We took a leap of faith before last season, making five bold predictions about the Blue Jackets. In hindsight, the entire article was a clear and obvious “miss”. But, even though we failed horribly, lets take a look at our predictions and see how they panned out anyway.
Prediction #1: Erik Gudbranson actually does help solidify the defense…
I can hear Bob Uecker in Major League in my head right now saying “JUUUUUST a bit outside”. Yeah, completely missed the strike zone here, I can admit that. But, lets be honest, it’s an unfair prediction to make a final judgment on.
It’s not that Gudbranson wasn’t very good, as much as it is that he was playing about 4 minutes per game more than he should have been. After the team was decimated with injuries early on, he went from third pairing minutes against lower-tier opposition; to averaging 19 minutes per game against the best players on the other side each and every night. The results were, well, as we would expect.
The fact of the matter is, there probably isn’t a hockey player on this planet who could have salvaged this team’s defense corps last season after the injuries started to happen. It was a group that had a lot of “maybe” tied to it at the start of the season, and it felt like a tough veteran like Gudbranson could help turn a lot of those maybes into on-ice results. Unfortunately, it all fell apart.
Prediction #2: Chinakhov improves vastly, and Marchenko gets Calder love…
You can hate on me if you want, but I’m calling this one a partial win. Marchenko finished third amongst NHL rookies with 21 goals, while playing in at least 22 fewer games than everyone else in the top-5. He didn’t get enough Calder love, but I think most of you will agree that he definitely earned some.
Chinakhov is probably the more contentious of my predictions here, because I’ll actually argue that Yegor was primed for a strong season before he went down to injury. He scored 4 goals and 13 points in 30 games – roughly a 36 point pace over a full 82-game season. He basically matched his totals from last year in half the games, while being a much more noticeable two-way player for the Jackets.
His -6 rating was the best of any Jacket skater who played in more than 16 games this season, and he was scoring at roughly the same pace as Gustav Nyquist. Quietly, he was emerging as a very good middle-six player, and I’m expecting him to break out in a big way next season.