BT's 10 Bold 2010-11 NHL Predictions: The Columbus Blue Jackets

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BT's 10 Bold 2010-11 NHL Predictions: The Columbus Blue Jackets
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Columbus is going to need a few big years if they hope to win enough to get into the post-season.

The Blue Jackets have had some of the most fleeting success of any of their expansion cousins.

While the Nashville Predators have never made it out of the first round of the playoffs, they've at least made the postseason five times. The Minnesota Wild have three playoff appearances and have made it the farthest of all of the late 90's expansion teams, making one Conference Championship.

The Thrashers are their closest comparison, as their former star Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash won the Rocket Richard trophy the same year. Both teams have made the playoffs just once and both have had some serious struggles.

Over the course of their existences, Atlanta has out-gained Columbus points-wise (727 to 657), but with a difference of 70 points and one extra season of activity for the Thrashers (who began play in 1999-2000), it's unfair to say that they've been "better."

Columbus is in a far more difficult position than Atlanta this season though; while Atlanta is in a division where everyone has something to prove, Columbus is up against teams that have already been there and done that.

The Central has provided two of the past three Stanley Cup winners and three of the past Western Conference champions.

Nashville is a constant playoff threat and St. Louis has upgraded in net after just missing the playoffs last year.

It's up to Columbus to prove they belong in the postseason mix and if some of these bold (or not so bold) predictions come true, they may go a long way in helping.

1) John Moore makes the NHL roster by January

There's no doubt where Moore will be this year, and that's amongst the professional ranks.

Whether he begins that journey in the AHL or starts at the top in the NHL will be determined by what he shows in training camp.

Moore is still a little rough around the edges (especially in his own end), but he's got top-end offensive ability and a point-shot that makes him an NHL possibility. With just Kris Russell owning a real 'get-it-to-the-net' shot (Anton Stralman's ability make him more of a set-up man), Columbus could certainly use him.

2) Jared Boll passes 200 penalty minutes again

Three years ago, Boll finished his first NHL season with 200 penalty minutes. Slowly, that total has dropped off from 180 to 149 last year.

Although the team has added some toughness in Ethan Moreau, Boll reclaims the Jackets' heavy-weight belt.

3) Antoine Vermette has his first 70-point season

Since being acquired from the Ottawa Senators, Vermette has really found success in Columbus.

He had 13 points in his first 17 games with the team after the 2009 NHL Trade Deadline, and he blew his previous career-highs out of the water with last year's season.

If Vermette has truly matured as an NHL player, then Columbus may have found their top-line 1-2 punch.

4) Rick Nash finishes with 45 goals or 85 points

Realistically, he could finish with both (being more of a goal-scorer than assist guy) but either way, the burly winger has never surpassed the 80-point plateau.

If Vermette has truly matured as a centre, then he gives Nash exactly what Columbus has been trying to find him: a play-making centre. Nash does the 'C' on the front of his jersey well and leads by example this season.

5) Steve Mason looks more like his sophomore season than his rookie year

Mason saw a dramatic fall-off from his rookie season last year, and while he can better it, he won't come close to the .919/2.29 from his first NHL season.

He could make his way back to 25 wins on the year if he plays like he did during the middle stages of last year, but if things remain a roller coaster for Mason and he struggles to milk wins from Columbus, this could turn in to a platoon with Mathieu Garon.

6) Kris Russell hints at his talent (yet again)

It seems that each season, Kris Russell gives us a sneak peak at the talent he's preparing to unleash as a member of Columbus' defense.

Two years ago, Russell was a pure puck-mover, ending up on assist shy of 20. Last year, he set a career-high with seven goals.

The 5'10 defender may do a better job of meshing those two assets and might even broach 30 points, but we still won't see the best he has to offer.

7) Jakub Voracek scores 25 goals

If Voracek's improvements continue (he went from nine goals and 38 points his rookie year to 16 goals and 50 points last year), he could bump Kristian Huselius from the right side of Nash and Vermette's line.

If that happens, then Voracek's development could skyrocket and Columbus could have one of the more dangerous top lines in the league.

8) Derick Brassard finishes with fewer than 45 points

In his rookie year, Brassard seemed like he was going to be top-six NHL material until his year was cut short by injury.

Last year, fans were looking forward to a rebirth, and while his overall production was better, it wasn't nearly at the same clip.

With RJ Umberger posting a career-high in goals his first year in Columbus, a career-high in points last year (while also finishing third on the team in faceoff winning percentage), and Ryan Johansen signed and being given a look at training camp, Brassard will have to work hard to retain a spot on the top two lines.

9) Filatov sticks the whole year, but struggles

The fundamental differences out of the way, Nikita Filatov has nowhere to go but Columbus.

After a year in the KHL to find his offensive game again after scoring just two goals in his first 13 NHL contests, Filatov is back for a second try and will be fighting it out with Brassard for top-six time.

Filatov will see some success this year, but it'll be limited as he re-acclimatizes to the North American game.

10) Sami Pahlsson finishes with a positive plus/minus

This may not seem like a big deal, but for a player who's so well known for his defensive play and his gritty, low-line presence, it may surprise you to find out that Pahlsson has had just one positive season in that column throughout his career.

To his credit, six of those seasons have been a single-digit minus, with five of them below minus-five and four of them minus-two or better, but this year Pahlsson finishes with a positive.

The Stretch: When the Columbus Blue Jackets start the season 0-20-2, they turn to the firing line once again. Not wanting to relive Scott Arniel of his duties, or Scott Howson, Stinger, the Jackets' mascot, is fired. He is replaced with a Yosemite Sam look-a-like, dress in a navy blue dinner jacket.

 

Bryan Thiel is a senior writer and a feature columnist for Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game! You can e-mail Bryan at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com, or follow him on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.

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