Bold Prediction #2: The Columbus Blue Jackets have six players exceed 60 points this season…
Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that this one is really bold. They’ve never had more than three 60-point scorers in the same season, but I think this year they can double that number for a few reasons.
First, they have arguably the greatest playmaker they’ve ever had in Johnny Gaudreau. One could make a case for Artemi Panarin here, and it’s a fair argument, but we’re really splitting hairs. Both guys are elite play drivers. But second to my point; while they had an elite playmaker in Panarin before, what they did not have was a lot of high-end skill around him. And, they had the game’s most strict defensive minded head coach. All of that is different this year.
The best players surrounding Panarin were players like Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Josh Anderson, Nick Foligno, and Brandon Dubinsky. All really good two-way hockey players, but let’s be honest, aside from Atkinson and Dubois, are any of those guys really suited for top-six minutes?
Now, the Jackets may have some question marks throughout the lineup, but one thing that I don’t think we can question is the overall skill level. Gaudreau is helped by Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko, Patrik Laine, and incoming Adam Fantilli. That’s five names without even including the upside the team brings from the back end with guys like Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov and Adam Boqvist. Jack Roslovic brings a lot of skill, as long as he doesn’t try to do too much with the puck. Crafty middle-sixer Alexandre Texier is coming back more experienced too.
The high-end skill is there, the depth is better, and there will be support from the back end. In theory, this should all work; but part of their success will depend on the way Pascal Vincent coaches them. He says he wants to have a hard working team that puts in a lot of effort, which is great. But, will that include a set offensive system? One thing we can’t overlook is the fact that Patrik Laine scored 44 goals with Vincent as an assistant coach in Winnipeg. Patrik is really excited to have him behind the bench, so maybe there’s some magic here.
By the way, those six players that I think can exceed 60 points? Gaudreau, Johnson, Laine, Fantilli, Werenski, and one of Marchenko or Boone Jenner. I also think Boqvist will be close, if he stays healthy. All of this assumes good health, in fact – that’s the most important factor in my opinion. Any lack of skill isn’t going to hold them back.