Blue Jackets Back to .500 By Wizmas: How Likely Is It?

The other night after defeating the Anaheim Ducks, defenseman James Wisniewski casually dropped a pearl into his postgame comments about having a personal goal of seeing the team get back to .500 by Christmas. Wizmas. Either way.

So, while this club certainly cannot allow themselves to look that far ahead--if ever there was a team that needed to adhere to the coach-speak of "one game at a time," it's this one--we here at The Cannon certainly can look that far ahead.

Granted, all of the information below is generated from a snapshot taken this morning, November 1. Teams change over two months. Injuries happen. Teams figure things out. So, just know that I have taken into account that the teams as they stand today may not be in that same situation when the Jackets play them. All of that said, let's take a look at the schedule and try to throw some darts at the board to see how likely it is that the Jackets can get to .500 by Christmas. Wizmas.

Defining .500

Another caveat that gets its own heading: what is .500? The NHL's point system allows for two possible definitions of .500, at least from my perspective. On one hand, if you count OTLs (in which the team gets a point-per-game) as "losses" in the purest sense, then technically the Jackets at 2-9-1 are eight games under .500 (two wins, 10 losses).

However, if you look at it purely from a "points" standpoint, you could argue that OTLs are superfluous to the notion of the record. I've generally seen .500 defined in the NHL as point-per-game. So, in that case, OTLs don't count as "losses" in the sense that the team is still getting a point. So, you throw that column out. In that case, the Jackets are only seven games under .500 (2-9).

We're going to use that second definition for the purposes of this discussion. The Jackets are 2-9-1, and have 22 games between now and Christmas Day. So, what we need from them to get to ".500" is for the team to go at least 14-7-1. Granted, they could go something like 9-2-11, but how realistic is that? Let's look at it this way: the Jackets have one OTL in 12 games. If you calculate how many OTLs per game that is, and multiply that by 22 games, you come up with 1.8 OTLs in a 22 game span.


So, what I'm saying is this: 14-7-1, or 14-6-2. Either of those would put them above the 34-point threshhold on Christmas, after 34 games. Phew.


Here's where we get crazy. Here is the upcoming schedule for those 22 games, complete with snapshot numbers and a scenario as to the likelihood of a Jackets win or OTL. As you look at November especially, you can honestly see that, even though there's no argument to the fact that Columbus has been B-A-D so far, their schedule has been pretty tough to this point and eases up decidedly in the coming month.

Keep in mind, finally, that I'm going at this as the best-case scenario, purely to see how likely it is that the Jackets can get things going. I'll try to be as objective as possible. If I can't talk myself into a WIN or a LOSS, I generally tie-break with OTL. It's innocuous.


Thu, Nov 3 vs Toronto Maple Leafs(7-3-1, 15pts - 2nd EC)
Stats: 3.18 g/g (4th); 3.18 ga/g (26th); PP: 17.6% (13th); PK: 72.3% (27th)
Scenario: The Maple Leafs are playing well right now offensively. The Jackets have two advantages: they're at home, where they've won two straight, and they'll have had three days with no games to rest up after 12 games in 24 days. This appears to be a game in which Columbus can continue to get going offensively, as the Leafs have weakness on defense and on the PK. WIN

Sat, Nov 5 @ Philadelphia Flyers (6-4-1, 13pts - 5th EC)
Stats: 3.73 g/g (2nd); 3.27 ga/g (28th); PP: 22.2% (6th); PK: 81.5% (18th)
Scenario: This game loses some of its luster without Jeff Carter, but the Jackets are catching the Flyers at the right time. Philly is scoring like crazy, but is giving up goals like crazier. This is another one in which the Jackets can hang if their offense can be successful and create good chances. It would also be nice for Columbus to get a road win. Philly's offense, though, is too much. LOSS

Thu, Nov 10 vs Chicago Blackhawks (7-2-2, 16pts - 2nd WC)
Stats: 3.27 g/g (3rd); 2.46 ga/g (10th); PP: 8.9% (29th); PK: 91.7% (3rd)
Scenario: The Jackets hung with the Blackhawks on the road on Saturday, and this return trip back to Columbus sets up well. Columbus has four days off leading into this game, and they may have Jeff Carter back for it. He should help their offense and PP, and the Blackhawks' struggling PP helps mask a weakness of the Jackets. WIN

Sat, Nov 12 vs Winnipeg Jets (4-6-1, 9pts - 13th EC)
Stats: 2.64 g/g (14th); 3.46 ga/g (29th); PP: 17.1% (17th); PK: 77.6% (22nd)
Scenario: Another home game against a weaker team, this one quite simply just has to be a WIN if Columbus is going to be taken seriously.

