Steve Mason hopes to have a bounce back season
Day 4: Columbus Blue Jackets
2010 Record: 32-35-17 (79 Points) finished 5th in the Central Division
2010-2011 Notable Arrivals: Ethan Moreau (EDM)
2010-2011 Notable Departures: Nathan Paetsch (FLA)
Blue Jackets Report Card
Forwards: The Columbus Blue Jackets have always been a team that has struggled to score, and this season looks to hold true to tradition. The Jackets failed to acquire or sign any top line players to help Rick Nash out with the scoring this season. The forwards have plenty of potential, but they have proved time and time again that they are not ready for prime-time yet.
Rick Nash is their perennial all-star and go to player, and that will not change this season. The top two line centers will be RJ Umberger and Antoine Vermette. The wild-card of the bunch will be Derick Brassard. The Hull, Quebec native has struggled early in his NHL career both with injuries and consistency, but this season may prove to be a turning point for Brassard.
One of the more noteworthy additions this season to the Blue Jackets roster should be Russian sniper Nikita Filatov. Fresh off a stint with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow where he scored 22 points in 26 games, Filatov will look to make the trek over to North America this season. In 21 NHL games, Filatov has six goals and no assists.
Veterans Kristian Huselius, Sami Pahlsson, Chris Clark and Ethan Moreau provide the Jackets with some respectable depth, but it will not be enough to get them to the playoffs next year.
Top Fantasy Forwards in 2010-11: LW/RW Rick Nash (38G/36A/74Pts/-8), C Antoine Vermette (17G/46A/63Pts/-3), RW Jakub Voracek (20G/43A/63pts/-6) LW Kristian Huselius (21G/36A/57Pts/-5), C R.J. Umberger (17G/38A/55Pts/-2), LW Nikita Filatov (24G/16A/40Pts/-13)
Overall Grade: C
Defence: The last line of defence for the Blue Jackets is really mediocre at best. Going into camp, they have seven defenders on one-way contracts, and for the time being, nobody is set in a certain position. The Jackets have a lot of bottom four type of defenceman, but they really do lack a top two defensive presence on their roster.
Right now, the most likely top two defenceman will be Fedor Tyutin and Rostislav Klesla. This leaves Mike Commodore, who had a miserable 2009-10 campaign, speedy Kris Russell, Jan Hejda, powerplay specialist Anton Stralman to fight it out for minutes.
Rookies John Moore and Grant Clitsome, along with Marc Methot will be battling it out for the last remaining defensive spot on the roster. The edge should go to Methot as he has the most NHL experience.
Top Fantasy Defenders in 2010-11: Anton Stralman (11G/29A/40Pts/-17), Rostislav Klesla (4G/30A/34Pts/-10), Fedor Tyutin (6G/24A/30Pts/-8)
Overall Grade: D+
Goaltending: The goaltending last year was the most inconsistent part of the entire roster last season. Steve Mason suffered through the “Sophomore Jinx” last season after a wonderful rookie season. Mathieu Garon eventually got more starts as a result of Mason’s struggles, but that really didn’t help the Jackets out as Garon was marginally better than Mason with a 2.81 GAA compared to Mason’s 3.05 GAA, but each had the same SV% at .900.
Going into this year, Mason will need to prove his critics wrong and make sure his rookie season was no fluke. He’ll need to control his rebounds better and stop the easy shots for the Jackets to head to the playoffs and avenge their series sweep at the hands of the Red Wings two years ago.
Top Fantasy Goaltender in 2010-11: Steve Mason (25 W/24L/6OTL 2.68 GAA, .905 SV%)
Overall Grade: C+
Top 5 Prospect Watch (via hockeysfuture.com)
1. LW Nikita Filatov
Drafted: 1st Round (6th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Current Team: CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Key Attributes: A talented scoring forward who is capable of creating offensive chances for himself and his linemates. Possesses excellent skating ability and a very quick top gear. An above average puckhandler, but is not as effective in traffic and this is something that he has been working and improving over the past season. Has a very dangerous wrist shot and very soft hands – capable of making very precise passes. Overall, Filatov is a very talented forward who continues to improve every year and doesn’t hesitate to take on challenges.
