- Last year’s record: 34-40-8 76 points, last in the metro.
- Didn’t qualify for the playoffs
- Key losses: None
- Key additions: Sam Gagner
Outlook: The Columbus Blue Jackets stumbled out of the gate to start the season last year. In fact I wouldn’t even say stumbled, the gates opened and they didn’t even move. The Blue Jackets started the 2015-2016 season with zero wins in their first seven games. This tumultuous start lead to the firing of Todd Richards and the subsequent hiring of John “F###ing” Tortorella. I’m not sure if that’s a nickname of his, but it should be. This year, Tortorella’s first full season with Columbus, the Blue Jackets will look to get off to a much better start and push for a playoff spot.
The Blue Jackets are a tremendously young team and a team with a rich farm system, this is evident from Lake Erie’s (Columbus’ AHL affiliate) Calder Cup championship last season. The Jackets have excellent depth upfront along with a perfect blend of experience and youth. Lead by former Blackhawk Brandon Saad (31 goals and 22 assists) the Jackets hope their late season success last season will carry over to this year. Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson are two more forwards to keep an eye on this season. Jenner, twenty-three, is coming off his best statistical season as a pro. Atkinson, like Jenner, is also coming off his best season as a pro where he was tied for the team lead in points with Brandon Saad. Alex Wennberg, Scott Hartnell, Nick Foligno, and Brandon Dubinsky round out your top six forwards. Columbus’ first round pick this past season, Pierre-Luc Dubois is also still vying for a roster spot. The dynamic forward was selected third overall in 2016 draft and has a real shot at making the Jackets’ roster, at least for the nine game tryout.
Columbus’ blue line was a bit of a disaster last season, but with the acquisition of Seth Jones last season and the emergence of former first round pick Zach Werenski, the Blue Jackets defense should be vastly improved. Ryan Murray, a former number two overall pick, will look to build off an excellent season last year and will hope to continue to fight off the injury bug that plagued him much of his first couple of seasons.
In order for Columbus to have a shot at a postseason birth goal-tender Sergei Bobrovsky is going to have to forget about last season and try to regain his form. Last season was the former Vezina winner’s worst season since 2011, his second season in the NHL. The good news is that after Bobrovsky’s less than stellar 2011 campaign, he won the Vezina the next season as the league’s top goalie.
Columbus has the talent up front to compete with top teams in the east and their blue line appears to be improved over last season. Sergei Bobrovsky is the wild card. Everyone knows goalies are head cases, much like kickers in football and pitchers in baseball. It’s imperative that they don’t get down on themselves for one little mistake here or there. If Bob can stay out of his head and focus on his game, the Blue Jackets should contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If Bobrovsky continues to struggle and the Jackets get bit by the injury bug like they have in previous years, it’s going to be a long season for John Tortorella and company.