As we wake on Day One of the Post Nashpocalyptic world, national opinion beyond the friendly confines of I-270 seem to be of the belief that the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be absolutely terrible and abysmal without Rick Nash (as opposed to 30th place with Rick Nash), as if he is the sole proprietor of goal scoring in Columbus. I decided to take a look forward at what the Blue Jackets could do. I went through Rob Mixer’s “How Will they Line Up?” on CBJToday, and used that as the proposed lines. Obviously, anything can change between now and October. Obviously, just because a guy’s numbers averaged over the last two years say he’ll score 15 goals, it doesn’t mean he can’t slump or explode into a career year. And no amount of stats can predict the chemistry (or lack thereof) between a couple of guys – but let’s find some basis for what everyone’s griping about.

L1: Prospal – Brassard – Foligno

Vinny Prospal – age 37 – LW

2011-12 82 16 39 55 -11 3 165
2010-11 29 9 14 23 4 2 61
(projected over 82) 82 25 40 65 11 6 172
Average 82 21 39 60 0 4 169

Derick Brassard - age 24 – C

2011-12 74 14 27 41 -20 5 125
2010-11 74 17 30 47 -11 6 183
Average 74 16 29 44 -16 6 154

Nick Foligno – age 24 – W

2011-12 82 15 32 47 2 1 153
2010-11 82 14 20 34 -19 5 149
Average 82 15 26 41 -9 3 151

L1* has three guys who seem to have no difficulty averaging around 15 goals apiece and point totaling in the 40-55 range. If they develop chemistry and take shots (why so few, Brassard?), they could turn into a 40-50 goal line. Or more? It would be fantastic if all three could produce 20-goal seasons, and that doesn’t seem overly unrealistic, especially with Foligno looking to assume a larger role with Columbus than he did in Ottawa. If they can shore up their defensive liability (big minuses) they could be effective.

L2: Umberger – Dubinsky – Johansen

RJ Umberger – age 30 – LW

2011-12 77 20 20 40 -10 5 200
2010-11 82 25 32 57 3 8 220
Average 80 23 26 49 -4 7 210

Brandon Dubinsky – age 26 – C

2011-12 77 10 24 34 16 0 140
2011-12 77 24 30 54 -3 4 202
Average 77 17 27 44 7 2 171

 Ryan Johansen – age 19 – C/W

2011-12 67 9 12 21 -2 3 99

L2* is a little harder to predict as both Umberger and Dubinsky trailed off in 2011-12 compared to their prior production, but had scored in the 20-25 range with regularity prior to 2012. If they return to form – and Ryan Johansen feeds off of their experience after having an up and down rookie year – could they be a 60 goal line? One third of Ryan Johansen’s goals were on the PP. Could this be PP1?

L3: Anisimov – Letestu – Atkinson

Artem Anisimov – age 24 – C

2011-12 79 16 20 36 12 4 132
2010-11 82 18 26 44 3 3 190
Average 81 17 23 40 8 4 161

Mark Letestu – age 27 – C

2011-12 62 11 14 25 -9 4 105
2010-11 64 14 13 27 4 4 128
Average 63 13 14 26 -3 4 117

Cam Atkinson – age 23 – RW

2011-12 27 7 7 14 1 1 66
(projected over 82) 82 21 21 43 3 3 200

L3* is home to a guy who was on fire in his rookie season’s latter stages (Atkinson) and dominated the AHL, a guy who was ineffective with a minimal role in Pittsburgh (Letestu) but caught fire in Columbus in a new role, and a guy who has scored at least twelve goals in all three of his NHL seasons (Anisimov). It’s hard to say if Letestu’s change of scenery will continue to be in his favor, or if Anisimov will flourish in his new home, or if the sneak preview of Atkinson we got last season will last, but I see no reason why this line couldn’t put up 40 goals between them.

