It's no secret that the one biggest area for improvement this coming season will be putting the puck into the net. The Blue Jackets will have a full season of Marian Gaborik, and also added Nathan Horton in the off-season. While that will help, the Jackets are also looking in a different spot for additional offense: their defense.
It has often been said that the best offense is a good defense. And, with the strength of this club being its defense, that might just be true. Both John Davidson and Todd Richards noted as much at media day.
When asked where the needed additional goals would come from, Davidson noted, "Or strength should continue to be our work habits and our defensive play, and if we continue that we will stay in games. Good, strong defense can lead to offense."
Interesting. This club's identity is built from the back out, to be sure. But, how, exactly, does the club plan to create more offense from their defense? Simply put, they're going to use what worked for them down the stretch last season, and build on that. It's all going to start with be forecheck.
Coach Richards elaborated a bit. "To me, it's just being a tighter checking team," he said. "If you don't have the puck, you're always checking. If you don't have the puck in the offensive zone and you're still doing a good job checking, you're creating turnovers."
Richards believes that one of the biggest reasons the team started so slowly this past season was because they were unable to win the turnover battle. "One of our major flaws at the start of last season was turnovers," he told me. "We were shooting ourselves in the foot because we had poor puck management. That got better, and I think we started to create more turnovers. Wen you create more turnovers, more than likely you're playing in the other team's zone."
So, while adding some legitimate scorers can help, the team seems to be looking to their system to help facilitate any boosts in scoring. Both Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen noted that the scoring is going to have to come from up and down the lineup, with Kekalainen going so far as to say he didn't feel that Columbus has a "star" to carry the scoring load.
It seems clear that the front office and coaching staff alike believe that, if this club is to improve offensively, it's going to come from within, and it's going to come from sticking the their system. Keep the puck out of your own net. Create your opportunities through hard work and tight checking.
Or, more succinctly, the best offense is a good defense.
All that's left is to see if these guys can bury those chances.