directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Season preview: Part 2 of 5

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Season preview: Part 2 of 5

Part 1 - Management & Coaching
Part 2 - Offfense
Part 3 - Defense
Part 4 - Goaltending
Part 5 - Special Teams

Part 2

Collectively the Columbus Blue Jackets finished 21st overall in the league in "goals for" with 221 with an average of 2.68 goals per game.

That we know was good enough to get them into playoffs. The question is will it be good enough to propel them into a the post-season for the 2nd year in a row?

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season:I think it's very important for this group to finsih at least in the middle of the pack for goals scored next season. While it would be nice, the Jackets can't expect Steve Mason and the defense to play as air tight and error free as they did last year - they need the goal support.

Middle of the pack last year was 238 goals. That is a very manageable 17 goal increase.

Rick Nash will once again be expected to "Carry The Flag" offensively but it will be the supporting cast and super soph's that will need to increase their output.

It's the young guys that will ultimately need to step up their offensive output if the Jackets hope to increase off last year's numbers. Guys like Brassard and Voracek will need to make substantial contributions on the score sheet. The Jackets will need more offensive productivity from Kris Russell on the backend. Derek Dorsett will be expected to chip in a few and then of course there is the wildcard in Nikita Filatov -- how quickly can he make the adjustment and hold down a regular shift and contribute steadily at this level?

The veterans will also be counted on to elevate their game. The Jackets will need a full year of production from Antoine Vermette with a goal of 50-60 points. Umberger will need to match or exceed his career high of 26 goals last season. A now adjusted Kristian Huselius will be counted on to build off his 56 point season.

The Jackets blueline combined to score just 26 goals last year. Tyutin led all dmen with 9 goals. That isn't good enough. The Jackets need more offensive production from this group. They need to be quicker and more concise in their puck movement and get more hard low shots through from the point. All of the good offensive teams in the NHL get solid offensive contributions from their blueline.

Let's take a look at some of the more prominant names that will be counted on for offensive production this season:

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Nash had a career year last season notching 40g and 39a for 79 points. The Jackets have clearly hitched their wagons to the Nash-train and will expect him to build off those numbers. He will also be expected to continue to round out his 2-way game and leadership skills which have been nothing short of shape shifting since Hitch got a hold of him.

Prediction: 48-43-91

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Brassard was well on his way to the Calder Trophy notching 25 points in 31 games until an ill-advised but ballsy fight against the Stars' James Neal ended his season. Brassard is at 100% health and will be expected to anchor and excel as the Jackets #1 center. If last year's glimpse and this year's pre-season performance are any idication, that won't be a problem. He has world class ability and the competitive level to match it. If Brass stays healthy (which is a legit concern) Nash could find himself with the first 50 goal season of his career.

Prediction: 25-49-74

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Kristian Huselius was brought in to replace the production lost when the Jackets traded Nik Zherdev away. Although he didn't quite have the season we all had hoped he was productive notching 21g, 35a for 56 and was a +1 (if only he could have buried half of those shots he rang off posts). It took he and Nash a little while to click which shouldn't be a problem this season. I look for a more productive year out of "Juice" again playing on that top line again with Nash but with a much more skilled center in Derick Brassard.

Prediction: 28-41-68

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: RJ Umberger really struggled out of the gate as he tried to leave Philly behind and adjust to life as a Columbus Blue Jacket. Once he found that adjustment Umberger really came on strong notching a career high in goals at 26 and being the most productive goal scorer in their short playoff run. RJ has quickly become the "conscience" of this team and will relied on to be more productive out of the gate this year. He will continue to set up shot in front of the cage on the PP and will be counted on to shoulder some of the leadership void left from Peca and Malhotra's departure.

Prediction: 30-22-52

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Antoine Vermette was a trade deadline acquisition for the Jackets as they made their first push into the playoffs. He was very valuable down the stretch notching 13 points in 17 games. That production and his value at center earned him a 5 year extension this offseason. Vermette's biggest knock is his inconsitancy which the Jackets hope won't be a problem now that he has a clearly defined role in the top 6 here. He will be expected to lockdown that 2nd line hole and be a consistant point producer in that role.

Prediction: 20-28-48

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Another one of the Jackets impressive rookies from a year ago. Voracek came within one point of matching Rick Nash's rookie total of 39 points. He was snake bitten in the goal scoring department in the 2nd half (he scored just 9 goals all year) so the Jackets will expect more production in that area and generally expect him (and his hockey hair) to take the next step in his development into becoming one of the best 2-way players in that game today.

