The NHL is less than 31 days away from the beginning of the 2017/18 season. Over this period we’re diving into the 31 NHL teams in alphabetical order, take a look at their previous standings and upcoming season predictions, as well as their key additions and subtractions. Yesterday we looked at the Colorado Avalanche. Today head into the heart of Ohio and look at what the Blue Jackets have in store for us this season.
2016/17 record: 47-26-9
2017/18 prediction: 4th in Metro
The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the hardest teams to predict in the Metro because there are just too many questions that are left unanswered.
One of the youngest teams, the Jackets proved everyone wrong who had them finishing at the bottom of the league last year. I know I rated them to be dead last in 2016/17 and I wasn’t alone. The mixture of John Tortorella and those speedy kids did not seem like a recipe for success, but with Sergei Bobrovsky having an amazing season, and the work of people like Zach Werenski, Alex Wennberg, and Cam Atkinson the Jackets produced their best regular season ever. Even though they were trounced by the Penguins in the playoffs, expectations for the Jackets are high this season.
And that’s the first question for the Blue Jackets: which team will we see? The 108 point regular season roadrunner, or the 1st round Acme branded playoff dud?
Here’s the good news for the Blue Jackets: they are still a decent team and will still provide a formidable competition for many. Cam Atkinson has shown he can be the scorer the Jackets need, and Alexander Wennberg is a dynamic number 1 center who looked like a star last year. Seth Jones had a career year last season, and there’s full confidence he can continue to be one of the best young defencemen in the league. He along with Savard will anchor the top 4. For better or worse, the team listened to Tortorella’s message of no nonsense defense and it has helped them, they were a top 10 team in possession last year (50.81% CF).
But question marks still remain. The team will live or die on the work of Bobrovsky. Does he have that Vezina award winning season again? The trade for Artemi Panarin will be one which people will eye very closely wondering if Panarin’s production came because of the presence of Patrick Kane. Can he do it by himself? Or will he be in the doghouse like Saad was occasionally last year? Seth Jones’ partner, Zach Werenski had a Calder nominated campaign, one of the best ever for an under 20-year-old rookie defencemen, but will he have another great season or will he hit his sophomore slump ala Shayne Gostisbehere?
Also, who will fill William Karlsson’s role? Karlsson, lost to Vegas in the expansion draft, solidified the bottom six and the Jackets will need someone to fill that important 3rd line center depth role. The Jackets hope it will be a youngster like Tyler Motte or Pierre Luc Dubois. And the biggest question mark of all, is this a brand new Torts or will he go back to his usual grumpy, losing the team and the media kind of ways? Beyond that, we haven’t even touched on the gauntlet that is the Metro, which teams like Pittsburgh and Washington will still give the Jackets headaches, not to mention teams like Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Carolina have all improved.
I don’t think we’ll see a dead last performance from them, but I also don’t see them making the playoffs. There are too many questions to be answered, and they won’t all be answered in the positive for the Blue Jackets