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Original Issue

27 Columbus Blue Jackets G.M. Doug MacLean reels in the young talent needed for future success

As one of the NHL's ardent anglers, Kevin Dineen knows about
landing the big fish. In August, Dineen and fellow Blue Jackets
forwards Geoff Sanderson, Jody Shelley and Tyler Wright went on a
five-day fishing expedition off the Alaskan coast, a trip in
which the group pulled in about a hundred coho salmon, red
snapper and halibut. "Tons of fish," says Dineen. "Big, strong
and fast fish."

However, they didn't land the biggest fish of the off-season. The
prize catch belonged to general manager Doug MacLean, who made a
trade with the Panthers for the first pick in the June draft and
used it to select 18-year-old left wing Rick Nash, whose size
(6'3", 188 pounds) and skill remind scouts of a young Brendan
Shanahan. (Florida received the No. 3 pick plus the option to
swap first-round choices with Columbus in 2003.) Nash won't make
the Blue Jackets a Stanley Cup-contender this season, but he's
another important building block for the third-year franchise,
joining All-Star defenseman Rostislav Klesla, 20, and top goalie
prospect Pascal Leclaire, 19, who will start the season in the
minors. Says Dineen of Nash, "He's going to be a very special

That's good news for Columbus, which endured a season of inept
play and off-ice tragedy in 2001-02. The Blue Jackets dropped 14
points in the standings (from 71 in 2000-01) primarily because of
a lack of scoring (164 goals, fewest in the NHL) and the league's
second-worst road record (8-29-3-1). The team suffered
emotionally following the accidental death of 13-year-old fan
Brittanie Cecil, who was hit in the head by a puck last March 16
at Nationwide Arena. Soon after, forward Serge Aubin's
father-in-law was killed in a car crash, and then MacLean's
father died of cancer. "They were a discouraged group last
April," MacLean says of his club.

There's a brighter outlook to this season, not only because of
the injection of youthful talent but also because of the addition
of three steady veteran free agents: 33-year-old center Andrew
Cassels (50 points in 53 games for the Canucks last season) and
defensemen Luke Richardson, 33, and Scott Lachance, 28. The Blue
Jackets still won't make the playoffs, but with Nash, Klesla and
Leclaire, the foundation is set. And that's no fish story.
--Richard Deitsch



In its two NHL seasons, Columbus has rallied to win just one
game in which it was trailing at the start of the third period.



OFFENSE 26 Few rebound chances because forwards
lack size
DEFENSE 23 Adding Lachance, Richardson stabilizes
back line
GOALTENDING 27 Look for Leclaire, 19, to emerge soon as
No. 1
SPECIAL TEAMS 26 PP should improve with Cassels but still
lacks QB
MANAGEMENT 21 Coach King always has his team ready to