There seems to be a new trend emerging for the Jackets where you read one publication picking them as locks to make the playoffs and then you turn around and five minutes later read someone predicting them to get into it.
Hey, it's better than last year right where just about everyone picked them to be in the bottom two of the league.
As puck-rakers reported earlier, The Hockey News Yearbook has been released and they are picking the Jackets to finish 12th in their conference. In fact here is their top 15:
1. Detroit 2. San Jose 3. Minnesota 4. Dallas 5. Anaheim 6. Edmonton 7. Chicago 8. Calgary 9. Nashville 10. Phoenix 11. Vancouver 12. Columbus 13. LA 14. Colorado 15. St. Louis
Hey, they are just predictions, but Minnesota 3rd? They are also jumping on the Edmonton and Chicago bandwagons. Quite frankly I think the entire Western Conference is a toss up after Detroit, San Jose and maybe Dallas.
Overall they gave the Jackets a grade of C-.
For comparison's sake here was their prediction of the West last year:
1. Detroit 2. Anaheim 3. Calgary 4. San Jose 5. Minnesota 6. Vancouver 7. Nashville 8. Colorado 9. St. Louis 10. Chicago 11. Dallas 12. L.A. 13. Edmonton 14. Columbus 15. Phoenix
Now here was the outcome:
1. Detroit 2. San Jose 3. Minnesota 4. Anaheim 5. Dallas 6. Colorado 7. Calgary 8. Nashville 9. Edmonton 10. Chicago 11. Vancouver 12. Phoenix 13. Columbus 14. LA 15. St. Louis
Not bad on the West but boy did they really miss on the East. They actually had Montreal, Boston, Washington & Philadelphia missing the playoffs which as we know now all four made it, and in fact Montreal had the best record in the East.
I really think the West this year will be a surprise in terms of the teams left standing for the playoffs this season. Will the Jackets be one of those -- I sure hope so!
...and hey lets not forget The Hockey News actually predicted the Jackets to make the playoffs in their 2006-2007 preview which of course they then proceeded to tank. Fool me once, right...
Aaron Portzline writes most of the rest of the CBJ coverage in the yearbook and what he didn't write he commented in the Dispatch blog which has Nash ranked 36th out of the top 50 players and Voracek and Brassard in the top 10 of rookies to watch out for.
Speaking of top 10 rookies here was his list of the top 10 prospects for the Jackets:
1. Voracek - Skates like thew ind and is amazingly creative
2. Filatov - Has breakaway skills, but needs physical growth
3. Brassard - Great palymaker just needs to fill out
4. Mason - Towering stopper is positionally sounds
5. Methot - Sturdy defender moves the puck safely
6. Goloubef - Safe and realiable two-way defender
7. Sestito - Rugged winger can score a litle too
8. Pineault - Plays tough and has a wicked wrist shot
9. Weber - Mobile big man with offensive upside
10. Picard - Injuries have derailed a once-promising career
They do give the Jackets prospect group an A- overall.
One more tidbit is that they feature each team's top shootout performer from the year prior. Kristian Huselius is ours converting on 4/5 attempts for a .800 percentage. Overall the Jackets had a .297 success rate in the shootout - ugh.
Stan Fiscler of The Hockey Journal however has this to say about the Jackets:
Scott Howson’s Blue Jackets haven’t created any major headlines lately but the ex- Oilers aide may be putting together the NHL’s sleeper team of 2008-09. There may not be an All-Star among the roster additions but there’s plenty of substance. Between R.J. Umberger, Kris Huselius, Raffi Torres, Mike Commodore, Fedor Tyutin and Chris Backman, Columbus has a neat nucleus with which Ken Hitchcock can work. If Pascal Leclaire matures as a No. 1 goalie and Russian whiz Nikita Filatov lives up to his notices, the pieces for a playoff team will be in place.
Fiscler seems to be one guy that isn't looking at each move individually but instead as a whole. He realizes that games aren't won in offseason headlines and that what Howson has done is acquire competitive pieces for Hitch to mold into formidable team that will play their style of game night in and night out.
Here is a real interesting tidbit from Puck-rakers, Syracuse Crunch(er) John "Nasty" Mirasty will make his first appearance at Blue Jackets camp this year. Mirasty is about as tough as they come so it will certainly be interesting to see what he can do both on the ice and with this fists. It sure would be sweet to see him last long enough for that first home exhibition game against the Preds -- no way in hell I miss that one!
Honestly though I wouldn't be shocked if Mirasty got a couple of cups of coffee should some "nasty"ness break out against some teams early in the season and the Jackets call him on subsequent meetings.