We all know the injury narrative. It's the biggest reason why the Jackets are not participating in the NHL playoffs right now, and it's a damned shame because a handful of forwards had truly terrific seasons.
Thanks to all of the injuries throughout the season, 27(!) different forwards suited up for the Jackets this season. Let's take a look at their contributions:
Foligno broke out in a big way this season, finishing with 31-42-73 in 79 games, which tied him for 10th in league scoring. It was far and away a career year for him, shattering his previous career high of 47 points set in 2011-2012 while still with the Senators. It was a contract year for Foligno, and his strong play earned him a new 6-year, $33 million extension midway through the season. Shortly after signing the new deal, Foligno served as one of the captains at the All Star Game, endearing himself even further with the Columbus fanbase, and making himself a household name throughout the NHL. Since then, he's continued to produce at a high level, and has become the conscience of the team. In my opinion he's done everything to earn the full-time captaincy next season.
After his contract dispute that kept him out of training camp, many wondered if he'd get off to a slow start or if he'd be susceptible to injury, but all he did was play in all 82 games scoring 26-45-71. Johansen was the breakout star of the NHL Skills Competition, and earned himself MVP honors at the All Star Game. He and Foligno did a stellar job of selling the Jackets, both on the ice and off. (The Visa commercials were excellent). Johansen has cemented himself as a star, thanks to his status as a number-one center. His now-patented shootout move has garnered a ton of positive attention. The next challenge for Johansen will to hit the point-per-game mark.
Hartnell was acquired from the Flyers in the offseason, in a deal for the diminishing R.J. Umberger. Prior to the trade, it was thought that the Jackets, despite their unwillingness to do so, may have been forced into a buyout of Umberger's contract. The fact that the Jackets were even able to deal Umberger's contract, let alone bring in any kind of return, was seen as a victory for the club. Hartnell was not just a warm body- in fact, he was just the opposite. He was a huge part of the offense, finishing with 28-32-60 in 77 games. He was a major positive influence on the rookie forwards, and brought his trademark edge and physicality to every game. Umberger, meanwhile, finished with 9-6-15 in 67 games.
He's a prototypical sniper, streaky as all hell but always dangerous. He was the team's fourth 20-goal man, finishing the season with a line of 22-18-40 in 78 games. He would have been an RFA at season's end, but signed a 3-year, $10.5 million extension on deadline day. He's found a home playing on Johansen's wing, and with a full season he can hit 30 goals.
He was one of the players hardest-hit by the injury bug, but still managed to score 13-23-36 points in 47 games. He's the team's clear-cut number two center behind Johansen, and likely would have given the team another 20-goal scorer if he'd been healthy. His intensity and ability to shut down the opposition's top players make him an invaluable member of the team.
Another player who spent extended time on the injured list, Anisimov, when healthy, is the team's top two-way forward. He had a down year offensively though, scoring 7-20-27 in 52 games. He's defensively responsible, yet has a nose for the net. He finished the season on the wing, and may be a trade candidate in the offseason.
Calvert's versatility allows him to play anywhere in the lineup, though when the Jackets are fully healthy he's at home on the fourth line and special teams. His 13-10-23 line in 56 games is indicative of his nose for the net, and nobody on the roster has the energy and motor that he has. There's a chance he may be bumped off the roster, however, as he's an RFA this summer. With so many young players looking to make the jump, he's contract status may hinder his return to the Jackets.
It was a tale of two seasons for Dano- he had two distinct stints in the NHL during his rookie season. His first go around with the Jackets was disappointing, as he was clearly outmatched early in the season. He was subsequently sent down to the AHL for development, but after he was called up later in the year amid one of the more series injury plagues he was like a phoenix rising from the ashes. His final stint with the Jackets saw him cement himself in the lineup, showing serious offensive creativity and a willingness to play a rugged style. He finished the season as the team's top-scoring rookie with 8-13-21 in just 35 games.
The Jackets were far more patient with their other prized rookie, keeping Wennberg in the lineup for 68 games where he finished just behind Dano in scoring with 4-16-20. He moved around the lineup a bit before nailing down the number three center spot, his natural position. The final chunk of the season saw him anchoring the Goat Line with Hartnell and Dano, a line that was at times the best one for Columbus. Wennberg's offensive numbers will only continue to rise as he gains more experience. In a league where good teams have essentially three scoring lines, he's the key cog in the team's tertiary attacking unit.
It was truly a lost season for Jenner, as he was only able to appear in 31 games. When healthy, he's the space-maker on the top line, allowing Johansen and Atkinson to show off their creativity. Jenner is a true pro, who scores the dirty goals and does everything required to win. He finished with a line of 9-8-17.
You have to feel for him, in a contract year he was forced to play mostly on the fourth line with Corey Tropp and Jared Boll, a job that saw him covering for mistakes more than anything. Though the fourth line center spot is all his, having linemates that can hang with him offensively is crucial for both his, and the team's success. When he was finally given talented linemates to work with, he stated publicly of his appreciation for the move. Like Calvert, his contract status and the handful of players knocking on the door may see his time with the Jackets come to an end, but I'd personally like to see him brought back. Along with his primary role as 4C, he is also a top penalty killer and a go-to option in the shootout. He's a Swiss army knife for the coaching staff. He finished the season with 7-6-13 in 54 games.
Skille was claimed off waivers early in the season when there was a need for healthy forwards. Skille's familiarity with the system allowed for an easy insertion into the lineup, but after some strong play early in the season he tailed off, before eventually going on the disabled list to end the season. His final line was 6-2-8 in 45 games. He likely won't be brought back next season.
