…the offense as a whole just seems to have no chemistry.
Lest we forget, hockey is not played by the GM, or by the coaching staff. Jarmo assembled a roster that is spent basically right up to the NHL’s salary cap, so they should at least be able to hold serve. But here we are, watching a team that sits 32nd overall, with the worst goal differential in the NHL. There is a ton to talk about in regards to how the roster is performing.
Down the middle, the leading scorers at center are Boone Jenner (2g-4a-6p, 12gp) and Jack Roslovic (1g-5a-6p, 12gp). These are middle six numbers in the NHL. Cole Sillinger, probably the best true center on the team, has been completely invisible for long stretches, and has just 2 assists in 12 games this season.
The four centers have combined for just 5 goals and 18 points through 12 games. Putting things into perspective, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon has 19 points on his own. While there isn’t anybody on this roster that is capable of putting up those kind of numbers, someone has to at least be able to skate between Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine on the top line. Even a marginal player should be good for 50-60 points over the course of a full season between two superstar wingers. But nobody has settled into that role, and the team basically has two weapons with no ammo on the top line.
On the wings, the team oozes talent … but outside of Gaudreau, Kent Johnson, and Yegor Chinahkov, it’s a group that seems to be underperforming offensively. Jakub Voracek and Gustav Nyquist are both showing signs of aging, and the offense as a whole just seems to have no chemistry. They finally found success on the power-play over the weekend, but still sit dead last with just a 6% success rate on the season – a full 5% behind the nearest competitor. With this collection of talent, they should be well in the upper half of the league with the man advantage.
One method of changing the roster might include dealing from their position of strength – in this case, on the wings – to help bolster other areas of the roster. The old fashioned hockey trade is rare, but should they go this route, Liam Foudy has shown very capable of playing in a depth role, and it would free up a spot for guys who deserve a chance, like Kirill Marchenko or even Emil Bemstrom. They have depth here.
Looking at the defense, on paper this is a group that should be able to at least give the team a chance. But the change in scheme this season seems to have confused everyone, and they are really struggling in their own end. One could argue that a true #1 defenseman is yet to be found here, and every player on the back end for the Blue Jackets is playing a role they’re not qualified for.
That isn’t to say they’re terrible, and clearly Zach Werenski is a top pairing guy. But is he a true #1? Vladislav Gavrikov is a second pairing guy, and Andrew Peeke is good enough on this tandem as long as the game is kept simple. But aside from those three, it’s rookie Nick Blankenburg forced into top pairing minutes. Jake Bean hasn’t been terrible, but there are times when he does look lost.
Gudbranson is taking key defensive zone shifts against top opposition, when he’s probably better suited facing third and fourth line players. Sending half of your defensemen out in roles they’re not capable of filling, is not ideal. Still, they should be able to keep the shot totals in check a lot more effectively than they have so far. Which leads us to the next issue.