L4: Gillies – MacKenzie – Dorsett

Colton Gillies – age 23 – C/W

2011-12 75 2 6 8 -9 0 24
2010-11 7 1 0 1 -2 0 3
2009-10 45 2 5 7 -2 0 22
Average 42 2 4 5 -4 0 16

Derek MacKenzie – age 31 – C

2011-12 66 7 7 14 4 1 61
2010-11 63 9 14 23 14 0 76
Average 65 8 11 19 9 1 69

Derek Dorsett – age 25 – RW

2011-12 77 12 8 20 -11 2 137
2010-11 76 4 13 17 -15 0 112
Average 77 8 11 19 -13 1 125

L4* is about what you expect from a fourth line. I went back three years to show Gillies’ complete lack of any kind of production (completely underwhelming, but also completely replaceable), but MacKenzie and Dorsett make up for it. Dorsett’s new-found offense, if it sticks, added to MacKenzie’s defensive game, could make this a formidable shut down line that is capable of 40+ points.

What I see overall is instead of having one guy who is expected to tip in 30-40 goals with a supporting cast around him, the new Blue Jackets appear to be a team of small ego-ed, hard working players. At least 6-7, if not 10, have 20-goal potential. In 2011-12, the Blue Jackets had one 30G, one 20G, and one 16G (four others with double digits). The Nashville Predators (11 with 10+ G, 2 over 20) and St. Louis Blues (9 with 10+ G, 2 over 20) have shown that a team doesn’t have to be loaded with high-priced superstars to have success. What the Blue Jackets have “lost” in removing #61’s 30g/29a, they have gained in a handful of additional players with 20g potential at the same cost.

  1. From Columbus Business First - Blue Jackets announcers staying put: Jeff Bell of BizJournals reports that the Blue Jackets will be bringing back Bill Davidge and Jeff Rimer in 2011-12. Hold your groans, though. “Sharrock said the Jackets will meet with Fox over the summer to see what can be done to enhance the telecasts.” We all know that starts with not putting a crappy product on the ice to broadcast, but it’s good to see them dedicated to improving the overall presentation. In addition, the article mentions their loss of 22.7% ratings, down to a 1.09 rating (10,000 homes).
  2. The boys over at The Cannon are doing some great work with their 2011 “Exit Interviews” series, going over what was expected of each guy, and where they compared to that. Be sure to check it out and throw in your $0.02.
  3. Unless you’re under a very large soundproof rock, you’ve heard, by now, that NBC/Versus have retained the rights to the NHL for the next 10 years at the cost of a cool $2B over the life of the agreement. ESPN was the longest-running competitor to Versus before finally dropping out. It seems as though fan opinion is split on whether or not this is a good deal for the NHL. In theory, ESPN = exposure, where with Versus (or the network-to-be-named-later, if you will) they essentially get to be the top dog. Aerys Lightning writer Alexis (not Guy) Boucher weighs in her two cents on the deal, and really I have to agree 100%. Give her a read.

It’s almost comical how the perceptions fans – and sometimes media – have for players is how a player is expected to develop. Obviously you expect good things from first rounders (Derick Brassard, Nikita Filatov) or guys who have big first seasons (Steve Mason).  Sometimes you’re gifted with met expectations (Brassard, to some degree), and sometimes you’re left wanting more (Mason, Filatov). But realistically, not every first round draft pick is going to turn into a Rick Nash or a Steven Stamkos. The talent is not always that deep. As evidenced in the 2010 draft – there were two primary prospects who were expected to be the crème of the crop. (Were they, in retrospect? Not yet, at least.) The other 28 kids taken in that round were, essentially, the actual first round. You can’t expect #30 to be #1, and you can’t expect it overnight.

Photo by Elise Lotz

Similarly, why does anybody expect Kris Russell to be Drew Doughty or Cam Fowler? They were different-round picks. Different ages. Different sizes. Different backgrounds. Russell was a 30-goal scoring WHL Defenseman of the Year, but he is a 5’10” (generous), 180 (again, generous) sometimes-clumsy-but-speedy skater. He was also a third round draft pick because of one thing: his size. That is the same reason teams were hesitant to draft him higher and is the same reason he has gone through growing pains in the NHL. He isn’t conveniently large like Marc Methot – he has to use his feet, stick, and mobility to get into places the bigger guys just are. (Sidenote, Russell has 31 more blocked shots than Methot and 37 more than Tyutin, our so-called defensive defensemen.)

And who says he’s got to score 20 goals to be effective at his “style” of play? He is a “puck-moving defenseman” not a “goal scoring defenseman” and has excelled in moving the puck up ice as he’s expected to (in a way that only he and Clitsome have managed to do). But that doesn’t always translate to the score sheet. If the forwards aren’t effective with the puck themselves, the ability of the defenseman to move the play out of his zone goes unnoticed on the score sheet and shamefully, to the eye of most of the fans. But for the most part, Russell’s ability to move the puck forward does not come at the expense of the defense the way it hurts Fedor Tyutin or Anton Stralman.

