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NHL All-Time Teams: Columbus Blue Jackets

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Gone, but not forgotten -- Rick Nash is the Blue Jackets' best. (USATSI)
Gone, but not forgotten -- Rick Nash is the Blue Jackets' best.(USATSI)

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Ah, hockey in the summer, where things come to a grinding halt for about two months in between one season and another. To fill the void we at Eye on Hockey thought it would be fun to make an all-time team for each of the 30 organizations in the NHL.

The ground rules: The teams will consist of a center, two wings (regardless of which side), two defensemen and a goaltender. A player must have spent at least 200 games with a franchise to be considered. So Bobby Orr won't be on the Blackhawks' roster or Wayne Gretzky for St. Louis.

With a history that begins only as far back as 2001, the Columbus Blue Jackets haven't had much time to establish a base of superstars. It doesn't help that the club has made the playoffs just once in more than a decade of existence.

Among the players that meet our criteria for eligibility, it was quite difficult to sort out who among them deserved inclusion on something with such a title as "All-Time Team." That invokes images of greatness and historic accomplishment. That's where the Blue Jackets fall short.

Things could be changing in Columbus, particularly with the arrival of new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and team president John Davidson. With many up-and-comers, a good base of prospects and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky, better days are ahead for the Jackets.

Before we can look forward, however, it's time to look back.

Center

R.J. Umberger: Umberger has been a consistent, reliable presence at center for the last five seasons for the Blue Jackets. Up until last year's lockout-shortened campaign, Umberger posted at least 20 goals each season in Columbus. Over his relatively short tenure, Umberger has climbed to the third spot in each of the Blue Jackets' major offensive categories with 102 goals, 114 assists and 216 points.

Having grown up in Pittsburgh, Pa., Umberger isn't far from home and could be in Columbus for a while. After the 2011-12 season, he signed a five-year, $23 million extension, making him a Blue Jacket until 2016-17. Umberger was a safe bet for that kind of contract, too. In his five seasons with the Blue Jackets, he has missed a total of five games. That kind of durability is hard to come by in the often rough-and-tumble NHL.

He's been one of the team's alternate captains and has become a fan favorite as well. Here's Umberger posting a hat trick on home ice in 2012.

Wings

Rick Nash: He may have been traded after the 2011-12 season, but Rick Nash is the best player ever to play in Columbus and it isn't close. The first overall pick by the Blue Jackets in 2002, Nash burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old rookie and his talent was evident from the get go. After 39 points in his debut season in 2002-03, Nash posted a league-best 41 goals in 2003-04, earning the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Nash would go on to score 289 goals in Columbus, a franchise record by 167. He's also the all-time leader in assists (258) and his 547 career points lead the next closest player -- David Vyborny -- by 230. The all-time leader in games played in Columbus also served as the team's captain from 2007-08 until he was dealt last offseason.

Though losing the franchise's biggest star to the New York Rangers, Jackets fans may be able to find solace in the return -- Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick (Kerby Rychel) -- which could benefit Columbus in the long term. So even in his departure, the former captain helped the team in some way.

Nash did leave Columbus with one of the geatest goals you'll ever see, though. Against the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, Nash scored this spectacular game-winner late in regulation. Good luck keeping your jaw off the floor.

David Vyborny: He only spent seven seasons in the NHL, but all of them were with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Vyborny ranks second all-time on the Blue Jackets in games played (543), goals (113), assists (204) and points (317).

A native of the Czech Republic, Vyborny didn't make it to the NHL until he was 26 years old, seven years have he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the NHL Draft. He joined the Blue Jackets as a free agent out of the Czech Extraliga in 2000.

Vyborny never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he did make it to the 2006 Olympics, representing his native Czech Republic, and in a way, the Jackets. He had three 20-goal seasons for Columbus and was he ever good in shootouts.

Defensemen

Rostislav Klesla: It's a lot tougher to go through the defensemen than it was forwards for this team, but Rusty Klesla seemed like a pretty obvious choice to get a nod for this entry. He was the Blue Jackets' first-ever draft pick, going fourth overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

After a brief stint as an 18-year-old in 2000-01, Klesla was pushed into full-time duty the following season and made the NHL's all-rookie team. He spent eight-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets and despite a few battles with injury problems, no defenseman has appeared in more games for the team than Klesla. His 92 assists rank ninth all-time for the club.

Klesla was eventually traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in February 2012, where he remains today.

Fedor Tyutin: There were probably several players that could have been put in this spot. Jan Hejda and Marc Methot each had arguments to be here, while former captains Adam Foote and Lyle Odelein did not meet the games-played criterion. Tyutin is deserving, though. After coming over in a trade with the New York Rangers, Tyutin's been a solid two-way presence on the Columbus blue line.

The two-time Russian Olympian has spent the last five seasons in Columbus and in that span helped the Blue Jackets to their first and only trip to the playoffs in 2009 and to the brink of the postseason in 2013. The strong puck-mover ranks fifth all-time with 105 assists and can he ever hammer a puck.

The big defenseman's 141 points ranks 10th in franchise history. On top of all of his on-ice accomplishments making him worthy of inclusion, Tyutin is really fun to say.

Goaltender

Steve Mason: I know, I know! I don't like this anymore than you do. One good season is hardly enough to make a player one of his franchise's all-time greats, but when that franchise is the Columbus Blue Jackets, it really is. In fact, only two goaltenders meet our games-played criterion -- Mason and Marc Denis. Perhaps we could've made an exception on the criteria for Sergei Bobrovsky after his Vezina Trophy-winning campaign in 2013, but we didn't.

Mason made a splash in his debut season in 2008-09. He appeared in 61 games for the Blue Jackets as a 20-year-old netminder, extremely young for the position by today's standards in the league. He proceeded to post a .916 save percentage, 2.29 goals-against average while winning 33 games and earning a league-best 10 shutouts. That was good enough to get the Blue Jackets into the playoffs for the first time, earning him the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie and essentially his spot on this list.

The former third-round pick was never able to come close to the success of his rookie season and was dealt last season to the Flyers. Even during his down seasons, he would show glimpses of the goalie that took the NHL by storm as a rookie, like this dazzling glove save in 2011.

Mason does have some franchise records, as well. His 96 wins are best in club history, as are his 19 shutouts. He posted a .903 career save percentage and 2.90 goals-against average while in Columbus. Even though Mason faded, he gets the nod for helping backstop the Blue Jackets to their best season in club history and providing a glimmer of hope for a franchise that didn't have much at the time. It won't be long before Bobrovsky replaces him on this list, though.

Notable Omissions

Nikolai Zherdev, Derick Brassard, Geoff Sanderson, Antoine Vermette, Kristian Huselius, Marc Methot, Jan Hejda, Marc Denis, Manny Malhotra

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