To many outsiders, this coming Blue Jackets season is a bit of a mystery.
In many respects, that makes sense. You have two marquee players entering the final years of their contracts (Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky) and one of them, you may have heard, isn't willing to commit long-term anytime soon.
So from that angle, the opinion that the Blue Jackets may not be as good as they've been holds water...but maybe just a few drops.
The Blue Jackets have racked up 205 standings points in the last two seasons.
That's an average of 102.5 per year – impressive math for a journalism major, eh? – which is iron-clad playoff team status and among the best marks in the league. They're also one of the league's youngest teams, one that's arguably deeper than it was a year ago at forward and is preparing to usher in young talent on the back end to replace a pair of departed veterans.
But in NHL.com's 31-in-31 preview with Mike Johnson and Dan Rosen (see the video in the header), they're concerned for other reasons. They don't think the Blue Jackets have enough depth, and that the distraction of Panarin's situation will be too much to overcome.
I'm not entirely sold on that.
It's not like the Blue Jackets haven't had any distractions over the last few years.
And their team is built rock-solid from the net out, and it sure looks like Bobrovsky will be in the net for the balance of the season while they try to work out a new deal. With that as the basis, the Blue Jackets are in good shape.
They do mention Anthony Duclair as a low-risk option that could make an impact, but little mention of Riley Nash, who gives the Blue Jackets a new degree of depth down the middle (where they sorely need it).
What do you think – are the Blue Jackets still in good shape? Does their season depend on their return for Panarin? Let us know in the comments.
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