Saturday, September 17, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Columbus Blue Jackets

10 years, endless struggles, and a near financial collapse later, Scott Howson has decided to put his foot down. Or, his pen down, as he has been writing big contracts all offseason in order to get the Blue Jackets to be relevant. Now, everything rides on this season, and whether they can make the postseason or not. This is a tough task, but will the many new guys be able to help them get there?

Strengths: They reeled in some big names this offseason, and the biggest of the big was Jeff Carter. He should form a top line combo with Rick Nash, and become a deadly scoring duo. The presence of Rick Nash will make Jeff Carter better, and vice-versa. They also acquired very good defenseman James Wisniewski from Montreal and signed him to a big deal this offseason, along with former Islander mainstay Radek Martinek. They also have a very good young group aside from these major newcomers, in Derick Brassard, Matt Calvert, and others, who will have to step up in order for this team to have success. But maybe the biggest question, is whether goalie Steve Mason will be able to regain his Vezina contending play from from a few seasons ago in order to propel this team after having a sub-par season last year.

Weaknesses: They have a lot of young talent, and with that brings a lot of questions. There is some good veteran depth, but there isn't an amazing amount of it. There are a decent amount of holes on the roster where the abundance of young talent could fit in, but those players have questions as to whether they are ready or not. There is also some worry about secondary scoring, behind Carter and Nash.

Any Help Coming? The fourth overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, Ryan Johansen is the best of a very good bunch of prospects. He is a good puck mover, and is also a very good power forward. D David Savard is a very good balanced D-Man who is powerful on the blue line, yet can generate a good offensive output as well. D John Moore is a good skating defenseman who has great offensive potential, and may become a good powerplay captain at some point.

Outlook: Columbus fans have hope for the first time that maybe, their team is finally on the way up. The new additions have sparked the optimism, and even Rick Nash is feeling it to. The many, many young players should be a cause for optimism as well. There are still questions that Scott Arniel will have to answer, and whether he can or not may determine whether the Blue Jackets taste the postseason again.

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