How many days until training camp opens? Ahhh....too many, of course. It's 95 degrees in Columbus and the only thing representing hockey season is my order form for a new RBK Edge jersey.
I'm usually guilty of doing this too much, but for the sake of excitement surrounding the past 24 hours, I'll take a look at the "on paper" Columbus Blue Jackets.
NASH - FEDOROV - ZHERDEV
MODIN - PECA/BRULE - VYBORNY
CHIMERA - PECA/MALHOTRA - FRITSCHE
SHELLEY/GLENCROSS - MALHOTRA - NOVOTNY
All in all, not a bad group of forwards. Certainly, the strongest in some time. The Jackets are better down the middle this year than they've ever been. They have 3 centers (Fedorov, Peca, Malhotra) who are exceptional two-way players and are key faceoff guys. The only question mark in the forward lines is the strength of the right wing. Vyborny is an excellent skater and playmaker, and no one will doubt his dedication and work ethic. Zherdev is the wild card; supposedly he's in Ottawa training with other NHL players, and getting himself in top shape for camp. Fritsche is a converted center; he showed signs of progress on the wing late in the year (after the departure of Anson Carter). Novotny, also a natural center, will be easier to convert to wing seeing as he played a good amount of wing in Buffalo.
FOOTE - HAINSEY
WESTCOTT - TOLLEFSEN
KLESLA - HEJDA
The Jackets have often been criticized for being a weak defense unit. They have one proven leader in Adam Foote, and emerging stars Rostislav Klesla and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen- both proving to be solid shutdown guys. The Jackets dipped into free-agency to acquire Jan Hejda, the former Edmonton Oiler in his second year in the NHL. At 29, Hejda brings composure and a degree of experience from the Czech League. He is widely known to deliver "thunderous body checks." With Foote being in a contract year, it is possible he could be moved at the deadline, opening a spot for a young player such as Kris Russell or Marc Methot to step into the mix.
In goal, its a toss-up between Fredrik Norrena and Pascal Leclaire. This may be Pascal's last shot in Columbus, as injuries have plagued most of his young career and management has run out of patience. As of now, Norrena has a solid grip on the starting job given his strong play in the second half of last season. It would be great for Pascal to show that he is physically stronger and able to share the job, because these two would provide an impressive 1-2 punch between the pipes.