The Roster: Opening Night

Here we go, a little over 24 hours until the Jackets take home ice. Here is the roster for opening night, with projected pairings as per Rob Mixer.

Roster:

Forwards: Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Matt Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Sam Gagner, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, William Karlsson, Brandon Saad, Lukas Sedlak, Alexander Wennberg*

Defense: Scott Harrington, Jack Johnson, Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, Dalton Prout, David Savard, Zach Werenski

Goalies: Sergei Bobrovsky, Curtis McElhinney

*Assumes Pierre-Luc Dubois is sent back to juniors and Wennberg is recalled from the cap saving move.

Opening Night Projected Lines:

Jenner-Dubinsky-Atkinson
Saad-Gagner, Filigno
Hartnell-Wennberg-Bjorkstrand
Calvert-Karlsson-Anderson

D-Pairings Projections:

Werenski-Jones
Murray-SavardJohnson-Nutivaara

 

Cap Space Clear-out

Well, the 23 man roster has been finalized and we are on the eve of the eve of opening night against the Bruins. I cannot wait for the Jackets to be back in action.

Only a couple of small surprises on the roster:

  • Gregory Campbell was waived, cleared and assigned to Cleveland (AHL)
  • Lukas Sedlak makes the roster and draws fourth line center duties
  • Markus Nutivaara & Scott Harrington both made the roster at the D position

Maybe my biggest surprise was double clutching a Dispatch headline that read “Dubois up, Wennberg sent down….” before reading on to find it most likely is a move that frees up cap space due to Dubois contract ability to make more in bonuses (2.5 million vs 475 thousand).

Whew, thought my breakout player of the year prediction was almost toast before the season even got here. See you on Thursday Wennberg!

Tomorrow brings predictions for the first thirteen games and then on to opening night on Thursday!!!!!

16-17 CBJ Preview – Three for and three against CBJ success this year

We are making the playoffs this year. There, I said it. As a longtime fan of the team am I biased? You’re damn right I am. But, I think that a closer look at the (almost) complete roster and you might see why I am seeing sunshine in our schedule rather than the biblical level of downpour we endured last year. I will do my best not to rehash what I have already written in the player profiles that have been posted already (read them!), but some redundancy is unfortunately inevitable.

Before jumping into the season outlook, a note about the national coverage of the CBJ. There isn’t any. What limited coverage we receive typically is regarding a “your season’s over, time to start selling off players to playoff contenders” . I don’t fault any of them for it. Before last season we started to get a little taste of coverage from the likes of Pierre LeBrun and Greg Wyshynski, but that was quickly dashed when we fell down without ever getting out of our starting gate. I bring this up for one reason: because we get little to no coverage many of the pundits are predicting for us to finish in the bottom two of the metropolitan division based on what appears to be last season and no new significant player pieces. I don’t think they are correct. We finish third in the metro or take a wildcard spot this year. Bank on it.

Three things that catapult us to the playoffs:

  • Jenny Craig. I don’t actually believe any of the squad has run out and joined weight watchers, but all of Torts talks about the team being out of shape clearly resonated with the players. Dalton Prout is reported to have lost 11 lbs. Bobrovsky apparently went on a voluntary hunger strike and shed 17 lbs(!) as he believed it would increase his flexibility and help keep those groin issues at bay. Based on reports coming from the Dispatch team, it appears many came into camp this year a lot more play ready than in years past. Was it simply the threat of Torts grueling camp schedule or was their some locker room leadership regarding off-season activities? Who cares, this is a significant improvement based on reports from the last three years.
  • That blue line. Youth springs eternal on our blue line, but of greater import is the fact that we now possess a defensive core that has the ability to competently move the puck. Yes, they all need to further develop, but I think this lineup puts us ahead of the curve when it comes to adjusting to the new speed and possession style that appears to be overtaking the NHL. Werenski has the potential to really shine on the power play and I am truly excited to see what influence Brad Shaw has on our penalty kill after building the Blues into a PK machine the last two years. Outside of Gagner, Brad Shaw may be the biggest addition of the off-season.
  • The Hartnell decision to stay. I may be over-emphasizing this, but I don’t take it as a small thing that Hartnell decided to pull his approved team list and stay in Columbus. This guy has been around the NHL for a longtime and I cannot believe he would want to spend his last few seasons as an NHLer with a team that he didn’t believe has a real shot at winning.

