Tag: Columbus Blue Jackets

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 NHL.com. “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.

Blue Jackets ’15-16 Outlook

Scott Hartnell

Columbus’ goal for this year should be simple:

Stay healthy.

Last year, the Blue Jackets led the NHL in man games lost, with 502. That figure derailed what was supposed to be a building block campaign; the year prior, Columbus posted a franchise-high 93 points en route to the first two playoff wins in club history.

While the team isn’t using health issues as an excuse for last year, it does recognize it can’t allow injuries to be so disruptive.

“We need to find better ways to maintain and not have major dips,” head coach Todd Richards said earlier this summer, per NHL.com. “We might have injuries this year, and you’ve got to find ways to stay afloat instead of sinking.”

If they do stay healthy, the Blue Jackets should be a legit playoff contender.

Brandon Saad, acquired in a summer blockbuster from Chicago, will give the team a dynamic, goalscoring power forward up front, presumably to play alongside franchise center Ryan Johansen. Behind those two are a host of capable scorers: Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky, to name a few.

On defense, the picture is murkier.

The club is holding out hope that Ryan Murray, the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, is finally over the health issues that derailed his first two NHL campaigns. The 20-year-old, who has the potential to be a top-pairing d-man, only appeared in 12 games last year, after missing 18 in his rookie campaign.

Outside of Murray, the familiar cast of characters remains: Jack Johnson, David Savard, Fedor Tyutin and Dalton Prout, most notably. The Jackets are counting on that crew to improve internally and possibly get a push from prospects like Dillon Heatherington and Michael Paliotta, the latter acquired from Chicago in the Saad deal.

In goal, there are no questions.

Sergei Bobrovsky enters as the clear-cut No.1, coming off a campaign in which he missed significant time to injury and posted below average numbers (.918 save percentage, 2.68 GAA).

The hope is that Bobrovsky will return to the form that saw him win the Vezina two years ago, and that the skaters in front of him will stay healthy. If both those things happen, Columbus will be knocking on the door of playoff contention, and not a team opponents will want to face should it get in.

It’s Columbus Blue Jackets day at PHT

Ryan Johansen

After a stellar regular season and inspired playoff appearance in ’13-14, Columbus took a step backwards last year by finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, and missing the postseason.

Though there were extenuating circumstances.

The Blue Jackets led the league in man games lost to injury, with 502. Nathan Horton, once the organization’s biggest free agent acquisition, didn’t play a single game before being traded to Toronto while Ryan Murray, the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, missed 70 of 82 games while dealing with a myriad of injuries.

Other key players, like Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky and Sergei Bobrovsky all missed extensive time as well. Despite that, there were bright spots — Ryan Johansen continued to post solid numbers, with a career-high 71 points, while Nick Foligno earned himself the club’s captaincy with a 73-point effort, tops on the team.

In the end, though, missing the playoffs proved a damaging blow to the momentum gained by their impressive run the year prior.

Offseason recap

Few teams made a bigger splash this summer. GM Jarmo Kekalainen stunned the league by acquiring budding Chicago star Brandon Saad, the 22-year-old power forward that won two Stanley Cups in his first three NHL seasons.

The Saad deal reverberated throughout the league. With him in the fold, Columbus created one of the youngest and most dangerous top lines in the NHL with Johansen (who only turned 23 in July) and whoever their running mate will be, be it Foligno or Scott Hartnell (or, possibly, 22-year-old Boone Jenner).

Elsewhere, the club added some veteran experience and leadership in the form of ex-Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. Kekalainen also re-upped with the likes of Matt Calvert, backup goalie Curtis McElhinney and depth d-men Justin Falk and Cody Goboulef.

At the draft, Columbus was a major player with three top-40 picks, and used them to select Michigan d-man Zach Werenski (eighth overall), Swedish blueliner Gabriel Carlsson (29th) and WHL Portland product Paul Bittner (38th).

Ladd wants to re-sign before season starts

Andrew Ladd

If captain Andrew Ladd enters the season without a new contract, it will naturally raise questions that he would like to avoid.

“It would be nicer to get it done before the year … especially in a market like this, there are questions every day, so it’d be nice to move past it at some point,” Ladd said, per TSN. “I’ve been around long enough that I know sometimes these things take time. I think both parties are interested in getting something done. All the things add up.”

The 29-year-old forward has one season remaining on his five-year, $22 million contract, but his next deal is expected to be more lucrative. After all, he’s coming off of a campaign where he scored 24 goals and a career-high 62 points.

The Free Press estimated back in July that Ladd would ultimately get “north of $6 million” annually on a contract “worth in the range of $40 million.”

That would be in the same ballpark as the extensions for Brandon Dubinsky (six-year, $35.1 million) and Ryan Callahan (six-year, $34.8 million). All three of those players are fairly close in age and are noteworthy for being able to contribute offensively while maintaining a physical presence. Callahan is also a former captain.

Of course time is running out for Ladd and the Jets to agree to terms before the campaign begins and if they fail to do so, Ladd’s public eagerness to put this behind him will only add fuel to the speculation as to what the sticking point is. Which will, of course, lead to those daily questions.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey fans celebrate National Dog Day

Los Angeles Kings v Colorado Avalanche

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

It’s looking more and more like Eric Staal and Cam Ward will enter the Carolina Hurricanes’ training camp without new contracts. (News & Observer)

Armed with a tryout contract, Tom Sestito hopes to earn a job with the Pittsburgh Penguins out of training camp so that he can “deter a guy from taking a run at the 90,000 stars on the team.” (Penguins.nhl.com)

The ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors have changed their name to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Their new logo features a rabbit who is wielding a mix between a hockey stick and carrot. (Greenville Online)

The Edmonton Oilers might be a significantly different team with a new bench boss, substantially changed front office, and a new hope in Connor McDavid, but one thing Andrew Ference doesn’t expect to change is his position as the team’s captain. (Edmonton Journal)

Ryan Johansen threw out the first pitch for Cincinnati on Monday and that event gave him a chance to talk with the Reds players about the differences and similarities between the two sports. (Bluejackets.nhl.com)

Finally, it was National Dog Day on Wednesday and that involved a lot of hockey-themed pictures. Here are some of the highlights: