The 41-game mark is upon us, and with that comes the Columbus Blue Jackets mid-season review. There is plenty to talk about at this point, sitting inside the top three of the Metropolitan Division. Despite that, there are plenty of bad and even ugly topics that need to be talked about.
Columbus Blue Jackets Mid-Season Review: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Blue Jackets are currently sitting in the top three of the Metro. This is, in large part, due to the strong start to the season they had. Veteran goalie Sergei Bobrovsky started the season hot and seems to be recovering from a rough patch. Now if only the powerplay could do the same.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly at the Blue Jackets mid-season point.
Regardless of how pessimistic some Columbus hockey fans can be, there is still plenty of good going on in the 614. The Jackets currently occupy a playoff spot, and they are even five points clear of the first team outside of the playoffs.
One of the best things this season has been the play of young defenseman Markus Nutivaara. Nutivaara was a question mark coming into the season, with many questioning who would be the odd-man-out between Ryan Murray, Gabriel Carlsson, Scott Harrington and Nutivaara.
Despite the question mark coming from his less-than-stellar rookie campaign, Nutivaara has hit the ground running this season. He has been one of the most consistent performers throughout the first 41 games, and he has even seen time on the top pairing when Zach Werenski was out injured.
If Nutivaara emerging as a solid candidate for a long-term top four defenseman doesn’t lift your spirits, nothing will.
The Danish Sniper
Another ray of light this season has been the consistency on which Oliver Bjorkstrand is laying his foundation. There was no doubt in the past that he has plenty of talent to be a full-time NHL forward, but he was never able to match that promise with consistency. He has been able to do that so far this season.
Bjorkstrand finding his feet has been pivotal as of late with multiple key names on the injured reserve. And despite a few rough patches, ones that will surely smooth out with more playing time, he has been quite good. Bjorkstrand is showcasing that with the fact that he currently sits second on Columbus in points and is on pace to break the 50-point mark.
Panarin Continues to Produce
Unsurprisingly, the best individual this season has been one of the newest members: Artemi Panarin. There were questions around the league on whether he would continue to produce in Columbus. His 10 goals and 24 assists to this point has pretty well put those questions to bed.
Aside from individuals, the best thing to say is that the Blue Jackets look to be a playoff team once again. When you are taking points from teams like the Dallas Stars without three of your top nine forwards and a lack of experienced depth, you know you have something good going.
Whether or not that is good enough to finally win a playoff series remains to be seen. None the less, there is plenty of good to go around after 41 games.
The first thing that could be said here is how disappointing of a season some of the veteran players have had. For instance, young and experienced forward Boone Jenner has not looked like himself this season.
On top of Jenner having a short stint on the injury list, his production has not been where it needs to be at this point. Jenner only has four goals and eight assists in his 34 games, a pace that wouldn’t even see him break the 30-point mark over a full season. And when you take into account that he broke the 30-goal mark just two seasons prior, it makes this one all the much harder to stomach.
Another name that has been rather disappointing this season is that of Gabriel Carlsson. While expectations of Carlsson were very obviously much lower than Jenner, he was being touted as a solid shutdown defenseman to slot into the third pairing with fellow Finn Nutivaara. This has not been the case.
Carlsson has played in only 14 games for Columbus to this point, producing two assists in the process. His -2.96 Relative Corsi-For Percentage and 47.99 Corsi For, paired with his 99.9 PDO, make for a disappointing season for the Finn.
While this first half of a first season has been subpar, he still has age and time on his side. It would be less than surprising to see Carlsson improve on these performances in the second half of this season and into future seasons as well.
Columbus on the Powerplay
What comes to your mind when you think of the word ugly paired with the Blue Jackets? That’s right, the powerplay. In a surprising twist from last season, the Jackets have been utterly ineffective on the man advantage.
There has been countless conversations and articles out there on this topic and how it can be sorted out. But when you have an 11.7% on the powerplay through 41 games, there is really only one direction to go: up.
The Buffalo Sabres were thought to be one of the least effective in the league in this aspect, and even they are a few percent ahead at 12.7% on the season. The next closest team is the Chicago Blackhawks, at 15.0% on the season.
This article is not going to even attempt to figure out what is going wrong, just merely reminding you of how bad it has been to this point. It can only get better, right?
To look at individuals, the ugly has come in the form of the half seasons of David Savard and Nick Foligno. Both were and still are looked at as leaders. Now it is time for them to translate that into their play.
Unlike others mentioned, Foligno does not get the benefit of the doubt with having injury issues hamper his play. Foligno has played in every game to this point and only has seven goals and seven assists to his name.
Combine that with the -3.94 Relative Corsi-For Percentage he currently has, and you have the making for a rather ugly first half of a season.
As for Savard, he has only missed a single game. Savard has long been thought as the load carrier on the second pairing with Jack Johnson. This has not been the case this season. You can forgive his eight points over 40 games, but his -7.57 Rel.CF% and 46.28 CF% make the season look a lot worse.
Mid-Season Report Card
There are a lot of things to take into account when giving Columbus a mid-season grade. They have been hit with the injury bug, been without some key players and cannot seem to get going on the man advantage.
Taking all that into account, and taking the high expectations heading into the season into account as well, there is much to improve on.
Overall, this has not necessarily been a disappointing first half of the season, but the veterans will need to get themselves in gear come the end of the season if Columbus wants to maintain their playoff spot and find some success thereafter.
Mid-Season Grade: B-