POSTED ON Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 10:35 AM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Editor's note: This is the latest installment of a weekly column from BlueJackets.com writer Rob Mixer, which will be featured exclusively on the CBJ Today blog. Be sure to follow Rob on Twitter at @RobMixer.

Even before free agency opened a year ago, the Blue Jackets made James Wisniewski their primary target.

With determined effort to upgrade the skill on the blue line, GM Scott Howson swung a trade with the Montreal Canadiens to acquire the negotiating rights to Wisniewski a few days prior to July 1. In a market with two prime defensemen (Wisniewski and Christian Ehrhoff, who would eventually sign in Buffalo), Howson knew it was imperative to make a strong impression on the 28-year-old Michigan native.

It didn't take long to realize the feeling was mutual. Wisniewski drove down to Columbus from his summer home and got a first-hand look at the Blue Jackets facilities and spent a lot of time at Nationwide Arena, getting to know staff and even meeting a few of his soon-to-be teammates. The six-year deal he signed less than hour before the official start of free agency provided yet another building block for the Blue Jackets, but misfortune struck before the regular season got under way.

Wisniewski was involved in an incident during a preseason game in Minnesota, in which he got tangled up with Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck near the blue line. The NHL's Department of Player Safety ruled heavily on the matter, and though Clutterbuck was not injured, Wisniewski was suspended for a total of 12 games (including the first eight of the regular season).

While it's not accurate to place the club's sluggish start solely on Wisniewski's absence, the Blue Jackets desperately missed his puck-moving ability and that rocket shot from the point. He made his regular-season debut on Oct. 25 vs. the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena, on a night when Columbus earned its first victory of the season.

There were some memorable moments along the way (how about the thrilling overtime winner at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville?), but for the most part, 2011-12 was a season to forget for both Wisniewski and the Blue Jackets. Two significant injuries -- a facial injury and a broken ankle -- limited his playing time the rest of the way, and Wisniewski was only able to see time in 48 games. But in those 48 games, he was an impact player: Wisniewski tallied six goals and 21 assists in that span, which roughly equates to a 45-point pace over a full season.

The year before he joined the Blue Jackets, Wisniewski totaled 51 points -- good enough to place him in the top-five for defense scoring in the NHL.

And in order to get off to a better start in 2012-13 and get the Blue Jackets on the winning side of the ledger, they will need a healthy and productive Wisniewski to help make it happen.

He can be a game-breaker when he's on top of his game, and at times last year, the Blue Jackets and their fans caught glimpses of Wisniewski's elite skill level with the puck. He can bomb the one-timer or make a quick, deft pass in traffic that gets the puck out of trouble and up the ice in transition.

If he's in the lineup and contributing on a regular basis, the Blue Jackets will be a much better team not only on the power play, but also at even strength.

Say, for discussion's sake, the Blue Jackets go with the following defense pairs:

Tyutin - Nikitin
Johnson - Wisniewski
Murray/Moore - Aucoin

With a healthy Wisniewski in the mix from the get-go, they will have their No. 1 power play unit set -- and with Johnson being a left-handed shot and Wisniewski right-handed, they should also set up well for one-timers across the blue line. In previous years, the Columbus defense employed a bevy of left-handed shooters, making the point men easier to defend and the threat of one-timers was not as prevalent.

At the end of last season, we got to see (at least a preview) of what Wisniewski and Johnson can do when paired together on the power play. They make the puck sing on the back end, opening up passing and shooting lanes with their footwork and vision -- something the Blue Jackets power play had been missing for a long, long time.

We're only a couple of months away from the 2012-13 season getting started, and as much as Blue Jackets fans are excited to get the ball rolling, you can bet no one is more eager than James Wisniewski.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 3:13 PM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Ah, Trivia Tuesday. It seems like it was just yesterday when we last convened for our weekly intellectual challenge.

