There are high expectations for this upcoming season.
The organization has added a serious dose of offense to the roster in the form of Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal and James Wisniewski. Incumbent stalwarts Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger are expected to raise their totals from a year ago. Continued improvement from the likes of Matt Calvert and Derek Dorsett should see an uptick in their production. Derek MacKenzie, who surprised last season by putting up 23 points, will be expected to at least match those totals. Jared Boll and Samuel Pahlsson aren't relied on for offense, but some timely scoring is required from those two. Fedor Tyutin was the highest scoring blueliner last season, but playing alongside Wisniewski should lead to a better statistical season. Kris Russell and Grant Clitsome are both effective with the puck on their stick, but they will need to increase their production. From a goaltending standpoint, it's painfully obvious that the goaltending statistics need to improve.
That said, the pieces are in place for a successful season. Of course in most of these scenarios a healthy season is required, and we all know how the injury bug can rear it's ugly head, so this isn't a perfect science. It's just a bit of fun with a little bit of homework and statistical analysis thrown in. Let's take a stab at who the statistical leaders could be this year:
The goal scoring category has been dominated by Nash in recent seasons. In the last three years, he has led the team with seasons of 40, 33 and 32 goals, with the 40 coming in the playoff year of 2008/2009. This summer fellow sniper Jeff Carter was brought in to take some of the offensive load off of Nash's shoulders. In the past three seasons, Carter has put up campaigns of 46, 33 and 36 goals. My thought for this upcoming season is that you'll see Carter boost his assist and point totals, while Nash will remain the trigger man.
Prediction: Rick Nash will lead the team in goals, falling just short of the 50 mark with 49 tallies. Jeff Carter will finish second with 39 goals, R.J. Umberger will be third with 26 goals, Derick Brassard fourth with 20, and Vinny Prospal and Antoine Vermette with 17 goals each.
I'll delve into it more later, but I think you'll see a blueliner lead this team in assists. James Wisniewski put up 41 helpers last season, and I think he'll improve that number this year. As I mentioned above, I think you'll see Carter's stats even out. If one assumes that he plays a bulk of the season on Nash's line, and the duo plays together on the powerplay, Carter could pass his previous assist record of 38, set in 2008/2009 with the Flyers. Vinny Prospal and Antoine Vermette have a shot at playing with Nash and Carter, but they won't put up the same totals.
Prediction: James Wisniewski will lead the team in assists, with 42. Jeff Carter is second with 40 helpers. Rick Nash will trail him by three with 37. Derick Brassard will add 35 assists to his 20 goals to finish fourth in this category. R.J. Umberger is fifth with 33.
Using similar logic as the goal scoring and assists predictions, Rick Nash will lead the team in scoring, with Jeff Carter a close second. The two will be back and forth all season, even if they are on separate lines.
Prediction: Rick Nash will lead the team in points with 86. Carter is number two with 79 points. Umby will round out the top three with a 59-point season, and the fourth and fifth highest scorers are Brassard and Wisniewski with 55 points apiece.
Last season, Derek MacKenzie was very steady in a fourth line role. He finished the season with the best plus/minus on the team, with a +14. The previous season saw Derek Dorsett finish the year with a +6 to lead the team, and in 2008/2009 Jan Hejda was the big plus at +23. If my hypothetical scoring totals for Carter and Nash hold true, and team can improve it's overall goals-against, you could see the duo at or near the top of this category. That said, I think you'll see Marc Methot truly break out this season to become the team's unquestioned shutdown leader. He'll top this category this season.
Prediction: Marc Methot will have the best plus/minus for the Jackets, finishing with a +28. If Radek Martinek is healthy (a tall order) for most of the season, and if he's paired with Methot, he'll finish second with a +25. You'll then see Nasher and Carter in the 3/4 slots with an even +23 each. Rounding out the top five is Derek MacKenzie, with a +19.
I don't think there's a lot of logic required here. The bash brothers of Dorsett and Jared Boll will vie for this stat all season long. The one element that could tip the scales in one direction is playing time. With the Jackets a deeper team this season, you could see a lineup that only features one of these two players on a regular basis. Dorse has more offensive ability, where Boller is more of an enforcer. If the coaching staff decides to have more skill in the lineup on a routine basis, which is the way I believe they will lean, Dorsett will see more icetime, and therefore have more opportunity to sit in the box.
Prediction: Dorse is the top goon with 176 minutes in penalties. Boller will still have a ton of PIMs because of fighting majors, so he's second with 140. Marc Methot will be third with 66, The Wiz fourth with 58, and rounding out the top five is Antoine Vermette, with 54.
Defenseman Goal Scoring
This is a category that makes most Jackets fans cringe. Offense from the blueline has been traditionally near non-existent. In the past three seasons alone, the team has not had a defenseman score double-digits in goals. Last year Fedor Tyutin led with seven, the year before Kris Russell also had seven, and in 2008/2009 Toots led the team with nine. This summer James Wisniewski was brought in to remedy that problem. He put up 10-41-51 last season to finish 5th overall in NHL defenseman scoring, and now that he is the go-to offensive leader on the Columbus blueline, he should increase those totals. Kris Russell and Grant Clitsome are talented enough to improve on their five and four goal campaigns, respectively, but they'll be behind The Wiz.
Prediction: Wisniewski leads the CBJ blueline in goal scoring with 13 goals. His partner in crime will likely be Fedor Tyutin, and he'll also get double-digits with ten. Kris Russell and Grant Clitsome will have 8 and 7 goals, respectively. Methot will be fifth with a pair of goals on the season.
Defenseman Point Scoring
A fifty-point-plus season from a blueliner has yet to occur for Columbus. The closest was a 45-point season from Jaroslav Spacek in the 2002/2003 season. The Wiz will improve slightly on his 51 point total from last year now that he is the top dog.
Prediction: The Wiz leads the defense in point scoring with 55 points. Tyutin will add 27 helpers to his ten goals, finishing second with 37 points. The duo of Russell and Clitsome will finish with 28 and 25 points, respectively, with Methot the fifth-highest scorer with an even 20 points.
For this team to be successful, Steve Mason needs to get back to his win totals of 2008/2009, where he put up 33 wins. He may even need to be better than that this season. I believe that he and the team will improve greatly, and he'll once again be one of the top goaltenders in the league.
Prediction: Steve Mason will lead with 34 wins. Mark Dekanich will be second with 13. This gives a record of something like 34-17-6 for Mason, and 13-11-1 for Dekanich. An overall record of 47-28-7 would be a 101 point season, right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff teams.
At first I was going to split these categories up, but let's be honest. The team is in trouble if anybody other than Mase is leading these categories. Using the playoff year as a baseline, here's what I am hoping/prediction for Mase this upcoming season:
Prediction: Mason finishes as the leader with a GAA of 2.25, a SV% of .921 with 9 shutouts.Dekanich would be right behind with a line of 2.48/.915/1 SO.