Perhaps a torch passing? Read on! (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
If you remember the bevy of posts I did last summer leading up to the season about numbers, you know how much I like to look at them and compare. None of these exploits are generally considered "scientific" because I don't get into as much of the minutiae as some will with respect to all of the real nitty-gritty kinds of numbers.
With this season now mercifully over, though, I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the numbers as they compare to recent years to see just how bad this season actually was. Forget the wins and losses (though, we'll look at those too, of course); just how much worse *was* this group?
First and foremost, let's do some quick hitters. We'll compare some stats from this year's team to those of the previous two seasons, which by most accounts were pretty disappointing in their own rights. Get your floaties on; we're diving into the deep end after the jump, so to speak.
Obviously, this is the bottom line. Overall, this year's club was the third-worst record in team history, though it took a crazy March rush to get above the bottom two. With that in mind, let's look at the overall team record, and the month-to-month records.
So, what do we see? This year's team actually wasn't *that* much worse than the previous two years, overall. First and foremost, this year's start was just so bad compared to the previous two years, that the team was so deep in a hole before they even knew what happened that it took all wind out of their sails. Also, they suffered from an inability to hang around later in close games, as evidenced by the higher number of regulation losses and lower number of extra-time games (13 this year compared to 23 the season before, and 20 two season prior).
However, in three seasons in which they were playing out the string late in the year, only this year do we see some moxie in March and April. Last season, there were legitimate playoff aspirations at the beginning of March, and the team folded. This year, of course, there was no pressure; but this team didn't quit. In fact, from February on, this year's team (16-15-1, 33 points, 1.03 ppg) was better than last year's (11-14-8, 30 points, 0.94 ppg) and basically on par with the year before's team (10-9-6, 26 pts, 1.04 ppg). The question is: what does that mean going forward?
This is a short one, but I think it warrants mentioning considering the shift in the roster late in the season as well as the coaching change. In a way, it's a pretty easy comparison, as both coaches got 41 games.
Under Scott Arniel: 11-25-5, 27 points, 0.66 ppg; 82-game projection: 22-50-10, 54 points
Under Todd Richards: 18-19-2, 38 points, 0.93 ppg; 82-game projection: 36-38-4, 76 points
Obviously, neither of those is good enough to be considered "good," but when one considers that Todd Richards dealt with easily as many injuries as did Arniel while also being challenged with motivating a team with nothing to play for as well as a disastrous public debacle around the trading deadline, Richards gets high marks for the team finishing the way they did. It's easy to say there was no pressure on the team, and it's true: they had nothing to lose. But, a lot of the teams they played down the stretch when they went 11-8-0 NEEDED those points, and the Jackets didn't roll over; in fact they denied a few teams some badly needed playoff points down the stretch. Two teams in "must-win" situations come to mind in late March: Carolina and Colorado. The Jackets not only beat both, but PUMMELED them to a combined total of 10-3. THAT counts for something.
This is the 10,000 foot view. How did the club do compared to previous years? We'll look at scoring, defense, special teams, faceoffs, goal differential, and overall PIMs.
|Goals For||198 / 2.41||210 / 2.56||214 / 2.61|
|Goals Against||257 / 3.13||250 / 3.05||249 / 3.04|
|Shots For||2454 / 29.9||2506 / 30.6||2338 / 28.5|
|Shots Against||2537 / 30.9||2447 / 29.8||2514 / 30.7|
|Shot Differential||-83 / -1.0||59 / 0.7||-176 / -2.1|
|PP%||49/317 - 15.5%||42/301 - 14.0%||56/308 - 18.2%|
|PK%||210/274 - 76.6%||252/314 - 80.2%||273/334 - 81.7%|
Some disturbing trends there, in terms of overall goal differential. They scored more PP goals this year, which tells you how much worse they were 5-on-5 than last year. That has to improve. The biggest issue was the PK. They actually managed to cut their times-shorthanded dramatically, and if you look at the trend over the past three seasons, they've gotten much better at staying out of the box overall. The issue? The PK was SO bad this year, that it killed them overall. They allowed two MORE goals on their PK this season than last season, while being shorthanded 40 FEWER times. That is, how you say, NOT GOOD TIMES. That alone was one of the biggest reasons this team struggled to win games; they simply could not kill off enough penalties.
