The Columbus Blue Jackets had a lot of hype going into last season. Many expected them to make the playoffs, some even predicting an NHL Stanley Cup visit as well. However, that didn’t exactly come to fruition, as they struggled to stay competitive all season.
Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season looks to be more of the same, but there are some things worth watching.
First, it’s going to be kind of interesting as to what the goalie situation looks like at the end of the year. Sergei Bobrovsky is the unquestioned starter, but he’s always good for an extended stay on the injury report. The Jackets do have backup Curtis McElhinney, but he’s far from starting goalie material.
Something Columbus might want to consider is giving Jonas Korpisalo or Anton Forsberg a shot at goalie this season. The two have both seen time with Columbus, and we’re instrumental in the Cleveland Monsters Calder Cup winning season. While Korpisalo and Forsberg might not be elite NHL starting goalie level yet, if Bobrovsky goes down you might want to give one of the youngsters another shot at the starting job.
During the goalie position set in stone with Sergey Bobrovsky as the team’s starter, the defensive pairings might still need some work. Seth Jones and Ryan Murray are locked in as the team’s top pairing, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess.
Columbus features a few solid defensive options on its roster. One of them is Zach Werenski, who, like Korpisalo and Forsberg, was key to the Monsters Calder Cup. He was the Jackets first round pick in 2015 and has shown that the skills are there to make a jump to the NHL level. Although, with Jack Johnson, Dalton Prout, and David Savard also needing minutes at the defensive spots, playing time for Werenski and the others might be hard to come by.
Lastly, Columbus does feature a trio of top-notch goal scorers on its roster. Brandon Saad, whom the team acquired from Chicago last offseason, recorded 31 goals for the Jackets last season, which led the team. Boone Jenner ( 30 goals) and Cam Atkinson ( 27 goals) also did their part in the goal scoring department.
With this trio of scorers set to return, Columbus also features Nick Foligno, who was a 30-goal scorer two seasons ago, veteran Scott Hartnell, and newcomer Oliver Bjorkstrand. This group of talent gives Columbus a very dangerous core of players that could potentially see four 30-goal scorers and a collection of 20+ goals from a few others.
Wins are going to be hard to come by for the Jackets. They have a good mix of young and old talent but still aren’t at the elite level many expected them to be last season. While Columbus might be better than last year, it seems things will stay relatively the same in the NHL playoff hunt.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288