Blue Jackets 2018-19 season preview: Four things to watch this season

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive
Sergei Bobrovsky photo by Adam Cairns

With the Blue Jackets' season newly underway, here are four things that could determine whether the team continues its upward trajectory or takes a step back.

The Russians

The offseason began with a combination of reports and rumors of the eventual departure of dynamic forward Artemi Panarin. Whether he wants to play in a big city, a city with a larger Russian community, a city where his girlfriend can resume her modeling career, or if he just wants to see what unrestricted free agency holds, it appears this is likely Panarin's last season in Union Blue. Teammates and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen have said they hope to change his mind.

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The end of the offseason found reports and rumors swirling around goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who is entering the final year of his contract. How much might the team be willing to pay, and will it be enough to convince Bob to stay?

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Is this goodbye to one or both of these stars?Whether these unresolved issues prove to be a distraction remains to be seen.

Stay the course

The team is counting on continued development from a slate of younger players. Defensemen Seth Jones (out the first several weeks of the season with an injury) and Zach Werenski seem to have “arrived.” Center Pierre-Luc Dubois had a strong rookie season. Wingers Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand are young players coming off their first full seasons in Columbus. If these players all take strides, it should be good news in the standings.

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Isn't that special?

The special teams were not so much so in 2017-18. Can the coaching staff figure out this critical part of the game? Head Coach John Tortorella has juggled some of the duties of his assistants toward this end.

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Wither Wennberg?

Center Alexander Wennberg struggled last year, even having an open disagreement with Tortorella on the bench during a game. After the season, it was reported he was playing through an injury. It feels like an important season for the Swede. Can he get back to being a top six center?