The coaching staff obviously sees more than we do when it comes to Tropp's abilities. When a top player can't play, it's usually Tropp who is moved up in the lineup. He rarely made the most of it on the scoresheet, this past season, finishing with 1-7-8 in 61 games. He's a fourth line player who brings speed and a willingness to muck it up, but not much else. Late in the year he was bumped to the press box in favor of Matt Calvert, a move which was more productive for the Jackets.
Morin was brought in from Chicago in a deal for Tim Erixon, at a time when the Jackets needed warm bodies up front, and they had a glut of blueliners. Morin was only able to suit up for 28 games with the Jackets, but late in the season when he was placed with Letestu and Calvert on the fourth line he finally showed promise. His 2-4-6 with the Jackets isn't anything to write home about, but we did get a glimpse of occasional scoring. If he's on the fourth line, the Jackets are in good shape. Any higher and he's a bit out of his league.
Boll's role with the team has been a topic of debate all season for Columbus fans, and until late in the season he was a lock as the team's fourth line right-winger. He doesn't provide offense, and is not a speedy player. When he times it right he can lay out big hits, but more often than not he puts himself out of position when attempting to lower the boom. As the NHL moves away from staged fighting, he's finding fewer and fewer opponents willing to drop the mitts with him, and for this reason his time as a regular NHLer may be coming to a close. Late-season healthy scratches in favor of speed and creativity is a clear signal that the coaches understand his lack of contributions. He finished the year with 1-4-5 in 72 games.
Chaput spent the early part of the season as the fourth line center after a strong preseason, but he was sent down to the AHL for further development. While with the team he showed glimpses of offensive creativity, but was rarely in a situation where he could truly show off his abilities. It was a tough situation for him, and depending on which direction the team goes with Letestu, Chaput will either challenge for the 4C spot next season, or be on the bubble between the NHL and AHL. He was able to score his first NHL goal, to go along with four assists in 33 games.
Outside of Hartnell, the Jackets were not active in the offseason. Gibbons was one player the team did bring in via free agency, however, and thanks to him single-handedly beating the Jackets in one of the playoff games against the Penguins last season there was hope that if given an opportunity, he could break out as a Blue Jacket. That failed to materialize despite various chances, and he finished the season in the AHL. His final line with the Jackets was 0-5-5 in 25 games.
A throw-in for cap reasons in the James Wisniewski deal with Anaheim, Bourque did manage to string together a few strong games with the Jackets before getting injured to end the season. His contract is an albatross, and it's hard to gauge where he'll fit in next season. He still has the ability to score goals, but it's clear his production does not match his paycheck. Final tally for Bourque: 4-0-4 in 8 games as a Jacket.
Taken in the first round the same year as Wennberg and Dano, Rychel spent most of the season in the AHL, where his play steadily improved over the season. He did spend a cup of coffee with the big club, showing lots of promise as a power forward. He was unafraid to lay out big hits, and finished with 0-3-3 in five games. He'll be looking to fight for a spot with the team next year, and is one of the players who may force the team to cut ties with Calvert.
The big piece coming back for Wisniewski, CBJ fans must have been excited to see what he could bring. He briefly filled in for Wennberg on the Goat Line, and didn't look out of place scoring 1-1-2 in three games. He's a player who I'm excited about for next year.
Collins has been a depth player for the Jackets for a couple of seasons now, but remains nothing more. He finished with a pair of assists in eight games, and serves mainly as a warm body in the event of injury.
Cracknell was acquired off waivers early in the season, for the same reason as Skille: the team needed warm bodies up front when they were hit hard by injuries. He served his purpose until the team got healthy enough to place him back on waivers. He put up a single helper in 17 games.
Anderson's brief stint with the Jackets showed that for a big man, he is a terrific skater. He can also lay out some big hits, and will push for a fourth line spot next season. He had 0-1-1 in six games.
The acquisition of Clarkson shows that no contract is untradeable. He was brought over from the Maple Leafs for Nathan Horton, as they were able to absorb the financial burden of Horton's uninsured contract. The positive of the deal for Columbus is that they were able to get a living, breathing asset in return for their mistake with Horton, but it remains to be seen what kind of on-ice impact Clarkson will have with Columbus. He was only able to skate in three games before falling victim to whatever hex was placed on the team. He was o-fer in those three games.
Tyrell is an AHL depth forward, who was rewarded for his strong play with the Falcons with a three game stint. He went scoreless in those three games.
Like Tyrell, Adam was rewarded for his strong AHL play with a callup to Columbus for three games. He didn't register on the scoresheet and remains a depth player.
Given the "good soldier" treatment, Craig was called up to get some NHL icetime. He's the captain of the Falcons, and is in the midst of another season where he is tasked with ensuring the club's top young players buy in to the organization's system while developing in the AHL. He had no points in a pair of games with Columbus.
The hope is that the Jackets won't need to use so many different forwards next year to cover for injuries. One thing that is clear however is that the organization has depth, which is crucial for any successful team.
The performances by Foligno, Johansen and Hartnell were excellent, while the secondary scorers were inconsistent due to injury. More offensive contributions was needed from the bottom six, but if the late-season streak was any indication, when the team can ice a lineup where the likes of Calvert and Morin are on the fourth line they will be deep enough to be among the league's top scoring teams.
Next year the team will have many young players looking to make the jump like Rychel, Anderson, Karlsson, Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand, while veterans like Bourque and Clarkson will attempt to resurrect their careers as full-time NHLers.
Check back every day this week for more Season in Review.