January 2021 Columbus Blue Jackets Month in Evaluation

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RESULTS

L 1-3 @ NSH
L 2-5 @ NSH
W 3-2 @ DET
L 2-3 (OT) @ DET
L 2-3 (OT) versus TBL
W 5-2 against TBL
L 3-4 (SO) against FLA
W 3-2 (SO) against FLA
W 2-1 @ CHI
L 1-3 @CHI

It was a difficult start to the opening streak, with two breakdowns in the third period. After that, however, the Blue Jackets put together a seven-point series. There are two series of matches between the opponents on the program this season and it seemed like the jackets had improved in the return leg of each series.

A cloud seemed to hang over the team with the ongoing trade request from Pierre-Luc Dubois. After being traded, the team responded with a dominant win against the Blitz. However, it has been inconsistent since then as the team added newcomers Mikko Koivu and Jack Roslovic to the line-up.

STANDINGS

The battle for position in the overall standings is different this year as every game takes place between division opponents. The good news is that it is easier to stay in the competition since every match in the overall standings is against a team above or near you. The bad news – at least for the way the Blue Jackets play – is that regulatory gains are more important than ever. Earning Bettman Points helps the jackets keep up, but if they keep giving extra points to their opponents, they may not be able to make up as much ground or create a breakup.

The other weird wrinkle this year is on COVID outbreaks among those Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes forced the games to be postponed. This means that the Jackets played significantly more games than half of the division. At the time of this writing, the jackets were associated with Florida for most points (11). In percentage points, however, they are only the fifth of eight teams. Note that the NHL has still not announced how it will determine playoff seeding if each team does not play the required 56 points.

I’m glad the jackets are now bank points, especially if they haven’t played their best hockey. It will be more difficult for the other Central teams as they have fewer days off due to makeup games.

JANUARY STATISTICS

Does not include the game on Sunday

5v5 courses for%: 46.24 (29.)
5v5 Fenwick For%: 46.41 (27.)
Save 5v5%: 93.33 (9.)
5v5 Shooting%: 7.98 (16.)
5v5 xG%: 45.21 (27th)
Goals for / 60: 2.44 (26.)
Allowed goals / 60: 2.67 (13th)
Power Play%: 12.5 (23rd)
Penalty%: 85.0 (6th)

Everything that talks about causing more offense in the off-season has not yet materialized. The team defense wasn’t sharp either, but luckily the goal increased. The power play has the same problems that it has had for four years. Hopefully the addition of an elite goalscorer in Patrik Laine will provide an offensive spark in both 5v5 and manpower.

THREE STARS

Award

Jarmo Kekalainen made the most of a difficult situation by trading Dubois and a third round for Laine and Roslovic. Young two-way centers don’t grow on trees so that’s a high price to pay, but he has a highly skilled player in Laine who caters to a team need and insisting on Roslovic as part of the deal could drive that into the jackets’ favor, if it develops a higher ceiling than in Winnipeg. Also to Jarmo’s credit is that some of his young draft picks like Alexandre Texier and Liam Foudy have led the team so far with positive results from off-season signers like Michael Del Zotto and Mikhail Grigorenko.

Third star: Joonas Korpisalo

Korpi started where he left off in the postseason, with 2.17 goals against the average and a percentage saving of 0.936 in five starts. With at least four starts, this saving percentage ranks second in the league among goalkeepers. With 34 shots per game, he is also faced with a heavy workload.

Elvis Merzlikins wasn’t that good, but he showed improvements and confidence from game to game. The goalkeeper tandem has been very successful so far, and every start has been pleasantly alternating. Often times, with the busy schedule, they get enough work to keep them sharp, but they can also stay fresh.

Second star: BJORKSTRAND

The maestro sent a message during training camp by signing a long term renewal and a much-needed hot start ensued. He leads the team in points (eight) and assists (five) and also has three goals.

First star: Alexandre Texier

Even before Dubois was traded, the Jackets played Texier in the middle to see how he would handle this position. They had drawn him in with the idea that he would eventually be a center, but we didn’t expect him to get over it anytime soon. Luckily he was great in the role, and that must have made it a little easier to break up with Dubois. No matter who played on his grand piano, his line was felt throughout from night to night. He has shown a nose for the net and scored four goals.

That goal record doesn’t include his most impressive score, a shootout winner against Florida:

3.6 ROENTGEN: Not great, not terrible

Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner

These two have been whipping boys for a number of years because their production does not meet their contracts. While their underlying stats are still not great this season, at least they have put points on the board. Jenner has three goals and three assists, while Foligno has three goals of his own and one assist. Every production by these guys is sauce and provides much-needed depth of scoring. Boone in particular seems to re-energize by returning to the wing. May he never have to play center again.

Michael Del Zotto

I didn’t understand how to use MDZ on defense, but he was arguably the best defender on the team this month. He leads the blue line in points (four templates) and has asserted himself defensively, albeit in protected use.

MUST BE IMPROVED

John Tortorella

I don’t think Torts was the reason Dubois wanted to be traded from Columbus. PLD said only good things about their relationship and Tort’s impact on his game. That being said, it appears that Torts’ behavior following the initial public offering of the trade request may have sped PLD’s departure. Benching Dubois for a lazy shift was perfectly warranted, but a finer touch could have kept Dubois occupied and defused the tension in the locker room, much like they survived the situation with Panarin and Bobrovsky in 2018-19.

Torts deserves so much credit for the success the Blue Jackets have had since he got behind the bench. As a result, he deserves the chance to go on his own terms. But that has to be retirement this summer after signing his current contract. It’s time for some new voices in the room that can build on this strong foundation of Tortorella and take the team to another level.

Cam Atkinson

I mentioned Jenner and Foligno as popular whipping boys with jacket fans; The third is Cam Atkinson. Unlike the other two, he has not found redemption this season. I was hoping that last year was an injury-related slip and that he could at least regain median career shape. Unfortunately, his struggles continue. He’s lost a step from his speed and his shot is missing. He’s only shooting 4.8% this season, down from 8.1% last year, which is well below his career average of 11.4%. His rate of fire has also fallen, with a career low of 2.33 shots per game, compared to 3.36 last season.

There is still time for him to find his shape. After all, he’s been through hot and cold streaks before. But I’m starting to think we need to recalibrate our expectations for him (and accept that they are way below what his cap hit deserves).

Seth Jones and Zach Werenski

The top defensive pair didn’t play like that. They have enough track record that I think they’ll find their game at some point, but there’s a limit to how far this team can go if the best players don’t deliver.

survey

Who is the MVP for January?

  • 40%

    Texier

    (4 votes)

  • 40%

    BJORKSTRAND

    (4 votes)

  • 20%

    Korpisalo

    (2 votes)

  • 0%

    Other

    (0 votes)


10 votes in total

Vote now