Blue Jackets Are in Serious Trouble
By Patrick Hoffman
Last season, everything went right for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not only did this team make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they had a Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky as the league's best netminder in the regular season, a Jack Adams Award winner in John Tortorella as the league's best coach, finished with over 100 points and were the third best team in the entire Eastern Conference.
Pundits and fans throughout the league figured that this year would be much of the same for the Blue Jackets. Unfortunately, for the Blue Jackets and their fans, it has been somewhat of a different season and one that could see them miss the playoffs.
By the time this piece gets published, things could end up being very different. As of this writing (February 7, 2018), the Blue Jackets hold the second wild card spot with 58 points (27-22-4) and are just four points out of third in the Metropolitan Division.
With that said, however, it is clear that the Blue Jackets are struggling in several areas of their game. The major area that has hurt them this year is goal scoring.
The Blue Jackets are currently (As of February 7, 2018) 28th in the league in goals for with 133 goals in 53 games. This means that they are averaging close to two goals per game, which is not going to cut it in this league.
Right now (February 7, 2018), the most goals that any player has on this team is 16 and that's Josh Anderson. Other than him, no one else has over 13 goals.
With the likes of newcomer Artemi Panarin (13 goals and 29 assists for 42 points), Oliver Bjorkstrand (8 goals and 19 assists for 27 points), Pierre-Luc Dubois (10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points), Nick Foligno (10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points), and Cam Atkinson (8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points), this team should not be struggling to score goals. Instead, they've been extremely inconsistent.
Their offense has been so bad this season that even someone like Foligno was benched during a game at one point this season. Atkinson, the team's leading scorer last season and someone that has dealt with injuries this season, was even a healthy scratch at one point.
This team needs to start stepping up their offensive game and they need to do it in a hurry. If this area of their game does not get fixed, not only could this team miss the playoffs, but if they manage to get in, they could get bounced right out.
One other area that this team has had problems with all season is on their special teams. In fact, playing with the man advantage or killing penalties for them this year has been downright atrocious.
As of this writing (February 7, 2018), this team is last with a capital l in the league on the power play. Their conversion rate is 14.1 percent, which is absolutely embarrassing.
Their penalty kill has also been bad this season. The team is currently (February 7, 2018) 27th in the league in that category (75.2 percent), which is not good enough in a league where special teams is extremely important.
While the Blue Jackets may still be in a playoff position (not sure they will be by the time this goes up on the site), their inconsistent play with putting the puck in the net and playing on special teams is more than worrisome. These things need to improve right now or else they will be playing golf once the regular season ends.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.