It is time to fire Brad Larsen.
This article has been brewing for awhile - quite awhile, if the author is being honest. The Columbus Blue Jackets power play is awful, and it has been for quite awhile. It is beyond time for the team and coaching staff to be held accountable for the
struggles utterly abysmal showings for three full calendar years.
Let’s dive into the numbers in case you don’t believe me. (Warning, this is not pretty).
From the start of the 2016-17 season until December 31, 2016, the Columbus Blue Jackets played 35 games. They posted a record of 26-5-4 and led the NHL with 56 points. The Blue Jackets also notched a league leading 27.5% power play. The team scored 28 power play goals on 102 opportunities. 23.1% of the team goals scored over that 35 game stretch were scored with the man advantage.
After January 1, 2017, things turned sharply downward. From that date until the present day (October 23, 2019), the Columbus Blue Jackets have the worst power play in the NHL. The team has scored just 91 power play goals (including Alex Wennberg’s tally on Monday night) in 585 opportunities, good for a 15.6% conversion rate. Of the 640 goals scored during that time, just 14.2% have come with the man advantage.
The next worst team is Anaheim (92 goals in 573 chances, 16.1%). These are the only two teams worse than 17% in that time frame. The middle of the road team in the league in power play over that time span is the Philadelphia Flyers, connecting at 19% since 01/01/2017.
To match the Flyers, the Jackets would have had to have scored 21 (!) more goals on the power play since basically the end of the streak. 21 more goals that could, conservatively, translate to 2 more standings points in each of the last three seasons if this team was able to finish with the man advantage. Wouldn’t that have been nice to have?
That Brad Larsen still has a job and that Torts isn’t asked about it at every single press conference is utterly inexcusable. How has no one been made to answer for this? We’ve tried moving players around, shuffling personnel, everything player related. Instead, we trot out the same terrible zone entry plays, find ourselves unable to re-establish possession consistently if we lose the offensive zone draw.
We see players standing in their designated areas, unwilling to move around and change passing lanes or force the defense to reset. Seriously, watch our power plays tomorrow night when we play Carolina. Every change of sides is slow and methodical and goes through either the low man or the defenseman up top. When was the last time you saw Cam or (whoever is in Panarin’s old spot) carry the puck low or high and force someone else to fill in a gap, which would then move the penalty killers around and open shooting/passing lanes? It just doesn’t happen.
Or, it doesn’t happen on the power play. It DOES, however, happen at even strength. The team has shown a consistent ability to cycle the puck, maintain offensive zone pressure for extended shifts, and generate shots on goal (ability to finish those chances at even strength has been lacking to start this season, but the shots have been there). This then begs the question: “What in the world happens as the team goes to a man advantage?”
Alison Lukan of the Athletic did a deep dive on last season’s power play over the summer and highlighted (with help from Hockey-Graphs.com’s Meghan Hall) five key issues that highlight the problems with the Jackets. Those can be found specifically at the above link (paywalled because The Athletic is a subscription service), but they boil down simply to these points:
- The Columbus Blue Jackets do not take enough shots, ranking last in the league in power play shots, and
- The shots are terrible, ranking 30th in expected goals per sixty minutes with the man advantage
This is not a player issue - the team has shuffled just about every forward out there, played various groupings together, and found the same results. This is a systemic issue, from the coaching staff down. If the system will not change, it is time for the power play coach to change.
For three years now, the Blue Jackets have had the worst power play in the league. Questions have been asked, ignored, played off. No more. Hard questions need to be asked, especially after the continued terrible start to the season on the power play (26th in the NHL, 14.3%).
If the coach cannot fix the systemic issues to such a critical part of the game, find a new coach.