Columbus Blue Jackets
NHL 15: Columbus Blue Jackets Guide
Written By: Nandini77
Year in Review:
Hoping to build the momentum from the 2013 season, Columbus extended the contract of Head Coach Todd Richards through 2014 and signed Artem Anisimov to a 3 year contract in the early offseason. Later, signing Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Blake Comeau, and defenseman David Savard. However, the biggest signing came in the unexpected pick up of free agent Nathan Horton (former Boston Bruins) for a 7 year contract.
First 40 games of the Season:
The season started slowly for the team. We rolled with a 4 game losing streak, then a 3 game winning streak, back to a 5 game losing streak. Within that messed up rollercoaster, injuries started to pile up. Matt Calvert, Derek MacKenzie, Marion Gaborik and Jared Boll were injured within the first 2 months of the season. In light of this, we got Corey Tropp off waivers from Buffalo, which turned into a great deal. The month of December turned awry as Sergei Bobrovsky injured his groin on a save mid-game. Backup Curtis McElhinney filled the spot until being injured 9 days later mid-game, resulting in AHL call-up Mike McKenna to play 3 games in the meantime. McElhinney returned to Philadelphia eager to carry the team to victory but was cut short by Claude Giroux’s unreal hat-trick goal. The Jackets continued on without Bobrovsky to finish the year 6th in the Division.
A New Year and the Return of Bobrovsky:
Nathan Horton, who had shoulder surgery during the offseason, was finally cleared to play on Jan. 2 as McElhinney played the first 2 games of 2014 before Bobrovsky finally started on January 6. In that time span, McElhinney recorded 8-7-1 with .909 SV%. Nevertheless, the return of the starting goaltender sparked the team to a franchise best 8 game winning streak propelling the Jackets to THIRD PLACE IN THE DIVISION before seeing an untimely demise to Buffalo (I was at that game. It sucked). Though that didn’t stop the team’s momentum completely as they carried on the rest of January and February settling 5th in the division after frequent losing streaks.
The team saw a tough schedule ahead as they fought for the wild card spot of the playoffs. Toronto and Detroit had filled the last 2 spots and the Flyers had a sizable margin thus holding third. As the team ended a road trip against Dallas, tragedy struck the home bench as Rich Peverley collapsed due to cardiac arrhythmia. The game was suspended and rescheduled to March 9 due to emotional distress from both teams. Bobrovsky returned to the IR for illness as McElhinney started 2 games. At the trade deadline, Columbus traded the frequently injured Marian Gaborik for Matt Frattin and 2 draft picks. Then on March 9, the Blue Jackets clinched their second playoff berth in the rescheduled game against Dallas and finished the season 7th in the conference.
The Blue Jackets finished the season 7th in the conference to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The playoff series, with a healthy Bobrovsky, saw blown 2 goal leads and 2 beautiful come-from-behind wins. The team won their first playoff game with a 2OT Matt Calvert Goal and won another game in OT with a goal by Nick Foligno. However, these efforts were not enough as the Penguins won the series 4-2.
Highlights of the 2013 – 2014 Season:
Why the Columbus Blue Jackets Will Win The Cup This Year:
The Blue Jackets have an insane amount of depth. Extreme depth at center and probably the most complete top 6 they’ve seen, their forwards have no real weakness. This year Columbus will ice the most complete and most skilled forward group in franchise history, without losing their infamous tenacious forechecking and grinding attitude.
Everyone knows that solid goaltending makes winning the Cup a much easier task, and Sergei Bobrovsky has proven to be quite the goaltender since coming to Columbus. After winning the Vezina in 2012-13 after carrying the Blue Jackets to a near playoff berth, Bob had a bit of a down year last year, posting a .923 save percentage. Yes, his “down year” was still good enough for 5th in the league among goalies with more than 40 games played. Bobrovsky is close to becoming a widely regarded top-3 goaltender, and entering his contract year he will have lots to play for.
After the recent breakout of Ryan Johansen, there are a few more youngsters on the club that will only get better with age. Boone Jenner will come back looking to disregard the alleged sophomore slump that hits so many players after an impressive rookie season. The highest scoring rookie in franchise history ever since Rick Nash, look for Jenner to increase his scoring and throw just as many hits that left his mark on the Metro last year.
Although James Wisniewski has been in the league for years and is considered a veteran, last year was the first year he was truly a game changer. He racked up 51 points, good enough for him to be the 8th highest producing defenseman in the league. He wasn’t just valuable in points this year, his WOWY numbers were unrivaled on the team and overall possession has been impressive since coming to Columbus and should continue to grow. I believe his overall increase in production can be attributed to playing with Ryan Murray, the #2 overall pick in 2012. Murray and Wisniewski, although regarded as the second D-pair last year, may and should become the top D-pair for the CBJ this year and if Murray improves enough, the pair will be very similar to the Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook powerhouse duo of the Chicago Blackhawks. (It’s a big claim, I know, but these two are really good and will only get better.
Why the Columbus Blue Jackets Won’t Win The Cup This Year:
Honestly, backup goaltending. Our early season consistency is an issue, but I am more worried about net depth for this season. If Bob goes down/struggles heavily, I’m not sure I believe McElhinney is capable of carrying the net for any extended duration. Or AHL netminders are likely to be two of our younger players (Dansk, Forsberg) and I would only turn to them if there were literally no other options.
The rest of our roster is solid. I’m not concerned about lack of starpower. I believe we have the character and reliability to get scoring through more as a group effort, which I feel is much more important when you reach the playoffs or are fighting for the last few points as the seasons end approaches.