It's easy to get caught up in all of the doom and gloom surrounding the Jackets so far this year, but it's not all bad. There's plenty of hockey left to play, and there are reasons for optimism. Let's get right to it:
Ryan Johansen's Hot Start
Immediately after he signed with the Jackets after an ugly contract negotiation, most thought that he would take a while to get up to game speed after missing all of training camp. To our delight, not only did he start the season off looking like a guy who hasn't missed a beat, he's continued to show why he is a star in the making. At this point, he's put up 5G-8A-13PTS in 11 games played, and has been a force for the Jackets. If he can continue or exceed this rate of offensive production, he'll be a shoe-in as a CBJ representative at the All Star Game, where he'll cement himself as a bonafide NHL star.
Right...the All Star Game!
Speaking of the All Star Game, all eyes in the hockey world will be on Columbus for All Star Weekend in January. Not only is this an opportunity to showcase the city of Columbus, it's a chance for the team to potentially bring aboard a bevy of new fans, who will get hooked on hockey after attending such a prestigious event. From a marketing standpoint, there are only positives for Columbus as they play host to the world's best.
Nick Foligno. Need I say more?
Since his days in Ottawa, Nick Foligno has been one of the more consistent players in the league. He brings all-out effort, a nice scoring touch, and a serious physical edge. In a contract year, he's taken another step, scoring at a higher pace and most importantly, carrying the team on his shoulders during one of the lowest points in franchise history. He's leading by example, saying all of the right things, and showing just how much of a warrior he is. Just days after being taken off the ice on a stretcher, he was back out there throwing his weight around and scoring goals. This is captain material, people. Whether or not he gets the "C" on his sweater, Foligno is a leader and he's deserving of every cent he gets on his new contract, which will kick in next season.
Waiver Wire Wonder
Jack Skille was a Swiss army knife for the Jackets last year, contributing in various different ways when called upon. It was tough to see such a versatile player go this past summer, but serendipitously he made his return to the Jackets after being claimed on waivers. He's found a home as a Blue Jacket, and his speed, shot and versatility is again on display this season. He won't score 30 goals, but he fits the mold and is a valuable part of the CBJ machine.
A Free Preview of the Future
Sure, they were thrust into prime time prematurely, but it's exciting to see the potential of Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano. They aren't ready to be major contributors yet, but thanks to all of these injuries we are getting a glimpse into what they can offer. These guys are going to be very, very good NHLers. The future is bright!