During the 2016-17 season, the Blue Jackets won 50 games for the first time in franchise history, thanks to a 16-game winning streak from November 29th-to-January 3rd—yeah they didn’t lose a game in the month of December.
After a successful regular season, the Blue Jackets were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
This summer was pretty calm in Columbus. The only big move that they made to their active roster was acquiring Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte from the Blackhawks for Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg (CBJ also received a 2017 6th round pick for a 2018 5th round pick). The initial reaction from the hockey community is that the Blue Jackets won this trade by a mile. Playing primarily with Patrick Kane, Panarin has been an absolute force in his first two NHL seasons. The Russian winger is tied for seventh in the NHL in points (151) and tied for 14th in goals (61) during his two campaigns in Chicago. Panarin has a lethal shot and will come in an bolster a Blue Jackets’ power-play that was dominant in 2016-17.
Panarin joins a forward group that was led by the diminutive Cam Atkinson and the pass-happy Alexander Wennbergg last season. Atkinson scored 20-plus goals in three straight seasons prior to 2016-17, but exploded for a career-highs in goals (35), assists (27), points (62), shots (240), power-play goals (10), power-play points (21) and game-winning goals (9). Wennberg enjoyed a lot of success as well, seeing career-bests of his own in goals (13) and assists (46)—which was tied for 15th in the NHL. The veteran supporting cast of Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky continue to be well-rounded forwards who put up solid offensive totals. A young crop of forwards have Blue Jackets’ fans excited about the present and the future. Josh Anderson, who remains without a contract might not be there for the start of training camp, but the power-forward put up big numbers at lower-levels and is poised to play a much larger role in his second full season. Oliver Bjorkstrand was among a large list of potential breakouts in 2016-17, but it never materialized. Entering this season he remains in the group after scoring 14 goals with 12 assists (26 points) in 37 AHL contests after being sent down. Lastly, Sonny Milano is expected to make the team out of training camp, one-year removed from a 47-point (18G / 29A) campaign with Cleveland (AHL).
On the backend, the Blue Jackets have one of the best young pairings in the NHL with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. As many expected, Jones enjoyed a breakout campaign during 2016-17, posting 12 goals and 30 assists (42 points) in 75 games. Werenski was a fantasy hockey darling as we went mostly undrafted but finished as one of the highest scoring defensemen in the NHL. Both possess high-end offensive ability and should each post double-digit goals with 30-plus assists. The rest of their blueline is solid, albeit unspectacular. Jack Johnson is solid, but overpaid. David Savard will post modest offensive totals but chip in in leagues that count hits and blocked shots. Lastly, former No.2 overall pick Ryan Murray has offensive upside, but injuries have become a massive concern as he has missed 108 games in his first four NHL seasons.
Sergei Bobrovsky is back as the Blue Jackets’ No.1 netminder and Joonas Korpisalo is expected to serve as his backup. Durability has been a concern throughout Bobrovsky’s career, but he managed to stay healthy last season, posting career-highs in starts (63), wins (41) and shutouts (7). He is considered one of the best netminders in the NHL and another healthy season will assuredly place the Blue Jackets back in the postseason. The 23-year-old Korpisalo has appeared in 45 career NHL games, posting a 2.68 GAA and .915 SV%, which makes him a solid backup option, but he likely won’t see many starts—barring injury to Bob.
The Blue Jackets are victim of being in the toughest Division in the NHL. Despite a great 2016-17 season they drew the Penguins in the first round. Their entire season really hinges on the health of Bobrovsky, but they should be back in the playoffs, even if it’s as a Wild Card team.
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Brock Seguin has been the Editor-In-Chief of DailyFaceoff.com since the 2012-13 season. Feel free to reach Seguin directly @dailyfaceoff or @Brock_Seguin.