What the Blue Jackets almost promised to be and what they actually are appears to be in contrast with each other. We’re all slowly starting to realize that the team is good, but still a while away from being really good or even great.
If we take a step back from the madness that was a 5 game losing streak after they opened the season 5-5-0 with the momentum going and looking like a threat in the Metropolitan Division, we can examine the team with an objective viewpoint.
Before the season began I was expecting the move from the Western Conference to the East to be an easy transition. The Western Conference is already considered the best conference in the league as most of the teams have an identity built around size and skill while the Eastern Conference concentrates on speed and explosiveness to win games. The data backs up the claims that the West is the best. On Monday the Eastern Conference was 40-57-16 as a collective against the Western Conference teams. (Fact: The only team in the East that is undefeated against the West is the Tampa Bay Lightning with six wins. The only team in the West with a losing record against the East is the Edmonton Oilers who are 4-9-1 against the East.)
The lockout shortened season forced teams to play in-Conference for the entire season until the Stanley Cup Finals, which ended up being a pretty exciting season. The Jackets were one point away from their second playoff berth in team history. The fire they had last season and their performance in the final two months leading up to the playoffs was historic even if we didn’t get to watch them in their underdog fight into the playoffs.
These facts combined left most of us believing this would be a good season for Columbus. But so far it isn’t. However, the team has some really good things going for it right now. We’re in the Metropolitan Division which is the worst in the league. If the Jackets find themselves clicking like they did last season then they could find themselves in an easy playoff position.
Plus, we have a few things to be grateful for, namely Ryan Murray. A good defensive player doesn’t always let everyone know he is there through his offensive production but there are stats that provide a closer look of how good player is. For example, this season when Ryan Murray is on the ice during typical even strength situations, his team is shooting more pucks at their opponents. The stat I’m referring to is called Corsi. A shot on net, blocked or missed is a Corsi.
Murray’s Corsi For is 236 and Corsi Against is 211 at even strength this season. That means that the Blue Jackets have taken 236 shots while Murray was on the ice. If we give it a percentage his CF% (Corsi For percentage) is 52.8%.
Typically, when a team handles the majority of the offense, specifically shots taken, they end up with more goals scored. This isn’t always the case, but over the course of a season teams with the better CF% hold the better places in the standings.
Ryan Murray is a 20 year-old defenseman. It’s the most difficult position to play but he is playing it effectively at the highest level of competitiveness in the world.
Murray’s driven praise from John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen. JD said in an interview that he’s never seen a 20 year-old defenseman skate as well as he does. (Had to paraphrase quote because the interview never made it to the internet archives.) I don’t have enough experience with the game itself to make such a statement. However I am impressed by his ability to remain poised and he generally makes the smart play even when the pressure is high.
Another positive thing this team has to look forward to is the St. Louis Blues. JD and Jarmo were big pieces to the Blues front office that drafted David Backes and built the core of one of the best teams in the league this season. Whatever the Blues end up doing this season they have found themselves as one of the favorites to win the Cup.
The Blue Jackets have also just had one of their best drafts in their short history. Oliver Bjorkstrand was drafted this year and is currently third overall in points in the WHL and Kerby Rychel is likely to have another appearance at the World Junior Championships.
Then there is Ryan Johansen. He is going to be a star in this league. It took him a few years in the NHL but the 21 year-old is finally starting to get comfortable playing at this level. He has 11 points in 16 games which leaves him tied with Marian Gaborik this season.
I know that there are those of us who get down about the team when it isn’t succeeding, especially when we think the team should be. However, it’s worth pointing out that the end is near and the Blue Jackets are going to be a really good team soon. They still have a chance to turn it around this season especially in the Metropolitan Division.
If they don’t we still have a bright future to look ahead to.