A lot of the current generation Jacket fans think the last few years have been hard. I agree that they have, but how many of you remember the suffering of the early years? If you were around back then, you’ll recall the magic of the 2008-09 year … even if they got slaughtered in the first round of their first playoff appearance. Our pain and suffering was eased by one of the greatest individual seasons by a Jacket forward.
#2: Rick Nash shoulders the playoff burden in 2008-09…
In what would be the defining year of Rick Nash’s solid career, he absolutely dominated both ends of the ice in the 2008-09 season. Rick scored the second highest goal total in his career to that point (40), and added 39 assists for a career-high 79 points. He led the team in scoring by 23 points in a year when the team’s most productive center was Manny Malhotra (35 points).
Rick carried the team on his back that year, not only producing offensively, but shining on the penalty kill and playing a staunch two-way game that allowed head coach Ken Hitchcock to use him in all situations. Steve Mason won the Calder Trophy in goal, but it feels like Nasher was snubbed in the Hart Trophy race, finishing 13th in the voting. Not to say he should have won it, but for a guy who dominated the game at both ends of the rink, leading that roster into the playoffs … I feel like he should have been much higher. That was a magical season in CBJ history.
#1: Artemi Panarin made all the difference…
Though he played just two seasons in Columbus, Artemi Panarin holds two spots on this list. Two years after acquiring Brandon Saad from the Blackhawks, the Jackets flipped the productive winger back to Chicago in a deal that saw them acquire Panarin – a player many thought would struggle without Patrik Kane. But it was evident very early on in Columbus that Panarin was a rising star in the NHL.
His second year in Columbus saw the team have more success (and a greater individual scoring output), but I don’t think there’s any question that his first season was more remarkable. Panarin scored 27 goals and 55 assists (still not sure who was scoring these goals) for 82 points for the Blue Jackets in 2017-18, leading the club by a full 25. In fact, the second highest scoring forward on the team (rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois), had just 48 points, leaving him 34 behind Panarin.
The Jackets finished that season with 97 points, fourth in the Metro; earning them a first round showdown with the Washington Capitals. They brought home a 2-0 series lead over the Caps, mostly on the back of Panarin’s offensive show – before adjustments made on the other side turned the tides, and ultimately cost the Jackets that series. The Caps went on to win the Cup that year; which makes me wonder how far #9 might have been able to pull this team along, if things had gone a little bit differently.
For the first time in their history, the Jackets had a true superstar in Artemi Panarin that year. Without discrediting Rick Nash; Artemi was a player who could drive offense regardless who was on the ice, making all of his linemates better and more productive. While he spurned the city for the brighter lights of New York, he gave us some credibility during his time here. With only two years played in Columbus, he holds the top two highest point totals in franchise history – at least for the time being.