A team can’t win a trophy for being aggressive in the offseason. But if they could, the Blue Jackets would win in a landslide. The team cut nine players loose—including several vets who haven’t been good enough for too long—and was very aggressive in acquiring new blood.
There isn’t a team in the league that needs to be more aggressive, though. They have existed for 10 years and they haven’t even won a playoff game—never mind a whole series. Throughout that time they have had one of the elite talents in the league in Rick Nash, but they have never managed to assemble decent talent around him. They were among the worst offensive teams in the league last year, and that’s not a new phenomenon for them.
On paper they have helped themselves on that front, but as the saying goes, "hockey games are not played on paper."
Columbus Blue Jackets Offseason Moves
The Blue Jackets didn’t want to wait around until free agency to gamble that they would get their guys. After cutting ties with stalwarts like Sami Lepisto and Scottie Upshall, they made a huge splash before the draft.
The Flyers were looking to blow up their team, and the Blue Jackets were more than happy to take Jeff Carter off their hands. That’s more than a lot of teams did, but they didn’t stop there. James Wisniewski would have been one of the biggest names in the free-agent market, but Columbus jumped the line by trading for his rights from Montreal at the draft and signing him to a deal.
Those were the big deals, but they also gambled on some guys who might still have some useful play left in them, like Vaclav Prospal, Aaron Johnson and Curtis Sanford.
2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Outlook
A whole lot rides on the ability of Nash and Carter to find chemistry quickly. They both have elite talent, but that doesn’t matter if you are playing with a guy you can’t work with. If they can figure things out, then the team will have a line to make other teams uneasy, and that will have positive effects that ripple throughout the team. If it doesn’t work, though, then the team has spent a lot of money to wind up right back where they were before.
Deeper teams have the luxury of not needing a new player to contribute instantly. This, however, is not a deep team. They need all the luck they can get from the start.
Defensively this team is sound, and is likely a bit better than they were last year because of the changes. They got rid of a lot of defensemen, and none really are of the type that you are worried you are going to miss.
Again, they need Wisniewski to step up and fit in right away. If he does then they will be fine. A couple of young guys—Grant Clitsome and John Moore—should get a chance to show that they belong in the big leagues. Both guys have real potential.
Another young guy who will be fun to watch if he can make the team is Ryan Johansen. He was the fourth overall pick in 2010, and he tore up the WHL offensively last year. He could be another offensive spark for the squad. The team could use some more draft luck—after Nash they have had a lot of guys not deliver on their huge promise.
2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets Schedule
The Blue Jackets don’t have a lot of natural rivalry developed, and they haven’t had the opportunity to build tension in the playoffs, so the schedule is short of must-see games at this point. The return of Jeff Carter to Philadelphia for the first time on Nov. 5 probably ranks at the top of the list.
Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Futures Odds (from Bodog)
Oddsmakers do not like this team. They are at 75/1 to win the Stanley Cup. Only the Islanders are deemed less likely to win it all. They are 35/1 to win the West.
2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets Predictions
Forgettable. That’s the one word I would predict to be applicable to this upcoming season for the Blue Jackets. They should be better, and I suppose that they could be in the mix for a playoff spot, but they will just be fodder for the elite teams in the first round if they do make it.
They are moving in the right direction, but they just aren’t good enough yet to really scare anyone. They could be useful from time to time as a bet because they could sneak up on some teams in the right spots, but they are a long way from relevant overall.
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