Three things that lead to me buying makers mark by the case:

  • Bobrovsky’s health. It’s hard not to be excited about the showing Bob had at the world cup of hockey. There is not a doubt that our season most likely goes along with Bob’s save percentage. The top of the metropolitan division contains two teams (Pens, Caps) that are going to pepper the net early and often. While we have some quality youth coming up between the pipes, if Bob goes down again – or starts in the same manner that he did last season, give me a makers single ice cube and a labatt chaser. Hell, just put them in the same glass, I will make it work.
  • Offensive hesitancy. In order to score, you must shoot the puck. While Wennberg’s tendency to pass rather than shoot has been well documented, the truth is looking for the perfect play has gotten in the way of making really good plays for years on the Jackets offensive end. We finished 21 in the NHL in average shots on goal per game (29.1). Again, Brad Shaw is a big coaching addition that helps us to limit the shots against per game (we had the 4th highest average), but to win you have to put shots on frame and capitalize on some of those rebounds.
  • Lack of line chemistry. With last season in the bag, it seemed the lines were changing not by the game, but by the minute. Maybe Torts garnered some information about player skill sets that help us going into 16-17, but if we immediately go back into the cycle of having to change lines on the fly to try to generate offense it will be a red flag in my book. By no means am I saying set the lines and live with them until the end of the season, but chemistry is developed over time and there has to be some patience in letting our leaders in the locker room lead on the ice.

Here we go, this Thursday is the first game of the regular season. Bring on the Bruins, bring on the cannon, and bring on a season that proves many national pundits wrong.

16-17 CBJ Preview: Show Me The Money

As you may have heard, the Blue Jackets are not going to have a whole lot of breathing room to stay under the salary cap which is expected to be around 73 million for the season. Rather than regale you with my limited knowledge of the intricacies of how each of our players contracts affects the cap, I thought I would show you what everybody is getting paid this year. If you really want to dive into it, I strongly suggest checking out CapFriendly.com. Below are only players currently on the CBJ roster (plus Werenski, he will be on the roster), so 3-4 more will be added prior to the opener – most likely all on entry level deals as no PTO’s (Professional Try Out) are currently projected to make the team.

Symbol Glossary:

* = Entry Level Contract

◊ = No Movement Clause

♠ = Two-way Contract

Forwards :

  • Brandon Saad
    • $5,750,000/ UFA in ’21-’22
  • Brandon Dubinsky (◊)
    • $5,850,000/UFA in ’21-’22
  • Nick Foligno (◊)
    • $5,500,000/UFA in ’21-’22
  • David Clarkson (◊)
    • $7,000,000/UFA in ’20-’21 (or two eternities from now)
  • Scott Hartnell (◊)
    • $5,000,000/UFA in ’19-’20
  • Cam Atkinson
    • $3,500,000/UFA in ’18-’19
  • Boone Jenner
    • $2,900,000/RFA in ’18-’19
  • Matt Calvert
    • $2,200,000/UFA in ’18-’19
  • Gregory Campbell
    • $1,300,000/UFA in ’17-’18
  • William Karlsson (♠)
    • $1,000,000/RFA in ’18-’19
  • Alexander Wennberg (*♠) [waivers exempt]
    • $925,000/RFA in ’17-’18
  • Sam Gagner
    • $625,000/UFA in ’17-’18

Defense:

  • Seth Jones
    • $5,400,000/UFA in ’22-’23
  • Jack Johnson
    • $5,000,000/UFA in ’18-’19
  • David Savard
    • $3,500,000/UFA in ’21-’22
  • Ryan Murray
    • $2,825,000/RFA in ’18-’19
  • Dalton Prout
    • $1,250,000/UFA in ’18-’19
  • Cody Goloubef
    • $800,000/UFA in ’17-’18
  • Zach Werenski (*♠)
    • $925,000/RFA in ’19-’20

Goalies:

