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2011-12 NHL Team Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

Season Gambling Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets fans are brimming with optimism entering the 2011-12 season. The Jackets made one of the offseason’s biggest splashes, acquiring Jeff Carter from the Flyers. They also signed defenseman James Wisniewski to a big deal.

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The expectation is for Columbus to become a Western Conference playoff contender. But did the Jackets’ offseason additions improve them by 16 points? That’s how far they were from a playoff berth last season.

Stanley Cup odds: +5000

To assess Columbus’ chances this year, we may as well cut to the chase. How much will Carter help the team and will he make Rick Nash better? For starters, sure, Carter will boost Columbus’ scoring. He’s only the second true goal scorer the Jackets have ever had and will virtually guarantee the team two 30-goal scorers.

But everyone has to calm down about the Carter/Nash connection making beautiful magic. Carter is a center but he’s not a playmaker at all. He’s a sniper, a shooter who just happens to play center. He may indirectly make Nash better by drawing attention away from him but he won’t make Nash better by feeding him the puck. I’m not even convinced these two will stick on the same line. It makes way more sense to split them up and ice two different lines with deadly snipers.

Wisniewski isn’t worth the $5.5 million per season Columbus will pay him but he’s a useful addition, capable of playing big minutes with an edge to his game. He can also help the power play. Adding Carter and Wisniewski to the first power-play unit will make the Jackets much more dangerous with the man advantage. [ad-4437448]

But are those two enough to propel Columbus into the playoffs? I’m quite skeptical. The rest of the Jackets’ forwards are useful, two way players, including R.J. Umberger, and Antoine Vermette. But, unless Derick takes his game to new heights and Ryan Johansen proves to be NHL-ready, Columbus’ offense is high on hustle but short on true skill.

The Blue Jackets’ blueline also looks shaky. Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin are ideal No. 4 types but they’ll be depended on as the No. 1 and No. 2. The rest of the group includes ho-hum players like Radek Martinek and Kris Russell.  The defense corps skates reasonably well but, skill wise, it could be the NHL’s weakest.

And what about goaltending? Steve Mason has been awful since his stellar rookie season and has given us little reason to hope for a turnaround. With a talent-poor defense corps and one of the league’s worst starting goaltenders, it sure seems like Columbus will get scored on a ton.

Sorry, Jackets fans. Your team looks quite bad in goal and on defense and it has to play Detroit and Chicago a dozen times. Even if Columbus makes incremental offensive gains, it won’t be enough to push the team into the playoffs.

I’d expect, at most, a marginal improvement over last year’s 81-point effort. But I don’t see Columbus playing playoff hockey this season.

Prediction: 5th, Central Division

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About Shea Matthews

Shea Matthews the Senior Writer at CP. Lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national papers. Shea applies his knowledge to sports betting + handicapping daily, and shares winning picks with the world.