Is it because the Dispatch and the media like to tout every player as “the next [insert player here]” that people build up unreasonable expectations of players? Did Scott Arniel or Scott Howson ever tell you that Kris Russell was going to be a Norris Trophy winner? No. He fits the bill for a third-rounder, 5’10”, low cap-hit player moving into his fifth season in the fall, and that’s exactly what he is.

Even Jake Voracek couldn't wake up Steve Mason. (Photo by @Vladekk35)

Remember back in the olden days of February or maybe even on Saturday, when the Jackets were able to complete passes and put the puck on the net? Those were the days, weren’t they?

Apparently the epic Supermoon event sapped them of their ability to operate as functional professional hockey players. Did they do anything right in this game? They didn’t get a shot on goal until late in the first period. Thirteen total? Did they forget this was Martin Brodeur and he’s, you know, kind of good?

And maybe it’s just the Dispatch wanting to stir up some unneeded controversy, but a quote by Steve Mason after Sunday’s loss has supposedly rung the wrong bells with the coaching staff:

“It’s a crappy feeling and an embarrassing effort tonight,” he said after the club was shut out for the second straight time on home ice. “It’s frustrating. We just couldn’t generate anything in their zone. For a team that is looking for a playoff spot right now, the effort we put forth isn’t acceptable.”

Is the truth so bad? The majority here seems to think Mason was right, and fair in making those comments. It doesn’t come across as Mason holding himself in any higher regard than his teammates – just simply stating that as a team, they were bad. And we all agree.

They leave today for Colorado, sans Grant Clitsome (knee) and with  Anton Stralman, according to the boys at the Dispatch. Colorado is on a slide – having won less than a handful of times over the last 60 days – but topped Edmonton in the shootout on Saturday. Don’t let them know that Colorado’s struggling. We all know how they act when they think they’re the better team. Make sure to check in with Katie at Hockey Without Oxygen for an Avs side of tomorrow’s bout.

Photo by Bridget Samuels

If you, at any point in this game, had any confidence in the outcome of the game, you’re lying. It started interestingly enough, as Rick Nash got off the schneid with his thirtieth goal of the season, assisted by Derek Dorsett and Sammy Pahlsson. Pahlsson chipped the puck to Dorsett along the boards, who flipped it over to Nash who was steaming into the zone full speed. Confidence level at this point: 6! But, of course, that wouldn’t last long as just under two minutes later Minnesota got a goal of their own off the stick of Brad Staubitz, his first of the year. Confidence level: shrinking.

In the second, everybody’s favorite name to laugh at, Cal Clutterbuck knocked the go-ahead goal past Mathieu Garon. Suddenly the Jackets were in full-on defenseless mode, battling with the Wild both competitively and physically. It got chippy — Grant Clitsome was injured on an uncalled knee-on-knee hit — and then Dorsett danced with Staubitz (embarrassingly) after a hit on Sami Lepisto. Dorsett got the worst of the fight and a misconduct and instigator to go along with it, but the team absolutely had a subsequent spike in energy. With under a minute left in the second, a whiff by Nash was redirected by Lepisto to the blue line to Kris Russell who fired it past Backstrom to tie it at two.

Going into the third, after a goal by Jan Hejda and another by the Captain to make it 4-2, things were looking good. But no, this is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Things can’t be that easy, right? A two-goal lead more than halfway into the third… no, no it can’t be that easy. Antti Miettinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard had something to say about that. Garon gave them too much net to work with and the capitalized.

Off to overtime. Interestingly enough, the NHL.com Event Summary sheet had the score as 5-4 Columbus at the end of regulation, with a phantom goal awarded to Antoine Vermette. Apparently, the NHL has ESP, as Antoine Vermette took a shot right into a flurry of  flustered Wild players in the crease and won the game for the Jackets with 0:34 to go in OT.

