Hard luck Blue Jackets try to get over playoff hump
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
LAST SEASON: 45-30-7, 97 points. First wildcard in Eastern Division. Lost to Washington Capitals in first round of playoffs.
COACH: John Tortorella (fourth season, 18th NHL season.)
ADDED: F Anthony Duclair, F Riley Nash.
LOST: F Matt Calvert, F Thomas Vanek, D Ian Cole, D Jack Johnson.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Artemi Panarin. The Russian forward, acquired in a trade with Chicago in the summer of 2017, had a career year with the Blue Jackets, leading the team with 27 goals and 55 assists for 82 points. The Blue Jackets tried to lock him with a multiyear contract, but he decided to play out the final year of his deal, signaling that he doesn’t really want to be in Columbus for the long haul. The Blue Jackets’ window for getting to the next level stays open, providing the “Bread Man” has another good year before his probable departure.
OUTLOOK: Tortorella was signed to a two-year contract extension, but the organization was unable to lock up Panarin and star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with both entering the last year of their contracts. If the team can avoid that distraction and players such as Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Pierre-Luc Dubois play to their potential, the Blue Jackets should be back in the NHL playoffs, where they have yet to make it out of the first round in four tries. Entering their 18th season of play, the Blue Jackets are still the only team in the NHL to have never won a playoff series.