This is for you fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets (are there any out there?) I sent a few comments and questions to the central Ohio expert on ice hockey, Scott Morris (“Pilly Puck”), and he came back with a great analysis. I thought it was worth sharing with others. Read below:
DZ Sokol Comments/Questions
I was checking out the CBJ stats… Nash looks like he’s averaging almost 1 point/game; that’s the right pace for the team leader. However, everyone else appears to be far behind (except Brassard with 25 points in 31 games and a +12).
Interesting to note the far different +/- stats for defensemen Hejda .vs. Russell (+21 versus -11 !!!). It also appears that Hejda logs the most minutes on the ice… I assume that Russell brings some intangibles to the team?
Jason Williams scored the winning goal, but his stats for winning face-offs is really poor (0%). It appears that Malhotra is the go-to-guy for face-off (72%).
I do like this superstat sheet that include hits, takeaways, etc. Based on 1 game’s data, it appears that Commodore and Hejda are the defensive hitters and shot blockers, while Nash and Umberger are the poke checkers…
Is Filatov back at Syracuse again?
Is it safe to say that Boll and Torres play on a 4th line that plays every other shift?
Is Brassard done for the year?
Why don’t they keep LaCosta in the lineup as the backup for the rest of the year?
Pilly Puck Analysis & Comments
Nash is on pace to have his best season ever. The thing that has made this Jackets’ team the best in their franchise history is their depth. In the past they were a team that could really only roll out one or two lines that could be counted on for offensive chances and defensive responsibility. This year they have 3 or 4 solid lines on any given night. And for the first time ever they actually have secondary scoring which has allowed them to stay in the playoff hunt despite a lot of hardships that include a ton of injuries (i.e. Torres, Brassard, Klesla, Chimera, Leclaire, etc. (and that doesn’t even count Modin who has played despite having several broken toes that prevented him from even practicing)).
In the past the Jackets have followed Nash – if Nash was successful they were successful, if Nash was in a slump they were in a slump and if Nash was injured they were screwed. This year they have played through a Nash injury (when he was out for 4 – 5 games) and they won a majority of those games. Not only that, when Nash and “Juice” (Kristian Huselius – nicknamed “Juice” because he looks like Beetlejuice) go through slumps, as they have lately, the team doesn’t suffer much. That’s because of the secondary scoring. It comes from the Syracuse callups, Manny, Voracek, Chimera, Murray and even Boll. The key thing is that it has come when they needed it. They’ve never had a distribution in scoring like this. Even the defense are helping out (and that says a lot because the CBJ have never had any real offensive-minded defensemen). Defenseman, Mike Commodore has 19 career goals in 8 NHL seasons but has 5 of those as a Jacket in just over half a season.
Acquiring Jan Hejda is one of Howson’s more shrewd moves. Howson got him fairly cheap and signed him for a few additional seasons at a very good price and Hejda has proven to be one of their more solid d-men over two seasons. “Little Shake” (Russell – nicknamed because he’s a little guy and drinks a lot of power shakes), although his +/- sucks right now, is one of the Jackets’ most dynamic young players. Despite his size, he plays a solid positional game and has been compared to Scott Niedermayer ever since he was a Junior player. Russell is one of the fastest skaters on the team and is able to transition the puck as well as any of their players. He’s still a very young player (21 yrs. old) and can make that first pass out of the defensive zone or, if given a few feet of space, can take a mile. Watch Russell carefully – his skating is poetry in motion. Although he doesn’t have a strong shot from the point, he can sneak in and creates a lot of chances on the backdoor. Despite his numbers several teams were interested in his services over the last few months but Howson wouldn’t deal him and I’m glad that he didn’t.
Williams is a forward that can play center or wing. I don’t know how many draws he’s taken but I know he’s played on the wing some. Manny is their best faceoff guy and one of the best in the league. That’s what makes him such a valuable penalty-killer. He’s usually in the top 5 in the league in faceoff wins.
Commodore and Hejda are the Jackets’ top shutdown D-pair. They check, block a lot of shots (Commodore wears special protectors around his ankles to provide additional protection beyond his shin-pads) and kill penalties. They play a real Hitchcock style of defense.
Filatov is in Syracuse. He’s had an injury and they want to be careful with him and develop him the right way. They’ve been accused of rushing their young talent. That was GM MacLean’s biggest criticism – that he rushed the young, hot talent to the league too fast and didn’t develop the guys in the minors (e.g. Klesla and Brule). Howson has a long term vision and is patient. He’s willing to wait and doesn’t want to just get the CBJ in the playoffs at the sacrifice of their future. He was an assistant GM in Edmonton. Despite Edmonton’s success and devoted fan base, they are a small market team and have to be managed as such. They can’t go after the high-end talent and have to grow it from within. So, he’s got a good background in managing small market clubs.
Boll and Torres are key 3rd / 4th line guys. They bring a lot of energy and play a heavy / “weighty” (Hitchcock term) style of play. Torres hasn’t played much this year due to injuries but has a lot of abilities. He was in Edmonton with Peca (and Howson) when they were one game away from winning the cup and eventually lost to Carolina. Boll is an upgrade from Shelley. He actually can skate, handle the puck and can find the back of the net or provide the occasional assist.
Brassard suffered a separated shoulder against Dallas in December. He’s done for the year. It’s sad really because he was the first, true playmaking center the Jackets’ have had. His skating is superb, his hands are beautiful and he was beginning to develop real chemistry with Nash. Honestly, when he went down I thought they were done. I never dreamed that they would persist and fight the way they have, especially with all the injuries they have sustained. That really speaks to their internal depth and the job Howson has done in drafting and growing the right kind of talent. All good small market teams must be able to draw from their own well…
The goaltenders have done a nice job for the CBJ. Columbus has probably used / started more goalies than any other team. Mason appears to be healthy now and they recently acquired Wade Dubielewicz off waivers (I believe from the Islanders) when Leclaire shut it down for the season. Wade is a more seasoned goalie that they claimed for money, while LaCosta is still a young goalie with only 2 career starts. Although LaCosta looked great in his starts they have their starter (Mason) and their backup (Dubielewicz) and want to grow LaCosta (and not pay him a rookie salary) so they sent him back down.
The future looks bright. People have talked about a future Vorcek, Brassard, Filatov line and salivated.