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Season Preview: Blue Jackets

Play of Sergei Bobrovsky, captain Nick Foligno keys to playoff berth

by Craig Merz / NHL.com

Foligno on Blue Jackets' approach

Foligno on team's approach heading into the season

Nick Foligno details the team's approach heading into the season

  • 01:14 •

NHL.com has provided team-by-team previews for the upcoming season. In this look at the Blue Jackets, reasons for making the playoffs, key additions and more are covered:

At a glance

2015-16 record: 34-40-8, 76 points, 8th in Metropolitan Division, 15th in Eastern Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify

Additions: F: Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Sam Gagner , Sonny Milano; D: Zach Werenski

Subtractions: F: Jared Boll, Kerby Rychel; D: Justin Falk, Fedor Tyutin

Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

Brandon Saad - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner - Sam Gagner - Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Matt Calvert- Pierre-Luc Dubois - William Karlsson

Gregory Campbell

Defensemen

Ryan Murray - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Zach Werenski - Dalton Prout

Cody Goloubef

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Joonas Korpisalo

 

An 0-8-0 start, the first seven with coach Todd Richards before John Tortorella took over on Oct. 20, doomed the Blue Jackets to failure before most people in Columbus knew the hockey season had started.

Those hoping for an offseason trade that would recalibrate the Blue Jackets and energize the fans were disappointed that there were no trades such as the ones that brought Scott Hartnell in 2014 and Brandon Saad in 2015.

Instead, the Blue Jackets made news for what they didn't do, such as passing on forward Jesse Puljujarvi in the 2016 NHL Draft. He was considered more NHL-ready than forward Pierre Luc-Dubois, who was selected by the Blue Jackets with the No. 3 pick.

Dubois, 18, might stick with Columbus this season, but he's considered a project after switching from wing to center late in his junior career. It's a position of need for the Blue Jackets after they traded top center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Seth Jones on Jan. 6.

The Blue Jackets signed Sam Gagner, 27, and see him as a cog on the power play and potentially as the No. 2 center. Gagner, selected with the No. 6 pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2007 draft, had eight goals and eight assists in 53 games for the Philadelphia Flyers last season. He has 124 goals and 352 points in 615 NHL games.

Dubois might not be ready for the NHL, but the Blue Jackets are confident that 19-year-old defenseman Zach Werenski is. The No. 8 pick in the 2015 draft left the University of Michigan after his sophomore year last season and immediately helped Lake Erie (now Cleveland) win the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League.

Tortorella has shown confidence in Werenski during the preseason by having him man the point on the power play and using him in overtime situations where defensive mistakes are spotted.

While the Blue Jackets are excited about their young players, their fortunes will likely ride on the health of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who has missed significant time in each of the past three seasons because of injuries.

Even when healthy, Bobrovsky has not returned to the form that won him the Vezina Trophy in 2012-13. Rookie goalies Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo excelled in the AHL last season, and one of them could push veteran backup Curtis McElhinney and possibly challenge Bobrovsky if he falters again.

Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Captain Nick Foligno rebounds from a miserable season, Bobrovsky cleans up for a young defense and forwards Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner and Saad continue to score goals.

Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The play down the middle lets them down. If Swedish centers Alexander Wennberg and William Karlsson don't increase their production, Gagner isn't the answer and Dubois isn't ready, the Blue Jackets could have big problems.

Breakout candidate

Right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand. He isn't a lock to make the roster out of training camp, but it's only a matter of time. The 21-year-old from Denmark was the leading scorer in the Western Hockey League in 2014-15 with 118 points in 59 games. He was named most valuable player of the Calder Cup Playoffs and had four goals and four assists in 12 games with the Blue Jackets last season.

On the hot seat

Foligno. He is signed through the 2020-21 season and has a salary cap charge of $5.5 million. In his first season as captain, Foligno had 12 goals and 37 points in 72 games after scoring 31 goals and 73 points in 79 games in 2014-15. Foligno is popular in the locker room and around town, but the Blue Jackets can't afford a repeat season from him.

Trophy candidates

Bobrovsky (Vezina); Werenski (Calder)

Quotable

"It's a totally different mindset for me and the older guys I've talked to and the young guys I've talked to. Everyone knows there's jobs up for grabs. Everyone knows spots are available and ice time is not taken for granted. I know I'm not given anything and I've got to earn it. I've got to work for it. It's going to be a very serious attitude around here." -- forward Scott Hartnell

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