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2000-01 Record: 28-39-9-6 (71 Points) ... H: 19-15-4-3 ... A: 9-24-5-3 ... GF: 190 ... GA: 233
By Mark Beech
Nobody's likely to confuse Ron Tugnutt with Ralph Nader, but the Columbus goaltender did play a small part in last November's U.S. presidential election. Tugnutt, a Scarborough, Ont., native, was touted in several goofy Blue Jackets television commercials as a candidate. The ads featured Tugnutt on a wayward campaign trail; in one he delivered a baby while wearing his goalie mask. "I'm Canadian," he said, explaining his qualifications for office. "Of course I'm honest." Tugnutt received five write-in votes.
His integrity wasn't the only reason Ohioans show such fondness for Tugnutt, who last year, at age 33, proved he was one of the game's solid goaltenders. He was clearly the MVP of Columbus's surprisingly successful inaugural season, in which the Blue Jackets went 28-39-9-6 and finished with the fourth-highest point total (71) ever by an NHL expansion team. Tugnutt won 22 games, a record for an expansion goalie, with a 2.44 goals-against average.
He was helped out by a rugged defense, which included stay-at-home types Lyle Odelein and Jamie Pushor, as well as offense-minded Deron Quint, who was acquired by general manager Doug MacLean for one dollar. Quint goosed the offense with seven goals and 23 points and led Columbus in minutes per game (24:05).
As with most young teams, the Blue Jackets struggled to put the puck in the net; their total of 190 goals last season was the fifth lowest in the league. The offense should be better this year with left wing Geoff Sanderson (30 goals, 26 assists) and center Espen Knutsen (11, 42) being joined full time by Ray Whitney, who came from the Panthers at the trading deadline last March; free-agent center Mike Sillinger, late of the Senators; and right wing Grant Marshall, acquired in a trade with the Stars. "We've added an NHL line," MacLean says. "Marshall is a gritty, abrasive forward. Sillinger is very versatile. Ray has the firepower to improve the offense."
Columbus hopes a few more goals will relieve some of the pressure on Tugnutt and put the Blue Jackets in contention for the West's last playoff spot. "I have high expectations," says MacLean. Still, it looks like an uphill campaign.
Issue date: October 8, 2001
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