The year that was…
Scott Hartnell’s trade to Columbus earlier this summer raised some eyebrows around the NHL as sudden and unexpected. But it confirmed that many view the Columbus as an appealing destination, a team on the rise and a place to win in the near future.
But Hartnell wasn’t the first high-profile name to make that decision.
It was Nathan Horton a year ago, one of the most sought-after forwards on the free agent market, who chose Columbus and signed a seven-year deal to join the Blue Jackets. It was a contract Horton signed while already preparing for shoulder surgery, a procedure the team knew would keep him out until at least December. For a player of Horton’s caliber, it would be worth the wait.
Horton made his Jackets debut on Jan. 2, 2014, scoring a goal in Glendale against the Coyotes. Horton netted four goals in his first 10 contests but struggled to score the rest of the way, failing to find the back of the net in the next 26 games. He finally broke the drought on Apr. 9 against the Dallas Stars, the same game in which he suffered an abdominal injury that ended his season.
Horton did manage 19 points in 36 games, but 2013-14 will not be remembered fondly by big No. 8.
|Click the photo to view Horton's 2013-14 season in photos gallery. |
Where is he now?
Heading into camp, Horton is healthy, which is more than anyone in the Blue Jackets’ front office can ask for. He’s had a rigorous summer of training and rehabilitation, and he’s ready for his first full campaign in Columbus.
Just as he was when he signed two summers ago, Horton has the skills to be an offensive leader on a relatively young Blue Jackets team. He has 30-goal talent, provides a strong net-front presence, and can add a substantial boost to a power play unit that operated at a respectable 19.3 percent without him for most of the year, good for 11th in the league. Two of Horton’s five goals came with the man advantage last season.
In 2012-2013 with the Bruins, Horton’s Corsi For (CF%) was 56.9 and he’s proven the ability to drive play in the offensive zone. Horton has the ability to control the pace of play deep in the zone, and if he’s not scoring, his mere presence can help make space for his line mates. He’s a proven impact man with a Stanley Cup pedigree, and his return to health is a swing factor in the Metropolitan Division when you consider what the Jackets were able to do last year essentially without him.
Horton is ready to be a full-time, full-strength Jacket, but he joins a team very different from the one with which he signed in 2013. Horton signed on to be the Jackets’ star, their leader and go-to weapon. While he’s still playing a lead role, the Blue Jackets had several young players step to the forefront last year, and Horton’s talents come as deadly second blow to what could be one of the better one-two punches in the NHL.
Along with trade pickup Scott Hartnell, Horton is the Blue Jackets’ best roster addition this summer, and he will add his own pop while making Johansen and others even more dangerous. He can even help further bolster an encouraging young Boone Jenner, who saw some top line time last year and may get that taste at some point again.