Author: Ryan Dadoun

Sergei Bobrovsky

Blue Jackets’ biggest question: Will Bobrovsky play like an elite goaltender?


While the Columbus Blue Jackets have become a stronger team offensively thanks to the rise of Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen as well as the recent acquisition of Brandon Saad, there’s no question that they still need a dominant season out of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The problem is that might not happen.

Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 by posting a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage in the lockout shortened campaign. In the process, he nearly propelled Columbus into the playoffs. He wasn’t quite as strong in his follow up campaign, but his 2.38 GAA and .923 save percentage were nevertheless impressive as well as good enough to push the improved Blue Jackets into the postseason for just the second time in franchise history.

It seemed like Columbus had found a goaltender that it could rely upon not just to be solid, but play at an elite level. The Blue Jackets’ belief in that was highlighted in January when they signed him to a four-year, $29.7 million deal that will begin this season.

Bobrovsky didn’t play at that level last season though. He suffered a groin injury that cost him part of the season, but even when he was healthy he was inconsistent. Although a late surge partially salvaged his numbers, he did still finish with a 2.69 GAA and .918 to make it the second straight season he declined from a statistical perspective.

There were certainly still positives to be found, but Columbus needs Bobrovsky to be more than a mixed bag. After all, he’ll enter this season with the second highest cap hit in the league among goaltenders, behind only Henrik Lundqvist, so it seems reasonable to describe anything other than a top-tier season as a disappointment. More to the point, anything short of that might not be enough to get Columbus back into the playoffs.

To that end though, the Blue Jackets believe they’ve dealt with the issue by modifying his summer conditioning program and have a strategy in place for how they will continue to handle his conditioning during the season.

“We all know how hard a worker he is,” Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark told “Some of that was he was working so hard he was exhausted.”

So we’ll see if that’s the magic bullet needed for a comeback performance.

Tributes pour in for Al Arbour

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders

A Jack Adams Award winner, one of the winningest coaches of all-time, and the leader of the New York Islanders’ early 1980s dynasty, Al Arbour made a profound impact on the game of hockey. When he passed away at the age of 82 on Friday, people from around the NHL were quick to talk about the man he was and share their admiration of him with the world.

“We did lose a great man,” Hall of Famer and three-time Norris Trophy winning defenseman Denis Potvin said, per “There’s so many things that I can say about Al. I first met him when I was 19 years old and he coached me for 13 consecutive years. I don’t know how many athletes who have had that pleasure. Al Arbour was a man that left us not only feeling like champions, but left us with a lot of great memories that we can carry on through life.

“Al used to say that negative energy that you’re feeling, turn it into a positive energy. That has never left me. I know many of my teammates must feel the very same way. He just never felt that anything was insurmountable.”

He wasn’t alone among the retired Islanders to have found memories of their former bench boss. Clark Gillies and Bobby Nystrom both used the term “father figure” to describe him. Kelly Hrudey said he was “kind of like a second dad to me” and added that he “always felt that Al cared for me.” Ray Ferraro told the Canadian Press that “Al never tried to be the man. He just was.”

It wasn’t just those that worked under him that worked under him that he left a mark on. The only man to win more NHL games than him, Scotty Bowman, had this to say about Arbour, “He was thorough. He had experience on good teams, he knew what it took to win. He was a no-nonsense guy. He laid down a plan, and you had to execute it.”

While Bowman possesses a lot of NHL coaching records, one that belongs to Arbour is the Islanders’ streak of 19 straight series wins, which is one record Bowman doesn’t think will be broken.

We’ll close with commissioner Gary Bettman’s statement:

“The National Hockey League deeply mourns the passing of Al Arbour, revered head coach of the dynastic New York Islanders.

“A four-time Stanley Cup champion as a player and a brilliant motivator and tactician as a coach, Al Arbour directed the Islanders’ rapid transformation from expansion team to NHL powerhouse — guiding them to four straight Stanley Cup championships, five consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and an astounding 19 consecutive playoff series victories. As it grieves the loss of a profound influence on coaching and on the game itself, the NHL sends its heartfelt condolences to Al’s family and friends, to his former teammates and to all the players he mentored.”

San Jose Sharks ’15-16 Outlook

Alex Stalock

The last time the San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs in back-to-back years was in 1996 and 1997, but they’re in danger of it happening again.

Whether or not they’ll be able to prevent that will depend largely on their goaltending. With Antti Niemi gone, San Jose is going with a combination of Alex Stalock and Martin Jones between the pipes. There’s certainly potential there, but the duo only has 83 games worth of NHL experience between them.

Stalock wasn’t that great last season either and while Jones had an impressive 2.25 GAA in Los Angeles last season, his .906 save percentage left something to be desired. Besides which, Los Angeles only called on him 15 times last season and just 11 of those were starts. So it’s entirely possible that neither will be ready to take the reigns in 2015-16 and that alone could sink the Sharks.

If their goaltending proves to be adequate though, then they still might run into issues offensively. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will both be 36 years old by the time the season starts and they declined somewhat last season. The Sharks no longer need them to be the team’s offensive leaders, but they do have to be significant contributors and if their age is catching up with them then that could be a big problem.

At the same time though, the Sharks do have reasons to be hopeful. They have some promising young players, including Tomas Hertl, who has shown flashes of brilliance but struggled in his sophomore season. Still, he’s just 21 years old and could be major part of this team going forward. On the defensive side of things, Brent Burns is coming off of a great campaign and newcomer Paul Martin should help solidify their top-four.

San Jose has the potential to be competitive this season, but it all comes back to Stalock and Jones as it’s hard to see this group doing much if neither of those two step up.