Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season, the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Blue Jackets!
Columbus Blue Jackets
2009-10: 32-35-15 (14th in West, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Scott Howson (4th Season)
Head Coach: Scott Arniel (1st Season)
What they did in the off-season:
After firing coach Ken Hitchcock during the season and having Claude Noel finish it as interim coach the Blue Jackets brought in an entirely new coaching staff in June. They turned to Scott Arniel, head coach of the AHL's Manitoba Moose, who chose assistant coaches Dan Hinote, Brad Berry, and Bob Boughner, who is coming of back-to-back Memorial Cups with the Windsor Spitfires.
While the coaching staff is new, the Columbus roster hasn't changed much. The Jackets picked up Ethan Moreau off waivers from the Oilers, and although he is expected to play on the third line, the team wants Moreau to be a vocal leader, awakening their solemn dressing room. The arrival of left winger Nikita Filatov in Columbus six weeks before camp has the Jackets hoping that the dynamic Russian prospect is ready to kick off his NHL career for good this time. After clashing with Hitchcock and some Columbus teammates while playing up with the Jackets, Filatov was transferred on loan to CSKA Moscow in the KHL and would need to repair some relationships if he sticks with the team this season. After a good year in Moscow last season there is reason to believe Filatov has the potential to play on one of the top two lines in Columbus this season. Anton Stralman earned a bigger contract over the summer after a solid year on defense, and now he has to live up to the expectations that come with it.
Biggest issue facing the team:
Finding consistency will be key for the Blue Jackets this season under the new coaching staff. The club had a record of 41-31-10 during the ‘08-09 season and made its first playoff appearance in franchise history. Yet, the Jackets followed that up with a 32-35-15 record last season, missing the playoffs and finishing last in the division, second last in the conference. The Blue Jackets sunk to 20th in the league in scoring last season, netting just 214 goals. Rick Nash's production dipped a little too, as he went from 40 goals and 79 points in ‘08-09 to 33 goals and 67 points in '09-10. The defense was shaky last season, and the club was outshot in 45 of its 82 games, where the year before, that happened in just 32 games. Not helping matters was the play of Steve Mason. The reliable starting goaltender, who had been so spectacular two years ago, simply wasn't the same game-changer last season, and he will need to regain that edge this year.
Player to watch:
Goaltender Steve Mason had a stellar rookie season in 2008-09, winning 33 games and earning an NHL-leading 10 shutouts with a 2.29 goals-against average. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Mason was the biggest reason the Blue Jackets earned their first trip to the playoffs that year, but he suffered a real sophomore slump in the 2009-10 season, dipping to just 20 wins and a 3.06 GAA. The defense in front of him was often very ineffective as well. The Jackets' hopes this season rest largely on Mason proving that his play last season was simply a brief aberration.