To recap the season so far, here is the October Stock report. As you know, the Jackets fell flat on their faces out of the gate, but they managed to turn it around with the best November in franchise history. There were glimmers of hope as Bobrovsky began to play at an elite level in net and some thought that the coaching change had created some instant magic.
Of course, it did not.
Just kidding. The Jackets managed to salvage what would have been a disastrous month with a miracle win last night against the NHL's best team. That lifted the team's record for December to 4-7-3, including 2-1-3 at home as well. Three regulation wins and a shootout victory over Philadelphia. In between all that was the tail end of a three-game losing streak to start the month which was followed up by the team's best game in a 4-1 win at Philly. At that point, the team was 11-16-1 on the season and had a healthy Bobrovsky in net. They were nine points out of a wild card spot.
The next game, Bob suffered his annual groin injury. The team blew a 2-0 lead and lost in overtime to the Kings. That was the start of a five-game winless stretch. That ended with the fireworks show at Arizona which was followed up with the shootout win against the Flyers. Three straight pathetic showings (all on the road) ensued after that until the team managed to beat the Stars to close out the month.
-Alexander Wennberg. Yes, Wenns started off the season slowly, which was compounded by injury, but since he's been back he is producing at top 6 level. For December (14 games), he had 2-9-11 and that included no points the first couple games of the month. That's 11 points in his last 12 games and his +/-, a big problem last season, was even for the month. He is starting to look like the first-round pick that Jarmo made him in 2013. He now leads the team this season in even-strength CF %. Torts seems to trust him as well.
-Even though he missed a few games late in the month due to an undisclosed injury (and whether or not you agree with his recent comments), captain Nick Foligno has been on a tear. He played 11 games in December, and posted a 4-8-12 scoring line. He was also +3 with just 5 minutes of penalties. He's been involved on the power play (four assists) and his ice time has steadily increased. Don't look now, but he's nearly on pace for a 50 point season.
-Brandon Saad is starting to perform like many fans expected. The Saadfather enters 2016 on a six-game point streak. He posted 5-6-11 in 14 December appearances (all of those points coming in the last 11 games of the month) to go along with a +1 rating. On a team that sometimes seems reluctant to shoot, he now leads the CBJ in shots on goal for the season by a wide margin. He's in a battle with Scott Hartnell for the team lead in points.
-Scott Hartnell, sans penalties. Hartsy has been a tear, posting 6-6-12 after his healthy scratch at the start of the month, good for a point per game. He shot 20.7% and was a +1. He also picked up four goals and an assist on the man advantage. If he could get the dumb penalties under control, he'd be the team's best forward on a lot of nights.
-"Road warriors." One of the few bright spots, it seemed, was the club's ability to play well on the road. Not so in December. They went 2-6-0 on the road this past month. The losses included a blowout 6-4 stinker in Winnipeg, a 5-1 rout in Dallas, and consecutive pathetic 5-2 defeats in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay sandwiched around the Christmas break.
-Brandon Dubinsky's offensive production. Dubi had 2-5-7 in 14 games, with three of those assists coming in last night's outburst. None of those points were on the power play in December. He was a -5 this last month as well to go along with 20 PIM. Dubinsky had 7 points in 12 October games and managed 5 points in the 6 games he was limited to in November.
-Boone Jenner's shooting percentage. After shooting at rates of 20% and 14.4% the first two months of the season, respectively, Jenner converted just 8.8% of his shots on net in December. It was his worst month of scoring as well, posting just 3-3-6.
-William Karlsson. Yes, he's effective on the PK and has been serviceable in the faceoff dot, but the young Swede cooled off after posting five points in November. Wild Bill had his lone point of the month (an assist) in last night's win over Dallas. He was a -6 in December. In his defense, he's been almost exclusively on the 4th line for much of the month and has not had the best linemates to set up for scoring chances.
-Ryan Johansen. Joey was a healthy scratch for the 7-5 win in Arizona after missing all of the 3rd period of the game in Dallas. He registered zero goals on 31 shots in December and is shooting a paltry 6.9% for the season. Johansen managed 7 assists for the month, two coming on the power play. He was last seen centering the 4th line, which probably will not help dissuade trade rumors in the media. It's hard to believe the guy started the season with a five-game point streak! Despite missing time with a "mystery illness," Johansen put up 12 points (5 Gs, 7 As) in November but has clearly struggled the last few weeks.
-Backup goalies being viable at the NHL level. Both Curtis McElhinney and Joonas Korpisalo provided glimpses of being serviceable (and even good) NHL goalies, but overall it was a major letdown. Korpisalo is young, but does look poised in net. Perhaps this was a repeat of Anton Forsberg's brief stint last year. Korpisalo ended up with a 1-4-0 record (victory via shootout), a 3.65 GAA, and a save percentage of .886. McElhinney was 2-4-2 with a 3.95 GAA and a save percentage of .873. Neither guy really "stepped up" in Bobrovsky's absence.
-The mental makeup of this team.
Obviously getting 11 points out of 14 games this month is trending the wrong direction after going 8-5 in November. Questions surround the leadership and mental toughness of this team, as well as some of the personnel moves by the front office. Will things get better when the calendar flips to 2016? Time will tell, but a lot of fans, "experts," and critics have "sold" on this team long before now. The most intriguing story line seems to be around potential trades, and if Ryan Johansen can get his game figured out in Columbus. Off to January we go!