Hockey season in Columbus is officially here.
The Columbus Blue Jackets played their first preseason games of the year on Sunday, splitting their split squad doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 3-2 overtime loss in the afternoon on the road, and getting a 5-1 win later in the evening at home.
More importantly than wins during this time, training camp and preseason provides the time to ask lots of questions we'll soon get answers to.
For instance, how might things stack up for Boone Jenner given the opportunity to center Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine this season?
Ed Francis wrote about the very potential of Jenner with Gaudreau and Laine and what the makeup of that line can mean personally for Jenner and his stat line.
"Yeah, I think I know what I can bring with those two talents," Jenner said as practice got underway last week. "Anyone that can slot in there and play their game, it's an exciting role, for sure.
"Over the last couple of years, getting to play with (Laine) quite a bit last year, and did a lot of good things. So obviously, you add (Gaudreau) with him and what they could do so just going to play my game and see how it shakes out."
One order of Patty Bomb coming up! Peeke hits Laine with the cross ice pass for the goal to make it 2-0! pic.twitter.com/8q4mNySY9b— CBJ Center (@CBJcenter) September 26, 2022
In Sunday's nightcap, Gaudreau starred in his first Blue Jackets exhibition game with three assists and three shots in the win over the Penguins. Laine also scored a goal on six shots. Meanwhile, Jenner did not play as he eases back into the lineup following a lower back injury that sidelined him the rest of the way last March.
#CBJ Brad Larsen confirms C Boone Jenner is fine, no setbacks. Just managing his workload and limiting his exposure early in training camp after he missed the final 23 games of last season with a back injury.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) September 23, 2022
As electrifying as the Gaudreau, Jenner, Laine line looks on paper, it might take time for on-ice chemistry to jell.
"That's what everyone wants," Jenner said. "I think it just clicks, obviously, it takes time. It's something that you gotta work with, you got to talk, get reps in, practice at, play at, get ready. That way of just communicating, being on the same page...I don't have a timeline for you."
Even as we get to see that line play out any kinks while finding chemistry, it certainly looks like the makings are there for explosive scoring opportunities.
Jenner could certainly be in line for a career year in 2022-23.
The captain was on his way to such a year last season, and would have almost certainly set career markers in goals, assists, and points if he finished the season. His 23 goals came in seven under his 30-goal campaign in 2015-16, the 21 assists finished one below his high of 22 in 2018-19, and his 44 points fell five behind the 49 he had in 2015-16.
A healthy Jenner for a full season this year and you can probably expect similar numbers to last season, right?
Any time a team adds the dynamic playmaking abilities that Gaudreau provides as a winger—the best talent on that side of a first line since Artemi Panarin—paired with one of the best shooters in the league in Laine, it opens up a lot of possibilities.
"I think you just look at each player, the strengths...(Gaudreau) with what he can do with the puck and how he can find people and create offense almost out of nothing sometimes," Jenner said.
"(Laine) same thing. But when he gets it on the stick it's a pretty lethal shot as you guys know. Obviously, those two talents are pretty dangerous on the ice and definitely can be lethal."
Another training camp question is how will the team make up for the absence of Oliver Bjorkstrand, both on and off the ice?
Bjorkstrand, one of the alternate captains for last season's team, was traded to the Seattle Kraken over the summer. Whether or not things ultimately lead to another player donning the 'A' in Columbus, the team is well-equipped to spread the leadership around the locker room.
"It's obviously tough," Jenner said. "What (Bjorkstrand) meant here and seeing him go on (to the Kraken).
"Personally, you just want to keep growing in that aspect. Keep learning about yourself and what kind of leader, and keep going with how to approach a group. Myself, any other leaders, and some of the other guys we brought in, too, can bring some leadership.
"There's a lot of it in the room, so personally, just trying to grow in that area and obviously want to take on a lot of responsibility and keep growing there."
The Blue Jackets are back at it on Wednesday night when they play host to the Buffalo Sabres at 7 pm ET.