Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 Columbus Blue Jackets Season Review

Going into the season, I thought that this was the worst team in the NHL. This assessment seemed mostly true until late Feburary when goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made a small adjustment in his game that started an incredible Vezina caliber hot streak that lasted until the final game of the regular season. They fell just a point short of a playoff spot, an accomplishment only made possible due to miraculous goaltending. Many pundits felt that had this team qualified for the playoffs, that Bobrovsky would have been a legitimate candidate to win the Hart Trophy. There is no question that no player in this league had a greater singular impact on all his team's success than goalie Bob.

The Blue Jackets were the first team to fire their General Manager. That had as much to do with where the team currently was in the standings as anything, but eventually time would show that Howsen's trade for Bobrovsky from Philadelphia was arguably the best trade any GM made in the last year. The worst moves Howsen made as a GM were on the free agent market, with cumbersome contracts awarded to James Wisniewski and RJ Umberger. The new regime of Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson should help build this franchise that is loaded with draft picks in a very strong draft.

Preseason Rank: 30th
Midseason Rank: 29th
Final Rank: 16th
GM Grade: C+

1st Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
2nd Star: Mark Letestu
3rd Star: Fedor Tyutin

UFAs: Vinny Prospal, Blake Comeau, Adrian Aucoin, Mike Leighton
RFAs: Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky

Best Contract: Matt Calvert 2 more years at $987K
Worst Contract: James Wisniewski 4 more years at $5.5M

What I said about them in preseason: They suck.


What a difference an elite goaltender can make. In his first 3 NHL seasons, there have been few people advocating Sergei Bobrovsky as strong as I have. I've owned him more often than not in my fantasy hockey leagues and once even wrote a blog post titled "What About Bobrovsky?" that scorned the Flyers for sending him to the minors right before the playoffs in 2011. Despite being an outspoken Bobrovsky advocate prior to this season, what he did in 2013 blew away even my expectations. Is this going to last forever? It's very difficult to say with goalies. If he's this good again, and from the beginning of the season, then the Blue Jackets will challenge for a playoff spot in their new Conference.

2013 was too little, too late. Bobrovsky only started performing feats of magic in about week 7 of 13. Prorate Bobrovsky's 2nd half into a full 82 game schedule, and Columbus would likely find themselves in a playoff spot, comfortably even. He is also a restricted free agent this summer, and a new contract won't be cheap. A whole season of Marian Gaborik will help the team score more goals and win more games, in theory anyways. This team is heading in the right direction.

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