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The Depleted Blue Jackets Are BACK Tonight And Call Me Crazy, But I'm Still Thinking Playoffs

So I know that Ohio is currently preoccupied with our undefeated Buckeyes and division leading Cleveland Browns, but I’d be remiss not to mention to my fellow citizens of the state that the Columbus Blue Jackets open up shop tonight. Save all of your “Bruins in 6” and “Where’s Panarin and Bobrovsky?” talk. Blah blah blah. Quit living in the past. This blog isn’t for you anyways. It’s for Jackets fanatics like myself. Plus, as an Ohio guy, I’m used to losing things and rolling with the punches enough to bounce back and support my teams. Resiliency is in the water here.

With all that being said, let’s take a dive into the season and the current roster we have going for us.

Up front:

After losing Panarin and Duchene, it’s a safe bet that the Jackets will be looking at Cam Atkinson to continue his dominant production on the wing.  Coming off a 40 goal season, I can easily see him matching that pace this year. The Jackets recently acquired center, Gustav Nyquist, will fill in nicely next to Cam.  Known as a as a guy with silky mitts, it could be a nice transition for Cam and the Goose to start their own 1-2 punch.  Staying on the wing, Josh Anderson made a name for himself last season as being an absolute unit while being able to bury a few biscuits in the basket. That gives guys like PLD, Cam and Bjorkstrand a little more confidence when they step on the ice knowing they have Anderson to chuck knucks with anyone in the league while also being able to snipe some absolute beauties.

Ok that leads me to Pierre-Luc Dubois (for the sake of my carpel tunnel, I’m just going to call him PLD).  He’s consistently improved his offensive and defensive skills in each of the last two seasons, proving that he’s going to be a valuable piece for the Jackets franchise.  I have him easily at 35-48-83. Mixed in among the young talent, we still have Captain America, Nick Foligno, who will be relied on heavily to lead these young pups in a season where everyone is counting them out.  Coming off a rather poor 2018-19 season, Foligno needs to produce for this team to have any sort of chance at contending for a playoff spot.

Back End:

Arguably two of the strongest defensemen in the league, the Jackets are led by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski on the blue line.  They’ve both made a name for themselves by being solid on D while being able to jump up in the offensive play. With the unknown factor in net this year, it will be interesting to see how both these guys transition with a the new goalie, Korpisalo.  The guy to really look at on the back end for me is Ryan Murray. He came into the league and immediately made his presence known as being a guy who doesn’t get beat 1-on-1 and is able to dish the puck tape-to-tape like a young Ryan Whitney. His big issue is staying healthy, but if he can play a full season, I see him being the difference maker on that back line relieving some big minutes from veteran D-men like Savard.

So obviously to address the elephant in the room, the biggest question mark for this new look team is starting goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo.  He split games with Bobrovsky the past 4 seasons while posting a 41-31 record which are not the stats you want to see out of a starting tender.  That being said, we saw plenty of flashes where this guy can stand on his head and get big wins for his team. Manny Legace is in as the goaltender coach for Korpisalo, and I think this could be a huge difference in his game.  Legace has the experience of being a back-up goalie and then stepping into the lead role, and this could help Korpisalo do the same. If we get a good Korpisalo, I can see him pulling together 50+ wins and leading the Jackets into the playoffs.

Coaching:

As the boys over at Chiclets said, if Torts can get these guys into the playoffs, he should be a unanimous COY.  Torts is one of the best coaches in the league and loves the underdog role. I can see him embracing the year’s group and lighting a fire under their asses that can push them into the playoffs. He’ll have these boys ready to play:

Prediction:

I know the East looks strong this year, with the Leafs proving once again that they aren’t scared to pay top dollar in hopes that they might have a good team.  And obviously the Bruins, Lightning and Capitals all have proven that they’re contenders. Also, with the traitor scumbag Sergei Bobrovsk heading to that cesspool known as Florida, they’re being talked about as cup contenders.  Whatever. Torts will have the boys ready. I have the Jackets at 45 wins and squeaking in as an 8 seed. Which we have proven is DANGEROUS for the #1 seed…