Apr 25, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) skates in the Dallas Stars zone during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blue Jackets defeated the Stars 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Metropolitan Division Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are making a much anticipated jump to the Eastern Conference this season.  They are one of three teams switching conferences due to the NHL’s choice to realign the League and revert to a four division setup.

Columbus finished dead last in the standings in 2011-12 before making a push and barely missing the playoffs in last year’s shortened season.  Columbus hopes to build on last year’s success and ride the momentum of a change in scenery to their first playoff appearance since the 2008-09 season.

Key Returnees:

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Marian Gaborik – RW – 31 years old
2013: 12 Goals 15 Assists 27 Points -3

Gaborik was traded to Columbus by the New York Rangers at the trade deadline and immediately made an impact.  As the Blue Jackets will hope a change in scenery will benefit them, the change in scenery seemed to help the disgruntled Slovak.  Gaborik tallied eight points in just twelve games with the Blue Jackets has to provide that same kind of consistency if Columbus hopes to be successful in the very competitive Metropolitan Division.  Thursday November 9, 2013 is a day to look forward to as it will pit former Blue Jacket captain Rick Nash against former Ranger star Gaborik and this will mark the first time either player will face their former team.

Brandon Dubinsky – C – 27 years old
2013: 2 Goals 18 Assists 20 Points +2

What Dubinsky lacks in pure skill he makes up for in heart, determination and a will to win.  He was a fan favorite in Madison Square Garden before being sent to Columbus in a package deal for Rick Nash before the 2013 season.  Dubinsky is the kind of player every fan and coach want on their team, but hate to play against.  He is tenacious and will be a key part of the Blue Jackets’ game plan moving forward into the 2013-14 season.

Jack Johnson – D – 26 years old
2013: 5 Goals 14 Assists 19 Points -5

Johnson was a key fixture on the Los Angeles Kings’ blue line before being traded to Columbus at the 2011-12 trade deadline.  Johnson came in and immediately provided much needed depth and skill to the Blue Jackets’ defense.  Johnson is the type of defenseman a team could build their blue line around and Columbus will need him to be firing on all cylinders if they hope to have a successful season.

Sergei Bobrovsky – G – 24 years old
2013: 21 Wins 11 Loses 2 Overtime Losses 4 Shootout Losses .932 Save% 2.00 Goals Against Average

Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner as the best goaltender in the league, Bobrovsky will need to continue that success if the Blue Jackets want to make a run at the playoffs.  Last season marked career bests in both Save Percentage and Goals Against Average for the former Philadelphia Flyer and with the offensive powerhouses in the Eastern Conference it is going to take another career year from the Blue Jackets netminder to keep them competitive.

Key Departures:

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Vinny Prospal – LW – 38 years old – Currently an unsigned unrestricted free-agent
2013: 12 Goals 18 Assists 30 Points +3

Prospal was in his second year with the Blue Jackets when he lead them in scoring last season.  He is a huge veteran presence as well as an offensive force, it is surprising that he remains an UFA this late into the off-season.

 

Derrick Brassard – C – 25 years old – Traded to the Rangers at the deadline
2013: 12 Goals 17 Assists 29 Points +1

Brassard was part of the deal that brought Gaborik to Columbus last season and became a fan favorite in New York. He is a tenacious smart player who sees the ice extremely well.  Two-times in his short career he has recorded 40 points or more and will look to continue that success, unfortunately for Columbus, over in New York.

John Moore – D – 22 years old – traded to the Rangers at the deadline
2013: 1 Goal 6 Assists 7 Points +4

Although he may not be large offensive contributor Moore is an intelligent defenseman, well beyond his three years in the NHL.  Moore sees the ice extremely well and makes great use of his speed and vision to open the ice up for his team.

Key Additions:

Nathan Horton – RW – 28 years old – signed as a free agent
2013: 13 Goals 9 Assists 22 Points +1

Horton is a hard nosed, blue-collar breed of hockey player.  He is not afraid to go to the tough areas and works very well along the boards.  He is also the kind of player who is not afraid to get his hands dirty if the situation calls for it.  He has already won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and that experience along with his level of character and determination could help bring Columbus to the next level.

 

Eyes On Isles Pre-Season Rating:

Offense – C+
Defense – B-
Goaltending – A
Special Teams – B-
Division Difficulty – 5/5
Overall – B-

 

-Shane Blackburn (@ShaneB_WSIA)

 

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Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets Metropolitan Division New York Islanders NHL Offseason Preview

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