We'll start the position-by-position preview and analysis on the front lines. This makes sense, seeing as I've put the most effort into reviewing last season's offensive performance. Thus far, I've looked at clutch scorers, pace-setting scorers and last-minute scorers. And don't forget the front end of my analysis from the clutch scorers post, where I suggested:
It's clear as day that the Blue Jackets need to boost their scoring - they scored 216 goals last season, meaning that only five teams in the entire National Hockey League (Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Boston and Florida) were less prolific. By comparison, the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals scored 318 times. The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks scored 271 times. The average number of goals for a playoff-qualifying team in 2009-2010 was a hair under 243 goals. So if the Jackets are going to win, it's because they're going to put lots of pucks in the back of the net.It was true then, it is true now. On way too many nights last season, this team was anemic on the scoreboard. By my count, the Blue Jackets had 36 games where they scored 2 or fewer goals. They won a whopping 7 of them. I know that there's value in being a "defensive" or two-way forward, but you can't overlook the scoring. To win games, pucks have to hit the back of the net.
All too often last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets forwards played like they were looking to set up the phantom fourth forward. They looked to pass instead of shoot, indicative of a team that looked to keep "team chemistry" and maintain friendships before developing the killer instinct necessary to win games and, eventually, championships. It also could be indicative of a team that was too scared to shoot (and fail to make a goal), a reflection upon playing under the iron fist of Ken Hitchcock.
Many say that the Columbus Blue Jackets have to improve the defense to become a consistent playoff team. I'm not sure about that; keep the guys we have healthy (and fit), and they can do their part. The room for marked improvement lies with the forwards. If the CBJ forwards can keep the opponents on their heels - and put a few more shots on net - then the entire dynamic of games change. The question I have is, do our forwards have that inside them for Scott Arniel and Bob Boughner to bring out?