2. C Ryan Johansen
Drafted: 1st Round (4th Overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Current Team: Portland Winterhawks (Western Hockey League)
Key Attributes: Scouts are keen on his puck skills and vision. Johansen is a skilled mover of the puck and possesses the size to become an effective power forward. He is versatile and his touch around the net will set him apart from the muckers and grinders
3. D John Moore
Drafted: 1st round (21st overall), by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Current Team: Kitchener Rangers
Key Attributes: A slick-skating defenseman with tons up offensive upside. Can get to top speed rather quickly and stick handle with efficiency. Has a solid first pass when he’s not leading the rush. Has a quick and accurate release from the backend. Likes to shoot and prefers to slide into the high slot and pull the trigger. He activates off the point a lot, especially on the powerplay. He gets the puck on and off his stick very quickly. Defensive end coverage is good, but will have to tighten it up as he progresses. He will need to improve decision-making in the offensive attack.
4. D Cody Goloubef
Drafted: Second Round (37th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Previous Team: University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Key Attributes: Goloubef is an intelligent defenseman blessed with superb offensive skills and displays tremendous poise with the puck. He possesses a big shot and can get it to the net. He has excellent on-ice vision, follows plays very well and has little trouble finding and getting passes to his teammates. In addition, he can make really nice outlet passes. While his decisions with the puck are very good, he’ll need to be able to make them quicker to have success both at the collegiate level and beyond. Goloubef is a wonderful skater, combining good speed with powerful yet fluid strides. His transitioning is good, although it is another area that should improve with development. His great skating ability coupled with his offensive instincts and vision allows him to frequently jump up into the play and create more scoring opportunities for his team.
5. LW Matt Calvert
Drafted: Fifth Round (127th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Current Team: Brandon Wheat Kings
Key Attributes: Calvert has a very good shot. He has good speed, although as a smaller player could continue to improve it. Has extremely good hockey sense and is a very good leader. Very hard worker and willing to take a hit to make a play. Has good offensive instincts. An unselfish player who thinks the game really well.
Analysts’ Fantasy Stud: LW/RW Rick Nash
One of the best snipers in the game today. If healthy he should easily put up 35 goals and 35 assists, with some solid powerplay numbers. Will not do wonders for your +/- though.
Analysts’ Player to Avoid: G Steve Mason
Mason’s numbers in his rookie season were ridiculous but last season his numbers were verging on Vesa Toskala like. Has the NHL figured out a scouting report for him or was Mason just a victim of bad luck? Mason should have a better season this year, but he’s nothing more than a second or third option in goal at best and not a first option in many leagues.
Analysts’ Sleeper Special: RW Jakub Voracek
Columbus’ best young prospect right now that’s due to explode. His game will translate to the NHL eventually. He had a very respectable year last year with 50 points in 81 games. A very good passer, with a high hockey IQ, Voracek should see a small spike in point totals. Don’t be surprised if he gets around 60-65 points this year and vaults himself into top 125 considerations in many fantasy hockey drafts next season.
Expectations and Predictions
The Blue Jackets right now are still a team in need of an identity. They don’t play well enough defensively to be a trapping team, nor do they have the skill on their roster to be a Washington Capitals like all-out attack squad. What they need to do is allow their young prospects to develop and mature (Voracek, Brassard, Filatov, and Moore) and add quality depth to their roster in hopes of returning to the playoffs. If Steve Mason stands on his head this year, the Jackets could return to the playoffs if all goes well, but I have my doubts that will happen again.
Prediction: 14th in the West.
Overall Team Grade: C-
Articles are Featured at SportsHaze.com
Look out for Day Five posted by Anthony Bumbaco (New York Islanders)