THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Finding the missing pieces for a team that has been puzzling offensively and defensively for years was the topic when the Blue Jackets introduced Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski yesterday in Nationwide Arena.
The team has struggled for most of its 10-year existence without a No.1 center or a top-notch scoring defenseman. This offseason, general manager Scott Howson said, the Jackets went a long way toward remedying those issues by trading for Carter, a 26-year-old center, and for the rights to Wisniewski, a 27-year-old defenseman.
"We had two main priorities: acquire a top center and improve our defense," Howson said. "If you look at all the top teams in the NHL, all the strong contenders, they're all strong down the middle. We feel now we have a chance to be very strong down the middle."
By contrast, Carter's new linemate, team captain Rick Nash, has a similar skill set as Carter, with a nod to scoring ahead of passing.
The combo will need to work together to form the right chemistry, Carter said.
"That's something that we're going to have to work on," Carter said. "With our games, they're pretty similar, so I don't think it will take us too long. We're both big guys that like to skate and like to shoot the puck."
Nash, the Blue Jackets' career scoring leader, had 32 goals and 34 assists last season.
Carter said he doesn't anticipate having to adjust his style much when the season starts in October.
"I've played in pretty much every situation in Philly the last few years," said Carter, who spent six seasons with the Flyers. "I'm familiar with everything. I know what to do out there. It shouldn't be a problem."
He added that passing the puck more will become a larger part of his game, but shooting is still his main focus.
With the moves that the Blue Jackets made this offseason comes pressure, Wisniewski said, and a lot of that falls on the shoulders of the new, big-name players. A six-year contract worth $33million and the title of the team's new top defenseman create a lot to live up to, Wisniewski said.
"(The pressure) is definitely there, but I wanted to be part of the missing piece of the puzzle here," he said. "I want to come in and give it my best and try and help fix things."
Wisniewski will be asked to not only shore up the defense for a team that ranked in the bottom third of the league in goals allowed and penalty killing last year, but to add offensive pop, as well. He had 51 points last season while splitting time between the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens, fifth best in the league among defensemen.
Wisniewski compared his time with the Chicago Blackhawks (2006-2009) to the situation that he and Carter are now entering in Columbus - the Blue Jackets finished last in the Central Division with 81 points last season. The Blackhawks went from middle-of-the pack territory to 2010 Stanley Cup champions in just a few years, he said.
"Being part of the organization with Chicago, we were the bottom of the barrel," he said. "I saw the upside of what you can do with the right draft picks and signings on a team."
Carter echoed his new teammate's sentiment.
"It's a lot of pressure, but it's a lot of fun as well," he said. "We're just going to be ourselves; we've both been around winning teams before. And winning comes with the right working attitude."