Was I surprised to see Sam Gagner hit the free agent market? Nope.
Was I surprised to see the Blue Jackets buy out Scott Hartnell? Not really.
Would I be surprised if they had trouble scoring this season? Yeah, a little.
Let’s be clear on this: I still have yet to fully convince myself that they’ll be okay in the goal-scoring department, a year removed from one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history. They’ve lost depth, they’ve lost one of their best 5-on-5 players in Brandon Saad and gained a dynamic player in Artemi Panarin, and quite honestly, a lot of things went really well for them last season. That’s what worries me.
Cam Atkinson was an All-Star (literally) and played lights-out, scoring 35 times.
Nick Foligno bounced back with a 26-goal season after a forgettable 2015-16. Alexander Wennberg went from a 40-point player to nearly a 60-point player. But I also think there's enough legitimacy in enough of those performances to determine that the Blue Jackets can count on the good more than the bad.
So as I’ve ruminated over this potential lineup and followed the leads of Dan Dukart, Sam Blazer and Jeff Svoboda, I’m reading their work out of one eye and covering the other in order to keep my thoughts clear and independent. They’re rightfully bullish on guys like Oliver Bjorkstrand, who I think is going to be a significant part of this year’s team. His time has come. The same goes for Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has a spot on the team should he step forth and earn it during camp.
They’re also astute to point out that, at some point here, Sonny Milano needs to show he’s ready. The Blue Jackets have been patient with him and seen him go through great stretches in the American Hockey League (along with some growing pains), but he hasn’t been able to take his shoes off and stay awhile at Nationwide Arena. We’ll learn a lot about where his development stands once training camp gets going here in a couple of weeks, which gives me slight anxiety to type because where the hell has summer gone?
Anyhow, that’s a long-winded way of saying this lineup — which is purely speculative — is a mystery to me.
I like many things about the way John Tortorella could draw it up: there’s balance at the top, there’s a host of young players who appear ready to take on more, and there are veterans who seemed to find themselves last season. There are also important players (Atkinson, Bobrovsky, Panarin to name a few) with contracts winding down and big paydays in their sights.
Team Projected Lineup
|71||Nick Foligno||79 GP, 26-25-51||10||Alexander Wennberg||80 GP, 13-46-59||9||Artemi Panarin||82 GP, 31-43-74|
|38||Boone Jenner||82 GP, 18-16-34||17||Brandon Dubinsky||80 GP, 12-29-41||13||Cam Atkinson||82 GP, 35-27-62|
|34||Josh Anderson||78 GP, 17-12-29||18||Pierre-Luc Dubois||N/A (junior)||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand||26 GP, 6-7-13|
|11||Matt Calvert||65 GP, 10-5-15||45||Lukas Sedlak||62 GP, 7-6-13||33||Markus Hannikainen||10 GP, 1-1-2|
|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||65||Markus Nutivaara||66 GP, 2-5-7|
I'm a bit concerned about the forwards.
I like the young guys. I like that they're not just warm bodies, but players who are knocking on the door. The Blue Jackets need a healthy contribution from Bjorkstrand as well as Dubois. They're going to need at least 10 goals from Matt Calvert and for Boone Jenner to hit or exceed the 20-goal mark, both of which are well within the realm of possibility.
For those reasons, I think the Blue Jackets will look to bring in a veteran forward or two on a PTO for training camp. They did so last season with Patrick Dwyer, Mike Brown and Jarret Stoll (all three players were released from their tryouts) but the market is a little deeper this fall.
The defense is really damn good and will be for a long time. That's a pocket ace.
What do you think: am I right, wrong, or an idiot? Actually, don't answer that.