Tue, Nov 15 vs Minnesota Wild (4-3-3, 11pts - 9th WC)
Stats: 1.90 g/g (30th); 2.20 ga/g (5th); PP: 12.5% (26th); PK: 77.1% (24th)
Scenario: Another home game, another team coming in with a big weakness: this Wild team simply cannot score goals. That gives the Jackets' defense a huge break. WIN

Thu, Nov 17 @ Boston Bruins (3-7-0, 6pts - 15th EC)
Stats: 2.10 g/g (26th); 2.50 ga/g (11th); PP: 12.8% (25th); PK: 85.4% (12th)
Scenario: Assuming they don't light it up in the next two weeks, this is a good time to have to go to Boston to play the Champs. They are reeling right now, and just aren't scoring. However, their defense is still decent enough to give Columbus fits if their offense isn't going. I want to give this one to Columbus, but I just can't. OTL

Sat, Nov 19 @ Nashville Predators (5-4-2, 12pts - 8th WC)
Stats: 2.54 g/g (16th); 2.73 ga/g (20th); PP: 17.1% (15th); PK: 87.5% (6th)
Scenario: Throw out the numbers. This game is in Nashville. It's, therefore, a LOSS until Columbus can prove otherwise.

Mon, Nov 21 vs Calgary Flames (4-4-1, 9pts - 14th WC)
Stats: 2.44 g/g (21st); 2.56 ga/g (13th); PP: 16.1% (18th); PK: 84.4% (16th)
Scenario: On paper, Calgary should be a bit better, and to be fair they're largely 14th in the conference because they just haven't played as many games as everyone else. That said, it's a game in Columbus (where the Jackets have played better than on the road), and it's against a team that's not setting the world on fire. To get back to .500, these are games Columbus has to WIN.

Wed, Nov 23 @ New Jersey Devils (4-4-1, 9pts - 12th EC)
Stats: 2.00 g/g (27th); 2.56 ga/g (14th); PP: 10.3% (27th); PK: 88.6% (5th)
Scenario: This is another team that's struggling in the standings, but isn't that bad on paper and is a victim of their games-played. It's a road game. The Devils are struggling to score, but they also showed last spring that their system, when executed well, sucks the life out of Columbus offensively. Hate to say it, but it's a LOSS.

Fri, Nov 25 vs Buffalo Sabres (6-4-0, 12pts - 7th EC)
Stats: 2.90 g/g (8th); 2.20 ga/g (6th); PP: 21.9% (8th); PK: 91.9% (2nd)
Scenario: This is another one like the Chicago game. Columbus hung with the Sabres, they rallied back from a two-goal deficit, and then they hiccuped at the wrong time and lost late. They also managed 43 shots, but were stymied by a hot backup goalie. At home, the Jackets can better set the match-ups, and might be able to better capitalize on some of those chances and shots if their full complement of offensive players are healthy. WIN

Sun, Nov 27 vs St. Louis Blues (5-6-0, 10pts - 13th WC)
Stats: 2.54 g/g (18th); 2.82 ga/g (22nd); PP: 8.3% (30th); PK: 72.2% (28th)
Scenario: These games are always fun, if only because there is so much weird pent-up hostility between two teams who have been "on the rise" since making the playoffs in 2009, only to have sucked each of the past two years. It's like two red-headed step-children fighting over table scraps. It's always awesomely intense. All of that aside, the Blues are pretty bad themselves, all things considered. If Columbus is doing as I'm prognosticating, you have to feel like they have some momentum going, and R. J. Umberger can dust off the soccer ball and get the guys up for a WIN at home.

Tue, Nov 29 @ Vancouver Canucks (5-5-1, 11pts - 10th WC)
Stats: 2.82 g/g (11th); 2.91 ga/g (23rd); PP: 21.2% (11th); PK: 85.1% (13th)
Scenario: This game kicks off one of those dreaded Western Canada road trips. We've seen that the Jackets have a lot of negative experience with those. I can't see Vancouver still struggling this much four weeks from now. LOSS



Thu, Dec 1 @ Calgary Flames (4-4-1, 9pts - 14th WC)
Stats: 2.44 g/g (21st); 2.56 ga/g (13th); PP: 16.1% (18th); PK: 84.4% (16th)
Scenario: With a day off between Vancouver and this game, and the Flames' hopefully-continued struggles, this seems like a realistic chance for a win. But, since I'm still on the fence about it, I'm going to give them an OTL.

