We all know the story. NHL team gets hot at the end of the year, going into the offseason they pick up a star forward to play along the rising star center. They tear up the preseason, and they dominate the regular season in similar fashion on the way to bringing the Stanley cup to their home team. Or not… well at least not the last or second to last part but this team has done a great job over the last decade and a half of building up expectations and getting its fans excited only to have it fall flat on its face. This year isn’t much different. Or is it? Through all the hard ships of starting off in similar fashion of the Detroit lions or Cleveland browns, gone through a coaching change, struggle to watch their star center play his way out of town and turns into a huge trade for two franchises. It’s all doom and gloom right? Wrong I’m going to tell you exactly why this team is still in good shape going forward. Even if it seems like the jackets are taking a big step backward, in the long run they are taking two steps forward. This is why.
1 Alexander Wennberg is really really good.
Everyone is worried about Columbus losing their only number 1 center that the team has ever had. Yes it is tough to lose a young forward with so much potential. But Wennberg has shown he can develop into a new number 1 center that people will fall in love with, and it’s not because of his baby blue Swedish eyes. Here are some numbers from two forwards in their first two years of NHL action. The stats will be extrapolated to show their production over an 82 game schedule.
Player A 5 goals 19 assists 24 points.
Player B 9 goals 15 assists 26 points.
Pretty similar huh? B has a few more goals and 2 more points than player A but their overall production is pretty close. Now let’s look at year two
Player A 12 goals 27 assists for 39 points.
Player B 11 goals 15 assists for 26 points.
Now we see a bit of a separation from player A and player B this year. But again it’s still pretty close. I’m sure by now you know that the players we are currently discussing are Wennberg and (drum roll please) Ryan Johanson. Johanson has shown to be a better goal scorer not doubting that but if you see wennberg take a bigger step in production between his rookie and sophomore year than Johanson took between his rookie sophomore years. I will admit Johanson has been a better faceoff guy, no denying that but wennberg has also shown to be a bit better in his own zone. I don’t think people realize how good Wennberg is going to be. And I’m here to tell you he will be really good. When first drafted I predicted that Kopitar would be a good comparison to Weinberg and I won’t back down off that claim now. Just give it time and he will prove to the hockey world he belongs on the top line.
2) Seth Jones
Since the trade people are upset by the fact that Johanson was the first number 1 center in franchise history. Well except former Jackets Great Jeff Carter. They say that number 1 centers are really hard to find and are really rare, which is true. You know what else is really rare and hard to find that the Franchise has never had? A number 1 defenseman. A right handed defenseman at that. Yes Johanson (when he wants to play) will be missed. But Seth Jones is a number 1 defenseman. The thing is the Jackets didn’t just add a number 1 defenseman talent; they completely changed the dynamic of the entire defense by adding one player. Jack Johnson won’t have to be called on to be the number 1 defenseman anymore he is playing a role more suited for as a 3rd or 4th defenseman on the second paring. He has already seemed less hesitant and more aggressive with the puck. Now that he is playing more sheltered minutes against 2nd and third line forwards as opposed to 1st line forwards he will flourish. Murray jones Johnson and savard aren’t a terrible top 4. And with continued development they could actually turn out quite well.
In all there despair this factory of sadness (NHL version) has produced there is a silver lining. The opportunity pick in the top 4. Yes we have heard it all before. Jackets have a top pick and do nothing with it. However this isn’t the days of Doug Mclean, Say what you will about Jarmo’s ability as a general manager, his drafting has been much better than any of his predecessors. Even with the newly created draft lottery this is still a chance that Columbus steals the 1st overall pick from Edmonton and takes Austin Mathews with the first overall pick. Imagine Mathews Wennberg Dubinsky and Karlsson down the middle. Joey who? Even if the hockey gods still make good on the virgin sacrifices that Edmonton has been offering for the last decade Columbus still has a lot of good prospects to choose from. They are going to add talent even if that talent is named Puluijarvi or Chychrun instead of Mathews.
Awe yes the kids; people forget that there are still several promising young guns even with the recent call ups of Kirby Rychel and Josh Anderson. Guys like Bittner Milano and Bjorkstrand have a bright future at forward, and guys like Werenski, Carlsson Paliotta and Heatherington are expected to be serviceable or better top 6 defensemen. Remember the whole brick by brick philosophy? Well the house is being build and the foundation is being laid, and while there was some wiring left behind by the old place it turned out to be good for a little while before crapping out. Nothing that can’t be replaced. This team still has a solid young core that will continue to develop and when the current aging vets start to move on they can be replaced by the young talent being seasoned in the AHL.
5) Aaron Rodgers