by Professor ggrib
So if goaltending is the #1 key for the Blue Jackets this year, where are we with the number one topic from last year, that of scoring goals? On the surface not a huge change. True, a guy by the name of Marion Gaborik will pull on Blue Jacket skates this year. Acknowledged as a sharp shooting scorer, he will be replacing the haunting phantom of Rick Nash whose apparition hovers over Nationwide Arena. Joining the team later after an injury recovery/rehabilitation will be another scorer, Nathan Horton. However gone from the team is sparkplug Vinny Prospal, the team’s leading scorer from last year. Also Blake Comeau will replace Colton Gilies, another offensive upgrade. Now at the point of the season where Nathan Horton joins Marion Gaborik on the ice, the Blue Jackets will be opening the door to a new era. The era where two scoring threats are skating. Thus causing teams to divide their efforts in shut down defenses. This is new territory for the Blue Jackets, spreading an opponents attention and assets and reaping the rewards. These rewards will not only be gained by these 2 principals, they will be felt along the length of the Blue Jacket bench.
Rather than try to guestimate different players points/goals, let’s take sort of an overview view of some things. Not to be construed as a 100% player by player review.
Last year 3 new skaters joined the forwards group, Anisimov, Dubinsky, and Foligno. With virtually no opportunity to skate together, the season started and these three just had to fit in. Plus other players newer to the NHL and injuries the games with all hands available were few. Dubinsky and Foligno did not score a lot of goals. All three players had their moments in the spotlight and all contributed. I feel they [all 3, but particularly Dubinski and Foligno] will have more points this year, as they will have a training camp to bond/blend into the Jackets. Interestingly the above mentioned Marion Gaborik will be joining 2 of his ex-teammates [Anisimov and Dubinski] as a ex-Ranger force.
RJ Umberger, who has had disappointing years has suffered from the missing Rick Nash. Yes, I know Nash has only been gone 1 year, but he was missing a lot of the previous year. In my opinion, RJ does not have top line talent, but with hard work and a fair hockey sense, he capitalizes on the defenses keying on Nash and the fact that Nash had a huge number of SOG, resulting in RJ deflections/rebounds. This year with Mr Gaborik joining the group and later, Mr Horton, I think RJ will benefit and will have an increased production.
The next two skaters are an extreme experiment. Two mighty mites who skate all over the ice with speed and determination. These are not the protypical NHL player. After his first game as a Blue Jacket, Marion Gaborik made a comment about the 2 little guys who were buzzing all over the rink. So the Blue Jackets are experimenting to see if the 2 little guys can win in the NHL and even more important, can the Blue Jackets win with 2 little guys on the ice. Cam Atkinson played hurt most of the year. His stats: 5’7″ 173. Mat Calvert weighs in at 5’10” 187. Cam is a bit more of a pure shooter. Mat plays a little more of an all around game. Both have speed. Both have showed determination and guts. To me this will be a career determining year for both of them.
Next in line has to be Ryan Johansen. When the Blue Jackets ended their year, Most fans were well satisfied with Ryan’s play and his progress for the year. Then the report comes back from Springfield that he was benched in the last game of their playoffs essentially for not giving it an all out effort. That comment left a bad bad taste in Jacket fans who have lived with the “country club” shadow for years. I suggest fans forget that report and judge Ryan on this year and what he contributes. He’s a kid, he just came off a great season but the team fell one point short. Let’s see what happens this year.
Mark Letestu is a player who seemed to surprise a lot of fans last year. I’m not sure why. At the trade deadline the previous year, the Jackets traded away 2 centers. Into the breech stepped Letestu. He improved his face off % and played top 6 lines, and did well. Let’s say it another way, he thrived on opportunity. Last year he did the same, he thrived on opportunity. Plug him in anywhere and he produces. What’s not to like?
A quick comment on another player, Boone Jenner. Many people are expecting him to make the Blue Jackets this year. There will be room, with Vinny gone and Horton on IR, there will be room. But he does not have much experience as a pro. He could make it but more realistically expect him to get frequent flyer miles between Columbus and Springfield. When he arrived in Springfield it didn’t take long for him to be an important cog in the machine, so it could happen.
— And an additional comment. I listened to the Springfield playoff games. It did seem like Jenner was out playing Johansen. Even when they were on the same line, which I did hear and particularly on the PP. Was it because Jenner had just arrived in the pro game and was full of the adrenalin of making his name and Johansen was coming off the season ending of disappointment and returned [down] to the AHL? We’ll see.