OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 22: Antoine Vermette #50 of the Columbus Blue Jackets falls to the ice in front of Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on October 22, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
This is the worst start the Blue Jackets have ever had, in every sense of the word.
Other teams seem so patient with and without the puck, and the Jackets always look like they're just waiting to react to the play, or scrambling to recover from the previous play. Are they thinking too much or not enough? Does a trade need to occur to shake things up, or do you believe this group of players can still be good enough to get through this? Playoffs or not, you can't have a group of guys that won't fight for each other, and this team has certainly lost its way. Did they ever have a way?
A quick look at some numbers:
6: Injured Reserve - Jeff Carter, Marc Methot, Radek Martinek, Mark Dekanich, Curtis Sanford, Jared Boll
8: Games missed due to suspension for James Wisniewski
0: Goals scored by Antoine Vermette, R.J. Umberger, Jeff Carter, Fedor Tyutin, Grant Clitsome, Ryan Johansen and seven others
3.53: Steve Mason's goals against average
2.13: Goals scored per game
8.8: Power play percentage
69.2: Penalty kill percentage
Now with the bad out of the way, let's start focusing on what the next step needs to be to make their way out of this hole.
Two players that impressed me in Detroit and Ottawa were Johansen and Derick Brassard. They hit, they passed, and they created scoring chances. I hope to continue seeing both in the top six. I think Scott Arniel should give the lines he rolled in Ottawa another game or two to develop, they made sense on a lot of levels. When Carter returns, shift Umberger or Vermette to the third line.
First, I want to say he had a pretty solid effort in Detroit and Ottawa, but the bottom line is "pretty solid" for the big guy isn't good enough. When he started throwing the body and playing a little reckless in Detroit, he started looking like the dominating Nash that we have seen in international competitions. When he started circling the ice holding onto the puck, we saw the Nash that tries to do everything himself. I wish someone would sit him down and show him video side by side of his play for Team Canada and his play for the Blue Jackets. Regardless of his linemates, I think a lot of his issues start with the way he chooses to play.
The Steve Mason Situation™ is a catch-22. No good goalie can give up over 3.5 goals per game and expect to win (or be considered good). However, the defense in front of Mason has included Kris Russell, John Moore, David Savard and Aaron Johnson. Not exactly an All-Star cast. Mason made some big saves against Ottawa. He needs to continue making those saves and more. The more big stops he gets, the more confidence players in front of him will have. Less scrambling in front of the net will result in less goals like the two we saw the Senators score in the final minute of play on Saturday.
Yeah, I know the team has a lot of players out right now. But at the start of the season the team was only really missing Wisniewski. The power play has actually been much better the last few games, but still needs to make up for starting 1-for-26.
So what will it take?