Continuing the "get to know your central division opponent" feature, here is a five question and answer piece that Mike MacLean of The Cannon, the Columbus Blue Jackets SB Nation member, was nice enough to fill out for us. Take some time to read his responses and visit The Cannon in anticipation for the game.
1. Recently you wrote an article about the potential exodus of the Blue Jackets from Columbus. In short, how realistic is this?
The Cannon: In reality, it is unlikely that the Jackets will move from Columbus. The recent events in Phoenix show that the NHL is dead-set against relocation. I am confident that something will be done to stop the operating losses that the Jackets are suffering right now, whether that's through public taxation or a restructuring of the arena lease with Nationwide Insurance.
2. Rick Nash is, in my opinion, one of the least appreciated guys in the league. How good is this guy really and how does he carry the team night in and night out?
The Cannon: Rick Nash, in a market like Toronto, Montreal, New York, Philadephia or Chicago would be a superstar. He is a threat in all facets of the game, whether it's five-on-five, power play or on the penalty kill. Under Ken Hitchcock he has become the total package, a player who can score, set up plays, and even check and defend. He has the ability to change the tempo of a game himself. When the Jackets need a play to change momentum, Nash is the guy to do it. He is a great penalty killer, using his positioning and anticipation. He also has the ability to keep players around him grounded, while he's not a rah-rah guy, he has a calming influence and is a fantastic leader. By doing the small things night-in and night-out, the players see this and follow his lead.
3. What's the biggest difference between last year's Blue Jackets and this year's Blue Jackets team?
The Cannon: The biggest difference between last year's squad and this year's stems from the two key free-agents the Jackets acquired this past summer. Mathieu Garon gives the team a trustworthy backup to Steve Mason, who can go out and win games himself. The team didn't have that luxury last year with Wade Dubielewicz. Sammy Pahlsson gives the Jackets a legitimate checking line, something they lacked last season. Also, there is a bit of a swagger this season, after finally getting the playoff monkey off their back.
4. Last year Steve Mason took home the Calder Trophy for top rookie. How feasible is it that he could take home the Vezina this year?
The Cannon: Mason had a fantastic season last year, but he is only now-a month into the season- rounding into form. There is added pressure on him because of the Calder, and perhaps that was affecting him early. The Vezina is a long-shot, mainly because of his disappointing star but also because there are a handful of other goalies out there (namely Marc-Andre Fleury) who are looking fantastic right now.
5. For the casual fan looking at the Columbus roster, with a few exceptions there are mostly a lot of names that you don't hear on the highlight reels that often. How has this team emerged as the division leader? From great team play or is it the Mason & Nash show?
The Cannon: I think the Jackets early success is due to the team game. The scoring is spread out amongst all four lines, but at the end of the day Rick Nash is their scoring leader and his best start to a season factors in heavily to the team's early success. Team defense is also a strong point.
BONUS! What are the chances that RJ Umberger knows where Brad Stuart is at all times?
The Cannon: I'm sure RJ wll be on the lookout- and maybe Derek Dorsett or Jared Boll-the Jackets' tough guys-has a short memory and gives Stuart some "payback"!
Once again, thanks to Mike MacLean for participating.