Columbus Blue Jackets: An Optimistic Start


Oct 14, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center

Brandon Dubinsky

(17) takes a shot on goal in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Blue Jackets. The narratives were all set around the idea that last year’s disappointment was due to injury and unfamiliarity among line mates. This would finally be the year that the Boys in Blue challenge for he Metropolitan Division.

Well almost two weeks into the season there appears to be a large metal bucket on each of our heads that up until recently contained cold water. With an 0-4 record and goal differential of -11 (Last in the NHL) things haven’t looked great so far.

So why am I still optimistic?

First and foremost there’s the issue of how small the sample size still is. There’s a reason the NHL season is 82 games, it takes that long for True Talent to surface and even itself out. Hockey is a crazy sport, there’s a great deal of statistical variance inherent in results. I don’t want to use the phrase luck but sometimes the puck just doesn’t bounce you’re way over a 4-5 game stretch. In the middle of the season this kind of streak can go almost unnoticed. The fact that this is happening in the first four games makes it appear much worse than it actually is. That being said I won’t pretend it means nothing, each of these losses is in the bank and could potentially come back to haunt us later in the year.

The second cause for my optimism, and this is where I’ll get a little controversial, is that they haven’t actually been that bad.

Sure the results are god awful, the puck is ending up in our net far too often and in the oppositions not nearly enough.

But when you examine the stats that track process instead of just the results, things are much better. It’s important to look at these kinds of stats as they are far more predictive of future results.

The simplest of these process stats is shot differential, basically a shot based equivalent of a plus-minus. The Blue Jackets have a positive shot differential of 5.8, good for fourth in the league, behind only the Sharks, Blues, and Hurricanes. That’s a great sign, the team that gets more shots obviously doesn’t always win, but it’s a statistical out-lire when they don’t.

The actual number of shots does matter, shot quality isn’t nearly as important as most people like to think. Top Snipers will run a slightly higher conversion percentage than the average player, but for the most part the difference between a 40 goal scorer and a 10 goal scorer is the former takes four times as many shots.

What’s more important about shot differential, is the implications carried with it. When you’re getting more shots on goal, chances are you’re also controlling possession, the key to playing sustainable winning hockey. If you can keep generating more scoring chances than the other team does, eventually the results will adjust to reflect that.

Finally the last piece of optimistic news is the fact that Sergei Bobrovsky is currently running a 86.0% save percentage, last among Goalies with at least 100 shots against. He simply cannot be this bad. With a career mark of 91.3 Bobbie is an above average goaltender, he just hasn’t played like it thus far.

Obviously the 0-4 record has you worried, it has me worried too. But there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the Blue Jackets are actually playing very solid hockey. Keep the faith and hold on, when the inevitable positive regression shows up on both ends of the ice we’ll all feel a lot better.

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