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Reviewing October 2022: Another year, another slow start for the Columbus Blue Jackets

October was a horror show for the Jackets

Arizona Coyotes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Results

L 4-1 @ Carolina Hurricanes
L 2-5 vs Tampa Bay Lightning
L 2-5 @ St. Louis Blues
W 4-3 OT vs Vancouver Canucks
W 5-3 vs Nashville Predators
L 3-6 vs Pittsburgh Penguins
W 5-1 @ New York Rangers
L 3-6 vs Arizona Coyotes
L 0-4 vs Boston Bruins
L 1-7 @ New Jersey Devils

It’s not as bad as it looks I promise. It’s actually much worse.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to another one of their notoriously slow starts this year, looking listless and lost most nights. Poor defense and goaltending have been crippling the Jackets’ chances so far. Mentally, they remain a fragile team who struggles to hold a lead and tends to implode as soon as the ice tilts against them. Head coach Brad Larsen already seems to be at a loss as to how to fix this quickly sinking ship.

After three straight losses to open the season, there was a sign of hope when the team won 3 out of 4 games, only to follow it up with three absolutely crushing defeats in which they have looked disinterested and have been simply outclassed, including a lopsided loss to the Arizona Coyotes, who have no intentions of contending this year.

The Blue Jackets took only a month to kill off all of the excitement and hope that was created during their momentous offseason.

Standings

After the first month of play, our Blue Jackets sit dead last in the Metropolitan Division. It’s getting ugly quickly in the standings, as every other team in the division is at .500 or better. The Philadelphia Flyers — led by John Tortorella — whom everybody left for dead before the puck even dropped are just one point out of the top spot in the division with less games played. It just goes to show what a good coach can get out of his team.

Stats

October Stats

Stat 2021-22 Oct. 22
Stat 2021-22 Oct. 22
5v5 CF% 45.5 (26th) 46.6 (25th)
5v5 FF% 45.1 (27th) 46.3 (26th)
5v5 Save % .915 (26th) .890 (30th)
5v5 Shooting % 8.5 (8th 9.3 (6th)
5v5 xGF% 45.5 (24th) 45.5 (23rd)
GPG 3.14 (14th) 2.78 (27th)
GAPG 3.62 (28th) 4.11 (30th)
PP% 18.64 (24th) 0 (32nd)
PK% 78.57 (20th) 82.76 (9th)

Three Stars

Kent Johnson - I had questioned whether the kid was ready for the NHL coming into this season. So far, I will gladly say I was wrong. He’s been playing mostly 3rd line minutes but has put up solid numbers so far with 6 points (3G, 3A) in 9 games after being a healthy scratch in the season opener. After taking a bit longer than I’m sure he’d like to score his first goal, he had a stretch of 3 in 3 games to make up for lost time.

His skill is evident and his two-way play has gotten better as well. Aside from Laine (who has played 5 fewer games), Johnson is leading the team in CF% at 52.38 and is the only other forward above 50%

Nick Blankenberg - Blankenberg had to wait to get into the lineup, but boy did he make it count once he got in, moving quickly up to the top pairing. Nick was electric on the ice, dragging his teammates into the fight, throwing his small body around and scoring big time goals. It’s not a stretch at all to say that he came into the lineup and was immediately the Jackets’ best defenseman. His 62.89 CF% and 68% SF share tell much of the story, but don’t account for the energy and spark he provides to this team. I think it’s safe to say that once he returns from his recent injury, he is going to be a lineup regular for the forseeable future.

Yegor Chinakhov - Chinakhov has looked dangerous with the puck this season. He had a stellar training camp that cemented his spot in the lineup, sending Emil Bemstrom to Cleveland. The goal scoring that was so prevalent in the preseason is coming along a bit slower, but he has taken that opportunity to show some of his playmaking abilities. Chinakhov has 6 points (2G, 4A) in his first 10 games this year, which is almost half of his point total from last year. It’s good to see his offensive game come around, but he definitely still needs improvement in his two way game. But since I’m looking for positives here, I won’t go into detail about his low advanced stats, and to be fair, there aren’t many on the team who can boast solid numbers there.

