**Rating system for “Plus/Minus” Series**
+3 = Major Upgrade
+2 = Upgrade
+1 = Slight Upgrade
0 = Same as prior year
-1 = Slight Dowgrade
-2 = Downgrade
-3 = Major Downgrade
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
2010-11: 81 points, #13 in Western Conference
Returning: Steve Mason
Arrivals: Mark Dekanich
Departures: Mathieu Garon
Dekanich has been a star in the AHL but remains untested at the NHL level. The problem is if Steve Mason struggles, which is not out of the realm of possibility, Dekanich will have a tough task stepping in for an extended period of time.
Returning: Marc Methot, Fedor Tyutin, Kris Russell, Grant Clitsome
Arrivals: James Wisniewski, Radek Martinek
Departures: Jan Hejda, Anton Stralman, Sami Lepisto, Craig Rivet
The Jackets have some good defensive defensemen, but have not had a D post a 40-point season in almost 10 years. The addition of Wisniewski should fix that. Despite the astronomical cap hit, Wiz is a very good puck moving defenseman who excels on the PP. Prospects John Moore and David Savard will be competing for the #7 spot, which should negate the loss of some depth players.
Returning: Rick Nash, RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette, Derick Brassard, Kristian Huselius, Matt Calvert, Sammy Pahlsson, Derek Dorsett, Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie
Arrivals: Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal, Ryan Johansen
Departures: Jakub Voracek, Scottie Upshall, Chris Clark, Ethan Moreau Andrew Murray
Like on defense, the Columbus Blue Jackets are filling a major void up front with the addition of Jeff Carter as their #1 center. Not only that, they have gone from being a team that is weak at the center ice position, to one that has Carter, Vermette, Brassard and now top prospect Ryan Johansen who by all accounts is NHL ready.
OVERALL RATING: +4
2011-12 Prediction: #8-#10 in Western Conference
While Columbus is one of the most improved teams in the NHL, they are in one of the toughest divisions in hockey, so making the playoffs is not a given. If Steve Mason can be consistent, and if their makeover on defense turns out to be positive, that will make a postseason appearance all the more feasible.
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.