2018 Columbus Blue Jackets Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a place that many teams would envy, but they probably aren't too happy about it. They have been quite good the last two seasons, and they have a decent chance of being as solid again this year. But they have lost in the first round both years and haven't put up much of a fight in doing so - losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champs both times, incidentally. They are in a murky area where they are a solid enough team, but the path to being a really good team, or even a great one, is not at all clear. It could be diagnosed as St. Louis Blues syndrome, and it's not a great illness to have.
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Columbus Blue Jackets Offseason Moves
When the Blue Jackets hired John Tortorella, I thought it was going to be a disaster. His one year in Vancouver had been ugly, and then he was out of coaching for more than a year. But Columbus made an early-season change three seasons ago and chose Torts. His first year wasn't great, though it had moments. But year two was the best the team has ever had, and last year was solid as well. He seems like a kinder, gentler Tortorella - like he actually learned something from all the way his one year in Vancouver went off the rails. And he was just rewarded with a two-year extension. Maybe the greatest feat Columbus has ever pulled off is making me actually think that that is a positive thing.
The team has made just a couple of trades this offseason, and nothing
beyond the speculative. On the free agent front there were three departures
that stand out. Two defenseman moved on. Jack Johnson went to Pittsburgh
for what feels like too much money, and Ian Cole went to Colorado. That
will force them to reach into their internal depth because they didn't
bring in free agent replacements. Forward Matt Calvert joined Cole with the
Avs. To fill those roster spots, the team added a couple of interesting
forwards. Riley Nash, who is not related to Columbus legend Rick Nash, took
a big step forward in his second full year with Boston last year, but even
though he can play center or the wing he didn't fit into that team's plans
despite coming at a pretty reasonable price - 3 years and $8.25 million
total. There is upside there. And there is perhaps even more potential for
Anthony Duclair, who was signed for a one-year, minimum contract. Duclair
was an outstanding junior player, but he is only 23 and is on his fourth
NHL franchise. He just hasn't been able to make it work at this level.
Columbus is better than some organizations - like Arizona, where he has
played most, for example - at nurturing and maximizing young talent, so
maybe they can get through to him. The risk is minimal.
The team's selection with the 18th pick in the draft was center Liam Foudy from London of the OHL. He's very athletic, but he's a late bloomer and could require patience for a couple of years. He'll be in junior again this year. They could have some help this year from a couple of later-round picks that look to have paid off, though. Vitaly Abramov went 65th in 2016 because he is an undersized forward, but he has a potent scoring touch and has a good chance to make the team now that he is 20. And Jonathan Davidsson, a Swedish forward the team took a flyer on with the 170th pick last year when he was 20, had a very solid season playing pro in Sweden last year and could come over.
The team took care of some contract business, with the most important being locking down Boone Jenner for four years. Defenseman Ryan Murray, who the team took second overall in 2012, signed a one-year, $2.825 million contract, and he really needs to prove himself this year.
Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Outlook
Artemi Panarin is the team's best player by quite a bit. He's a free agent after this season, and he is not sure he wants to return to Columbus. That could be a distraction - and the team may even be forced to trade him at the deadline if all hope is lost of bringing him back. That could be a distraction that could have a negative impact. If they can get past that, though, then there is a fair bit to like here. They could use more top-end scoring, but they have lots of offensive options. Their goaltending is as good as any team in the league, and the defense should still be solid despite the losses - especially if Seth Jones, son of Popeye, keeps taking the strides towards superstardom that he has been taking. This team is every bit as good as they were last year and perhaps even better.
Columbus Blue Jackets Schedule
Columbus has one four-game road trip. One. And nothing longer. It's an incredibly soft schedule. And even the four-game trip isn't too bad - Calgary and Edmonton are a half hour flight apart, and Vancouver is an hour from Edmonton.
Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Futures Odds
Columbus is at +3000 to win the Stanley Cup at Bovada , which has them as the co-14th choice. That has them inside the playoffs, but barely. The season point total this year is set at 97.5, which is a half point ahead of what it took to make the playoffs in the East last year - which is what both Columbus and New Jersey had. Artemi Panarin is at +5000 to win the Hart Trophy as MVP.
2018-19 Columbus Blue Jackets Predictions
That schedule is ridiculously soft and helps make it easy to take the "over" here. Panarin could derail things if he wants to, but assuming good behavior makes the over reasonably attractive. This is a playoff team. And probably one that loses to Pittsburgh or Washington in the first round again.
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