Needs Improvement

Damn near everything. It seems a bit early to have a closed-door, players only meeting ten games into the season, but here we are. Yes, it’s it is only ten games into the season, but the meeting to hopefully stress urgency couldn’t have come any sooner.

Goaltending

There is no way around it. The goaltending has been bad so far. The Jackets undisputed #1 in Elvis Merzlikins has been far and away one of the worst in the league to this point. While the team in front of him has done him very few favors, he is 2-4-0 in 7 starts this year with an abysmal 4.75 GAA and just an .864 save percentage. Those are ghastly numbers and are nowhere close to NHL caliber figures. Elvis is a very emotional guy and everybody knows that the lack of success — both team and personal — are just killing him and there’s a good chance that his struggles are increasingly mental. His reactions after soft goals are very telling.

Daniil Tarasov has been up and down thus far, which is to be expected from a young goalie who should still be honing his craft as the #1 down in Cleveland. He has been the more competitive netminder (Arizona game excluded) and secured his first NHL win in grand fashion, shutting down the potent New York Rangers offense at Madison Square Garden.

We have yet to see Joonas Korpisalo in game action as he recovers from his hip surgery. He recently made a rehab start in Cleveland, stopping 38 of 40 shots for his first AHL win since 2020. He has since rejoined the team and will most likely make his first start of the season in his home country of Finland when the Jackets take on the Colorado Avalanche. I don’t think anybody is expecting Korpi to come in and be the savior in net, but it surely can’t get any worse. Right?

Defense

Brad Larsen and staff decided to implement a new system this year after allowing the most goals in franchise history last season.

One month into the season, it is looking like this new system might just be worse.

Thus far, the Jackets boast a -18 goal differential in just ten games. None of their losses have been by less than three goals. Their $9.5 million, #1 defenseman often looks disinterested, and the young players who were expected to improve and continue their development are not doing so. Jake Bean has looked lost on the ice and Adam Boqvist, who is currently injured yet again, was a healthy scratch for half of October’s games. Not ideal.

Offseason addition, Erik Gudbranson is dead last on the team with a 35.78 CF% and is leading the charge towards the green jacket on defense with a -6 so far. He hasn’t provided the reliable defensive or physical presence on the ice, and has made the defensive corps undoubtedly worse. The fact that this was the only offseason move to try to improve an already bad defense is flat out unacceptable, not to mention the cost of acquiring him in terms of cap hit and the corresponding move to fit this contract under the cap.

Oh, just to really drive home the point of how awful the defense has been, take a look at this. Yesterday, the Blue Jackets played the WORST GAME IN 15 YEARS IN THE ENTIRE NHL. I have zero doubt the Monsters would have put up a better fight in that game.

Power Play

Honestly, there isn’t a power play to even speak of. Nothing is generated from it whatsoever, and more often than not any momentum headed into the man advantage is sucked out via poor zone entries, turnovers, and odd-man rushes the other way. Opposing teams have had much more success while shorthanded, scoring twice thus far.

It’s been the same story for years, but it is even more mind-blowing that the current top unit consisting of Patrik Laine, Johnny Gaudreau, Jake Voracek and Zach Werenski can look so inept.

The Jackets had two chances yesterday in their final game in October to break their slump but failed to do so. They are now 0-25 and are the only team in the league to have not scored on the power play.

Elvis said it best: How come on our power play they score? We are five (men), they are four.“

Us fans are all wondering the same thing.

Fan Behavior

No this isn’t about booing the team on home ice. That happens everywhere, and is well within the fans’ rights and in this case is even warranted.

I’m talking about straight up abuse and harassment of players and even worse, their families. Obviously, 99% of fans would NEVER do this, but it is apparently happening enough that Elvis Merzlikins’ wife, felt the need to post a lengthy Instagram story about the DISGUSTING abuse her and her husband have received online. It has gotten so bad, that she is afraid to take their one-year-old son to the arena. These people are not fans, they are simply unstable and I would hope that police are involved in those extreme cases.

A wise man once said:

I know this was mentioned in the game preview and recap yesterday, but it’s worth saying again and even more embarrassing that anything even has to be said about it at all.


October has mercifully come to an end for the Jackets and they have almost an entire week off in another country to relax and refresh and restart their season on the right track. Win or lose, we’ll all still be here, so...

Let’s go Jackets!