Worth Another Look: The Three Big Preseason Storylines, And What We Learned From Them

By Chris Pennington on September 29, 2018 at 11:32 am
Cam Atkinson & Artemi Panarin
Russell LaBounty – USA TODAY Sports

We're just about in the clear of "It's only preseason" remarks.

However, this reminder is usually necessary to calm some fears, and alleviate concern over the Columbus Blue Jackets sub-.500 win percentage in the preseason. It's no reason to call for anyone's head, of course, but there are still some items to keep an eye on. 

But if we're being honest, we can all be a little overreactive at times. 

For sanity's sake, though, it needs to be mentioned that in the past five years, the Blue Jackets have only had two preseason campaigns where they finished with an above-.500 winning percentage. Those also happen to be both of the years that Columbus ended up missing the playoffs in that same stretch.

(Therefore, que the "no correlation" gif)

But just because the record in preseason hockey doesn't count doesn't mean there aren't moments or signs that point to how the year might play out.

Let's take a dive into the standout moments of the preseason and how they could affect the club when the games really matter:

Injuries, injuries, and more injuries

The 2015-16 Blue Jackets season began with what seemed like half of the actual squad on the ice and the other half on the shelf. For a moment, it seemed like we were experiencing some deja vu.

Seth Jones, Ryan Murray and Scott Harrington were all injured in this year's exhibition games, and Murray and Jones are confirmed to both be missing a least a few weeks. Harrington's timetable is unknown, but this will certainly put a burden on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky as the season starts.

The Jackets have been known to rely on Bobrovsky to bail them out, and as great as he's been, Dean Kukan potentially being in a second-pairing role isn't super ideal. While the defense has promising young players, it's an unproven cast of depth players and the Blue Jackets might have to start scoring some goals to keep up.

The Coaching Swap

If the team was located in Cleveland, I'm almost convinced fans would have named this "The Swap", similar to "The Fumble", "The Drive", etc.

On Tuesday, it was reported that John Tortorella had made a direct swap of coach Brad Larsen and coach Brad Shaw, citing the goal of a different voice needing to be present for each unit. Larsen, the former forwards coach will now be in charge of the defensemen, and vice versa with Shaw:

It's a head-scratcher, for sure; Larsen will surely have his work cut out for him with a short-staffed defensive unit, and time will tell if this swap was beneficial or completely unnecessary. 

Abramov Gets Cut

It's not the biggest surprise in the history of Blue Jackets' moves, but it surely does speak to management's confidence in the top-12 they are boasting at the moment. Vitaly Abramov, the 2016 draft pick who was expected to crack the big club this year, will now be plying his trade in the AHL.

Somehow, the Blue Jackets will start the regular season (knock on wood) with a fully-healthy forward group and it looks pretty deep. A fourth line trio of Riley Nash, Anthony Duclair and Sonny Milano is a third-line squad on many teams, and the Jackets should be pleased with how they've constructed their forwards. 

Depth doesn't mean a whole lot if you can't score as much as the best of the best, and the Jackets have a bit of a scoring drop-off after the first line – at least according to the past few seasons' results. If the Alexander Wennberg's, Brandon Dubinsky's and even Duclair's can have breakout (or bounce-back) seasons, this could be a scary offensive team.

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