It was media day in Nationwide Arena yesterday. The Blue Jackets had a luncheon and then made available general manager Scott Howson, coach Scott Arniel and players Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Steve Mason. They were smiling.

The ice is down. Autumn beckons. Physicals are on Friday, training camp gets under way on Saturday and never have the Jackets appeared so formidable or felt so legitimate.

There is a newly pumped, $61?million payroll featuring some prime acquisitions. Is this a playoff team? Ah, that is the question. And the answer may be found where it is usually found, and that is between the pipes — specifically in this case, between Mason's ears.

Mason is exceedingly intelligent. He gets it.

"With any club, no matter how good the offense or the defense, at the end of the day it comes down to the goaltending," he said. "If the goalie is playing well you're in the game every night. If he's not, he's hurting the team.

"It'd be great to get back to that rookie season form and if I do, yeah, this is a playoff team."