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How James Wisniewski and the Blue Jackets might look next season

Jul 10, 2011, 2:23 PM EDT

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens Getty Images

There aren’t many people out there (especially without the last name Wisniewski) who would dispute the notion that the Columbus Blue Jackets gave James Wisniewski more than his market value would dictate this off-season. It’s true that Wisniewski can be an asset as an offensive defenseman with more than a little snarl, but a six-year, $33 million deal is more than just about anyone was expecting him to make this summer.

That being said, the Blue Jackets clearly decided to push the envelope by paying big to acquire Jeff Carter and Wisniewski. The consensus is that The Blue Jackets hope that each player will improve two areas of traditional weakness for Columbus: a top-line center (Carter) and a defenseman who can help generate goals (Wisniewski).

While the general feeling is that Carter will probably be a No. 1 center for Columbus (or at least receive the type of minutes that a top pivot would), it isn’t quite as obvious where Wisniewski might fit into the puzzle. Wisniewski produced nice scoring numbers in his stops around the NHL but was rarely leaned on as a top defenseman. Aaron Portzline laid out some of the lineup scenarios that might play out during Blue Jackets training camp and beyond.

On defense, the Blue Jackets are planning to pair veteran Fedor Tyutin with Wisniewski and Marc Methot with newcomer Radek Martinek on the top two pairs.

The third pairing figures to include Grant Clitsome, but the competition for the Nos. 6 and 7 jobs will be intense. Incumbent Kris Russell will have to hold off Aaron Johnson, Nick Holden, John Moore and David Savard.

“As far as who is going to play with whom you know it’s going to change as the year goes on,” Howson said. “There’s going to be a time when (Arniel) is going to mix it up and give it a different look. Boston won the Stanley Cup and they didn’t have the same lines static throughout the season.

“But we’re a different team in terms of skill. That’s what we wanted and needed to change.”

The question is: will it be enough change to propel them to a playoff berth?

That’s tough to say at this time. The Blue Jackets’ defense still seems a bit short on overall talent, even if Wisniewski helps in that regard. There are also some serious questions about how much they can expect from their should-be franchise goalie Steve Mason. That means the goalie position could be a problem area, especially after solid 2010-11 backup Mathieu Garon left for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Columbus could be pretty strong at the forward position though, at least compared to previous seasons. They scored just 215 goals last season but Carter should probably score at least 30 goals if he enjoys reasonable health in 2011-12. Rick Nash is the obvious superstar of the incumbent group, but the team sports solid lesser-known talent in Derick Brassard and two interesting veterans who are in contract years in R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius.

On paper, there still might not be enough overall talent to make Columbus a “true contender.” Blue Jackets fans should be heartened by the franchise’s attempts to gain relevance, however, even if they needed to overpay to get there.

What do you think of this Blue Jackets team, though? Do you think they’re far off, heading in the right direction or maybe they are already there? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Dannielle - Jul 10, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    They’re on the right track. Yes, they overpaid for Wisniewski, but if they hadn’t, somebody else would have snatched him away. If Carter can score 30+ and also create chemistry to elevate Rick Nash’s game to where it can/should be, the top line should be potent, 70-80+ goals.

    Also, re: Garon, it’s less that he “left” and more that he “wasn’t in the plans.” Dekanich is going to give Mason a push because he’s hungry for the #1 spot, which should motive Mason to play at his best. (Or so we hope.)

    • James O'Brien - Jul 10, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      Dekanich seems intriguing, but only has one game of NHL experience on his resume. I think the Blue Jackets might at least want to keep a list of veteran backups on hand in case something goes awry.

      • Dannielle - Jul 10, 2011 at 2:43 PM

        They’ve got Curtis Sanford on a two-way hanging out in Springfield for that occasion.

    • James O'Brien - Jul 10, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      I’m not sure how much Sanford will help in the grand scheme of things, but he does provide some experience. It still seems like it’s Mason or bust, but we’ll see.

      • cannonblast14 - Jul 10, 2011 at 4:42 PM

        Hes on a one way which kinda hurts. His first few games and training camp will be interesting to see how he does.

      • cannonblast14 - Jul 10, 2011 at 4:42 PM

        Hes on a one way which kinda hurts. His first few games and training camp will be interesting to see how he does. Ill let you know how i feel about the Jackets after that

  2. cannonblast14 - Jul 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    “but a six-year, $33 million deal is more than just about anyone was expecting him to make this summer”
    I disagree with that. I think a lot of fans thought he would get near that money in FA given the lack of good defensemen out there.
    I think they are good enough to be in contention to sneak into the playoffs. If they were in the East, they would definately make the playoffs i think. I think they would have had a good chance last year if they were in the east but thats not the case.
    Basically, it all relies on how Mason plays. Hes gotta step up or the Jackets are in trouble

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 10, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    I think CBJ fans in for a surprise when it comes to Carter. As a Flyers fan, I got to watch Carts play night in and night out. Don’t let the numbers deceive you. Can he put the puck in the back of the net? Yep. Does he create most of his goals? Nope. I’m not sure if you guys have a formidable playmaker, but yous are gunna need one. He doesn’t work for his goals. He ‘floats’ on the ice and waits and watches his linemates do all the work. This is the reason why he disappears in the playoffs. Slick Stick Rick is a PWF. Idk how well those two will do on the same line. Could I be wrong? Maybe. I’m just giving yous a heads up since the ‘experts’ won’t. Enjoy.

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