SB Nation's Columbus Blue Jackets blog, The Cannon, does a "Three Questions" interview with the manager of the opposition's blog. Today, obviously, we're the opposition, and we each asked each other three pertinent questions about our franchises. Here're Dan P.'s answers, and mine will be up at The Cannon (and linked to here) shortly! Enjoy!
1. How do you think that Rick Nash'll be "replaced" by the coaching staff? Will he be?
Rick Nash's production won't be replaced in the short-term. Sure, they brought in a bunch of 15 to 20 goal guys, but there aren't any true scorers anymore. This Jackets team is struggling to score goals (though it should be noted that they also struggled to score consistently WITH Nash), and will continue to do so. They're going to replace Nash via their three first rounders this summer. They have decent goaltending prospects at the junior level and in the AHL, and they are flush with longer-term options at the blue line throughout the organization. Where they're weak is in forward prospects. Three first round picks could go a long way toward fixing that. The interesting wrinkle to the question is that they've replaced Nash's "leadership" (picture me making Chris Farley air-quotes) with a strong committee of guys who have managed to get this team back to playing hard every night, even when they're far less talented than their opponents. One thing that has drifted in is the mindset that guys don't have to defer and/or count on Nash to carry the load, so it's forcing some guys to step up on their own. They're just not talented enough yet.
2. What do you consider the Jackets' strengths that other teams overlook?
It's early, but their PK has been stellar so far this season (88.0%) after being last in the league last season. They've allowed just three PPG (including just one at home), and when they have their full complement of PKers out they're tough to even set up against. And that comes from a less tangible strength that may be overlooked, which is that so far these are not the push-over Jackets of the past. They're not going to out-talent you, but they're going to work relentlessly and make their opponents earn everything they get. They're a physical team, and when they're playing their best they forecheck with reckless abandon and never stop hitting. They won't win a ton of games that way, but they certainly make themselves a tough team to play against when they're playing their game.
3. Where do you see the Jackets winding up this season? Are they going to blow the pundits' mind and make the playoffs, finish in the middle of the pack, or bring up the rear?
There are some fans that will tell you it's possible for the Jackets to surprise everyone and hang around, but they're not being realistic. As the season grinds on, the good teams are going to get back into normal mid-season form. The Jackets' ceiling is just so much lower than everyone else, barring some unforeseen explosion in goal scoring from a couple of guys on their roster. Yeah, you can argue that the season is so short that they can hang around, but I see them ending up fighting for a top-five pick in the lottery. There are going to be so many games crammed together that playing a "we work hard!" game is going to take a physical toll, and they don't have the talent to play multiple styles just yet. They could finish in the middle of the pack if some other teams struggle with the schedule and/or don't meet expectations, but my best guess is that they're going to be bringing up the rear. And, in complete honesty, I'm OK with that; if they change their dressing room culture this year I can handle another losing year.