If you've been following all my other NHL team reviews so far, you'll have noticed that with the exception of my favourite team, Montreal, I pick the teams alphabetically to do my little reviews. To close the letter C, all that's left are the Columbus Blue Jackets. This mysterious team that rarely makes the first pages due to the talent it contains, but that always succeeds in giving a competitive team to its fans for the last few years. It hasn't always been sunny for the Ohio team, but they've pulled themselves out of the abyss.
A lot of work done by the GM of the Blue Jackets, Jarmo Kekalainen, during this off-season. Three transactions have been completed to bring in reinforcements and to go out and get choices and a prospect. Let's start with the big transaction of the summer, the one that brought Max Domi with the Jackets. In return, Montreal received the big striker Josh Anderson. The Canadian also sent a 3rd round pick to Columbus in the final draft who became Samuel Knazko, a Slovak defenceman. As I have already stated in my text on the Montreal Canadiens, both teams are winners of this exchange as I write this. Only time will tell which of the two teams will have made the better deal. In addition to Anderson, defencemen Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara were swapped. The first in New Jersey in return for a fifth-round pick in 2021. The second is heading to Florida. The Panthers gave up the young forward Cliff Pu. The young man has often missed games due to injuries. Let's hope that he can finally have a full season. The last player to leave the formation led by John Tortorella is Alexander Wennberg, who saw his contract bought out by the team. In addition to Domi, two other forwards are coming in with Columbus. Management has made offers to Mikko Koivu and Mikhail Grigorenko. They have both accepted the offer and will join the Jackets' team. The veteran centre player who will be wearing a different uniform than the Minnesota Wild for the first time in his career will bring even more experience to his position. The addition of Grigorenko completes the team and rejuvenates an already aging squad. Although he has been a great disappointment in the past, the Russian player is returning to the national league for the first time since the 2016-2017 season. Will we get a brand new Grigorenko? Has he matured enough in the KHL since his departure? We will have the answers to these questions after this shortened season.
After all this work, what does the team look like? A team that's aging, but has some excellent young players. Among the many veterans are Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Nash. All over 30 years of age these players have nothing left to prove. We know what they are capable of and what they bring to a National Hockey League team. I personally find that there are one or two too many veterans. I prefer a young team even though I recognize that experience is very important in today's hockey. We are adding a few young veterans in Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Eric Robinson to bring ammunition to the attack. Then, the centrepiece of this formation that will be part of the new Central association, Pierre-Luc Dubois. The young man who is a restricted free agent has still not signed his contract at the time of writing. He will earn a significant salary since he is the soul of this team. We can add a few names that will probably be part of the future of the Jackets. I think in particular of Liam Foudy, Alexandre Texier and Emil Bemström. Foudy should, in my opinion, start the season with the big club. He showed great things with Columbus in the last series. The points aren't there, but his hard work often gives his trio a second breath. Defensively now, we're talking about a good brigade that is solid in its territory and can bring attack when needed. A complete top 3 that includes Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and David Savard. There are a few more questions about the three defenders that complete the formation. Vladislav Gavrikov, Dean Kukan and Scott Harrington don't bring the depth needed, but they can do the job. Two good young goaltenders are available to coach John Tortorella. Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, two 26-year-olds who did well last season, will be the team's goalkeepers. Torts used his keepers in a very split manner last season, it remains to be seen if he will adopt the same strategy in the next campaign.
Where to place the Columbus Blue Jackets? Now that the NHL has made the new divisions official, it is easier to take a stand. I can see Columbus qualifying for the playoffs with difficulty or just missing them. I can't see the Jackets doing better than Carolina, Tampa Bay and Dallas, so I think it's going to be a very close battle for fourth place in the section. Of course, there are no official guidelines as to which teams will qualify and how, but no matter what, it will be difficult for this Ohio team to make the next playoffs in a strong division like this one.