New-look Blue Jackets hoping for some improvement

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — There's a new, gigantic scoreboard hanging over center ice at Nationwide Arena.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, who play their games there, also have a new team president, a new head coach and six new players on the roster — and no Rick Nash.

All of those changes took place in an effort to remold the club after a disastrous season.

John Davidson, the new president in charge of hockey operations, is looking up and ahead, not down and back at the franchise's sorry heritage.

"The main message is we're going North," said Davidson, who helped turn the St. Louis Blues from doormat into contender. "I know what's gone on here in the past. It's history, and you study history, but I'm going North."

The new-look Blue Jackets head South to open the season at Nashville on Saturday night.

Almost no one not wearing a Blue Jackets sweater expects much from the team after last season. The club stumbled to a 0-7-1 start and never recovered. Jeff Carter, hailed as the perfect foil to the high-scoring Nash, was indifferent from the outset and eventually was dealt to Los Angeles, where he went on to collect a championship ring.

Nash had been the heart and soul of the franchise since the Blue Jackets traded up to take him with the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft. A gold-medal winner with his native Canada in the Olympics, he led the Blue Jackets in goals the last eight years and held almost every team offensive record for a game, season and career.

But early in 2012 it was revealed by general manager Scott Howson that Nash, the team captain, had come to him to ask to be traded. Funny, but not long after that the Blue Jackets started playing better. A laughable 11-25-5 before Scott Arniel was fired as head coach, they went a respectable 18-21-2 under interim Todd Richards, who was made the head coach after the season.

After adding young defenseman Jack Johnson in the Carter deal at the trade deadline, Howson finally sent Nash, a minor-leaguer and a conditional third-round pick to the New York Rangers in late July for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round pick — the Blue Jackets' third first-rounder in the 2013 draft.

Now the Blue Jackets don't have a bloated payroll, may be deeper and seem to have far more harmony and leadership in the dressing room, with Johnson, holdover forward R.J. Umberger and wily senior citizens Vinny Prospal (37) and Adrian Aucoin (39) offering leadership.

Then again, most people are looking at what it appears they're missing: firepower, goaltending and a winning attitude.

"A lot of people and a lot of teams are writing us off," Johnson said. "I think you'll find this will be a team that has a real chip on its shoulder all year."

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