Columbus Blue Jackets: Defense must improve.


Oct 14, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) against the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena. The Senators won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Torts era began in much the same way the Richards one ended. After going up 2-1 through the first period, and seemingly playing well, the slightest of momentum shifts caused a near total collapse and lead to a 3-2 defeat.

With that Columbus is now 0-8, only the second team in history to start the season with eight regulation losses, and the first since 1944.

By far the most infuriating thing about this team is that they actually start most games playing reasonably well. But at the first sign of any trouble whatsoever they completely fall apart defensively.

A lot of fans seem to feel that this is due to a lack of toughness and/or effort. That the players simply aren’t trying hard or don’t care enough to close out the game. That the solution’s can be found solely in Torts’s talents as a motivator.

It’s possible this is true, but it’s highly unlikely.

Coaching does matter in Hockey, but from a strategic/tactical sense. Deciding which players to use in which spots, as well as providing an extra set of eyes to notice things in a player’s performance that they may not notice themselves. The aspect of coaching that relates to motivation and leadership is the most overstated thing in all of Hockey. This isn’t my 12 year old cousins pee wee hockey team, where little Timmy might forget to play and instead think about superman or little Suzie from his math class if not properly motivated. These are grown professional athletes whose entire lives revolve around their performance, I promise you they are trying as hard as they can.

The real problem is the defense just isn’t talented enough to prevent the other team from scoring.

Take for instance the player whose led all Blue Jacket skaters in average ice time every season since 2011-12, Jack Johnson. Here’s his HERO chart.

If you’ve never seen one of these before it’s fairly simple. A player’s statistical performance is compared against the rest of the league and then ranked based upon which role his numbers most resemble. The darkest blue part of the bar is the actual position, while the lighter areas represent the margin for error, the lighter the blue the less likely to be accurate.

As you can see Johnson is receiving Top Pairing ice time while providing production that resembles a Bottom Pairing player. He doesn’t score or move the puck well, and he doesn’t do a good job preventing the other team from doing those things. This isn’t just counting the last 8 game, it represents data from the last three years. It’s not because he’s not trying, it’s because he’s just not good enough.

And the issue isn’t just limited to JJ, if it was he could be reassigned to a smaller role and voila, problem solved. But there really isn’t anyone on the roster to take those minutes and be significantly better. Outside of Fedor Tyutin who produces at an above average Second Pairing level across the board, none of the defense-man show signs of being anything better than solid Bottom Pairing options.

This situation must be fixed if the Jacks are going to have any chance of competing this season. For all the faith you might have in Tortorella he won’t be able to make any difference at all without a defense-men that can keep the puck out of the net on a more consistent basis. That’s probably going to have to happen through a trade, I don’t see any of the player’s on this roster stepping up enough.

For context here’s what a good player’s chart looks like. And you can find any other player’s chart here.