We’ve said it before, yes, but this looks like the year for the Blue Jackets to step forward. Here are five key players who need to do the stepping.
The key to the Jackets’ run for a playoff spot last year remains the key to this season. Bob’s stellar play in goal nearly carried the Jackets to their second-ever playoff appearance, and the Vezina Trophy winner can be one of the best in the league. He seems unlikely to experience a major regression, a la Steve Mason.
Last season’s jaw-dropping deadline trade that brought Gaborik from the New York Rangers didn’t pay immediate dividends, but if the All-Star winger returns to his 30-40-goal-scoring ways, the defensive-minded Jackets will find it easier to end in the win column.
After the thrilling final game of last season, defenseman Jack Johnson told a rabid Nationwide crowd, “The goal from here on out is to win the Stanley Cup.” It sounds lofty, but having a leader who believes in this team and this city has made Jeff Carter, the player traded for Johnson, a distant (bad) memory.
The biggest surprise out of training camp? Boone Jenner not only made the opening night roster, but he’s going to start the season on the top line with Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik. Not too bad for a 20-year-old. If Ryan Johansen can shake off last season’s step backwards, the Jackets young core could start to take shape.
You won’t see him for a couple of months as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery, but don’t forget that the Jackets added a key piece in Horton, a winger who hoisted the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011. Horton should provide a nice boost come December, a point in the schedule where past Jackets teams have spectacularly derailed.