Monday, July 30, 2007

Why so Blue, Jacket?

In the midst of some big spending teams in the West, the Columbus Blue Jackets haven't spent much money this off-season acquiring new players to join the group that finished 11th in the West, some 23 points out of the playoffs. The notable acquisitons for the Blue Jackets have only been Jiri Novotny (from Buffalo) and Jan Hejda (from Edmonton). I would think in some circles, this would be a cry for help. The Blue Jackets do have a serious amount of talent in their forward ranks, but they are certainly lacking the desire to flourish to their full potential.

It might be fair to say, that the Blue Jackets have really missed out on picking up that X-factor of veteran leadership. Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote were supposed to be "that" guy, but neither have panned out to either lead by example or seemingly lead with character. What the other teams gained this summer in individual talent, the Blue Jackets have gained in chemistry. Another year of having Nash & Vyborny onthe same line... Modin & Zherdev... Brule getting a full-season under his belt... Hainsey becoming a pillar to lean against and Klesla getting all those minutes, the Blue Jackets could very well be a more difficult team to play against.

Rick NashSergei FedorovDavid Vyborny
Fredrik ModinDan FritscheNikolai Zherdev
Jason ChimeraManny MalhotraGilbert Brule
Jiri NovotnyAlexander SvitovJody Shelley
Ron HainseyRostislav Klesla
Adam FooteDuvie Westcott
Jan HejdaOle-Kristian Tollefsen
Fredrik Norrena
Pascal Leclaire

As you can see, it looks as though Fredrik Norrena will be the favourite to take the number one job in Columbus for next season. Nothing is guaranteed, but he did play well last season, winning 24 times and was almost good enough for a point-per-game. He actually finished 26th amongst goalies in pool rankings. Leclaire just can't seem to nail down that job as it was seemingly his when the Jackets dealt Denis to Tampa Bay. Leclaire only managed 24 appearances and winning 6 times.

On the blueline, the addition of Hejda should give them some better number five or six minutes, as he did play pretty well for the Oilers last season. It will be a full-time job for him, instead of the platoon role he faced in Edmonton, so you can expect his numbers to almost double with a full season worth of work. A healthy season for Adam Foote will help his tally as well, but at 36, the years of a full-season seem less and less likely, especially with the way he plays. The big one will be Hainsey, who should have some more confidence with his shot... look for him to improve on his 9 goals from last season.

Up front, look for Jiri Novotny to make a splash. Yes, he's the new kid in town, but he showed some pretty special hands in Buffalo late last season and he could find himself on the second line in no time. He is a natural centre, but with the way the Jackets are rolling out, he's just shifted to the left for now. Watch Novotny push for Fritsche's job on this list.

It was a fairly healthy year for Nash last season, but he'll need to return to his 50-goal days to help Columbus win. A certain level of confidence will have to be reached before he can be that dominating power forward again. Zherdev and Brule will be looked towards to bring their real A-game this season and if they can have a good camp and jump right out of the gates with a few wins, they could have their confidence built and the season could be a bountiful one.

And what's their cap number, you ask? This line-up here will cost a mere $37 million. I wouldn't be surprised if they made a push for a player like Jeff O'Neill or Wes Walz, but it isn't very likely that they'll spend too much more in the dollar department.

Technorati Tags
, , , ,

No comments: