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Vinny Prospal will have to lead a new look Blue Jackets team in the absence of Rick Nash.
Where do I start with Columbus?
They finished with an NHL-low 65 points last season. They finished in the bottom six in the league in goals scored (26th out of 30), goals allowed (28th), power play percentage (24th) and penalty kill percentage (30th). So they needed a ton of help in many different places.
What did they do to address these glaring deficiencies?
Well, they traded their best player and top scorer, Rick Nash to the New York Rangers for three younger players. Usually, you do not trade your top player if you want to improve on your record from the previous year unless you get a deal in return that will make you a better team immediately or in the future.
Yes, they cleared cap space and the argument that they were going nowhere with Nash is valid. But I question if the trade truly benefits the Blue Jackets now and in the future unless defenseman Tim Erixon turns out to be a top notch NHL player.
The Blue Jackets received two others in the Nash trade that they will count on immediately to contribute. Brandon Dubinsky is a rugged NHL forward who translates into a decent 2nd or 3rd line center. His numbers average just over 16 goals and 43 points during his five seasons in New York.
With more ice time, Artem Anisimov will turn into a nice player. He has averaged 16 goals and 36 points a season in his three full NHL seasons with the Rangers. Look for a slight increase in those numbers as Columbus will count on him to score more for them.
Vinny Prospal, Derrick Brassard and RJ Umberger are going to have to pick up their offensive production although their histories suggest that they will score near the same amount of points that they did this past season.
Prospal has always been a point producer when he stays healthy. As he has advanced in age though (37 this season), his production has decreased.
Brassard has plateaued, averaging 45 points a season for the last three seasons. Although young (24), he has not lived up to the promise he showed during junior hockey where he put up massive offensive numbers (116 points in 58 games in 2005).
Umberger has shown flashes of offensive skill to combine with his gritty play. He has averaged just under 50 points a season during his four seasons in Columbus.
Defensively, Columbus struggled mightily. Their goaltending was a mess last year. Steve Mason (16-26-3, 3.39, .894) has proven not to be the answer and that is why they acquired Sergei Bobrovsky from the Philadelphia Flyers. The young Russian showed flashes of brilliance in his time with the Flyers although consistency was an issue for him as well. His 14-10 record came with a 3.02 goals against average and a .899 save percentage. He will have to be leaps and bounds better for Columbus to even have a chance of sniffing the playoffs.
In front of him, Jack Johnson tries to anchor a poor defensive corp. Johnson is solid and played well for the Jackets down the stretch, but many of his colleagues had a rough go of it last season. Not one of their defenseman had a plus/minus rating in the positive numbers last season. I fear for the young Russian net-minder that he might not get much help this season.
Columbus has not done enough to repair their deficiencies and Columbus fans will have to suffer through another dismal season.