The Columbus Blue Jackets have been the talk of he town in Central Ohio. With the wilting Ohio State Football Buckeyes already in the local sports fan’s rear view mirror, sights turn to Nationwide Arena this Friday. CBJ General manager Scott Howson, has made BIG MOVES, he’s attracted the attention of the NHL, and he’s created optimism that the CBJ have turned the corner towards SUCCESS!
Nearly every NHL team feels they did wonderful things in this year’s draft, that they took full advantage of the free agent market and MOST feel they have a better team than last year. So why all of a sudden, do the NHL, fans, and CBJ players feel so optimistic?
I’ve learned over the years, that when GMs and players from around the league start talking you up, there is a reason… players know PLAYERS. Take the NFL – all during the NFL lock out and pre-season, NFL GMs, NFL players and ESPN saw the rise coming of the Detroit Lions… the Lions are 4-0, with TWO major come back wins ON THE ROAD! Not your same old Lions! My point is, the NFL underbelly knew this was coming… the “word on the street” was that the Lions would contend in their Division. The NFL has gone through the same things that the NHL is going through: Rule changes that will ultimately favor speed, size and skill – it will favor the OFFENSE! The Lions have the personnel to pounce on the “new rules”.
So what’s the “word on the street” regarding the CBJ?
-Depth – Any club who moves their top Center, to wing on the fourth line, has made major improvements in personnel. Such is the fait of Derick Brassard (17 goals, 30 assists a year ago). Anytime your fighter and agitator have a hard time finding room to play, you’ve made major improvements in personnel. Such is the case with Jared Boll and Derek Dorsett. Any time you can reach into the minors and go 3-4 deep in defense (that can play in the NHL) and have a choice of either toughness or scoring, to bring up, you’ve made great personnel moves.
-Size and Speed – It’s the new NHL (again). Another MAJOR shift is occurring and Brendan Shanahan WILL make a name for himself… Good teams ADJUST! Rick Nash (6’4”), Jeff Carter (6’4”) and Vinny Prospal (6’2”) have size, speed, skill and offensive fire-power. The second line – RJ Umberger (6’2” – 25 goals, 32 assists), Antoine Vermette (6’1” – 19 goals, 28 assists) and (insert either Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson – two rising youngsters), will be powerful, too. Emerging star Ryan Johansen will start at center… on the fourth line. This kid has a chance to PUSH for playing time on the 3rd and even the 2nd line. This is a very healthy equation.
-Defense – a great mix of size, speed, puck control and offense – James Wisniewski (51 points), Kris Russell (23 points) and Aaron Johnson (35 points in AHL) are all fleet skaters and each can explode on the offensive end of the ice. Russell has not hit his offensive potential. A solid mix of stay at home, puck moving defensemen: Fedor Tyutin, Radek Martinek, Marc Methot (who moves pretty well too). Surprise defensemen who bring both (offense and defense) – Grant Clitsome (51 combined points between CBJ and AHL last season) and David Savard (43 points – AHL).
The “word” is, the CBJ WILL increase their goals per game… The only question mark is - will the CBJ’s increase in goals out-pace the potential for an increase in their goals against? Scott Howson and Scott Arniel will take 5-4 wins… so will the fans! Time to Pounce!!!