We're going to throw a wrinkle into this week's question, but don't worry. It's nothing too complicated and mostly just a reversal. Instead of asking for a number or a statistic from a player as the trivia answer, we're going to flip it around for this week: we're going to give you the number or the story line, and you have to name the player.

One clue: the answer is a former Blue Jackets player. That's all you get this time around!

Per usual, make sure you fill out the entire form below and hit "submit" to officially enter the Trivia Tuesday contest. We're notifying winners from previous weeks, so if you get a note from us, you can be expecting your prize very soon!

Another hint: the picture above may have something to do with the "swag" we're giving away to trivia winners...


Click here to fill out the form for you chance to win!

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POSTED ON Friday, 08.03.2012 / 11:00 AM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Players like R.J. Umberger are hard to come by, and the Blue Jackets are fortunate enough to have acquired another of a similar ilk this summer.

Since his arrival in Columbus four years ago, Umberger went from seldom-used winger in Philadelphia to an all-situations, multi-positional forward with the Blue Jackets -- and it seemingly began right off the bat. Following a breakout performance in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs with the Flyers, Umberger was dealt to Columbus and quickly signed a four-year deal, which was followed up by a five-year extension in 2011.

Just over a week ago, the Blue Jackets received Brandon Dubinsky as part of a package from the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash. He's not the exact same player as Umberger, but there are a lot of similarities in their games, and it shouldn't come as a surprise if they line up together once the 2012-13 season begins.


Read the full story here >>

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 08.01.2012 / 10:00 PM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Pumped for tonight's "Before the Battle" on FOX Sports Ohio?

Like to tweet, and win awesome CBJ prizes? Well, you've come to the right place. All you have to do is tweet at us (@BlueJacketsNHL) and let us know what you think of the show! We go behind-the-scenes with the Blue Jackets coaches, management and more during the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh and during free agency earlier this month -- it's chock full of never-before-seen footage that Blue Jackets fans are sure to enjoy!

Winners will be selected at random. It could be YOU, just use the hashtag #CBJBTB and send us your feedback on tonight's show!

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 08.01.2012 / 10:25 AM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Editor's note: This is the latest installment of a weekly column from BlueJackets.com writer Rob Mixer, which will be featured exclusively on the CBJ Today blog. Be sure to follow Rob on Twitter at @RobMixer.

The first person to tell you that Steve Mason has struggled the past three seasons will be Steve Mason himself. He's an honest guy, is never afraid to share his feelings, and to his credit, answers every question directed at him in the dressing room - win or lose.

At the core of these characteristics is a ridiculous competitor; I often think back to his rookie season in 2008-09 when he posted 10 shutouts and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. There wasn't a single puck that he didn't at least have a chance to stop. Mason is a crazy athlete, and at a lanky 6-foot-4, a rare physical specimen for a goaltender.

If you watched Mason's interview on JacketsTV with Bob McElligott earlier this week, you may have noticed some changes. Mason has shed about 15 pounds this offseason and is looking as lean as I've ever seen him, and he has firmly stuck to the game plan laid out for him by strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins. It has resulted in a more trim and fit Mason, and one that knows he's got a lot of work to do before training camp opens in September.

For the first time since entering the league, Mason's hold on the No. 1 job is being threatened before the season begins. 


Read the full story here >>

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 07.31.2012 / 5:26 PM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

It may have looked a bit strange at first, but after a while, Will Weberfit right in.

Well, as best as a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defenseman could look on the ice with a group of young goalies at this week's Blue Jackets Hockey School. Weber, who recently completed a standout hockey career at Miami University (Ohio) in Oxford, spent a few hours at the OhioHealth's Chiller North location in Lewis Center skating with goalies and giving the kids a memory they will not soon forget.

Not only were the kids full of smiles, but so was Weber. Each time the players participate in a hockey school clinic, they seem to be reminded of their younger days skating with players they looked up to and soaking up knowledge passed along to them.


