Columbus Blue Jackets season preview: A healthy team is a good team
Plus: The Columbus Blue Jackets, so far, are significantly healthier than they were last season. According to Man Games Lost, Columbus led the league in total man games lost due to injury last season with 508 total games. Now, with a healthy group, the Blue Jackets should be able to utilize their forward depth. With the new addition of Brandon Saad, the continual dominance of Ryan Johansen and the emergence of Nick Foligno, the Blue Jackets hold a strong top line. With guys like Brandon Dubinsky, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg, Columbus can fill their lineup with any combination of playmakers and two-way forwards.
Minus: The Blue Jackets defense stands out as a weak point. Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin will be relied on as a “shutdown” defensive pairing. Johnson is better utilized as a second-pairing defenseman, and he would prefer to flex his offensive muscles. Ryan Murray will see a much larger role, but he has already missed a significant amount of time in his short career due to injury. Outside of those three, the remaining Blue Jacket defensemen will just be utilized as fillers, and no one has tremendous upside.
X-Factor: Ryan Murray
Despite Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s obvious desire to land a free agent defenseman, he failed to do so. But that can potentially be okay if Murray finally fills out his second-overall pick potential. If Murray can become a top-four or top-two defenseman that can be trusted to protect the blue line and generate a bit of offense, should Kekalainen really have been all that concerned with adding a big-named blue line free agent this offseason?
Prediction: With a strong offensive group, the Blue Jackets will qualify as a wild-card team, but goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and the offense can only carry the defensemen so far. The Blue Jackets may very well sneak into the Conference Semifinal, but they won’t be able to make it much farther.