Hockey: Blue Jackets season preview

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive
Brooke LaValley/Dispatch photo

"This is the year!" says the optimistic Blue Jackets fan in my head.

"You said that last year," says his cynical counterpart. "And the year before that."

You know what? The voices in my head are right - and being a fan of this team is making me schizophrenic.

So yeah, history says "one measly playoff appearance in 10 seasons," but the off-season's bold shakeup of the team is putting more talent on the ice than Nationwide Arena has ever seen.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of optimism," said Jackets General Manager Scott Howson of the upcoming season.

And it's true. Howson's two big moves - the trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for all-star center Jeff Carter and the signing of free-agent defensemen James Wisniewski - calmed my inner cynic enough to have me already dreaming of more playoff hockey at Nationwide.

Stop me if you've heard this before.

Still, the Carter trade is the biggest moment in team history since drafting Rick Nash in 2002. That decade-long look for a top-line center to pair with Nash may be over.

Of course, the trade came as a shock to Carter, who was signed long-term and expected to play out his career in Philly. Now the dust has settled, and he seems ready to thrive in his new surroundings.

"It's a lot more laid back," Carter said of Columbus. Yeah, that's an understatement when you're coming from a city where sports fans boo Santa Claus.

Selling Carter on Columbus is going be key this season. "It's a great city," said Carter's former Philly teammate R.J. Umberger. "People don't realize that until they get here."

Of course, the Jackets wouldn't be the Jackets without a run of misfortune to go with their good news. Winger Kristian Huselius suffered a torn muscle while lifting weights in the off-season. He's out for four to six months. And our newly acquired scoring defenseman Wisniewski gets to start the season with an eight-game suspension for a post-buzzer hit to an opponent's head.

Still, my internal debate sees more to be positive about than ever. I was there for that raucous Game 4 playoff game vs. Detroit. I screamed myself hoarse. I want to feel that again.

"I'm not really used to not making the playoffs," Carter said.

My optimist fan is already there.

Blue Jackets vs. Minnesota (preseason)

Nationwide Arena

7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29