CBJ Season Preview: Forwards

Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 7:00 AM / News
By Rob Mixer  - BlueJackets.com


Goal scoring was hard to come by for the Blue Jackets in 2012-13.

Had they netted a few more, would they have made the Stanley Cup playoffs? That's hard to say (so we won't), but there is no denying that boosting the offense was priority No. 1 heading into the summer.

Faced with an obvious need and some salary cap room to work with, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen went after the top guy on his list and arguably the top scorer available on the free agent market in Nathan Horton. With a seven-year contract signed shortly after free agency opened on July 5, the Blue Jackets had obtained a 28-year-old power forward and proven winner who wanted to be in Columbus and hop on board with a group that many feel is headed for better days.

But the big piece acquired over the summer isn't the only exciting part of what the Blue Jackets are building up front; they return a cadre of young players who are expected to bring a more mature, complete game in 2013-14 and help chip away in the goal-scoring column. Players like Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, rookie Boone Jenner and others - these players are huge components of the Blue Jackets' present and future and are going to be entrusted with expanded roles this season. 

Atkinson, hindered down the stretch in 2012-13 by an ankle injury, reported to camp at 100 percent and was flying in the team's exhibition games. He skated briefly on a line with Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov, but this past week, has slotted on right wing with Johansen at center and Calvert on the left. The so-called "kid line" has all the elements you're looking for in a scoring line: a strong player on the walls and energetic forechecker (Calvert), an explosive sniper who can score in bunches (Atkinson) and a big body in the middle of the ice who can win face-offs and drive play (Johansen). 


Then there's the top line, which to the start the season will be held down by Jenner on left wing, Brandon Dubinsky in the middle and superstar Marian Gaborik on the right side. The trio was dynamite during the preseason and had a couple of dominant performances in Carolina and Pittsburgh, and Richards said he wasn't going to mess with that combination to open the season. 

Behind the No. 1 unit, things get a little murkier. Where does RJ Umberger fit? What about Nick Foligno, Anisimov, Mark Letestu or Blake Comeau? At least to kick things off, Letestu may skate on the wing with Anisimov at center which gives Anisimov a solid option to dish the puck to - and a guy in Letestu who's not afraid to shoot the puck or make a play. In practice this week, Comeau was the right winger on that line and they seemed to have some good chemistry - but as we all know well, anything can change either before opening night (or during the game).

Bottom line for the Blue Jackets: offense was a group effort a year ago and they're going to need more of the same, at least until Horton is ready to return from shoulder surgery. A healthy and re-energized Gaborik is going to be a big shot in the arm, along with breakout scoring performances from guys like Atkinson and Johansen. If everyone chips in a little more than they did a year ago, that whole "goal scoring is a problem" argument might not have much of a case at all. 

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 2 2 1 0 3
M. Calvert 2 2 0 3 2
R. Johansen 2 1 1 -1 2
B. Dubinsky 2 0 2 0 2
D. Savard 2 0 2 1 2
B. Jenner 2 0 2 -1 2
D. MacKenzie 2 1 0 0 1
M. Letestu 2 1 0 1 1
A. Anisimov 2 0 1 -1 1
C. Atkinson 2 0 1 1 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 1 1 0 .905 3.00
 
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