2018-19 Player Review: Alexander Wennberg shoots his shot; expresses post season feelings

Alexander Wennberg is an enigma, and you wonder how much longer he realistically has in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets probably though they struck it rich a few seasons ago when they locked up their young center, Alexander Wennberg, to a six-year, $29.4 million deal following a 59 point season in 2016-17. Since then, Wennberg has gone backwards, and it only seemed to get worse in 2018-19.

Wennberg, scoring a career-low two goals, also only registered 25 points, the second lowest of his career since his rookie season. At least part of the reason for the low scoring totals is his seemingly unwillingness to shoot the puck. His 64 shots on net were the fewest of his career, 10 off the pace from a season ago, and a far cry from the 109 he had in 2016-17.

For some reason, he has a block about shooting the puck. It’s one of those things where you scream at your tv and go “SHOOT!” I’m not an NHLer, but it just feels like it’s so easy to do that much.

Alexander Wennberg 2018-19 Stats

Games played: 75
Goals: 2
Assists: 23
Points: 25
Time on ice: 15:05
Penalty Minutes: 12
Corsi For (even strength): 50.8%

2018-19 Playoff Stats

Games played: 4
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Points: 0
Time on ice: 10:29
Penalty Minutes: 0
Corsi For (even strength): 37.5%

Alexander Wennbergs’ Contract Status

2023/UFABase SalaryCAP HitNo Trade Clause
2019/20 $5,350,000$4,900,000
2020/21 $5,350,000$4,900,000
2021/22 $5,350,000$4,900,000
2022/23 $5,350,000$4,900,000

High Point

I had to figure out how to categorize this between being a high or low point. On the one hand, Alexander Wennberg’s two goals (more on this, you’re going to love it) on the season is most certainly not a high, but his two tallies came of the special teams variety; one on the power play against the Avalanche and a short-handed goal versus the Rangers. Shorty’s are kind of always a big deal, which only adds to the spectacular Blue Jackets penalty kill this past season. And the fact that the power play during the regular season was, again, so miserable, it only lends credence to the fact that celebrating a power play goal Columbus like spotting a unicorn.

Or in this case, Wennberg actually shot the puck and converted on a Blue Jackets power play. Wennberg was that unicorn.

The short-handed goal was Wennberg’s first career short-handed goal, and he also notched three short-handed points on the season, which was twice as much as the one he had in 2017-18.

The defensive element of Wennberg’s game is said to be among his strengths, and zone splits indicates as such (50.0% for 5v5 oZS% and dZS%) and John Tortorella frequently referenced that aspect of the Swede’s play. But Seeds went beyond the numbers of that and more on Wennberg earlier this season. (Though not necessarily a perfect correlation, Wennberg was on the ice for more goals allowed than goals for this past season, which happened for the first time since his rookie year. Last year he was a +26 in that area 5v5.)

Low Point

Where do we start? Well, if the top didn’t set your expectations, we’ll dive deeper.

Whether it’s the career-low in goals (two), the yearly offensive point-regression, his lack of taking shots, Wennberg (obviously) had another trying year on the ice, and is seemingly at odds with how management wants him to play. If he doesn’t want to shoot the puck, fine, but can he be the puck facilitator that he showed in 2016-17 when he scored the career-high 46 assists, in part to putting up a career-high 59 assists?

It doesn’t seem that way.

One might’ve thought Wennberg would be a tad bit more productive than he ended up being over the season, as he had five assists in the 11 October games, and nine points in November. But then he only combined for 11 points between December and April.

Despite Tortorella’s desire to keep Wennberg in the lineup, he fell out of favor by the start of the playoffs, as Wennberg did not see any time against the Lightning. In his four games against the Bruins, Wennberg never registered any points, never shot the puck.

Wennberg is currently playing for the Swedish National Team in the 2019 IIHF World Championships. His quotes in the days following the locker clearings and assessments over at Nationwide Arena with coaches and management raised eyebrows:

“Even though the season here is long and (I have played for) the same coaches (the whole) time, it will be fun to continue playing hockey with other coaches, who have a completely different view of hockey.”

That quote was inside Brian Hedger’s The Columbus Dispatch article May 11. As Hedger points out, the quote is translated from hockeysverige.se, a website that covers Swedish hockey, and as such, the original quote was not written or said in English. It is possible that the quote might not be entirely accurate or articulated in the manner in which Wennberg meant it.

Regardless, we all know there is a bit of a murky situation between Wennberg and the team.

Wennberg was scratched for five-consecutive games following the Feb. 22 trade for center Matt Duchene. Oh, and then Wennberg goes to play for Sweden in the 2019 World Championships and immediately scores four points including two goals in his first game. He added another assist in his second game and has five points overall.

What? Why? How?

I also just wanted to leave you with this (I got this from our friends over at 1st Ohio Battery):

“The 24-year-old Wennberg joined some ominous company this year, where he scored zero (!) 5-on-5 goals (both of his goals came on special teams), joining Valeri Nichushkin and Tobias Rieder as the only forwards in the NHL this season who played more than 50 games and didn’t score a 5-on-5 goal.”

Report Card

How would you grade Alexander Wennberg’s 2018-19 season?


Subscribe to The Cannon

Don’t miss out on the latest articles. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only articles.