Why the Blue Jackets are playoff contenders

Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and an assist, and a Columbus Blue Jackets split squad beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 in a preseason game Tuesday night. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

It has been a rough go of it for the Columbus Blue Jackets since joining the league in the 2000-01 season.

In their 13 seasons, the Blue Jackets have made the postseason just once and not only that, but this is a franchise that usually finishes close to the bottom of the league (except for last season and 2008-09).

This all changed last year. While the team failed to make the postseason due to a tie-breaker, they took tremendous strides in becoming a better franchise last season, one that is on the right track to make the playoffs this time around.

Here is why we think the Blue Jackets have what it takes to make the postseason this upcoming campaign:

Hockey-Smart Executive Management

The Blue Jackets are now being run by smart and shrewd hockey minds.

The brain behind the organization is John Davidson. It was not too long ago that Davidson took the St. Louis Blues from the cellar to the penthouse as one of the league’s top clubs and right now, he is making similar moves to do the same exact thing in Columbus.

Second, the Blue Jackets have a smart general manager in Jarmo Kekalainen. Kekalainen was shrewd enough to acquire Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline and retain Vezina Trophy winning netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for the next two seasons.

With Davidson and Kekalainen at the helm, the Blue Jackets are headed in the right direction as a franchise for the first time in a long time.

Offensive Depth

Last season, the Blue Jackets were 25th in the league in goals scored.

This should change this upcoming season as the team now has offensive depth and guys that can put the puck in the net. For the Blue Jackets, finding the back of the net should start with Gaborik, as he is someone who is more than capable of notching upwards of at least 40 goals.

The team now also has Nathan Horton. When healthy, Horton is one of the league’s best power forwards and like Gaborik, can score a ton of goals.

Behind Gaborik and Horton, the Blue Jackets have a lot of young and talented players in the likes of Cameron Atkinson, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen, Blake Comeau and Nick Foligno.

This upcoming season, the Blue Jackets should be able to finish in at least the top 15 in terms of goals scored with the talented forward depth they now have.

Great Goaltending

While it is easy to say that the Blue Jackets are used to one-save wonders because of what they went through with Steve Mason, this should not end up being the case for Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky, 24, is coming off his best season in three years in the league as he finished the last campaign with a 21-11-6 record, a 2.00 GAA, a .932 save percentage and four shutouts en route to winning the Vezina.

Bobrovsky is just learning what it really takes to win hockey games and play well on a consistent basis but he should continue to show that going into this upcoming season.

A Winning Combination

If you put all three of these factors together, they should combine to form a playoff team.

While there is no doubt that they are in a tough Metropolitan Division and that they still have some work to do to be a playoff team this year, they are headed in the right direction.

If the squad can stay healthy, score more goals and continue to get great goaltending from Bobrovsky, there is no reason why this club won’t be in the postseason at the end of the regular season this year.

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