Hello everybody in support of the Union Blue. It has been a busy summer for myself, hence for my inexistence of writing blogs for the hockey world to see. Now that things have calmed down personally, I am back and returning to the rink just like the team is. So, let us get caught up with the team, shall we?
Let us start with a flashback and reflection on the past before we talk about the present, and what is ahead for the organization as a whole.
At the past trade deadline, the Blue Jackets mortgaged their future for an all in push to advance deep into the postseason. Acquiring center Matt Duchene from the Ottawa Senators added the team a new top center with playoff experience and speed, at the cost of top prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidson, as well as their first round draft pick. Winger Ryan Dzingel was also imported from the tanking Senators to bring the former Buckeye back to central Ohio, at the cost of winger Anthony Duclair and two second round draft picks. Defenseman Adam
Mcquaid was brought back to Columbus in a trade with the rebuilding New York Rangers for defenseman Julius Bergman, a fourth round pick, and a seventh round pick. Goalie Keith Kinkaid was added as additional goaltending depth from the New Jersey Devils for a 2022 fifth round draft pick.
The team brought in these players to join the battle alongside other expiring deals, including winger Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as they were both looking to head out the door of Nationwide Arena. The team squeaked into the post-season to battle the President's Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After falling behind early in Game 1, the team came back to win that game and sweep the Bolts in four games in the best of seven series. In the second round against the Boston Bruins, they were ousted in five games by the B's.
The draft showed going all in means less futures, leaving the team with one draft pick in the third round and one in the seventh. The Jackets traded the third pick to the Florida Panthers to move down in the draft, but add extra draft picks. The Jackets wound up having two fourth round picks and a seventh round pick. The Jackets drafted defenseman Eric Hjorth from Sweeden; winger Dmitri Voronkov from Russia; and center Tyler Angle from the Ontario Hockey League (in order of draft selection).
With going all in for the playoff run, the rental players saw better potential elsewhere rather than staying with Columbus. Winger Artemi Panarin became the highest paid forward with signing a seven year contract with the New York Rangers. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky chased the cash with becoming the starting goaltender for the Florida Panthers. Center Matt Duchene joined the Nashville Predators to be their new number one center. Veteran Mark Letestu is taking is veteran leadership to join the young Winnipeg Jets. Goalie Keith Kinkaid is backing Carey Price in Montreal on a one year deal. Winger Ryan Dzingel took the cash to join the rising Carolina Hurricanes. President John Davidson returned to the New York Rangers to be their new team President of Hockey Operations.
Over the summer, the Blue Jackets added three new wingers to save the offensive depth that eroded in Gustav Nyqvist, Marko Dano, and Jakob Lilija. Nyqvist is on board for five seasons in Columbus, providing a scoring touch that the team lost a lot of at once. Gus stood out in his rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings, scoring nearly a goal a game in a short span. The deadline saw him shipped to the San Jose Sharks, and advancing to the Western Conference Finals, losing out to the eventual Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. This is Nyqvist's first training camp not in Detroit in his career, and is expected to join the team's top six in some capacity. Dano returns to Columbus on a one way, two way deal, to compete for a bottom six role with the club. Lilija also is part of the Swedish connection joining the Blue Jackets, but is on a one year, two way deal. Lilija is playing his first season in North America, and is hoping his time in Sweden last season will translate to the big club.
The team has bright spots to look forward to for this season, but a lot of concerns and question marks as the regular season approaches.
The biggest bright spot this team has going ahead is expectation. Last season, Columbus exceeded expectations with advancing to the second round for the first time in the club's 20 year history. The team has gone further than it has, and the goal is to continue to do so. The team had the stars and depth to achieve what they did, and they demonstrated that against the league's best team in the most unexpected way in the form of a four game sweep to Tampa Bay. The experience of last season should continue to go forward with the team.
Another bright spot in Columbus is the youth of the organization. The defensive group, according to CapFriendly, has an average age of 25.3 years old, with eight defenseman on the main roster. The eight defenseman CapFriendly lists include David Savard, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, Markus Nutivarra, Adam Clendenning, Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, and Zach Werenski. The group has experience in the postseason from their secondary defenders and the Calder Cup championships. The offensive is headlined by their young number one center, Pierre-Luc Dubois.
One other bright spot is the chemistry in the organization. The veteran core has been here to see everything evolve in Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, and David Savard. There is also chemistry in the team from the farm, including the Calder Cup champions in Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Werenski, Markus Hannikanen, Dean Kukan, and Jonas
The final bright spot is the draft and development of the Kekalainen group. Kekalainen has been drafting for Columbus since the 2013 draft, and has brought in NHL player by NHL player year after year. In his first draft, he had five players join the organization and player professional games with the big club and with other NHL teams in Alex Wennberg; Kerby Rychel; Mark Dano; Dillon Heatherington; and Oliver Bjorkstrand. In 2014, they added Sonny Milano and Elvis Merzlikins; 2015 saw Zach Werenski, Gabriel Carlsson, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Markus Nutivarra; 2016 brought in Pierre-Luc Dubois; 2017 brought Alexandre Texier and Emil Bemstrom; and 2018 brought Liam Foudy and Veini Vehvilainen. The team's youth is on the roster and approaching arrival on the roster, bringing them success on every level.
With success comes doubt. The biggest question is how can the team replicate what was last season. The team lost organizational depth at every level from franchise scoring and drafting to leadership and goaltending between everyone lost over the offseason and the trade deadline. All the loses leaves an older core dwindling in a state of uncertainty into the new season. The stars left, but the underrated potential of the organization remains intact, but how whoever steps up remains in doubt for the whole season.
Another major question is the goaltending strength. The Jackets have their European young prospects attempting to break the mold in the NHL, and their lack of North American experience may cost the team the entire course of the season if it cannot be held as stellar to years past. And if one stands out, can they last and hold that number one spot for the whole season? At this point, the start seems to be locked in by Korpisalo, who is favored by the experience.
The final question is the coaching staff. Will Torts be able to hold on and withstand the season if everything continues to crumble and loses trust in the kids?
With all questions and doubts, here are my bold predictions of the 2019-2020 season for the Columbus Blue Jackets
1. Columbus will be in the Bottom 3 of the league standings. The team lost so much, and for as much I do not wish failure, it is hard to see any positives without the season starting. This may be my biggest wrong, but it is just so much expectation to see one organization have and next to nothing support it.
2. Seth Jones will win the Norris Trophy. It is his year and time to shine. He continues to grow and improve in every aspect of the game.
3. We will see a different starting goalie in Columbus. None of the active goalies on the roster will hold the starting position by the trade deadline.
4. Riley Nash will be moved. His time in Columbus has not worked out, and a new setting may be helpful for him. Additionally, his cap hit may help if it is no longer on the books.
5. Gabirel Carlsson will be a regular. Going with time to shine, the former first round pick will finally be on the roster.
My Projected/Predicted Lineup of the Blue Jackets for the 2019-2020 Opening Night Roster will be:
Gustav Nyqvist-- Pierre-Luc Dubois-- Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno--Alex Wennberg--Oliver Bjorkstrand
Boone Jenner--Alexandre Texier--Josh Anderson
Sonny Milano--Brandon Dubinsky--Riley Nash
Zach Werenski--Seth Jones
Ryan Murray--David Savard
Markus Nutivarra--Scott Harrington
Spares: D Gabriel Carlsson, D Dean Kukan, LW Markus Hannikanen
What are your thoughts?
More to come...