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Reviewing March 2024: Hard to watch

Mar 12, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Alex Nylander (92) looks on during warm-up before the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: OctoberNovemberDecemberJanuary, February


W 5-2 @ CHI
W 6-3 vs. VGK
L 3-5 @ PIT
W 4-2 vs. EDM
L 1-2 vs. NSH
L 0-3 @ MTL
L 2-3 (SO) vs. OTT
W 4-2 vs. SJS
L 1-6 vs. WPG
L 3-4 (OT) @ DET
L 1-6 @ COL
L 2-4 @ VGK
L 2-6 @ ARI
L 2-3 @ PIT
W 4-3 (SO) vs. PIT

The good news: March tied December as the winningest months, with 5 wins a piece. Two of those wins were over good teams, Vegas and Edmonton. The bad news: an ugly 1-7-2 stretch that included a 5 game road trip without a win. That coincided with a large amount of roster turnover. Jack Roslovic and Andrew Peeke were traded at the deadline, while forwards Yegor Chinakhov, Sean Kuraly, and Justin Danforth hit the injured list.


Not much has changed here. The Blue Jackets are 8 points behind Montreal for last place in the East (Montreal has a game in hand) and 15 points behind Pittsburgh for last place in the Metro (Pittsburgh also has a game in hand). For the draft lottery, the Jackets should have the 4th best odds, since their 60 points is already well ahead of San Jose (42), Chicago (49), and Anaheim (52) and they’re well behind 28th place Arizona (67).


5v5 CF%48.59 (24)49.68 (20)51.56 (16)45.83 (29)46.15 (26)48.10 (22)44.92 (30)
5v5 FF%47.34 (24)49.78 (21)51.99 (14)45.76 (28)46.84 (27)48.26 (21)44.53 (30)
5v5 Save %91.14 (19)92.80 (7)89.93 (24)91.40 (17)90.26 (23)91.04 (19)90.10 (30)
5v5 Shooting %7.80 (23)8.15 (22)6.79 (28)11.96 (2)10.92 (4)6.70 (24)7.67 (30)
5v5 xGF%43.59 (29)54.07 (4)50.44 (17)43.05 (31)46.37 (25)46.56 (26)44.13 (29)
GPG2.60 (26)2.78 (23)2.25 (30)3.57 (7)3.07 (20)2.56 (26)2.60 (30)
GAPG3.53 (26)3.78 (27)3.67 (28)4.07 (30)3.47 (22)3.33 (24)4.01 (31)
PP%12.9 (27)16.0 (26)12.8 (25)25.8 (6)7.1 (31)16.1 (18)18.3 (26)
PK%75.0 (25)71.4 (28)68.4 (31)67.5 (31)94.1 (1)83.9 (10)75.1 (25)

After a surprisingly good expected goal rate in February, it plummeted to their second worst of the season. It was also worse than last year’s xGF%. Weren’t we supposed to see some progress by this point? I know it doesn’t help when half the forwards lines were Cleveland Monsters, but the top lines weren’t faring much better in their heavy minutes.

Three Stars

Honorable Mention: Alexandre Texier

After spending most of the season on the fourth line, the roster turnover forced Texier into a top 6 role. He averaged nearly 17 minutes a game in November and earned 3/5/8 in 15 games along with a +3 rating. He clicked well with Cole Sillinger (who has also continued to play very well)

Third Star: Zach Werenski

Z was the assists and points leader for the month (3/11/14 in 15 games), one ahead of Johnny Gaudreau in both categories. His goal scoring is down below his career average, but he’s still a positive impact on the offensive end while also carrying the load of the #1 defensive minutes.

Second Star: Daniil Tarasov

It was a fairly even split with Tarasov and Elvis Merzlikins each getting 7 starts, but Tarasov played almost 100 more minutes and put up much better numbers. His record was only 3-3-1, but he had a save percentage of .931 and a 2.55 goals against average. He has shown improvement all season after shaking off the December rust. Can he handle #1 duties next season?

First Star: Alex Nylander

The most fun story of the month was the breakout performance of the Better Nylander. He was a throw-in in the Emil Bemstrom trade in late February, but has performed way better than Bemstrom since then, and better than many of the Penguins forwards. He led the Jackets with 7 goals in March, and 9 points overall in 13 games. He also benefited from playing with Cole Sillinger, and then got to move up to the top line with Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau. There is no shortage of top 6-capable wingers going into next season, but I have to think Nylander is worth re-signing anyway.

Needs Improvement


These players are done for the season:
Patrik Laine (Player Assistance Program)
Kent Johnson (torn labrum)

These players are still “week to week”:
Adam Fantilli (lacerated calf)
Adam Boqvist (upper body)
Yegor Chinakhov (upper body)

These players are back to skating and are “day to day”:
Sean Kuraly (lower body)
Justin Danforth (concussion)

As Aaron Portzline wrote in his Sunday Gathering:

This is the third consecutive season in which the Blue Jackets will have lost 300 or more man-games. They set a franchise record with a whopping 563 last season. They had 371 in 2021-22. That’s 1,199 man-games lost (and counting) over a not-quite three-season span.

I still feel that it’s more likely that it’s bad luck rather than any sort of systemic training/medical staff issue, but either way it’s incredibly frustrating. Hopefully the luck turns next season, and maybe some training changes regardless.


Another fascinating stat from Portzline: the Jackets have scored first in 41 games this season, in 74 games. That’s top 10 in the league. They’re just 17-14-10 in those games, which also includes all 5 games of the recent 0-4-1 road trip. Pascal Vincent blamed youth, but that excuse doesn’t fly for me. The inexperience made sense in October and November, but this stuff should be figured out by March. You can blame the Cleveland players, but it’s the veteran NHLers who are getting the big minutes late. I see a team that is prepared to come out and play and get on the board first, but their opponents make adjustments in the second and third period and Vincent and his staff can’t make their own adjustments in response.

I also have my usual complaint about deployment. Look at the time on ice for the centers in March:
Boone Jenner 21:13
Cole Sillinger 17:31
Dmitri Voronkov 13:04
Brendan Gaunce 12:57
Sean Kuraly 12:52

Can you make an argument for Jenner being the best center, and therefore playing top line minutes? Sure! Is he 4 minutes better than Sillinger? Or 8 minutes better than Voronkov? I don’t think so. Give the kids some of Boone’s extra shifts, so it can help their development. It also has the advantage of reducing Jenner’s wear-and-tear. We’re fortunate that he hasn’t injured his back again this season, which had cut the last two seasons short. Maybe the time he missed with a broken jaw helped preserve him for this stretch run?

If we were winning, or competing for a playoff spot, I get riding a veteran like that. But we’re losing a lot! So there’s no reason not to try something different in the final 8 games.

Finally, the question has to be asked: has Pascal Vincent done anything to make this team better? By the eye test, the team’s structure appears no more organized or successful now than in November. The underlying stats look a lot like last season, which featured even more time missed by key players, and a less talented roster when healthy. The 2022-23 Blue Jackets had 59 points. This team has now passed that with 60, but how much more will they earn against a difficult remaining schedule? If they get half the available points and finish with 68, is a 9 point improvement sufficient? I don’t think it is.