Columbus Blue Jackets: Why Kevin Connauton is being scratched.


Feb 6, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman

Kevin Connauton

(4) against the St Louis Blues during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus defeated St Louis 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

A big part of this season’s narrative for Columbus Blue Jackets so far has been the continued absence of Kevin Connauton. Richards made him a healthy scratch 3 times out of 7 total games, Torts has yet to put him in the line up. Since Connauton was a bright spot in a otherwise dark season last year this has a lot of people upset. The prevailing opinion appears to be that his absence is an inexplicable oversight that’s hurting the team

But there may be a reasonable explanation.

Careful inspection of his numbers shows that Kevin Connauton isn’t as good as his counting stats might suggest. Here is his HERO chart.

As you can see he’s been able to produce goals at an amazingly impressive rate while playing in a very limited role. That’s not surprising for Jacks fans, his ability to produce goals is his selling point and the reason many feel he should be playing more.

If you look down the list to the possession statistics and look at the bar labeled CA60 RelTM you see that the entirety of the blue marker has fallen below the Bottom pairing section and into unplayable territory. That statistic measures the differential between the amount of shots a players team gives up while he’s on the ice vs off the ice. It’s not a perfect statistic, but it’s likely the best way to evaluate a players impact on his teams defensive performance. Again Columbus fans won’t be surprised that he’s bad defensively, he’s a classic offensive D-man, but struggling to that scale makes it seem questionable to even use the term “defensman” when talking about him.

If that was all there was to say then Connauton would be an acceptable player. You could play him on the power play and carefully in limited 5 on 5, take the awesome offense while stomaching the atrocious defense.

Unfortunately that high goal scoring rate may be more a credit to James Wisniewski than Connauton himself. Here’s Wisniewski’s chart.The first thing to say is wow Wisniewski is awesome at hockey when healthy. The only thing to gripe about on that chart is the low rate at which he scores goals himself. Though even that is acceptable when you consider the way he creates possession for the rest of the players on the ice, and moves the puck creating goals for others.

Last season Connauton spent 100% of his TOI with Wisniewski as his partner, attached at the hip in a way rarely seen.

I don’t want to take everything away from Connauton, he’s shown the ability to do good things when given an opportunity and that’s not nothing. But it also seems that he lacks the skill set to create those opportunities for himself. With Wisniewski gone there isn’t another guy to put him out there with in order to maximize his skill set. So far his partner has been Dalton Prout for the majority of his TOI this season, basically the exact opposite of an ideal line mate. Until the Jacks bring in a skilled puck mover that can get Connauton the puck in dangerous spots, or he shows the ability to generate scoring chances for himself, keeping him off the ice might be the smartest move.