The Columbus Blue Jackets have had an up-and-down December in regards to results. However, when you look at the number of man games lost, this month is surely one to forget. The losses of players and games have made for some winners and losers. Let’s take a look at the Blue Jackets winners and losers of December 2017.
Columbus Blue Jackets Winners and Losers: December 2017
While the Blue Jackets did not have the most prosperous end to 2017, one player continued to impress. That player would be none other than defenseman Markus Nutivaara. Nutivaara stepped into the first pairing alongside Seth Jones during Zach Werenski‘s absence and performed admirably.
While he did not light up the stat sheet, he was solid in possession and cut down on the giveaways. He had points in five games during the month, tallying one goal and four assists. This brought his tallies on the season to two goals and 12 assists respectively.
On top of the base numbers, the deeper numbers show how well he has done this season, and in December as well. Nutivaara is currently sporting a 2.51 Relative Corsi-For Percentage (Rel.CF%), good for sixth on the Columbus roster.
It is safe to say that Nutivaara is proving to be a true top six defenseman in the NHL, and one the Blue Jackets can rely upon when injuries arise.
The Russian affectionately referred to as “The Breadman” has proven to be vital to any success Columbus has had this season. Panarin has got his skates going, and he looked fantastic throughout the month of December.
He started the month with a three-point game against Anaheim and did not stop there. He would end up having points in 18 of the Blue Jackets games during the month, tallying five goals and 13 assists during the month. This puts him just below a point-per-game pace.
For an organization that was previously lacking a player worthy of being called a franchise player, this no longer seems to be the case. Panarin has picked up where he left off in Chicago and has proven that he can continue to produce at a top level without Patrick Kane skating with him.
While Murray does make the list of losers, it is not due to bad play. This is due to Murray still being unable to shake the injury bug that has been plaguing his still young NHL career.
The biggest loss for Murray is that he was not able to take advantage of the absence of Werenski to possibly see top pairing minutes with Jones, someone who he has been paired with in the past. This is due to the fact that Murray missed the entire month of December.
While Murray has not produced much in the way of points, with one goal and four assists in 24 games, he has been solid this season. This is showcased by his 52.8 Corsi-For Percentage and his 0.13 Rel.CF% this season.
Those may not be eye-popping numbers, but for someone who has struggled to find consistency, they show that he was playing well on the third pairing this season. But once again, Murray cannot seem to shake the injuries and loses out on some prime opportunities he could have had if he was healthy.
The Injury List
The month of December, as said multiple times, has been a tough one for the Blue Jackets. The biggest issue has been the loss of players like Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Zach Werenski for a period of time, and Ryan Murray.
These injuries have taken a major toll on the Jackets during the month. If you need any convincing of that fact, just take a look at their 6-9-0 record. This has seen them continue to slide down both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference standings.
If the Blue Jackets want to continue to be a contender in the Metro and the East, they are going to have to find a way to deal with the injuries, assess the apparent lack of experienced depth and win some games without their big names.