It has been discussed before, but it's no secret that a lot of Jackets had career years in the wrong way. But, how bad was it? And, were there any bright spots?
|Goals Leader||Rick Nash, 30||Rick Nash, 32||Rick Nash, 33|
|Assists Leader||Vinny Prospal, 39||Rick Nash, 34||Kristian Huselius, 40|
|Points Leader||Rick Nash, 59||Rick Nash, 66||Rick Nash, 67|
|PIMs Leader||Derek Dorsett, 235||Derek Dorsett, 184||Jared Boll, 149|
|PPGs Leader||Jeff Carter, 8||R.J. Umberger, 8||Rick Nash, 10|
|PPAs Leader||Rick Nash, 13||Fedor Tyutin, 11||Anton Stralman, 18|
|SHGs Leader||Rick Nash/Derek MacKenzie, 2||R.J. Umberger, 3||Rick Nash/Antoine Vermette, 2|
|Wins Leader||Steve Mason, 16||Steve Mason, 24||Steve Mason, 20|
|GAA Leader||Allen York, 2.30||Mathieu Garon, 2.72||Mathieu Garon, 2.81|
|SV% Leader||Allen York, .920||Mathieu Garon, .901||Mathieu Garon, .903|
That's a lot to digest, I know. Honestly, other than a slight drop-off in Rick Nash's points, there is not a lot different in most of those stats. Well, and Derek Dorsett really going off on PIMs. The main problem was in the depth behind all of these stats. Let's take a look.
R.J. Umberger - He surged late to get to 20 goals yet again, but overall his year was a big step back. R.J. appeared to be battling some injuries, and that concussion mid-season was a killer. But, he had his worst year as a Jacket. His point total--40--was the third-lowest of his career, ahead of just his first two years in Philadelphia. He jumped down from a 25/32/57 season a year ago to a 20/20/40 season.
Antoine Vermette - Obviously, he's gone on to Phoenix, but it's not a coincidence that he was having a pretty dreadful year. Vermette was trending down in each of his three "full" seasons in Columbus. He went from 27/38/65 to 19/28/47 to 8/19/27 in 60 games this year. So, if this is a longer-term trend, perhaps Columbus got out from under a big contract in the nick of time.
Jeff Carter - I don't have much to say that hasn't been said already. Missed a lot of time, scored in bunches (eight of his 15 goals came in three games), but was absent a lot of the time and completely disengaged almost all of the time. A colossal flop. Good riddance.
Kristian Huselius - It's hard to even put him here, considering he played two games this year. But, the trend needs to be seen to really feel how bad it's been. The past three years for Juice: 74 games, 23/40/63; 39 games, 14/9/23; 2 games, 0/0/0. Vaya con Dios, Juice.
Steve Mason - I don't know what more needs to be said: career lows in starts, wins, and on top of that career worsts in save percentage (.894) and goals-against (3.39).
Derek MacKenzie - Don't get me wrong, I like DMac in the role of fourth line center, a lot. But, he took an overall step back in terms of numbers this year. He played in a career high of games (66), but saw his numbers decrease from last year's 9/14/23 in 63 games. This year, he had just 7/7/14, but it should be noted he was second in +/- this year only to Jack Johnson, who played just 20 games with the club.
Jared Boll - Not a good contract year for Boller, for sure. He played a career-low in games (54) while putting up just three points. Obviously you're not counting on him for points, but in this league now you need heavies that can also generate a little bit of offense at times. Boller didn't give the club much this year.
Derick Brassard - Hard to pick on Brass, given the fact that he fought through a position change, repeated scratches under Scott Arniel, and time on the fourth line. Through all of that, Brassard put up 14/27/41, which was only a slight step back from last season, where he had 17/30/47 in the same number of games.
Mark Letestu - Again, contextually, this is a tough one. But, in his second full season in the league, Letestu put up almost identical numbers, though it must be pointed out on a FAR worse team than in Pittsburgh. Last season in Pitt, he went 14/13/27 in 64 games. This year, combined, he played in 62 games and went 11/14/25. However, it should be noted that he played 11 games in Pittsburgh and had just one assist. He did the bulk of that work in 51 games with the Jackets, so his points-per-game trended up after coming over. That is probably because he got more time on scoring lines, but all in all it comes out in the wash.
Fedor Tyutin - He sneaks into this category barely. The main concern is that his games played and points were lows since coming to Columbus. He had only missed four games in three seasons, and then missed 16 this year. His point totals have also trended down, with 34-32-27-26. He makes it here, however, because that last number was truncated due to missing those games. His point-per-game total jumped back up this year.
Rick Nash - The Captain went through some ups and downs, to be sure. He got hot down the stretch after the insane trading deadline to reach 30 goals yet again, but his point total was the lowest since '06-'07, when he had just 57 points. Part of that was the complete and utter lack of any other scoring on this team hurting his assist totals. Part of it might also be that Nash is who he is: a 60-70 point guy for this team. His numbers may spike up on another team, should he be traded. But, it's clear that Nash is at his ceiling in Columbus without a HUGE boost in secondary scoring.
