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Looking back

April 8, 2006

It’s getting to that point in the season where the non-playoff teams look back and wonder what happened. For the Blue Jackets, there are a lot of things to ponder. What could have been? A quick glance states that maybe we’re not far off from where we should be (okay, maybe a little behind).

In his blog, James Mirtle uses the 95 point line as that which a team will need to reach in order to make the post-season. So many people involved with Blue Jackets media have stated how well the team has played since the return of Rick Nash from injury. While Nash was out with various leg injuries to start the season, the team was averaging 0.58 points per game. For those of you who are not big hockey fans, this refers to standing points, not goals scored. For each win (regulation/overtime/shootout), a hockey team receives two points; for each overtime or shootout loss, a team receives one point, and for a regulation loss there is the lovely zero. This runs out to about 48 points on the season. With Rick Nash returning on December 17, the Jackets have fared much better and are averaging 1.11 points per game. This projects to a 91 point season. Columbus fans would likely be ecstatic with such results. Obviously, Nash makes a big difference in how this team plays, but I would like readers to see beyond the initial results, and look at a few other statistics.

Looking at the season to date, the Jackets have amassed losing streaks of greater than four games five times. The Blue Jackets have only been able to win multiple games (two or more in a row) eight times all year. I would go so far as to define a winning streak as four wins or more (two shouldn’t be that hard, and three shouldn’t be unheard of). The team has only managed two all year. While Nash may drive the bus, the team as a whole has been maddeningly inconsistent. The team needs the younger players (Nash, Klesla, Leclaire, Denis) to step up and help this team be more consistent on the ice. Foote and Fedorov can only do so much. A level head and steady effort will do more than anything to improve this team. They have shown in their recent seven game point streak that they have the character and grit it takes, as they’ve come from behind in each of seven games to garner at least one point (including twice coming back from three goals down in Detroit). What needs to change is the attitude when the team loses a game or two.

Losses will happen in hockey. There has not been a perfect 82-0 season, yet. The Avalance, a team that will likely be somewhere between the fifth and eighth seed in the Western Conference (read: good enough to make it there, but not the best team in the league), have had only three losing streaks of three games each. No four plus streaks to be had. It’s the consistency that will get this team to the playoffs, and it’s consistency that the Columbus squad lacks.

If the team can make a 60 minute effort each night out, they will be competing against all teams in the NHL. The Jackets have the requisite skill to make the jump, but do they have the will? My next column will examine the potential roster for next season, and look at the pros and cons of each player going into the 2006-07 season.

I’d like to give a quick thanks to the website Abel to Yzerman for linking to my last story on my experience at Joe Louis Arena. I look forward to expanding my footprint in the hockey blogging world. Thanks again a2y!

Thanks for reading, come back soon. As always, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.

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3 comments

  1. OK.

    Assuming that Columbus’ problem is not lack of talent, and instead lack of consistency, then who is to blame? Everyone always points the quick finger at injury.

    Injuries plague every team, however, most other teams have other moderately superstar players that can step up in the absence of a Rick Nash or an Adam Foote because they are more well-balanced. For the Jackets, no one has really done that. OK, except maybe Duvie Westcott who is totally underrated and rules.

    Moreover, it’s got to be difficult to show up 100% every night when your goto guys are injured or not playing up to their potential (cough, Sergei Federov, who is 9th overall in average ice time and has under 10 goals on the season and admittedly has difficulty playing with Nash).

    We have no players within the top 30 in scoring or defense, and no rookies that have made a significant difference either. I mean, Jody Shelly can’t even hold onto a top 10 PIM spot.

    The coaching can’t be helping. No well-coached team is never this inconsistent. I’m not in the locker room, however, something needs to be happening in there that currently is not. We have these players that we’re promised will be good (Brule, Zherdev, Vyborny, Fritche) so, why not find someone that can effing coach them to their potential?!

    Yeah, as a fan it’s frustrating.


  2. I’ll moderately agree with you here, Kristine.

    Who is to blame? I say, the players. They deserve to be held accountable for what NHL caliber players should be able to do on a semi-consistent basis. St. Louis aside, I don’t believe that any team in the league qualifies as absolutely horrible (maybe Washington without Ovechkin, but anyways…). Injuries do plague every other team, but I’d wager that not many teams got hit quite as hard as the CBJ did this year. By mid-November we had passed the 40 player mark, when you should probably be at about 26. When lines are shifting on a game-to-game basis, it’s hard to build the consistency needed to compete at this level. If you stick anyone on an unfamiliar line for a game or two, he’s probably not going to do as well as he would if he were with them for 15-20 games in a row.

    Your Fedorov comment made me think. At 36, why do we expect excelling point production from him? Sure, I’d expect double or more what he has (as I’m sure you’d agree). Is it possible that the time off the ice hurt his play? I was more happy that Sergei was coming to town to help out Zherdev (who will be an offensive force in the league for years to come) and create some accountability in that young man’s game. Seeing Zherdev forecheck, backcheck, and even *gasp* pass the puck has been thrilling for me. I have confidence that #91 has helped him in these regards. And you have to admit that Fedorov’s ice-time is slightly inflated over your average NHL-er. He plays on the #1 forward line, gets mucho power play time (on a team that has maybe four forward showing they belong on the PP), and on the penalty kill (for a franchise that spends way too much time on the PK).

    I wouldn’t read too much into the stats, as far as not having any league leaders on our team. When you’re not winning, that’s how it goes. We won’t have offensive leaders until we can get two full skill lines rolling and some more power play time for said gentlemen. As for Jody Shelley not getting his PIM’s, I think Jan Hrdina is making up the balance. That man is a human penalty machine.

    Coaching.. eh… I don’t know how I feel about this. Sooner or later, the CBJ will break away from someone who has been there “from the beginning” (and isn’t one of MacLean’s dudes), and then I’ll see how I feel. I think Gallant has done an okay job considering the (here it comes) injuries his team has had to deal with this year. Let’s give him at least one more year and see if he can turn a reasonably healthy team into a winner.


  3. I’m beginning to think that Old Man McConnell has to die before McLean is weaned from his trusting teat and any changes are made in the front office.

    I mean, 1996 was ten years ago.

    Come on, now.

    P.S. Brendan Shanahan is also 36 and last time I checked had 245 shots on goal this season. : ) (other obvious factors aside)–>



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