Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Columbus Blue Jackets 2011-12 Preview

Will Jeff Carter give Nash enough help to vault the Jackets to the playoffs?
Can the Blue Jackets compete in the Central Division?

Some hockey fans only see what Rick Nash can truly offer when he’s playing for Team Canada. With Jeff Carter’s arrival in Columbus via Philadelphia, we may finally see what Nash can do with a similarly talented player entering his prime.

Aside from Nash and Jeff Carter, Columbus will rely upon forwards Derick Brassard, RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette, Kristian Huselius, Matt Calvert and Ryan Johansen.

On defense, James Wisniewski has been brought in to anchor the blue line, and they could use his offensive from the back end this year.

Fedor Tyutin and Radek Martinek will support him, along with Kris Russell and Grant Clitsome.  Hardly a big name defense, but they do manage to get the job done at times.

In goal, the Jackets will be hoping for some stability from Steve Mason, in hopes that he can propel the Blue Jackets to a playoff birth in the tough Central Division.  With such a strong division, the odds are against it. 

Expect the Jackets to challenge early in the year, but wind up around 12th in the conference, given the number of games against superior competition.

Columbus has a bundle of young talent, but needs to take the next step sooner rather than later.

Rick Nash
The hulking winger has needed a center like Jeff Carter to play with to bring the best out of him.  For the first time in years, Nash may have a solid linemate at his level.  80 points are within reach, but 70+ are probably more realistic.

Jeff Carter
Now out of Philadelphia, Carter will be starting fresh in Columbus.  It will be interesting to see how he’ll perform with less of a supporting cast.  With a talent like Rick Nash alongside him, Carter’s fans should not worry about too much of a dip.  70 points are quite attainable.   

Derick Brassard
Brassard should break the 20 goal and 50 points level this year.  With any luck, he could surpass 60 points.  The young and talented forward is due for a breakout sooner or later.

RJ Umberger
Umberger enjoyed a tremendous season in which he tallied 25 goals and 57 points.  A strong player, Umberger may not see the same quality ice time this year with Carter around and Brassard evolving.  50 points are possible but that’s about it.

Antoine Vermette
Vermette fell back to earth last season with a modest 47 points. This season, he should match those numbers, and potentially rebound if he manages to be matched with talented line mates.  50 points are very possible.

Kristian Huselius
Huselius spent the majority of last season in and out of the line up with various injuries.  When healthy, Huselius is supremely talented.  The problem is he is not healthy as often as he’d like.  Given that he may start the season a little late, 40 points will be a stretch. 

Matt Calvert
The under-sized forward enjoyed a great start to his career with 14 points in 20 games.  He cooled up towards the end of the year, but served notice on his talent.  If Calvert lands a top-9 position, 30+ points are almost a guarantee.

Vaclav Prospal
Prospal has bounced around but has put up some solid seasons during his career.  While not a main attraction, Vinny is best utilized as a complimentary player to a Jaromir Jagr or Martin St. Louis.  With Columbus, he may find himself on a line with Jeff Carter and Rick Nash.  If that happens, 60 points are within reach.

James Wisniewski
The Columbus newcomer has bounced around from Chicago to Anaheim, Long Island and Montreal.  Thankfully he scores points about as quickly as frequent flyer miles.  Wisniewski will quarterback the Blue Jackets power play and should play a lot.  50 points are well within reach for this talented, emerging defender.

Kris Russell
Blue Jackets’ fans have been waiting for Russell to bloom for a couple of years now.  Russell did rack up some big points at the end of the season before breaking his leg, and that could be a sign of things go come.

Steve Mason
The young goaltender regained his form a bit last season, and will look to improve upon his numbers this season.  His defence is not full of big names, but is reliable and should provide him some support and protection. 
Still brimming with potential, Mason is one of the top picks to be had among likely non-playoff teams.

Prediction -  32 Wins

Mark Dekanich
Signed to an entry level deal this year, Dekanich will be tasked with backing up Steve Mason.  If Mason struggles, ‘Dex’ may get more playing time than anticipated, but there is reason for optimism in Columbus this year – Mason should be solid.

Prediction -  10 wins
Kris Russell

The youngster is speedy and has very sound offensive instincts.  As some defenders take longer to realize their potential than other players at other positions, do not lose patience yet. 
Russell is poised for a breakout this year or next, and the acquisition of James Wisniewski should take some of the pressure off.  40 points are within reach.

LW - Ryan Johansen
The fourth overall draft pick this past season ripped up the WHL and looked great at the World Juniors.  One a team where roster spots are up for grabs, the 6’3” Johansen stands a good chance to make the team out of the gates.  If he does not stick after 10 games, he’ll most certainly be here next year.

Pretty much a can’t miss prospect, he’s draft worthy and bound to have an impact sooner or later.

Potential Breakout Player
Derick Brassard

Brassard has battled injuries over the past couple of years, but shows promise whenever he is in the line up.  Brassard is very talented and could contribute to the Blue Jackets offence in a significant way if afforded the opportunity.

Adding a player like Jeff Carter to the line up could have a positive or negative effect on Brassard.  It could reduce his ice time in lieu of a more experienced player, or give him a talented line mate to help him score points and develop.  We’re banking on the latter.

Fantasy Hockey Toolkit Central 2011-12 Season Previews
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  1. You obviously haven't done your research, Sanford is not the planned backup.. Dex is. Further, although Johansen is probably a lock for a roster spot, it isn't because there are a lot of roster spots up for grabs.. We have depth at his position. It is more as a result of his exclusion of playing in the AHL.

  2. There was also no mention of Vinny Prospal, likely to play the wing with Nash and Carter.

  3. Thanks for the feedback - adjustments will be made for the omissions!

  4. There is definitely a fair amount of depth up front. What I was speaking about was the flexibility that exist up front.

    If you take Vancouver for example, the lines are pretty much set in stone to start the year. I imagine with a lot of new pieces and talented forwards that Columbus has a lot of options. Johansen could move up or down the line up.