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)
SF/60 29.6 (17th)
SA/60 27.6 (3rd)
Shot Differential 2.0 (11th)
Shooting Percentage 9.24% (12th)
Save Percentage .887% (30th)
Shot Differential 42.0 (14th)
Shooting Percentage 5.30% (29th)
Conversion Rate 9.20% (29th)
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.