Throughout the day today, Matt, Andrew and I will be sharing our thoughts on the season ahead. This is a big year for the Jackets. They are celebrating their 10th season in the league and only have one playoff sweep to show for it. A young core and a handful of savvy and skilled veterans is in place, the time to win is now.
It's no secret that for the team to succeed and not only make the playoffs but advance past the first round, players like Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov, Kris Russell and Steve Mason need to cement themselves as great NHLers. They all have the potential to do so- and I believe that under the new coaching staff of Scott Arniel, Brad Berry, Bob Boughner, Dan Hinote and goalie coach Dave Rook they can reach their potential and lead the Jackets to the postseason.
As it stands right now, as it was for most of last season, the top line is made up of Kristian Huselius, Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash. Vermette had the best season of his career last year. He will need to be even better this year. I know Nasher is aching to get the team back to the promise land, and if the coaching staff follows through on their promise to leave him off of the PK and let him focus on five-on-five and powerplay, he will have the best offensive season of his career. Vermette will benefit from this.
The team has toughness and grit in the bottom six. R.J.Umberger is a player that some fans believe will have a down year due to his move to the third line. I disagree. Umberger is the most versatile player on the roster, and he will get a fair share of time on the PP. I'm looking for Samuel Pahlsson to increase his offensive totals this year.
- I believe the Jackets will make the playoffs as the eighth seed.
- Nash will score 49 goals, coming so tantalizingly close to 50.
- If healthy, Filatov scores 26 goals, Brassard hits the 60 point range and Voracek is in the 65-75 point range.
- If the team struggles, look for guys like Huselius, Moreau, Clark, Hejda, Klesla and Garon to be shopped.
- Tomas Kubalik finishes the season on the Columbus roster
These are my thoughts. Check back throughout the day for Matt and Andrew's outlook on the season. It's an important year and it will be a fun ride!