Hockey's back, Columbus! Are you excited?!

Hockeyís back, Columbus! Are you excited?!

OK, a lot of you probably arenít. Even the diehards tend to limit themselves to cautious optimism for another Blue Jackets season. But this year could have some real drama ó and a team thatís good enough to win.

Here are five storylines Iíll be watching.

1. Welcome to Columbus! Now make us win.

Thereís no doubt that the offseason signings of center Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski make the Jackets look better on paper, but will it translate to the ice? Carter and Rick Nash both love to shoot the puck. I think thereís enough to go around, and the pair will combine for a ton of goals. And Wiz will provide not only some offense from the blue line but a little fire, too. See: his early-season suspension.

2. Will the real Steve Mason please stand up?

Signing some offensive firepower removes some pressure on the Jacketsí goalie to return to his rookie form, and new goaltending coach Ian Clark may help Mase find his game again. Also, his new mask is sooo badass.

3. Will an Arena deal rock?

With Columbus City Council approving a plan to purchase Nationwide Arena on Monday, it looks likely that a big financial weight could be off the teamís shoulders. For Jacketsí fans, that should mean no more nervous rumblings that the team might eventually migrate to another city. So you can watch these young players develop and start making plans for your 2022-23 season tickets.

4. By the way, we have a professional hockey team.

The Jackets are great at getting off to hot starts before a mid-season swoon. The problem? Itís hard to get a Columbus sports fanís attention when Buckeye football is in the national title hunt. When attention shifts, they see the ďsame old Jackets.Ē Ohio Stateís problems on and off the field this season might be the best chance hockey has to grab even some of the limelight. They need to roll with it.

5. Will a new star be born?

Jackets fans have been burnt on young talent before ó Iím looking at you, Nikita Filatov ó but this year the team has four rookies on the roster to start the season: center Ryan Johansen, wingers Cam Atkinson and Maksim Mayorov and defenseman David Savard. Top pick Johansen is the most intriguing, but any could emerge as big contributors.