Fri, Dec 2 @ Edmonton Oilers (7-2-2, 16pts - 3rd WC)
Stats: 2.18 g/g (25th); 1.46 ga/g (1st); PP: 20.8% (12th); PK: 89.1% (4th)
Scenario: The young upstart Oilers are turning some heads early on. What is surprising is that they're doing it right now with defense, as opposed to scoring with their young nucleus of crazy athletic forwards. Regardless, this is the second night of a road-road back-to-back, and the Oilers' speed has routinely flummoxed the Jackets in recent meetings, and on the second night of a b2b I think this one probably spells LOSS for Columbus.

Tue, Dec 6 @ Montreal Canadiens (4-5-2, 10pts - 11th EC)
Stats: 2.64 g/g (13th); 2.64 ga/g (18th); PP: 13.3% (22nd); PK: 83.0% (17th)
Scenario: The Habs are the definition of "middle of the road" right now. In December, who knows? The Jackets are still on the road, this being the fourth straight road game. However, they will most likely have gotten the chance to stop off at home after Edmonton in advance of this game. I can't put my finger on it, but I'm feeling that a fully healthy (hopefully!) Jackets team can go in and WIN this game.

Thu, Dec 8 vs Nashville Predators (5-4-2, 12pts - 8th WC)
Stats: 2.54 g/g (16th); 2.73 ga/g (20th); PP: 17.1% (15th); PK: 87.5% (6th)
Scenario: The Jackets will probably be a bit road-weary coming into this game, but if they need extra motivation to play the Predators they're already in trouble. My feeling is that, by this point in the season, the Predators' lack of scoring depth will be exposed, and that Columbus can bring home a WIN.

Sat, Dec 10 vs Boston Bruins (3-7-0, 6pts - 15th EC)
Stats: 2.10 g/g (26th); 2.50 ga/g (11th); PP: 12.8% (25th); PK: 85.4% (12th)
Scenario: Hard to see the Bruins still struggling this much by the middle of December, but the Jackets do get them at home. Over the past three years, the Jackets have always played superiorly talented Bruins teams well. I'm going to say they can pull out a WIN here on home ice.

Tue, Dec 13 vs Vancouver Canucks (5-5-1, 11pts - 10th WC)
Stats: 2.82 g/g (11th); 2.91 ga/g (23rd); PP: 21.2% (11th); PK: 85.1% (13th)
Scenario: This Canucks team, much like Boston, should be closer to their expected level by this time in the season. They have just enough offense to continue to trip up the Jackets, and probably the best goalie tandem in the Western Conference. Just can't see the Jackets pulling this one off. LOSS

Thu, Dec 15 vs Los Angeles Kings (6-3-2, 14pts - 4th WC)
Stats: 2.36 g/g (23rd); 1.91 ga/g (2nd); PP: 23.1% (4th); PK: 86.1% (9th)
Scenario: A team with high expectations coming into the season, the Kings are delivering early on. They're stifling teams with defense, and despite their overall low scoring they are punishing teams on the PP, and shutting them down on the PK. This is a tough matchup for Columbus. LOSS

Sat, Dec 17 vs Tampa Bay Lightning (5-4-2, 12pts - 8th EC)
Stats: 3.00 g/g (7th); 3.00 ga/g (24th); PP: 16.7% (17th); PK: 85.7% (11th)
Scenario: This club is still solid, if not great, offensively. The question I had about them coming into the season was their goaltending, and overall their defense has been pretty bad this year. Getting this team at home and getting a chance to set up match-ups in the Jackets' favor makes this game very gettable. WIN

Sun, Dec 18 @ St. Louis Blues (5-6-0, 10pts - 13th WC)
Stats: 2.54 g/g (18th); 2.82 ga/g (22nd); PP: 8.3% (30th); PK: 72.2% (28th)
Scenario: Much like games against Nashville on the road, it's hard for me to give this one to the Jackets until they prove they can win in this city consistently. That said, I think the Jackets will be in much better shape with their full lineup by the time this game rolls around. It's a close one, but I'm going to say that the Jackets can WIN this one.

Thu, Dec 22 @ Nashville Predators (5-4-2, 12pts - 8th WC)
Stats: 2.54 g/g (16th); 2.73 ga/g (20th); PP: 17.1% (15th); PK: 87.5% (6th)
Scenario: I reserve the right to change this, depending on whether this Columbus team has gelled and is playing like we expected them to. But, at the end of the day, the above still holds: it's in Nashville. It's a LOSS until the Jackets can figure out how to win there.


Again, this is all me just spit-balling. That said, while I think that Wiz's goal isn't astronomically impossible, in my best-case scenarios I just can't see them getting there. The good news is that I can, however, see them rebounding nicely in November and into December, and certainly planting the seeds for a turnaround heading into the new year.

If they can get into the discussion in 2012, anything's possible.

But, much like coaches of every sport all over the world will tell you, they have to play them one game at a time.

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