Basement-bound Jackets, Look Solid for the Future
Mark McGwire didn’t hit a home run during his first at-bat in the Major Leagues. Michael Jordan didn’t lead the league in scoring in his first couple of seasons and even God needed seven days to create our surroundings. Summing all of that up, you can imagine how the Blue Jackets will not win the Stanley Cup next season. However, five years from now could be a different story.The Jackets selected a solid team to put on the ice next fall. Veterans like Geoff Sanderson, Steve Heinze, Robert Kron, and Kevyn Adams will attempt to guide the rest of the young BJ’s out of the cellar of the NHL. And I think that the Columbus team will do better than the Minnesota Wild this inagural season. They have very solid goaltending (Tugnutt, Denis), some bangers on defense (Pushor, Quint, Odelein) and plenty of unproven youngesters to go around. I still believe they will finish in last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference, though.
I think the most important thing the Jackets did was aquire great goaltending. Even though Ron Tugnutt will be the starter for the Blue Jackets, Marc Denis is most definately the goalie of the future for this franchise. This team is his to lose. The most important position in hockey is goalie. Some will argue that forwards are the most important because if they are not there who would score the goals. But, now days there are plenty of players who have an unnatural scoring touch. However, goalies get more scarce every year (except this year via Rickey DiPietro) and goalies that actually make impact in the NHL are even more unusual.The other thing the BJ’s did was set a solid, young foundation. This young foundation is balanced through defensemen J.L. Grand-Pierre. Grand-Pierre is a has a sturdy 6’3 frame and is only 23 years old. Last season he spent primarily in the minors (scoring 13 points and was a standout physical defensemen), but this season he will be given an opportunity to prove he deserves a spot in the Columbus blueline. Rostislav Klesla is another nice piece to the Columbus puzzle. Also a defensemen and was the first player chosen in Entry Draft by the Jackets. From what I hear, Klesla will be given a chance in training camp to show his stuff. And if he looks even half-way capable the Jackets will keep him on the pro roster and start logging the ice time. The Blue Jackets have very high hopes for their 6’2 defensemen.Finally, a nice young combo of Chris Neilsen, Jonathan Schill, and Ben Knopp. All of these players are young, fiesty, and more than ready to show they can play in the NHL. Neilsen and Schill will probably crack the Jackets pro roster, I would give Knopp another year or two.So, lets conclude some things here. We have already decided the Jackets are not complete enough to compete for a playoff spot, however nagging defensemen and solid goaltending from Tugnutt/Denis could work wonders for the Jackets. But, when we start developing the Neilsen’s, and the Knopp’s, and the Klesla’s then all of the sudden we have a young team on the rise…and think just a few months ago there was not even a BJ’s roster.