As the ice is being laid down across the cities of the NHL, the dawn of a new season is upon us. For the Blue Jackets, this season is ripe with hope and a brighter future. After the shocking signing of UFA Johnny Gaudreau, and the arrival of several highly touted prospects, this team is suddenly loaded with skill and high end talent. While they may still be a couple of key components way from contention, the Jackets enter this season with a buzz around them.
I think the season could really go either way for them. They could come together early and make a playoff run. Or, they could collapse and take part in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. Whatever happens, I think they will be fun to watch because of the fresh look of the roster. Here are five bold predictions I have for the coming season.
Erik Gudbranson actually does help solidify the defense.
While the Gaudreau signing turned heads in a good way, the club’s signing of Erik Gudbranson was met with mostly sneers from fans of the organization, and opposing fans alike. But, I think it’s important to look at the situation from a grander scale. Read: 2022 Season Preview: Erik Gudbranson
This team sorely lacked leadership and physicality last season, and Gudbranson brings both. While it’s absurd to slot him onto the top pairing; he’ll fit nicely into a bottom-four that is loaded with talent but very thin on experience. if you look at what this kind of addition does to the pairings, it makes sense. You get size and toughness to play in defensive situations, or on the PK. It limits defensive zone starts for players like Adam Boqvist or Zach Werenski, freeing them up to play where they’ll do the most damage – the offensive zone.
It also gives Andrew Peeke a mentor and takes some of the physical workload off of his shoulders. Most importantly, you get that leadership presence for what was the most inexperienced defense corps in the NHL last season. The contract is likely 1-2 years too long. It’s probably $1M too much on the AAV side. But, this signing fills a gaping hole for a team that didn’t have anyone close to ready to fill it. I think he’ll bring respectability and accountability to this young group, even if the money and term are too much.
He probably isn’t enough to make the Blue Jackets a playoff team this year, but I think he makes them harder to play against.