OK, let's have a little fun here.
Dan and Sam have put together very logical, very understandable and very likely lineups for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they open the season in a little more than a month (it really is coming that quickly).
I'm going to go a slightly different route. I'm gonna make a dream lineup.
I'm bending the rules a little bit. This is supposed to be our projected lineup the team will actually roll out there, not what necessarily what we want to do, but going with a projected lineup tends to get a little boring.
For instance, it seems pretty likely that new acquisition Artemi Panarin will be paired with center Alexander Wennberg (assuming he's signed, but that's a story for another day) and winger Nick Foligno. It's a bit of a do-it-all line, with the sniper Panarin played with the team's best distributor in Wennberg with Foligno there to bring some skill and some wherewithal in the hard areas.
But like I said, I'm here to have fun, so I'm gonna shake things up a bit. Here's my "screw it, let's go nuts" guess on what the Blue Jackets lineup looks like on Oct. 6 when they host the New York Islanders:
Team Projected Lineup
|9||Artemi Panarin||82 GP, 31-43-74||10||Alexander Wennberg||80 GP, 13-46-59||13||Cam Atkinson||82 GP, 35-27-62|
|71||Nick Foligno||79 GP, 26-25-51||17||Brandon Dubinsky||80 GP, 12-29-41||22||Sonny Milano||4 GP, 0-0-0|
|28||Oliver Bjorkstrand||26 GP, 6-7-13||18||Pierre-Luc Dubois||48 GP, 21-34-55||38||Boone Jenner||82 GP, 18-16-34|
|11||Matt Calvert||65 GP, 10-5-15||45||Lukas Sedlak||62 GP, 7-6-13||34||Josh Anderson||78 GP, 17-12-29|
|8||Zach Werenski||78 GP, 11-36-47||3||Seth Jones||75 GP, 12-30-42|
|7||Jack Johnson||82 GP, 5-18-23||58||David Savard||74 GP, 6-17-23|
|27||Ryan Murray||60 GP, 2-9-11||53||Gabriel Carlsson||2 GP, 0-0-0|
OK, so this isn't very likely, is it?
Putting Atkinson on the Wennberg-Panarin line? Sonny Milano in a top-six role?
But hey, I said I was going to have a little fun with this. And what could be more fun than having two 30-goal scorers sandwiching a centerman who could make the leap into the upper echelon of scorers at his position this year?
And while Atkinson isn't the biggest guy in the world, I think this works. He's become a guy who can play a 200-foot game and is trusted by head coach John Tortorella in just about every role and situation. Putting him on the ice with two similarly talented players really ups the team's offensive potential out of that top line.
This allows you to move Foligno down with another guy who puts his heart and soul into it in Brandon Dubinsky. As for Milano, here's my reasoning: He's too talented to be a bottom-six guy, so if he shows up to camp and proves he's ready to make the jump to the NHL – and remember, this kid is just 21 – then I think he has to be in the top six. He could add some real firepower to that unit.
It also helps the bottom six come together a bit. The team has clearly put the onus on Pierre-Luc Dubois to make the team and be the third-line center, so I'm running with that until proved otherwise. I think pairing him with a similarly talented youngster in Oliver Bjorkstrand can be an interesting duo, with Boone Jenner adding a little veteran grit to help the youngsters along. Ideally, this isn't really a third line (it can score a little more and probably defend a little less than your average trio at that spot), but the way this team is currently built, it works.
Then we have a fourth line that frankly I love. Matt Calvert is still an ideal winger in that spot, Lukas Sedlak was beautiful in a bottom-six center role last year and could be even better this year, and Josh Anderson is a really intriguing option there. Some will likely have him higher in the lineup, but I'm very curious how his season goes before I think he settles there.
As for the defensive crew, I have a prediction: Zach Werenski and Seth Jones will not spend the entirety of the 2017-18 season together. If someone like Ryan Murray has a big year, it might make sense to break up this duo and pair Murray with him just to get him settled into the lineup. But I do think 3 and 8 begin the season together, just like old times.
The same can be said of David Savard and Jack Johnson – keep 'em together until you have to – so then we get to the third line, where Murray seems likely to start the year. The only real question for opening night seems to be which Scandinavian ends up with him, Gabriel Carlsson or Markus Nutivaara. As much as I love Nutivaara's game and its potential, the team clearly loves Carlsson and I think he's ready to be a mainstay.
There isn't much to be said at goalie, where Bob starts the year between the pipes (if he doesn't, something has gone horribly awry) and Joonas Korpisalo backs up.
So there's my lineup. Like I said, will it happen? I doubt it. But I like it, and I'm a gambler who loves goals, so let's give it a whirl and see what happens, eh?