  • Sergei Bobrovsky
    • $8,500,000/UFA in ’19-’20
  • Curtis McElhinney
    • $800,000/UFA in ’17-’18

 

16-17 CBJ Player Profiles: Sergei Bobrovsky

Name: Sergei Bobrovsky, #72

Position: G

Birthplace: Novokuznetsk, Russia

Age: 28, born 9/20/88

Height/Weight: 6 ft 2 in/ 199 lbs

What he has going for him:

A great showing in the World Cup of Hockey. Between the pipes for Russia, Bobrovsky posted a 2.53 goals against average and a save percentage of .930 over the course of four games. Obviously this is a small sample size, but it is promising.

What he has going against him:

Risk of injury. Bobrovsky may have the most tracked groin of any professional athlete in the country. After an abysmal start to last year, his groin injury sidelined him for the majority of the season. The former Vezina winner is the keystone to the Blue Jackets success and has to overcome shaky confidence from last year in order for the CBJ to have a shot at the postseason. Being the second highest paid goaltender in the NHL (behind Lundqvist of the New York Rangers) brings with it the pressure to live up to that lofty paycheck.

Prediction for this season:

Bobrovsky bounces back. With a couple of youngsters trying to make their mark and Curtis McElhinney working to keep his back up position, there will be fierce competition behind Bob. With the team expectation from all of those outside of Columbus being low, Bobrovsky returns to old form.

’16-’17 Jackets Rant stat line prediction: GAA: 2.34, Save Percentage: .925, Shut Outs: 4

16-17 CBJ Player Profiles: Brandon Dubinsky

Name: Brandon Dubinsky, #17

Position: C

Birthplace: Anchorage, Alaska

Age: 30, born 4/29/86

Height/Weight: 6 ft 2 in/ 216 lbs

What he has going for him:

Faceoff wins. On a team that has struggles in the circle, Dubinsky leads the team with a 52.6% win percentage for Jackets taking more than 150 faceoffs last season. He also lead the team in hits with 235, not bad for a center who almost matched his career high 54 points ending last year with 48. He is the emotional center of the Blue Jackets, wears his heart on his sleeve, and regularly sets the tone with his physical brand of play.

What he has going against him:

For every up their is a down, and while Dubinsky’s emotional playing style is mostly a positive – his penalties (71 PIM last year) at inopportune times were costly in more than a handful of close games. His -16 rating last year tied him with Jack Johnson for the worst +/- on the roster.

Prediction for this season:

Dubinsky is a big part of the core of this team and he has been integral on both the power play and penalty killing units. The Blue Jackets should improve in puck possession this year, especially coming out of our zone. I think this year Dubinsky could eclipse his career high in points if he is able to stay healthy.

’16-’17 Jackets Rant stat line prediction: Goals: 21, Assists: 34, Total Points: 55

16-17 CBJ Player Profiles: Jack Johnson

Name: Jack Johnson, #7

Position: D

Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana

Age: 29, born 1/13/87

Height/Weight: 6 ft 1 in/ 230 lbs

What he has going for him:

Reduced ice time. This may seem like a negative, but it is not. Johnson is an effective defender, but at times last year seemed gassed during the normal course of play. He most likely is also going to be tapped to help bring along rookie defender Zach Werenski, though I believe Werenski will eventually land in the second pairing with David Savard. On a young blue line, Johnson is the veteran leader – even if it is in a diminished role this year.

What he has going against him:

Wants to be an offensive threat so badly that he sometimes forces play getting himself woefully out of position. While I think this will be reduced this year again this year (dropped from 141 to 86 shots over the last two seasons) it will mostly be a reflection of him playing in one of the bottom two pairings for the majority of the season. Hits from Johnson have also dropped drastically in the last two years (157 to 98, though he did play 19 less games last season).

Prediction for this season:

Johnson will be a defensive role player for the Jackets this year and is a decent puck handler on a blue line that has struggled with possession. Signed through ’17-’18, I have to believe this is Johnson’s last contact with the CBJ.

’16-’17 Jackets Rant stat line prediction: Goals: 5, Assists: 10, Total Points: 15