It's been a long summer, hasn't it?
From the uncertainty of the coaching search, to the excitement of the draft, to the utter boredom of free agency, and the slowly building excitement of training camp and the pre-season, it's time to take a moment and thank god that it's all over, and that hockey is ready to start again.
I suppose I should answer that I'm still not angry with the state of this team. If anything, I'm pleased and perhaps even cautiously optimistic.
I really, really like the way Scott Arniel has fit into Columbus as a head coach. I've been lucky enough to speak with him a few times this summer at season ticket holder and public events, and each time I've come away impressed. There's an enthusiasm and energy there. He's thoughtful at times, and I think he's trying to give due consideration to any question he's asked, but the underlying excitement he has for coaching this team always comes through - an undeniable element that shines through in everything he's been doing. I think he's going to fit in well with this team, and in the community.
I'm liking the way the team has played so far. I'm not happy about getting called on penalties more often than I think they should be, but I get the impression they're slowly working on bringing it down to something reasonable, and I'm thrilled with the way the team is creating pressure and generating scoring chances. As they get more natural with Arniel's system, I think we're going to have a lot of fun hockey games ahead of us.
I'm downright thrilled at the way Ethan Moreau has fit into our locker room. I realize he had a bad end in Edmonton, but it seems like he's exactly what the team needed. He's had good jump on the PK, he's been a solid checking player, and the unexpected moments of offense he's provided have been very nice surprises.
I'm also very excited for Mike Commodore. We told you during the summer that he was going to be a player to watch. His amateur photography on the Sweden trip aside, he's shown that he can fit into a more aggressive defensive system and thrive, still able to deliver the big hit but also able to skate up the ice and get the puck into the zone. He's created several scoring opportunities, and I really believe he could have a career year, offensively. 25 points? Maybe even 30 if he can keep up the pace he's set in the pre-season.
I think the rest of the defense is adjusting, and some seem to have an easier time than others, but if they can adjust sooner rather than later, it'll be a decent year.
I think Rick Nash will finally break the 80 point mark this year.
I think that Jakub Voracek will end up on the top line before the end of the year.
I think that Antoine Vermette will have a career year.
I think that Nikita Filatov will have 20 goals this year.
I think that Steve Mason will have at least 6 shutouts this year.
I think that we'll see Kyle Wilson hold down the fourth line center spot for the majority of the year.
I think that we're going to see a lot of 4-3, 5-4, and 6-5 games, and I'm OK with that. It's part of the adjustment, and as long as the Jackets are the ones coming out on top, I think it's likely to be a lot of fun.
I believe that the Jackets will be competing for a playoff spot, and I think that if things go right, they are going to surprise a lot of people. Don't be surprised if we see them in the 6th or 7th seed when all is said and done.
I think that I still love this team, and I cannot wait for the puck to drop on the 10th anniversary season!