Columbus Blue Jackets: Looking Back On The Year

Bryan L.Contributor IApril 14, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 08: The Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate a win over the Chicago Blackhawks by mobbing goaltender Steve Mason #1 (R) on April 8, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Blue Jackets defeated the Blackhawks 4-3 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets finished the 2007-2008 season with an unflattering 34-36-12 record.Β 

The team bid farewell to Nikolai Zherdev and David Vyborny, both of whom left every Blue Jackets fan puzzled after dismal defense and sporadic play on offense.

To substitute the loss Columbus brought in journeymen-defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Mike Commodore, while also acquiring former Ohio State Buckeye star R.J. Umberger.

Even with all the off-season traffic, the capital city was unsure what team would take the ice come early October.

On October 10, Columbus started the season with a thrilling overtime victory over the Dallas Stars.

The team would flirt around the .500 mark until January, when the Jackets, with an 18-18-4 record, switched gears and finished the season on a 23-13-7 run.

Good enough for sixth place in the West.

On Thursday, Columbus enters Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, for their first ever playoff game. But before the puck is dropped, let's take a look back on who surprised, and who didn't.

Good Surprises

Jan Hejda

Hejda had a plus-23 rating, breaking the previous record of plus-13 by a Blue Jacket.

Kris Russell

Russell more than doubled his points output from last season. His speed helped the Blue Jackets gain an edge in the offensive zone throughout the season.

Antoine Vermette

Vermette tallied 13 points in 16 games with the Blue Jackets. The best thing about seeing him in a Columbus jersey means that goaltender Pascal Leclaire and his spiked hair is busy getting hurt somewhere else.

Derick Brassard

When Brassard had shoulder surgery he already had 25 points, and it was only December. Columbus can't wait for this Center to perhaps put on a few more pounds and return bigger and better for the 2009-2010 season.

Jason Williams

Williams joined the team in January, right around the time Columbus decided to be a playoff-caliber team. Coincidence? I think not. The last time Williams was in the playoffs he was sporting a Red Wings jersey.

Bad Surprises

Rusty Klesla

Klesla was the team's first ever selection. Nothing like setting the tone for your team with a big, slow, stay-at-home Defensemen. Last season, Klesla played in all 82 games, leaving fans with high optimism for 2008. But he was soon sidelined with an injury, and another, and another, and another.

Jiri Novotny

Novotny wins about half of his face-offs, but only played in half the games this season and put up a whimpering seven points. Novotny is not, and will never be, a points scorer but he needs to increase his offense to keep up with the young guns surrounding him.

Michael Peca

If you solely look at Peca's stats, you wouldn't understand why the Blue Jackets are paying him approximately $1.3 million. But his veteran presence has fans thinking he can add chemistry to the team. Didn't Doug MacLean do the same thing with numerous players?

Regardless of the individuals, the team trumped just about every other aspect in the organization's history. No matter what happens in the first round (Wings in six) the team has accomplished more than fans could have imagined.

With young players finally showing their potential and Steve Mason, well, being Steve Mason, General Manager Scott Howson, and Coach Ken Hitchcock will have an eventful offseason trying to keep the Blue Jackets atop the Western Conference for next year.


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