Here's a look at where the Columbus Blue Jackets stand in some statistical categories as of this afternoon:
Point Percentage (points earned/possible points): 56.6% for 15th in the league
This is a fairly good standing for a team that is supposedly ranked near the bottom 3 in the league in various power rankings. This means that CBJ are right in the middle of the pack. There is obviously room for improvement, but the season is certainly not over. Quite a few teams in the West are behind us (Phoenix, Chicago, and Anahiem - all teams that normal perception would place ahead of CBJ).
Goals Per Game: 2.55 for 23rd in the league
This is a clear weak point and something that would seem to free the defence from some responsibility. Much of the pre-season complaining was in the lack of top defenders for the Jackets. Instead, we should have been worrying about finishers and scorers. Rick Nash is doing well (tied for 7th in goals), but the other players need to step up. Maybe another playmaker would help Nash produce further, but I believe that relying on Umberger as the 2nd highest scorer on the team is pretty pathetic. He's good, but not an elite goal source.
Shots Per Game: 29.7 (20th in the league) Shots Against Per Game: 30.5 (18th in the league)
These are strange stats this year with the Devils ranking 2nd in Shots Against but near the bottom in goals against per game. This combines with Mason's strong stats when facing high numbers of shots to leave few conclusions. Obviously people here and elsewhere have called for the Jackets to shoot more, but it's hard to say if that will result in significant improvements. Our winning percentage is similar for outshooting vs being outshot (52.6% when we shoot more, 58.8 when they shoot more), and isn't very revealing.
Goals Against per Game: 2.87 for 20th in the league
Another weak point, but not nearly as poor as the ranking would suggest. Removal of the various blowout games would drastically improve this category, and 10th overall (Washington) in team defence is only at 2.62 GA/G. Defence is still not great for the Jackets, but it doesn't seem to be the statistical blame. Individual games may vary, but it would appear the scoring is more a problem.
Special Teams: Powerplay at 12.4% (29th in the league); Penalty Kill at 80.4% (21st in the league)
These are some problem areas, particularly when the new coaching staff was supposed to bring the man-advantage to a higher level. The lack of scoring likely contributes to the PP category, thus giving CBJ a double-dip of problems. PK does reveal more problems with the defence, and this is a point of real concern.
Winning Percentage when Scoring First: 87.5% for 2nd in the league
This is something extremely encouraging and a sign that the Jackets need to get that first goal. This is especially true, given that the winning percentage when trailing first is 27.3%. Not worst in the league, but still nothing we want to deal with. Every point matters and it would appear that getting the first goal is crucial.
What are my conclusions? The Jackets need to score. This seems like an obvious hockey statement, but it's especially true for a team that has such a terrible powerplay and low goals per game. While defence still isn't rock-solid, the problem this year (in my estimation) is the offence. If the team picked up another scoring threat, the powerplay likely goes up, the first goals probably increase, and that can probably get to more victories.
How do the Jackets get more scoring? I think there are options here. One choice is to more fully convert Brassard to a shooting player. His past actions indicate a playmaking style and much conversation seems to suggest the team is pushing Brass to shoot. Perhaps that will help. Another is to "fix" Filatov in the minors and get him back in a sniper role. He is supposed to be a goal scorer and he needs to get going to be of value to the Jackets. A final choice is to ship in a new scorer or setup man. The Jackets clearly need a more consistent offensive player besides Nash, but it's hard to say who that would be. Obviously something like this screams "Brad Richards," but everyone will be trying to pick him up.
The season is clearly not over, and the coaching staff is still "new." I like where we stand right now, but the Jackets need to pick up the scoring before the team can become a true threat to the top West teams. I suspect we can pull into the playoffs anyway with the return to Huselius and a calm Mason, but insurance and a chance of playoff victory would be something very exciting.
Happy New Year to everyone, and here's hoping the Jackets keep rolling!