Sports fans are good at overreacting. That is especially true for fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Last night, the Jackets took a tough loss against the Carolina Hurricanes and there is plenty to talk about when analyzing the game. Let’s take a look at the fairness of some of the reactions we have seen so far.
Reaction 1: This team is doomed without Patrik Laine
Laine scored the lone Columbus goal against the Hurricanes. The offense looked lame in his absence and the remaining forwards struggled to generate scoring chances. In fact, they only managed one high danger scoring chance in the third period. The powerplay looked discombobulated without Laine as well. Outside of the called back Sillinger goal, there wasn’t anything to write home about.
While losing Laine hurts and certainly puts the team at a disadvantage, they aren’t doomed without him. Someone will need to step up in his absence, perhaps Chinakhov or Johnson, and chemistry may need a bit of time to develop, but Gaudreau is good enough to elevate whoever steps into that top line role. The coaching staff and front office needs to inject more skill into the lineup with Laine out and inserting Johnson into the lineup is a good first step. Personally, I would like to see them put Olivier in the press box, move Danforth to the fourth line, and call up Marchenko to play a top nine role.
Verdict: The absence of Laine provides opportunity for younger players to step up and there is skill in the pipeline should the team decide to use it. Overreaction.
Reaction 2: The center position may still be a problem
Roslovic may be the primary driver of this reaction. He was very bad last night and was worst on the team in terms of CF%. He made a horrendous mistake in the defensive zone that lead to the Hurricanes’ second goal as well. But I don’t think the issues stop there. Jenner wasn’t horrible on the first line, but he didn’t appear to help either. In this writer’s opinion, he is a catch 22 on the first line. He can win faceoffs and helps out defensively, but he noticeably dragged down Laine and Gaudreau offensively early in the game.
Sillinger was the bright spot last night. He was the best center offensively and it wasn’t close. He only won 20% of his faceoffs, which is very bad, but he did everything else well.
Verdict: How quickly things can change. Confidence in the centers was high coming out of the preseason, but weaknesses were quickly exposed by a good team. This reaction is fair until proven otherwise.
Reaction 3: New additions are dragging the team down
Gudbranson and Olivier were inserted into the lineup to add size and toughness. Neither of them added much in game one. Olivier played only six shifts in the second half of the game, two of which were in garbage time. Gudbranson had the second most minutes among defensemen and a 9 to 35 5v5 unblocked shot attempt disadvantage to show for it.
Gudbranson and Olivier are currently standing in the way of more skilled players like Jiricek, Blankenburg, Johnson, and Marchenko. They will likely continue to get caved in if they are playing meaningful minutes.
Verdict: Skill wins hockey games in 2022. Fair reaction.
Reaction 4: The powerplay hasn’t changed and will continue to be bad
The Jackets only had two attempts last night and both were without Laine. Sillinger had a goal taken away, but that was simply the result of a great individual effort. Outside of that, the powerplay was largely bad. Zone entries were snuffed out and zone possession quickly thwarted. Danforth performed well on PP1 in the preseason, but I am not sure he is cut out for that spot in the games that count. He looked overwhelmed. Replacing Laine with Nyquist probably wasn’t the best option either. I get not wanting to break up PP2, but someone like Chinakhov or Marchenko should be in the spot going forward.
The powerplay hasn’t been good in years, even with skilled players in the lineup. The reactions from last night’s performance with the extra man are understandable. The jury is still out on whether or not the coaching staff can adjust to losing Laine, but a measured analysis will require a larger sample size.
Verdict: Overreaction. Losing Laine is a huge blow to the powerplay and it will take some time to adjust accordingly. The verdict could flip on this one, but let’s revisit after a few more games.
What reactions to game one do you think are overreactions? Which ones are fair?