New-look Blue Jackets hoping for some improvement
If that's true, it'll be a huge step in the right direction. But there are still Zdeno Chara-sized questions that must be answered.
Who'll score the goals for a team that already was among the least productive in the NHL — even before it traded its very best scorer?
"We're going to have to score by committee," Howson said. "Some of our offense is going to have to come from our defense again. That's how we're going to do it."
The Blue Jackets are hoping that pint-sized Cam Atkinson can grind out goals along with Umberger on the first line, centered by Derek Brassard, who needs to step up his production after showing flashes of promise in four seasons with the team.
Dubinsky, former Ottawa Senator Nick Foligno who was picked up in a trade, Prospal and youngster Ryan Johansen also must make big contributions.
What about the defense, which is backed by two once-promising 24-year-olds who are running out of chances, goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason?
"Any team that's successful in this league, they defend well and they make it difficult on other teams to score goals," said Richards, formerly the head coach at Minnesota from 2009-11. "And there were times last year we weren't a good enough team to do that. Our record indicated that. So we have to be better."
The blue line figures to be, with Johnson and James Wisniewski, Russians Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin and Aucoin, John Moore and David Savard.
No one really knows what to expect in net. Both Bobrovsky and Mason were stellar early in their careers but have looked lost since. Both are heading into the final year of their contracts and find themselves with a lot to prove in a 48-game, 99-day season.
"There's so many games in such a short amount of time that you can't afford to be losing because of poor goaltending," said Mason, who like the team got off to a dreadful start last season before playing well while the season played out. "So for a situation like this, it's a great position for myself and for Sergei to really take the ball and run with it and be a big part of this team."
During the team's brief camp, none of the players seemed to be looking around for Nash to say something or do something to save the day.
The Blue Jackets have had to move on.
"A player shouldn't be bigger than what the team is," Davidson said. "We want a team concept, a team effort, team energy, team commitment. We want a team that's going to stick together, that's going to be a heavy team to play against. That's where we're going."
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap
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