The Blue Jackets’ 45 wins last year only earned them a fourth-place finish in a stacked Metropolitan division. They took the Capitals to Game 6 of the first round but were ultimately defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
Given their young core, Columbus should continue to improve this season, but they failed to add any noteworthy pieces in the off-season. The unfilled losses of Ian Cole and Jack Johnson leave them without much depth on their blueline. They undoubtedly have some high-end talent but don’t quite match up against their divisional foes on paper.
➕ Riley Nash (Free Agency)
➕ Anthony Duclair (Free Agency)
➕ Jean-Francois Berube (Trade)
➕ Adam Clendening (Free Agency)
➕ Dillon Simpson (Free Agency)
The Blue Jackets are expected to start the year with the same top line they closed out 2017-18 with. Artemi Panarin proved he could produce without Patrick Kane, posting career highs in assists (55), points (82), and shots on goal (228) in his first season as a Blue Jacket. Pierre-Luc Dubois is poised for a breakout season after registering 20 goals and 28 assists last year as a rookie. Cam Atkinson will be a 30-goal threat if he can avoid the injuries that limited him to just 65 games in 2017-18.
The problem with Columbus is that they have about 11 legitimate top-nine forwards but only three that are unquestionably top-six guys. Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg are not necessarily worthy of the 18 minutes a night they’ve been assigned. The pair combined for just 68 points last season. Columbus hopes the free agent signings of Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair will give them enough depth to compete with the likes of Pittsburgh and Washington, but they’ll have a hard time replacing any of their first liners should they miss time.
The dynamic duo of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones gives the Blue Jackets’ the fourth-highest rated first pairing in the league, according to Corsica. The two of them combined for 32 goals and 62 assists last season. They should see upwards of 25 minutes a night given the state of Columbus’ second and third pairs.
As we alluded to earlier, the losses of Cole and Johnson leave the Blue Jackets without any sort of depth on the blueline. Ryan Murray will need to take a major step forward in 2018-19. The former 2nd-overall pick has never posted more than 25 points in a season. He will almost certainly see more than the 18 minutes a night he averaged last season. The 60 games he’s missed since the start of the 2016-17 season casts doubt over Murray’s ability to handle a heavier workload.
While it’s passable so long as Werenski and Jones are healthy, the blueline will become a major weakness for the Jackets should either of their top-two defensemen miss an extended period of time.
Sergei Bobrovsky could be enough to offset any damage the Blue Jackets’ defense does to their playoff hopes this season. The soon to be 30-year-old Russian has morphed into a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate, boasting a career SV% of .920. He made a career-high 65 starts last season, putting to rest any noise of durability issues that followed his injury-plagued 2015-16 campaign. He should threaten for 40 wins again this season and has the potential to single-handedly carry a team into the post-season.
Once thought to be a formidable goaltending prospect, Joonas Korpisalo has failed to match his impressive rookie season of 2015-16. He’s posted a .901 SV% and 3.13 GAA in 32 games over the past two seasons. While he’s far from the worst backup in the league, Korpisalo won’t be challenging Bobrovsky for playing time any time soon.
|Artemi Panarin (32)||Artemi Panarin (52)||Artemi Panarin (84)||Artemi Panarin (9)|
|Cam Atkinson (28)||Pierre-Luc Dubois (35)||Pierre-Luc Dubois (58)||Pierre-Luc Dubois (7)|
|Josh Anderson (24)||Seth Jones (35)||Cam Atkinson (55)||Pierre-Luc Dubois (6)|
Blue Jackets in the DFO Top 300
- 16. Artemi Panarin — LW4
- 36. Sergei Bobrovsky — G3
- 64. Seth Jones — D13
- 89. Zach Werenski — D19
- 114. Pierre-Luc Dubois — C31
- 115. Cam Atkinson — RW20
- 270. Nick Foligno — RW54
- 274. Oliver Bjorkstrand — RW55
- 290. Alexander Wennberg — C62
Predicted Metropolitan Standings
Spots 5-8 will be revealed upon the release of our previews for each respective team.
The Blue Jackets will be in a tight race with the Flyers for the Metropolitan’s third divisional playoff spot in 2018-19. After finishing just a point behind them a year ago, the Blue Jackets’ failed to match the Flyers’ additions in the off-season, giving a slight edge to Philadelphia. We expect them to battle it out with the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers for the two Easten Conference wild card spots. A lack of depth leaves the Blue Jackets’ a key injury away from a potentially dismal year in 2018-19. Add in the impending free agency of star forward Artemi Panarin, and there a lot of question marks surrounding Columbus heading into opening night.