Editor’s note: this article was penned for release Friday, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to get it posted over the weekend. The statistics in the article below do not include this weekend’s games.
The Blue Jackets are not off to a good start this season. They have a 4-9-4 record, which is good for 12 points. That is good for last in the Metropolitan Division, last in the Eastern Conference, and 5th to last in the entire NHL. They are in the midst of a 7 game losing streak and have lost 11 of their last 12 games. With all the hope of improvement this season, why is this team still not performing well?
Taking a deeper look at the last 12 games, we do see a trend. The average margin of loss is 1.45 goals and 7 of those 11 losses have been by 1 goal. The Blue Jackets have led in 9 of those 11 losses. That means that the Blue Jackets are playing close games. While a loss is a loss, these losses look better than the losses last season when the CBJ were hemorrhaging goals. The Blue Jackets just haven’t found ways to maintain leads or to come back from deficits.
One of the biggest deficiencies of this season’s team is the lack of offense. The CBJ have 46 goals for this season (21st in the NHL) and have a power play percentage of 11.3% (28th in the NHL). Unless you have a hall-of-fame goaltender who is shutting teams out consistently, you won’t win many games if you don’t score some goals. The two leading point getters on the roster are defensemen (Provorov and Werenski). While that’s all well-and-good to have defensemen that contribute offensively, it points to a bigger issue: the forwards are not producing. While every forward has had issues this season, the most concerning are the two best forwards on the team: Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau currently sits with 6 points in 17 games (12th on the team in points) and Laine has 3 points in 8 games (18th on the team in points). For being the highest paid (Gaudreau – $9.75 mil) and 3rd highest paid (Laine – $8.7 mil) players on the team, that is not good enough. These two players have played so poorly that Head Coach Pascal Vincent has benched them on multiple occasions. That is very concerning and is unacceptable. Gaudreau and Laine need to step it up and earn their paychecks.
In all fairness to Laine, he missed 9 games with an upper body injury. So, he is not directly involved in all the losses. But what’s sad is whether he is in the lineup or not hasn’t made a difference. In the games that he has played, we haven’t seen much of an improvement of offensive production or offensive chances. It’s as if he is still missing. That is what’s most troubling with Patrik Laine.
While Boone Jenner is a good role model and fine captain, the leadership of this team has been lacking. Typically, your best players lead your team and drag others into the fight. Not this team. From their body language, the CBJ’s best players don’t seem to be interested in winning. When an athlete gets in a rut, you usually see some kind of urgency to get back on track. I have yet to see any urgency from this team, especially its top players.
Unless some magical switch is flipped soon, this team is not going to be a playoff team and won’t be playing meaningful hockey late into the season. The 5th line deserves better than that. Fans show up to games, even when there isn’t much to play for. The players should do the same: show up in all the games.