After an inspiring season which saw the Blue Jackets make the playoffs for the first time in five years, Columbus fell short again. Though they only dropped four points from last year to this year, they were sitting nine points out when all was said and done.
Obviously every sports franchise aims to be successful, and the Blue Jackets will be looking to get back into the postseason. To do so, they’ll need some improvements from within as well as some smart off-season moves.
The Jackets know what they’re getting with Ryan Johansen. Pay no attention to the fact that Nick Foligno had more points, Johansen is Columbus’ best player. He is incredibly important for the Jackets to be successful, but we also know what we are going to get from him. He’s established himself. This list is not about the four best Jackets, but rather the four that the team is counting on to take the biggest step forward.
The Four Keys
Ryan Murray was the second overall pick in 2012, behind only Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov. There were (and still are) big expectations for Murray to become a franchise defenseman. Rumors around the draft were swirling that the Islanders were willing to trade the fourth overall and all the rest of their picks to move up to slot number two to grab Murray. Injuries limited him to 12 games last season, and Columbus needs him to stay in the lineup and also make a jump to realizing his potential.
Sergei Bobrovsky is one of the best goaltenders in the league when he’s on his game. For the Jackets to make a run for the postseason, they need him to be just that. He did have a depleted team in front of him, but he needs to have a consistent season and eliminate a couple of the awful months he had last year. A 3.30 GAA in November and 3.64 mark in January aren’t going to keep Columbus in many games. There were some encouraging signs, as Bobrovsky posted a 14-2-1 record between March and April compared to a 16-15-2 record from October to January. Bobrovsky missed February with injury.
Another player that missed a big chunk of time, Brandon Dubinsky contributes both offensively and physically when he’s in the lineup. His 36 points in 47 games put him on pace for a 60 point season over a full 82 games. With a regression from Foligno likely in the cards, Dubinsky will be counted on to pick up some of the slack. Dubinsky also had the third best SAT score on the Blue Jackets.
Fans in Toronto were jumping for joy when the Leafs traded David Clarkson and his big contract. For Columbus, Clarkson represents an upgrade over the injured (and potentially never playing again) Nathan Horton. Clarkson definitely struggled mightily during his time in Toronto, but away from the spotlight and scrutiny of that media market, the Jackets need him to be more like the New Jersey version and less like the Toronto one. If he can be another gritty member of the top nine, Columbus will be happy with that trade.