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COACH Scott Arniel (2nd season)
LAST SEASON 34-35-13 (13th in West)
KEY ADDITIONS C Jeff Carter, LW Vinny Prospal, D James Wisniewski
KEY LOSSES D Jan Hejda, RW Scottie Upshall, RW Jakub Voracek
After a glittering rookie season in 2008--09, one that earned him a Calder Trophy, goalie Steve Mason fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. Only it didn't end there—it extending into his third year. Mason's struggles (.901 save percentage, 3.03 GAA) forced the Blue Jackets to look for a solution.
In June they hired a full-time goalie coach, Ian Clark, from the Canucks—the man who successfully overhauled the technique of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo—and charged him with helping Mason, 23, recapture the magic of his rookie season, when he won 33 games with a 2.29 GAA and a .916 save percentage. "We need him to be at his best," coach Scott Arniel says. "We're not going to get to the playoffs unless Steve Mason is a big part of that ... [but] hopefully we score more goals and we defend better, help him maybe not see [so many quality shots]."
With the personnel upgrades Columbus picked up in front of its goalie, both scoring and defending should be better. The Blue Jackets traded for big-bodied center Jeff Carter of the Flyers in June and beefed up a defense that allowed the fifth-most goals in the league last season by signing 6-foot, 208-pound James Wisniewski and 6'2", 210-pound Radek Martinek. "Having a good defense in front of your goaltender is the first place to start [when you're trying to improve]," Arniel says. "We were thin back there."