COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
LAST SEASON: 43-32-7, 93 points. Eliminated in first round of playoffs by Pittsburgh in 6 games.
COACH: Todd Richards, fourth season with the Blue Jackets, 85-70-16; 5th overall in NHL.
ADDED: LW Scott Hartnell, RW Jerry D’Amigo, RW Brian Gibbons.
LOST: LW R.J. Umberger, C Derek MacKenzie, RW Jack Skille.
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Brandon Dubinsky. With two of the team’s top centres unavailable (Ryan Johansen, holdout; Boone Jenner, broken hand), the fiery 28-year-old’s role only grows bigger. He was already the heart and soul of a team that doesn’t have an official captain, even though he would seem the likely choice. Coming off a year in which he had 16 goals and 34 assists and continually came up big late in games, he’ll be counted on to provide even more points and leadership.
OUTLOOK: If the contract dispute between Johansen and the club isn’t resolved soon, and with Jenner and Nathan Horton (bad back) out for the foreseeable future, the Blue Jackets may have to win a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games in which G Sergei Bobrovsky stands on his head. Also, several young players (most likely Alexander Wennberg and Simon Hjalmarsson) may have to be gangbusters right from the outset to kill time until the club’s at full strength.