Some notes, courtesy of CBJ PR guy Ryan Holtmann:
– Their 17th road victory of the season surpasses the franchise record of 16 previously set in 2008-09.
– Sami Lepisto had three assists for the first time in his career, also setting the single-game assists record for CBJ defensemen.
– Jan Hejda now has a career high in goals with 5.
– Rick Nash & Jarome Iginla are the only two players to currently have four consecutive 30-goal seasons.

OK GO says it better than words ever could:

Let’s recap those lyrics, in case you’re unfamiliar:

Just when you think that you’re in control
Just when you think that you’ve got a hold
Just when you get on a roll
Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again
Oh, here it goes again
I should have known, should have known, should have known again
But here it goes again
Oh, here it goes again

*

Sound familiar?

Ample opportunities. Uncapitalized upon. Points left on the table.

Against Detroit. Really stings, doesn’t it? A nice, firm kick in the jewels.

There isn’t much to say about this game. They’re in a holding pattern in twelfth place, but it’s starting to feel like 1200th.

– The Blue Jackets lost this game the way they have lost most of their season: by blowing ample opportunities to put the game away. They were able to pull Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask away from his net and give themselves a handful of golden, empty-net opportunities but were only able to capitalize on two chances – one from Scottie Upshall in front of a completely empty net.
— Their powerplay was nothing to write home about. In fact – only Boston scored on the Jackets’ PP.
— Steve Mason made some key stops. He had a quick glove and looked rather confident coming off the big W in Raleigh.
— Fedor Tyutin was – and pardon our Russian – Fyucking Terrible. The last two games especially, Tyutin has been incredibly soft on the defensive side of things. In Carolina he took two penalties while illegally defending because he was too slow to keep up otherwise, and against Boston he was just flat out no good. Yet, Scott Arniel remains a fan and rewards TurnoverTyutin with 25 minutes of ice time on a regular night. Who knows why.
— Paging Rick Nash. Repeat, paging Rick Nash. Where, oh where, has Rick Nash’s scoring ability gone? Somewhere in the septic tank with the team’s playoff hopes. He hasn’t scored since February 22nd. He’s garnered assists – somehow – but his effort has been really poor. It isn’t news to anybody that Rick Nash’s “streakiness” has hints of “just not giving a sh*t” but as the team has dropped out of the running, so has Nash’s momentum. Nash apologists would disagree, but the $7.8M man has been a disappointment when he was needed the most.

As happens frequently for the Columbus Blue Jackets, they received pivotal, game-changing secondary scoring to carry them to victory. Derek MacKenzie had two goals and Samuel Pahlsson scored his sixth — shorthanded, no less — to give the Jackets a 3-2 victory. Pahlsson’s goal came just 4:44 into the first when Kris Russell (on the PK, no less) blocked a shot, tore out of the zone with the puck, and passed it to Derek Dorsett, who initially took the shot that Pahlsson rebounded in.
MacKenzie notched his seventh of the season just 42 seconds into the second. The 2-0 lead will hold until midway through the third when Jeff Skinner knocked a goal home to make it 2-1. The game picked up pace, then, and both teams were in a frenzy. Carolina pulled Cam Ward with two minutes remaining, and MacKenzie fired one into the open net. But the game wasn’t finished then. The Hurricanes kept pressing and less than 30 seconds later made it 3-2. The Jackets were finally able to hold it down from there for the victory.
Steve Mason was both very good, and very lucky in this game. He turned away 29 shots in the victory. He made some very nice stops – and was able to keep out some lucky, sloppy bad angle shots from the Hurricanes, who had nine power play opportunities in the game, including two 5-on-3 chances. The Hurricanes’ struggling power play met a cohesive Jackets penalty kill to go 0 for 9. Unfortunatly, the Jackets were not able to capitalize on any of theirs, either.
– Russell now has 9 points in his last 12 games. Has he finally arrived? He’s accomplishing what Arniel and company have asked him to do: moving the puck with efficiency, and right now he’s doing that and getting points, even while the team is struggling. And he’s doing it while drawing the least amount of ice time among defensemen.
– According to the Columbus Dispatch, Chris Clark was lost in the game and will be out up to a month with a lower body injury. Can’t say he’ll be missed. The 35 year old has been a frequent healthy scratch and has only 14 points on the season. Even when in the lineup, Clark doesn’t seem to bring much to the table. His contract — and 2.63M cap hit — are off the books after this year.
– The Jackets return to the ice on Tuesday night at home against Boston, 7pm.