Columbus Blue Jackets preview

The Columbus Blue Jackets have never made the playoffs.

In fact, they never had a season with a .500 winning percentage or better. That’s not good for a team in a non-traditional hockey market.

Unfortunately, things aren’t looking better for them this season.

Forwards: Rick Nash is a threat to score every time he is on the ice. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of help. If he could have someone on the second line that can score, that would take some of the pressure off him, and would actually open the ice for him.

The Blue Jackets are hoping R.J. Umberger could be that threat. He scored 13 goals in 74 games last year, but scored 10 goals in 17 games in the playoffs.

Kristian Huselius is another player the Blue Jackets are counting on. He has put up pretty good numbers the past two seasons, and Columbus is hoping he can continue that.

Defence: Okay, I’m sorry, but it has to be said. I know Mike Commodore has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice and has his name on the Cup, but did the Blue Jackets not watch Commodore play at all last season? So why sign him to a contract worth $3.75 million a year? For five years?

And except for Commodore, there isn’t a lot of big-name players on defence for this team. Fedor Tyutin was signed to a four-year contract, so the team sees something in him, and hopes he can deliver.

Goaltending: The Columbus Blue Jackets have brought Pascal Leclaire along slowly, and it seems to be paying off. He played in 54 games last year, and was seven games over .500, which is impressive considering the team finished the season two games under .500. He had nine shutouts, a 2.25 goals against and a .919 save percentage. If they can get a full season out him, they’ll have their best chance to make the playoffs.

Pool picks: Kristian Huselius will be playing on a line with Rick Nash, and is used to playing with teams that have trouble scoring, as he played in Calgary for the past three years, and in Florida for four years before that. Stay away from: R.J. Umberger. He had a career year last year with 50 points, but that was on a more offensive team. Playing with a team that will have trouble scoring, he will have trouble getting the 13 goals he had last season.

Miscellaneous: Columbus has a head coach that has won two Memorial Cups, a Stanley Cup and was an assistant coach for a gold medal team. Ken Hitchcock never had a losing season until he started coaching Columbus. However, he has made this team win more games and respect in the two seasons he’s been there.

Expected finish: Fourth in the Central division, 13th in the Western conference.

Overall: Columbus will have trouble scoring goals this season, but their goalie will make them seem better than they are. Still, in the end, they’ll be below .500 again, and out of the playoffs. Again.


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