Eastern Edge – For Those About to Rock

by Russ on July 18, 2017

The Columbus Blue Jackets just had their most successful season in franchise history, finishing third in their division (and the Eastern Conference) with 50 wins and 108 points. It was a surprising result, considering that the team finished 15th in the conference the previous season.

 

It would be hard to talk about the Blue Jackets success and not give credit to their head coach. Affectionately known as Torts, especially by certain media personalities, John Tortorella won the Jack Adams trophy as the league’s top bench boss last season.

 

The maturation of Seth Jones, and Zach Werenski’s breakout rookie campaign, were two big reasons. The play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was the biggest reason for the BJ’s success, however.

 

Columbus parted ways with Scott Hartnell, Sam Gagner, and William Karlsson this off-season. They also sent a more well-rounded Brandon Saad to Chicago for a more offensively-gifted Artemi Panarin.

 

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bob won his second Vezina trophy as the league’s top goaltender last season. His 41 wins were second only to the 42 recorded by Brayden Holtby and Cam Talbot. Bobrovsky sported the NHL’s best goals-against average (2.06) and save percentage (0.932). He also finished with the third most shutouts (seven) and his 1727 saves were the fourth most in the league.

 

Season

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

Saves

SV%

SO

2016-17

63

41

17

5

2.06

1727

0.932

7

2015-16

37

15

19

1

2.75

952

0.908

1

2014-15

51

30

17

3

2.68

1498

0.918

2

2013-14

58

32

20

5

2.38

1568

0.923

5

2012-13*

38

21

11

6

2.00

1010

0.932

4

*48 game season

 

So which Bobrovsky will we see this season? Can he be a top three goaltender again this year or will he regress? I’m a big fan of ol’ Bob, so I definitely see him as a legitimate top three goalie in any fantasy format.

 

Artemi Panarin

It will be interesting to see how Panarin adapts to life after Patrick Kane. He should slot in to Saad’s spot on a line with Alexander Wennberg and Nick Foligno. No offense to those two, but that’s a bit of a downgrade from who he was playing with in Chicago.

 

In his two NHL seasons, he’s had back-to-back 30 goal campaigns to go along with 77 and 74 points. In the year before making the leap to the NHL, Panarin notched 26 goals and 62 points in 54 KHL contests. Over the last three years at the World Championships, he has scored 42 points in a combined 29 games for Russia.

 

It’s hard to imagine Panarin not taking a step back this season, although he’ll receive as much power play time he can handle. If all breaks right, 65 points should be within reach.

 

Oliver Bjorkstrand

Over his final two seasons of junior hockey, Bjorkstrand scored 113 goals and 227 points in 128 games. He also added 29 goals and 58 points in 38 playoff matches. In 2015-16, he helped the Cleveland Monsters win the Calder Cup while copping AHL playoff MVP honours. Last year, he scored 14 goals and 26 points in 37 AHL contests while recording 13 points in 26 NHL games.

 

The departures of Scott Hartnell, Sam Gagner and William Karlsson free up some ice time for the talented Dane. Although he only averaged 14:05 minutes of ice time per game, 1:41 of that was on the power play, the sixth most on the team. With a good training camp, Bjorkstrand has a real shot at sticking in the top six.

 

Nick Foligno

The last three campaigns have been a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears for Foligno. Three seasons ago, he had a season that was too big, scoring 31 goals and 73 points. The next year, he dropped off in a big way with only 12 goals and 37 points, which was too small. Last season was just right in my estimation, his 26 goals and 51 points are right about what we should expect for the coming season.

 

Regardless of where his points end up this season, the 29-year-old is a lock for 150 hits, 50 blocked shots and 180 shots on goal. The only reservation I have is that if he does not get top power play billing, his overall points will suffer. Last year, he had 21 power-play points. In his 37-point season, he only had 13 points on the man advantage and in his breakout 73-point campaign, he had 26 power play points.

 

Zach Werenski

The eighth overall pick from the 2015 entry draft made quite the NHL debut this past season with 11 goals and 47 points, 21 of them via the power play. Prior to his rookie NHL campaign, he played two years of college hockey, recording 36 points in as many contests during his sophomore season.

 

That year was an eventful one for Werenski, he had nine points in seven World Junior Hockey Championship games. He also played in seven AHL contests, recording a single point, but he really shone in the playoffs, recording 14 points in 17 games for Cleveland.

 

In his rookie NHL season, Werenski logged the fourth-most average minutes per game, but the most power play time on the team. If I were an owner, I would be happy if he were to put up the same numbers as this year, but it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise if the soon to be 20-year-old took a small step back in his sophomore season.

 

With Panarin and ideally Bjorkstrand on the roster, the Blue Jackets will be a more entertaining team.

 

For those about to rock (fire!), we salute you.