Read the full story here >>

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 07.31.2012 / 2:00 PM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Are we ready for the third week of Blue Jackets Trivia Tuesday?

First off, thanks to all who submitted entries to last week's question and took part in the contest. We hope you're having as much fun with the weekly trivia as we are in creating the questions. As a general rule -- if you're having any issues with the Formstack system, please let us know right away so we can fix it up.

Here's the question for this week:


Click here for the question AND entry form >>

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POSTED ON Monday, 07.30.2012 / 12:45 PM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today



Adrian Aucoin vividly remembers when the Blue Jackets put a serious dent in the playoff hopes of the Phoenix Coyotes.

It was just five months ago when Aucoin, then a veteran blueliner in the desert, took note of the way the Blue Jackets approached the tail end of their season. There were no secrets; Columbus didn't have much to play for during the final 41 games, but the club's leaders brought the team together and set some attainable goals.

Standing in the way were the playoff-hungry Coyotes, who were locked in an intense race for the Pacific Division title with Los Angeles and Dallas. The Blue Jackets gave Phoenix everything it could handle, winning Mar. 3 at Jobing.com Arena and again three days later at Nationwide Arena, the second time chasing Mike Smith from the net just five minutes into the game.

Those games stood out to Aucoin as he weighed a contract offer from the Blue Jackets on July 1. Their record was a bit misleading, Aucoin said, and with a few changes the team could get back on track.


Read the full story here >>

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POSTED ON Friday, 07.27.2012 / 11:05 AM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Jack Johnson was one of the first acquisitions made last season by the Blue Jackets designed to change the dynamic both on the ice and in the dressing room, but he certainly was not the last.

It has been quite the busy summer for GM Scott Howson and his staff, swinging significant trades since the deadline in February and adding a stable of competitive, two-way forwards while also bolstering the defense, which was already considered the strong arm of the club.

The latest of those moves involved seven total pieces and five players, sending Rick Nash to the New York Rangers in exchange for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round pick. Johnson said he and his teammates knew what was coming, but their sole focus is the exciting brand of hockey they know they're capable of playing.

"Everyone in the organization wishes the best for Rick, but we're excited about the direction we're going," Johnson told BlueJackets.com. "We all have to move on, and the guys who we've brought in over the summer are great players and great guys.

"It's going to help the depth of our team a lot, and I think one of the goals of the summer was to do that. We've got some big, strong forwards that really make us tougher to play against."


Read the full story here >>

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POSTED ON Thursday, 07.26.2012 / 11:30 AM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

Editor's note: This is the latest installment of a weekly column from BlueJackets.com writer Rob Mixer, which will be featured exclusively on the CBJ Today blog. Be sure to follow Rob on Twitter at @RobMixer.

After a long and seemingly endless period of speculation, a Rick Nash trade was consummated earlier this week. But you already knew that.

For my money, the most important item to emerge from this story has been the clear-cut formation of an identity for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The words have echoed from the mouths of GM Scott Howson, head coach Todd Richards, and the players (both incumbent and newcomers): competitive, hard-working, fast, smart. This is the mold of a Blue Jacket, and the building of that type of team began in earnest at the trading deadline in February when a roster reshaping was in the works.

It's safe to say we're in the middle of that reshaping -- and the changes are drastic -- but they are in the best interest of the Blue Jackets. They desperately needed forwards and an increased presence at center ice, and one of the immediate options to remedy the void was in a Nash deal.


Read the full commentary here >>

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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Johnson 1 1 1 0 2
D. MacKenzie 1 1 0 0 1
M. Letestu 1 1 0 1 1
B. Dubinsky 1 0 1 1 1
B. Jenner 1 0 1 -1 1
F. Tyutin 1 0 0 -1 0
J. Wisniewski 1 0 0 0 0
B. Comeau 1 0 0 -1 0
N. Nikitin 1 0 0 0 0
J. Skille 1 0 0 -1 0
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 0 1 0 .875 4.07
 
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