, but these three prospects are the future of the Blue Jackets.
When free agency began, the Blue Jackets wasted no time making a huge splash by signing Nathan Horton to an 8 year contract. While the Horton signing brings a great player to Columbus, it means much more as it proves Columbus is a destination big name free agents desire to play. Keep in mind, Marian Gaborik waived his no trade clause at the trade deadline to play for the Blue Jackets.
The new faces of the offense since the Rick Nash trade have developed into a force incredibly fast. Artem Anisimov (part of the Nash trade) has developed into a great center. While I disagree with his ability to be a top line center, he is definitely a top six player. Anisimov has Ryan Johansen playing behind him, who can sneak his way into being the top center man this coming year as well.
The bottom six has also developed beautifully. Brandon Dubinsky (another piece in the Nash trade) will be centering Nick Foligno and Matt Calvert in what could be considered one of the most physical, underrated third lines in the league. Every team could only hope to be so lucky to have a Nick Foligno on their team as he could easily tally 15 goals and 40 points per season while beating the opposition down physically.
When someone says Columbus defense, the first words that come to mind are solid, rock solid. Jack Johnson leads a core of defensemen that are extremely difficult to play against. A physical and defensive minded core with veterans James Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin who have the ability to chip in offensively every now and again. Nikita Nikitin rounds out a top four that play a extremely tough game.
Outside of the top four sit two young defensemen: sophomore Tim Erixon and rookie Ryan Murray. Erixon is yet another piece of the Rick Nash trade. At 22 years old, he has great upside and the ability to take a top four spot down the road. Murray was the second overall pick in 2012, but suffered a shoulder injury in November that cut his season short and caused him to miss the NHL training camp and season. Murray is now looking to grab that final spot on the roster and begin to develop his NHL game.
Who would complain about goaltending when you have a Vezina Trophy winning backstop on the team? Sergei Bobrovsky signed a two year contract extension in the offseason and looks to continue his domination in net for the Blue Jackets. Hopefully he doesn’t turn out to be a Steve Mason and begin to slip after his first season heroics as a starter. Don’t expect back up Curtis McElhinney to get much time in the net. Bobrovsky will play majority of the season.
Jay Onrait’s favorite goalie (or cop) in the league:
Columbus shouldn’t set their goal at simply making the playoffs; they must set their sights on pushing deep into the playoffs. They have the talent to surprise many with a long playoff run and will have to cover for Nathan Horton at the start of the season after an off-season shoulder surgery. Once Horton is healthy, the Blue Jackets will begin to dominate the more wide open Eastern Conference. I’m excited to see how Columbus builds off of a heck of a 2013 playoff push.