Just a year after making the first playoff appearance in franchise history, the Blue Jackets stumbled to the second worst record in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs by 16 points. Goaltender Steve Mason struggled through his sophomore season, the offense went south, and just about everything that could have gone poorly did. With some stacked teams in the division only getting better this year, it’s going to be another long winter in Columbus.
*Offense:’ Despite having five players break the 50-point mark, the Blue Jackets scored less goals than every team in the conference except Calgary and Edmonton (something in that Alberta water). Rick Nash is an undeniable talent, but Antoine Vermette isn’t exactly the definition of a top line centerThe Jackets are terribly weak up the middle, and unless Derick Brassard turns the corner quickly, there’s no help in sight. Adding 35 year old Ethan Moreau isn’t the solution to their offensive worries, but that’s about the only move the Jackets made this summer.Grade: D-Defense:As bad as they were offensively, Columbus was even worse defensively, giving up 259 goals, more than any team except those woeful Oilers. Every defenseman except Kris Russell> went negative over the course of the season. Anton Stralman has the potential to be a solid puck-mover on the back end, but the Blue Jackets need to worry about keeping it out of their own net before they can start adding touch like his. There weren’t any real additions on the blueline, either, unless you count AHL vet Nate Guenin. Grade: D’'’Goaltending:’’’ Steve Mason is obviously the X-factor for this team, and unless he plays like he did in his rookie year, there’s not much hope for the Blue Jackets. You can’t blame him entirely for last season’s struggles, but a .901 save percentage and 3.05 GAA are far cries from the brilliant numbers he put up two years back. Mathieu Garon is as capable a backup as any, but if he’s being called on too frequently, it won’t matter much.Grade: C’'’Key Additions:’’’ None*Key Losses:’ None