We posed a question to the Twittersphere of Blue Jackets fans which generated many opinions. We'll take a deeper look here, where we aren't limited to 140 characters.
As we ready our season previews and predictions, who are you expecting to have the biggest breakout (or rebound) year for the CBJ? First, a couple of clarifications. I take "rebound" to mean that 2013-2014 was a "down" year for the player and they are looking to produce at or above career averages. I also think "breakout" means a significant increase in production (e.g. Ryan Johansen last season).
Nathan Horton - This seems to be the easy answer. Horton was never really 100% last season coming off of off-season shoulder surgery. He posted 5/14/19 in just 36 games played last season. While questions still remain if he'll ever be the Horton of old, he should have no problem getting to 20 goals if he can stay in the lineup (a feat he's accomplished six times in his career). With plenty of options for linemates in the top six, it's entirely feasible to see #8 put up 25 or more assists.
If he stays healthy, I think we could easily see a 50 point season out of Horton. After struggling with injuries and putting up less than 20 points last season, that would certainly qualify as a rebound season.
Matt Calvert - Another forward who has had injury issues in the past. Time will tell where he fits into the lineup with all of the changes, and it's realistic to see Matty Hustle on any number of lines. Calvert put up 9/15/24 in his 56 games last season. He has battled injuries throughout much of his career and a key to "breaking out" this season will being able to stay healthy. With just a slightly higher shooting percentage, is it too hard to think of #11 putting up 20 goals? He did score 11 in his first 42 games as a Blue Jacket if you recall.
If Todd Richards plays Calvert "up" in the lineup (i.e. not on the 4th line) and Matty Ice stays relatively healthy, it's entirely possible to see a 20G / 20A season from the 24-year old from Manitoba. He hasn't been able to put it all together for an entire NHL season yet so it might be asking too much at this stage of his career.
David Savard - Moving to the blue line, some might argue Savvy already "broke out" last season. The young defenseman is still just 23 and saw his workload increase as the season progressed, especially in the playoffs series against Pittsburgh. If he can improve similarly to last offseason's jump, Savard will force the coaching staff to give him more ice time. He posted 5/10/15 in 70 games last season and averaged 17:50 of ice time, but saw that number jump to 23:20 in the postseason.
There is still some debate about Savard's "ceiling" on the blue line pairs, but if he can continue to improve his decision-making and consistency he will increase is ice time. If that occurs, I'd expect a lot more than 15 points this coming season.
Tim Erixon - It seems like we've heard about Tim Erixon since the Nash trade, but he's played just 33 games for Columbus so far. He comes into the season battling for the 6th spot on the blue line, and could very well start the season as a healthy scratch as the odd man out. Either way, he should have his opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level this season. Perhaps this pick is based on all of the "potential" we keep hearing about and not having seen Tim play any of his games in Springfield. He has yet to score a goal in the NHL and has dished out 7 assists in his 51 career NHL games.
While he may start the season in the press box, I fully expect Erixon to grab a spot on the blue line for the CBJ and be a solid producer on the 3rd pairing. It's time for him to "put up or shut up" so to speak - let's see what he's got.
There are four candidates for breakout player of the year. Who is your pick? (Hint: discuss in the comments below and tell us why) Any disagreements with the players mentioned above?