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2010-11 NHL Previews: Columbus Blue Jackets

| by Sports Nickel

2009-10 RECORD:
32-35-15/79 pts
5th in Central Division
14th in Western Conf.
—————-
GM: Scott Howson
COACH: Scott Arniel
—————-
2010-11 PAYROLL:
$52,860,000 ($7.0M below cap)

Everything started out swimmingly for the Blue Jackets last season. They’d just earned their first playoff berth in team history, and despite their 4-0 sweep to Central Division rival Detroit in the 2009 postseason they entered 2009-10 with high expectations of repeating and building on their success. The first few months saw Columbus challenging for the conference lead, but then everything derailed. Coach Ken Hitchcock got the axe, and the team plummeted back to the cellar of the division and ahead of just completely-tanked Edmonton in the Western Conference.

In enters Scott Arniel, their second-choice pick as head coach following their failed attempt at Guy Boucher during the offseason. He has brought over a fresh staff to try to whip the Blue Jackets back into shape — including Bob Boughner, the former NHL defensemen who was most recently leading the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL to two consecutive Memorial Cups as the junior team’s coach. The coaching staff have several rebuilding projects to contend with as players regressed last season under the end of Hitchcock’s regime, and with the Central getting now less tough to battle through the battle will be fierce indeed…

# POS Name Height Weight Age
12 F Mike Blunden   6′ 4″ 211 23
40 F Jared Boll   6′ 3″ 210 24
16 F Derick Brassard   6′ 1″ 190 23
71 F Chris Clark   6′ 0″ 198 34
15 F Derek Dorsett 5′ 11″ 187 23
28 F Nikita Filatov   6′ 0″ 185 20
20 F Kristian Huselius   6′ 2″ 184 31
36 F Ryan Johansen   6′ 2″ 192 18
46 F Tomas Kana   6′ 0″ 202 22
42 F Chad Kolarik   5′ 11″ 185 24
24 F Derek MacKenzie   5′ 11″ 185 29
19 F Ethan Moreau   6′ 2″ 220 35
17 F Andrew Murray   6′ 2″ 210 28
61 F Rick Nash 6′ 4″ 218 26
26 F Samuel Pahlsson 6′ 0″ 203 32
23 F Tom Sestito   6′ 5″ 228 23
18 F RJ Umberger 6′ 2″ 219 28
50 F Antoine Vermette 6′ 1″ 200 28
93 F Jakub Voracek   6′ 2″ 213 21
14 D Grant Clitsome   5′ 11″ 208 25
22 D Mike Commodore 6′ 5″ 235 30
35 D Jan Hejda   6′ 3″ 229 32
97 D Rostislav Klesla 6′ 3″ 220 28
3 D Marc Methot   6′ 3″ 230 25
7 D John Moore   6′ 2″ 189 19
10 D Kris Russell   5′ 10″ 185 23
6 D Anton Stralman   6′ 2″ 193 24
51 D Fedor Tyutin   6′ 3″ 218 27
32 G Mathieu Garon   6′ 2″ 202 32
1 G Steve Mason   6′ 4″ 220 22
41 G Gustaf Wesslau   6′ 3″ 187 25

MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Steve Mason (starting G) — Mason was the toast of Ohio in his rookie season two years ago, going 33-20-7 as the Blue Jackets reached their first postseason and he was second to Tim Thomas in Vezina voting. The sophomore slump hit the starting goalie awful hard last year, though, as Mason regressed badly on the stat sheet and in the win column. It’s hard to believe that he’s had such a yo-yo story in just two years in the league and at just 22 years old, with peaks so high and valleys that seemingly turned into abysses before our very eyes. One glimmer of hope for Columbus fans: after Hitchcock’s departure, the goalie had a 2.23 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in 18 games. The kid definitely bears watching in his third year, a pivotal season both for his future and for the Blue Jackets.

KEY ACQUISITION: Ethan Moreau (LW - waivers from Edmonton) – Moreau was brought in by Howson to provide some veteran leadership to a team desperately in need of someone who knows what it takes to grind their way through a season and, they hope, a playoff run as well. The 35-year-old winger was a decade-long staple in Edmonton, playing a key checking-line and energy role on the 2006 squad that lost in Game 7 of the Cup finals. He’ll be called upon to take up on the left side of the third line, playing with Samuel Pahlsson and R.J. Umberger in a grouping that could prove quite fruitful for Columbus this season. They’ll be called upon to neutralize other teams’ top lines all season long.

KEY DEPARTURE: none — There were two departures in the offseason, bit-role players Greg Moore (RW/4 GP in 2009-10) and Nathan Paetsch (D/10 GP in 2009-10) leaving in hopes of gaining bigger roles elsewhere. In reality this team’s talent drain came last trade deadline, when guys like Raffi Torres, Frederik Modin and Milan Jurcina were sent packing to new destinations. The Columbus organization is taking a huge youth plunge this year, and it’ll be interesting to see how the lineup meshes under new head coach Scott Arniel. They are hoping that the few additions they made are secondary to the switch they made in coaching leadership… so perhaps, given the way the team performed down the stretch with a newfound purpose (if not much better results in the standings), we might just say that the key departure was Ken Hitchcock himself.

KEY YOUNGSTER: Nikita Filatov (LW/20 years old) — The Blue Jackets’ first-round pick in 2008, Filatov was highly touted coming out of Russia as the highest-rated European skater in the draft that year. He’s split time over the past two seasons between Columbus and AHL affiliate Syracuse, but last year saw his relationship with Columbus become disgruntled. Dissatisfied with his playing time and the way he was being used in Ken Hitchcock’s system, Filatov engineered a loan by the Blue Jackets to his former KHL club CSKA Moscow. After some hard-line posturing about remaining in Russia, Filatov is back this season and projected to be starting on the second line with fellow youngsters Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard. Will the increased minutes lead to the offensive explosion we’ve been promised from Filatov since his draft day?

OUTLOOK: The Blue Jackets have a roster that by all means should be competitive in the Central Division. With a blend of veteran talent in guys like Moreau, team captain Rick Nash, Rotislav Klesla and Fedor Tyutin and a burgeoning youth movement involving guys like Filatov, Voracek, Mason and Brassard, Columbus should be able to battle with Chicago and Detroit and St. Louis and Nashville for years to come…

… unfortunately, those years probably don’t start this year. Watch for them to perform more competently than they did last season, but with three playoff teams in their division and a fourth that was right on the cusp and improved itself in the offseason more prominently, things are still needing time to mature. Home ice should still be an advantage (20-12-9 in 2009-10), but they’ll have too many tough road games on their schedule to likely improve enough on the 12-23-6 they mustered away from Ohio last season…

FINAL PREDICTION:

  • 36 wins
  • 83 points
  • 5th in Central/13th in Western Conference

2010-11 NHL Previews: Columbus Blue Jackets is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

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