Columbus Blue Jackets: Why such a quiet offseason?
The Columbus Blue Jackets finished 27th in the league last season and followed up a disappointing campaign with an oddly quiet offseason.
It does look like GM Jarmo Kekalainen is taking the long term perspective to building the Blue Jackets while counting on a confluence of improvements to occur in 2016-17. There are three things that need to happen to get them back on track this season.
There needs to be bounce-back seasons from winger Nick Foligno and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets signed both players to well paying contracts that did not yield the returns expected during last years season. Foligno had 12 goals and 37 points, a steep decline from the 31 and 73 he produced in 2014-15. Bobrovsky, meantime, struggled with injuries and consistency and won only 15 games last year and needs to return to his form the previous year.
A breakout season (or three) from the organization’s deep pool of young players and prospects, many of whom helped the AHL Lake Erie Monsters sweep the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup finals. Defenseman Zach Weresnki, forwards Sonny Milano, Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand and goalies Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo—all of whom are close to being ready to contribute in the NHL. There’s also left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois, the No. 3 overall pick in June’s draft which there are high expectations to contribute immediately.
A masterpiece coaching job from John Tortorella. Can he help youthful standouts like Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Boone Jenner reach their full potential while simultaneously guiding the organization’s many prospects through a sometimes tough transition to the NHL? That remains to be seen, but the 2004 Stanley Cup champion coach certainly has navigated a lot of different situations during his two decades as an NHL head or assistant coach. It should also be noted that Torts went a respectable 34-32-8 after replacing Todd Richards. Under Richards, the Jackets opened the season 0-7-0.
If all, or even much, of the above happens, that would be great for Columbus and its long-suffering fan base. The Jackets actually might be good enough to make things interesting down the stretch. And, more importantly, it could lay the foundation for future success. It looks as if the Blue jackets will be on the outside looking in during the month of March.