Prediction: 17-38-55

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: After paying his dues in the American Hockey League this young Russian dynamo was named the best prospect not playing in the NHL by The Hockey News last season. Those kind of accolades put Nikita Filatov firmly on the Calder Watch lists of most experts in hockey circles. The #1 expection for Filatov is that he'll make the team. From there it's anyone's guess as to where he'll play and how often. He's shown some tremendous improvement late in camp which gives everyone cautious optimism. He's a goal scorer though so I expect him to be used that way and approach that 20 goal mark. Remember though he is just a rookie who will have his ups/downs this season.

Prediction: 19-14-33

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Acquired as an unrestricted free agent Pahlsson was brought in to replace Manny Malhotra and be the Jackets "shut down center". He's had a quiet preseason but will be expected to log big minutes in key situations against the other team's top lines and to shut them down. Offensively he isn't going to give you as much as he should so for me, I expect to see that +/- in the positive direction at season's end. More importanly I expect to see the other team's top players pointless more often than not.

Prediction: 6-15-21

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Chimera was off to a career season last year playing along side Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek. Through 48 games Chimera notched 8g, 14a for 22 points in 48 games. Unfortunately Chimera suffered a groin injury in January and was never really able to recover. This year Chimera will first and foremost need to stay healthy. His speed is his biggest weapon which doesn't work if his groin remains injured. He will most likely play on a checking line with Pahlsson so a defensively responsible game is a must. It wouldn't hurt to come up with a new breakaway move or two and use that big body of his while he's at it as well.

Prediction: 14-14-28

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Last season was an absolute disaster for Modin. In fact the last two seasons were disasters for him. At this stage I don't think there are much of any expectations for this player. The Jackets would just like to see him healthy and contributing. When he is healthy he can be an effective player with this big body, puck shielding ability and knack for dirty goals. Unfortunately it appears after a long NHL career his body is breaking down. If he does make it into the lineup he should join Pahlsson on that 3rd line and be a dependable 2-way player capable of contributing some offense.

Prediction: 13-10-23

Expectations for the 2009-2010 season: Torres struggled for the first half of last season (his first as a Jacket) as he battled to recover both physically and mentally from a devastating knee injury he suffered in the 2008 season. By mid season though Torres showed signs of the 27 goal form that made him so successful in the 05-06 season and scored 12 goals down the stretch - many of the game winning variety. The Jackets will obvioulsy hope that play continues. They will expect Torres to not only change the momentum of games with his goal scoring but also with his ability to connect on the big hit. He'll need to watch taking himself out of the play trying to make those hits however. Torres will most likely shuttle between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines depending on health in the lineup.

Prediction: 19-13-32

These players will all be expected to fill roles as energy/agitating players.

Boll will look to improve off his 4g, 10a 180PIM season last year. He never really could find his groove after suffering an offseason "shinny" injury (still don't believe that one) after getting his clocked clean a bit due to an extremely unneccesary (thanks stripes) fight that he got into just days after re-entering the lineup. His role will be similar to year's past and that is to provide a mix of grit, character and to drop the gloves for his teammates. He will need to show that he is still able to keep up to the NHL pace.

Dorsett is a player who really found his way in the NHL last year and probably played his best when the games mattered the most and that was in the postseason. Dorsett has really carved out a niche for himself in this lineup and plays a very valuable role. He's got a motor that doesn't stop. He will be counted to do some of those things a Boll does but with superior hockey skills will be expected to add something offensively as well.

Murray is Mr. Reliable. Although he's nothing flashy you know what your going to get game in and game out with this guy. He doesn't add a lot offensivley but he battles hard in all areas and never takes a shift off. He is always working hard and bangin potting the occasional goal and that is exactly what will be expected of him this season.

Blunden was acquired in a trade for Adam Pineault last season. Blunden spent the rest of that season in Syracuse and has made the Jackets out of camp with a great preseason. Blunden is another player who will be expected to provide energy and sandpaper to the Jackets lineup. He's also shown some offensive ability which is something the Jackets could use at the lower end of their lineup.


Boll: 6-9-15
Dorsett: 6-12-18
Murray: 5-5-10
Blunden: 3-5-8

While keeping goals out is the primary job of the defense the Jackets will also need offensive production for this group.

As perviously stated last year the Jackets D only managed to score a combined 26 goals. That isn't good enough and this group led by Tyutin, Russell and newly acquired Stralman will need more production in the goal secoring department.

Stalman gives them a much needed right hand shot that should open up a lot of options, especially in man advantage situations. All d-man need to work on their lateral movement to manufacture lanes to get pucks through from the point. They'll gotten better at those first passes out of the zone but more improvement is needed in the transition game.


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