The Columbus Blue Jackets season has really sucked so far, and for all sorts of reasons. The defense has been (probably rightfully) been called out as pathetic, porous, and generally ineffective. Steve Mason has been identified as both the biggest problem and sucker behind that defense. I'm honestly not sure which it is at this point, but he's not exactly helping matters.
But one area that continues to confuse me is overall offensive production. Currently, the Blue Jackets sit at 2.27 goals per game. Last year, the Jackets had a whole-season 2.56 goals per game total. While that ranked lower in the NHL, there has been a decrease in goals per game - and if not for the games against Ottawa and Detroit, the total would only be 2.00 goals per game. That's certainly not going to win many games.
So where is the offense? Should it actually be this bad? I'd like to think it shouldn't, and player history suggests things will turn around (even if not totally).
One of the most useful ways to determine "typical" production out of a player is to visit the infinite time-sink (in the best way) that is Hockey-Reference.com. Beyond all the tables and lists and general insight, individual players each have a page full of information about their points, adjusted points, and other information. A typical page can be found here.
I submit that a good point of comparison for a player against himself can be seasonal vs. career goals, assists, and points per game data. Admittedly, it can be difficult to use these totals as players grow up, grow old, or move to different teams, but this gives some insight into how relatively good or bad a particular season has been. For the Blue Jackets, I think this type of comparison is even more useful - much of the forward core remains constant from last year.
Thus, I decided to compile all this information and see just how far off the forwards have been from their career norms. This looks at the career and current production in each area, followed by the difference between the current and career. Click on the image if you'd like a bigger/clearer look at the table.
Of course, this is a slightly flawed approach with only 11 games played. And it's even more problematic for players like Carter and Calvert who have been dealing with injury and haven't played in all 11 games. And for Calvert in particular, his averages are based on 48 total games. But it gives us a baseline to deal with. So where do things stand right now?
Umberger and Vermette - not shocking to anybody watching, these guys are having poor seasons in overall production. It's actually pretty hard to say which one is more disappointing. Umberger's lowest season total goals per game was 07-08 in Philly with 0.18 goals per game, or double what his pace is right now. Vermette's lowest goals per game was his first NHL season 03-04 with 0.12 goals per game. Not only is this frustrating for both players, it's unprecedented in their careers.
Brassard - Brass is having a typical season thus far in goal production, but has really slipped in assists per game. In fact, except for a brief NHL appearance in 07-08, Brassard was good for at least 0.34 assists per game. This is quite a step back and even more confusing given all his time with Prospal and Nash. But it is certainly off from a typical Brassard year.
Prospal - Prospal is having his best production per game since his 07-08 time in Tampa. However, this is due to a goals per game production that is much higher than his average year. He's never had a full season with a goals per game over 0.41, so it's difficult to believe that his current production can last all year.
Optimism: Hope for Regression - This all looks fairly bleak with such pathetic production, but can we manage to extract any positive details? I would like to believe that we can, and we have to hope for regression to kick in. No, not that regression: statistical regression. There's a reason to look at per-game averages. It provides perspective as to where each player should be playing.
I find it extremely difficult to believe that Umberger, Vermette, Brassard, and Carter will all manage to under-produce for the full season. It's also tough to believe that most of the secondary scoring will also play below their norms. Will they necessarily correct over the remaining games and get back to average production for the whole season? Probably not entirely (these are bad starts, after all). But will their production pick up and get them closer to their career norms? It should be expected as they regress back to their averages. This means the Blue Jackets should pick up scoring as individuals and as a team, even if it's too late to really save the season.