Hope For The Future: Some Dusty Blue Jackets
Welcome to our latest series, wherein we detail why each of the teams who managed to miss the playoffs can hope for better days in the near future. Well, probably, anyway.
It was an odd season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They weren't really terrible at anything, but weren't truly great at anything either. This is perfectly displayed in the fact that the team lost their last five games of the season, but still went 17-17-6 in 2010. Is there any chance of an upgrade in these Jackets?
Power Play: Rick Nash is still Rick Nash. He isn't a spring chicken, but he'll only be 26 this summer, and half the Blue Jackets' roster is even younger than that. They finished the season with four 20-goal scorers and five players over the 50 point plateau. They will have very minimal roster turnover next season, with only a couple of minor free agents to deal with.
Shorthanded: Everybody disappeared at some point. Jakub Voracek finished with 50 points, but almost half of that came in the last 23 games of the season. R.J. Umberger had a 23-game stretch in December and January where he totaled only nine points. Even Nash started the season with 25 points in 21 games, followed by 17 points in the next 29 games.
The biggest culprit, though, was Derick Brassard. After a rookie season where he was on pace for 67 points before a season-ending injury, he put up only 36 points despite playing in all but three games for Columbus.
Shootout Win: All of this team's improvement will have to come from within since they have minimal cap room for any significant free agents. That's not a bad thing though. Voracek was streaky, but he isn't even 21 yet. Brassard's struggles were partly fear of re-injury, so a full off-season of bulking up rather than recovering should do wonders for his game. Those two simple changes could have a major trickle-down effect and at least make the Jackets a borderline playoff team next year.