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State of the Jackets

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After twelve games, the Jackets are in good shape but there’s room for improvement.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Forget about last night’s game, and while you’re at it throw out the other game against the Bruins and the 10-0 victory over the Habs. Those three games won’t help to tell the story of the Jackets’ season thus far.

If you’ve watched the team play in the games not mentioned above, you’ll have seen a scrappy, hard-working club that harasses and at times overwhelms their opposition at even strength. The team has been terrific on special teams, and Sergei Bobrovsky has been nothing short of fantastic. At times the team has let their foot off the gas a bit, but Bob has been there to bail them out. The Jackets have been able to overcome poor play at times to grind out wins- a sign of a good team.

The team’s top line of Alexander Wennberg, Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad has contributed on the scoresheet, with Wennberg currently leading the league in assists. Saad’s play without the puck needs improvement, but it seems the recent threat of a healthy scratch may have straightened him out. I can’t tell you how happy I am for Foligno, he looks to have exorcised the demons that haunted him last season and is off to a great start.

Josh Anderson has rewarded the team for their faith in him, currently tied with Foligno with 5 goals to lead the Jackets. I love watching him down low with the puck, he reminds me of a former Blue Jacket, some guy who wore number 61. Anderson has been playing with William Karlsson and Matt Calvert of late, and the trio brings unquantifiable energy on every shift, not to mention the latter two are the teams’ top penalty-killing duo.

Scott Hartnell has been Scott Hartnell – and that’s not a bad thing at all. He continues to be a reliable offensive contributor with eight points in 12 games, but perhaps the best thing about his season thus far is that he has a lone minor penalty on the season, a major problem in years’ past. Sam Gagner has been a decent addition to the team, not really helping nor harming five-on-five, as evident by his 0.5 relative Corsi. Tortorella hasn’t exposed Gagner to difficult situations either, deploying him mostly in the offensive zone. Gagner is a big part of the team’s number-one ranked powerplay, however, with four of his six points coming on the man advantage. Lukas Sedlak has been a positive influence, despite his limited ice time, currently leading the CBJ forwards with a relative Corsi of 6.9. (Milano is at 10.7, but in only two games played). I can’t wait for Sedlak to pot his first NHL goal- he’s had his chances, so I’m sure it’ll happen soon.

The biggest room for improvement is with three of the veterans. Before missing the previous two games due to injury, Brandon Dubinsky was in the bottom third on the team in relative Corsi and had only a pair of assists on the season. He’s at his best when he’s up against the opposition’s top center, but more is needed from him offensively. Boone Jenner was in the same boat, but was able to get the first goal monkey off his back against the Ducks. Boone is a 30-goal scorer, but needs to build off that goal and improve on his current line of 1-2-3 and (for what it’s worth) -8 in 12 games. One can look at Cam Atkinson and say he’s doing what he needs to. He’s sitting at 4-4-8 in 12 games, but all of his goals are on the powerplay, and like Dubinsky, he’s a negative contributor five-on-five.

The Jackets need the veteran trio to get things going. With the way the rest of the forwards are playing right now, the Jackets will be a deep and dangerous group if they get offensive contribution from them.

There’s no need to break down the defense as much as I did with the forwards, as it’s been pretty clear what’s happening. Zach Werenski is the real deal, tied for second in defensemen scoring in the league and looking like a calm, cool vet on the ice. Seth Jones will be back in a couple of weeks and the team will regain its elite top pairing. David Savard has been the player we’re used to seeing, while Ryan Murray would ideally show more. Markus Nutivaara continues to be trusted by the coaching staff, and as long as he remains relatively invisible (given his role) he’ll continue to see minutes. Dalton Prout is Dalton Prout, and I won’t bother sharing any advanced metrics for Jack Johnson, because you know what they’ll look like. He’s been steady. I still think he’s the most likely candidate to go to Las Vegas.

Bob has looked like Vezina Bob, and huge kudos for the awesome effort put in by Curtis McElhinney in his only start of the season thus far.

We’ll do this again in a few weeks.

* All stats are from Hockey-Reference.com