The Columbus Blue Jackets, captained by the one and only Nick Foligno, are next up in our season preview. Here’s Mike MacLean of Jackets Cannon to answer three questions for us.
1. A lot has been made of the Jackets' cap issues. Which contract do you most wish the team could just make disappear?
The obvious contract that all CBJ fans want to see disappear is the one belonging to David Clarkson. Acquiring Clarkson from the Leafs was never going to be a home run for the Jackets, it was simply a way to get a warm body that could at least play, for a player in Nathan Horton who was/is unlikely ever to play again. The problem however, is that Clarkson has been injured more often than not since the trade, and even when healthy he's had absolutely no impact. His contract is almost entirely based on signing bonuses, meaning it's essentially buyout-proof. To make matters worse, he's got a no-movement clause in his deal, meaning at this point he must be protected in the expansion draft. Clarkson's agent earned every penny of his percentage on this negotiation.
2. John Tortorella has not had a full year with the team yet, but if the Jackets struggle out of the gate, could you see him being sacrificed? How long of a leash does Jarmo Kekäläinen have?
I don't think Tortorella is feeling any heat. He's going to be given a real opportunity to start fresh, and he's publicly "warned" his players to be prepared for an intense training camp. He'll be allowed to fully implement his system and given the lowered expectations for the club he'll be given the time and space to let everything sink in. Fans and media are always going to keep an eye on Torts for his next blow up, given his history, but I honestly think those days are behind him. We saw a more composed Torts last season, even when he was given every reason to blow his top. He's what this team needs right now, and given the influx of youth his rigid ways and belief in accountability will only help this squad. He may not be the head coach when/if this team becomes a contender, but he'll certainly be responsible for setting the foundation.
3. There's no question in my mind that the two most important players to the team's success are Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. Who would you say is third-most important?
I agree with you that Jones and Bobrovsky are two of the key players on the Jackets. It's really hard to say who the third is, at this point anyway. You can look at Brandon Saad and Boone Jenner - two young forwards with bright futures that play crucial roles for the CBJ, but in a year where the Jackets nearly hit rock bottom these guys were 30-goal scorers. What more can you ask from them on the ice? Nick Foligno unsurprisingly regressed back to his career numbers this past season, but the captain's letter weighed on him heavily. Though he won't be relied on for first line offensive production, his leadership and ability or inability to be the bridge between the players and coaches makes him a crucial player this upcoming season.