It would be hard to argue that the Columbus Blue Jackets are the worst team in the NHL, and maybe the only team that isn't devastated that there is a lockout. If hockey was being played right now, there is little doubt that the Blue Jackets would be taking it on the chin night after night.
Columbus finished with a league worst 65 points last season, but still found a way to lose the Draft Lottery to Edmonton. I bet Blue Jackets fans are thinking Nail Yakupov would look pretty good in their team's colors right now. Or maybe they are thinking that Scott Howson didn't get nearly enough from the New York Rangers for Rick Nash. Or perhaps they are wondering what it would be like to be a Detroit Red Wings fan. Either way, I'm not a fan of the Draft Lottery. Even with the risk that teams might tank, the worst team should always get the first pick.
Even though the Blue Jackets missed out on Yakupov and Nash has left for the Big Apple, life goes on. If you scan their roster you won't find too many top-tier NHL talents. Instead, you see a lot of potential with young talent and some mediocre veteran players, but there is some upside from a fantasy perspective.
No doubt playing on a strong team certainly has its benefits when it comes to fantasy hockey. The better the talent around you, the more likely your point totals and plus/minus will increase. A marginal player on a strong team can become quite serviceable in some areas. That same player on a weaker team may go in the other direction. However, that's not to say there aren't plenty of opportunities to bolster your roster by taking a look at some Blue Jackets. Depending on your categories, scouring and exploiting the bottom of the league's barrel may give you a leg up on your competition.
Let's look at what a few of the Blue Jackets can offer.
Derek Dorsett - RW
Dorsett could be a real asset if your league has some rough and tumble categories. Over the past two seasons he has averaged over 200 PIM and just under 200 hits. In fact, in 2011-12 Dorsett led the entire league in penalty minutes and ranked in the top 30 when it came to hits. Not only that, but there are some leagues that value fighting majors over PIM, and Dorsett was tied for second in the NHL last year with 19 majors.
He won't get you many points, but he can help you out with shots on goal. He posted 137 in 2011-12 and has averaged well over a shot per game during the past two seasons.
James Wisniewski - D
Wisniewski lost a lot of games last year thanks to a lengthy suspension and injury woes. To describe him as a defenseman may be a little misleading, because his plus/minus is probably going to resemble Tiger Woods' final score at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. That doesn't mean, however, that Wisniewski's booming shot can't put up some solid offensive numbers.
In 2011-12 he was on a solid scoring pace and notched 27 points in just 48 games. He can also help you in the blocked shots department as he managed 74 last year. Come to think of it, 48 games may be a realistic number for every player this season thanks to the lockout. So if you want to gauge what Wisniewski is capable of, his numbers across the board last year should paint a good picture for a shortened campaign in 2012-13.
Jack Johnson - D
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I get the feeling Columbus could have a sneaky good power play this year. Johnson had 17 points on the man advantage in 2011-12 between the Los Angeles Kings and the Blue Jackets, and 12 of those points were assists. Johnson’s ability to pass the puck could be a dangerous combination paired with Wisniewski's point shot.
The Blue Jackets power play stats as a team were also very interesting last season. Columbus ranked in the bottom third in the league when it came to efficiency, but they were second overall when it came to total minutes played on the power play. A consistent Wisniewski/Johnson pairing this year should really improve their percentage, and if they can generate as many opportunities with the man advantage as they did last year, expect both guys to put up big numbers.
Brandon Dubinsky - C
If face-offs are a category in your league, Dubinsky could be someone to look at. Last year on the New York Rangers he had the highest winning percentage on the team of players that took at least 75 draws, finishing with a rate of just under 52%. Face-offs are a good transferable stat from team to team. It's something that shouldn't really take too big of a hit like points or plus/minus might when moving from the Rangers to the Blue Jackets.
In addition to his skill in the face-off circle, Dubinsky plays a physical style and recorded over 100 PIM and over 200 hits in 2011-12. He also has some offensive upside and can be a streaky scorer at times. Twice in his career Dubinsky has had 20 goal campaigns.
And if the NHL was on right now we would get to see Dubinsky’s underrated Movember stache. He could be the spitting image of Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco.
Nikita Nikitin - D
Nikitin only played in 54 games with the Blue Jackets last season, but made his presence felt in many areas. His 95 blocks led the squad and he also managed to post 93 shots on goal. Nikitin's offensive numbers are also pleasantly surprising. Recording 32 points is nothing to sneeze at, and if you break that down per games played he was the Blue Jackets third most consistent offensive performer, with points in over 48% of his games.
Saying that Nikitin's minus-5 rating is decent may sound a little foolish, but keep in mind it's Columbus. That number actually ranked better than 16 other Blue Jackets.
Translation: He's not terrible defensively.
Honorable Mention for Keeper Leagues
John Moore - D and Ryan Johansen - C
These two may not get a ton of production in 2012-13, but they are a couple of the league's bright young stars. Both are former first round picks, and although Moore is a little older, Johansen is probably further along in the development process and has more skill. Johansen has a lot of offensive upside and with Rick Nash gone, expect him to be the next face of the franchise.
Moore needs a lot of work defensively and could still stand to bulk up a bit, but he could easily be a 40-50 point defenseman down the line.
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