James Wisniewski - It's hard to hate too much, as suspension and many freak injuries limited Wiz to just 48 games on the season. However, in those 48 games he managed 27 points on 6G, 21A. That's close to the pace he put up in Montreal after being traded last year (43 games, 7/23/30), but a far cry from his 75 game, 51 point performance throughout the whole season last year. His points-per-game were down a smidge (from 0.68 to 0.56), but he also wasn't able to generate any kind of continuity. Let's hope he can stay healthier and in the lineup for closer to 70+ games next season, and see what he can do. It's also hard to overlook the leadership aspect that Wiz brings to a young D corps.
Vinny Prospal - Came back from a knee injury to play all 82 games, which in an of itself is a big step up. However, he almost matched his last full season's point total, with 55 points this year compared to 58 two years ago in New York in 75 games. Vinny's presence in the dressing room also played a huge role this year, and his alignment with this organization going forward is a big boost.
Jack Johnson - Numbers-wise, he was right around where he's been: He's played 82 games in two straight seasons, 80 in the season before that, and his numbers have been 36 pts, 42 pts, 38 pts. The big difference this year is his goal total shot up to 12, a career high. It should also be noted that he notched 14 points in 21 games in Columbus, compared to just 24 in 61 games in LA this year. Since the trade, Johnson was also +5 on a bad team, compared to -14 on a good team in LA. He credits it to the coaches here telling him to "be himself." He said after Saturday's game that in Columbus it's been the most fun he's had in professional hockey, and it should also be noted that another Jackets player referred to him as "Captain Jack" after that game. I'll let you read into that what you will.
Derek Dorsett - Consider this my serving of crow. I wrote before the season that Dorsett really wasn't needed here, but I'm happy to have been proven wrong. Dorse set career highs in games played (77), goals (12), and points (20), while also winning the PIMs title (235) and averaging almost 15 minutes of ice-time, another career high. He's one of the better PKers on this team, and his willingness to play hard all the time and come to the defense of any teammate at any time make him a perfect leadership candidate as this club moves forward.
We won't go into great detail here, focusing instead on a few names...
Ryan Johansen - A mixed bag for Johansen this year, as he spent time on the wing and a lot of time on the third and fourth lines. He also spent a lot of time in the press box, warranted or not. He played in 67 games, and managed 9 goals and 12 assists. Considering he spent a lot of time not playing with scorers, that's not a bad start. Johansen showed flashes toward the end of the season of the playmaking ability we're all hoping to see, and showed also that he can skate with almost anyone. He was more willing to work on board battles as the season went on, and as his size develops it will hopefully lead to better puck possession in those dirty areas for Joey. Grade: B-
Cam Atkinson - Started out with the big club, he had to go back to Springfield to get his groove back. But groove he did, earning his recall later in the season. Atkinson finished the season with seven goals, seven assists, and a +1 in 27 games. However, it was down the stretch in which the light switch came on, as he poured in 10 points (five and five) in his last six games. Here's hoping Cam can take a big step forward next year. Grade: B+
John Moore - Definitely a learning-curve kind of year for Moore, as he played just about everywhere on the Jackets' blue line, with different partners almost every night. He finished with 2/5/7 in 67 games, but was an eye-popping -23 on the year. Not all his fault, but indicative of the continued progress he needs to make. Moore showed flashes of his skating and passing potential, but was often a step slow in decision making, and/or left holding the bag on mistakes made by his playing partners. On the plus side, he seemed to bond well with James Wisniewski, so perhaps the veteran can help bring him along. Grade: C-
Allen York - The ultimate yeoman this year, York burned through the frequent flyer miles between Chicago, Springfield, and Columbus. Having no real business being in Columbus a year out of college, York more than held his own. When forced in in relief, he wasn't terrible. And, he had a nice little stretch at the end of the year when pressed into starting duty. He was actually at his best in Columbus, posting his best numbers here of any of the three stops. In 11 games (five starts), he was 3-2 with a 2.30 gaa and a .919 save%. He was, statistically, the best goaltender the Jackets had, though the sample size was small. Grade: B+
David Savard - Savard probably wasn't ready for extensive NHL action, but injuries, suspension, and general malaise pressed him up probably before he was ready. However, points-wise, he wasn't horrible, with two goals, eight assists, and an even rating in 31 games in Columbus. His skating needs work, and he needs to work on fine tuning his shot, but the fact that he's a righty will certainly give him some looks for the Jackets as they are decidedly lefty-heavy on the back-end. Grade: C+