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November 7, 2011, 04:45 PM ET

Positive Signs for Columbus

by Corey Pronman

Common reports and thoughts around the hockey world is the Blue Jackets management and coaching staff are on the hot seat now after a 2-11-1 start that has netted them 5 points in 14 games.  However should they be based purely on those results? Let’s see how they’ve done:

Category                                              Result (NHL Rank)

Even-Strength

SF/60                                                     29.6 (17th)

SA/60                                                    27.6 (3rd)

Shot Differential                                      2.0 (11th)

Shooting Percentage                               9.24% (12th)

Save Percentage                                     .887% (30th)

5v4

Shot Differential                                      42.0 (14th)

Shooting Percentage                              5.30% (29th)

Conversion Rate                                    9.20% (29th)

4v5

Shot Differential                                   -50.0 (23rd)

Save Percentage                                   .797% (30th)

Success Rate                                        73.5% (28th)

Hmmm now what could possibly be the problem here? The Jackets have:

A positive even-strength shot differential,

Prevented chances at an elite level at even-strength,

Are showing average offensive ability in terms of power play shot creation, but are getting very unlucky in terms of getting the bounces,

Are performing at a below-average rate in terms of preventing shorthanded shots,

All the while getting horrendous goaltending.

How much of the shooting and save percentage is luck-based this early in the season? Well luckily JaredL from Driving Play showed a few days ago showed that those percentages right now are only about 10% skill and the rest random chance.

The biggest indicator of future success for NHL teams, being shot differential specifically at even-strength show that Columbus so far has performed from the crease outwards as an average team but have been suspect to bad luck in terms of power play shooting and horrible goaltending at even-strength and killing penalties. It is a sample based on barely a 1/4 of a season’s play, but that data can still help us make some fairly reasonable, yet conservative conclusions.
VUKOTA originally projected Columbus before the season started as a 20th place team and I still think there is a fair and realistic projection despite this terrible start. While goaltender Steve Mason has performed quite poorly so far this year, he is not a true-talent .886 even-strength SV% goalie. In 2010-11 his EVSV% was .911, in 2009-10 it was .911 as well and in 2008-09 it was .925. I’m not of the belief that Mason is a league-average goalie, but he’s not that far off as is the case very often in a diluted talent population for his position. Columbus likely would be better off finding a replacement for his position if the cost is small either during or after this season, but while he is a problem, he is not a huge issue albeit he would be if you looked at raw results.

The Blue Jackets have stunk, but most of that is due to random chance as opposed to them being the worst club in the NHL. Howson has a couple of good young pieces coming as well in Ryan Johansen, David Savard, John Moore, Cam Atkinson, Tomas Kubalik, T.J. Tynan and Boone Jenner. While this rebuilding process has been slow, and I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Columbus advocate, the short-term results this season are not to be blamed on the shoulders of the current coaching or management staff and there are certainly signs of better days to come and they could very well be this season.

5 Comments »

  1. Yeah it’s one of those cases where if someone had no prior knowledge of the results / standings and just sat down and watched the Blue Jackets play a game, they’d never guess that this is the worst team in the league with only 2 wins in 14 games. They are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum from the moneypuck Stars haha.

    As you pointed out the Blue Jackets have their share of good prospects and young talent, and this poor start doesn’t necessarily change what Columbus has coming its way in the future. The problem is if they do panic and start re-arranging management, coaching, and players then that is where the future could be impacted.

    Comment by Matt — November 7, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  2. Great stuff Corey, thanks for this. I know Mason’s numbers say he’s not that bad but he sure seems to have a knack for failing large. Maybe when Dekanich is healthy, we’ll start seeing goaltending closer to average quality and then the Jackets might surprise some folks.

    Comment by Mike at the Beach — November 8, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  3. Tom projected Columbus slightly negative on shot differential, so the current level might not last, though.

    Through last weekend, here’s where some of the Jackets’ shortfalls came: Carter 2.3 GVT (both absence and per game production), Wisniewski 0.7 GVT, Mason 11.0 GVT.

    As a team, Columbus was at -6.5 Offensive GVT, -1.4 Defensive GVT, and a whopping -12.4 Goaltending GVT. VUKOTA didn’t love Mason, seeing him as a .900 goaltender (-3.9 GVT), but a league worst -11.7 GVT was that much uglier than expected (Halak was second worst, “miles ahead” at -6.2 GVT). The absence of Dekanich hurts - he could be much better.

    Comment by Timo Seppa — November 8, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

  4. @Timo: I’m not of their belief that a top 15 ES SD is going to continue, but my main argument was that I don’t think Arniel and Howson should be faulted for these short-term failures although there are certainly things you can blame Howson for in the architecture of the team.

    Comment by Corey Pronman — November 8, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  5. Corey - Didn’t disagree with your post at all. Actually, it was really good to see the numbers. Just adding to it.

    Comment by Timo Seppa — November 9, 2011 @ 1:56 am

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