NHL Season Recap – Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets

2016-17 season: 50-24-8, 108 points

Lost to Pittsburgh 4-1 in the

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Head Coach: John Tortorella (2015)
3rd Place Metro Division General Manager: Jarmo Kekalainen (2013)
3rd Place Eastern Conference AHL Affiliate: Cleveland Monsters

ECHL Affiliate: None

Draft Position: 24th

Top Forwards

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
RW 27 Cam Atkinson 82 62 35 27 13 48.8
C 22 Alexander Wennberg 80 59 13 46 9 51.6
LW 24 Brandon Saad 82 53 24 29 23 54.8
LW 29 Nick Foligno 79 51 26 25 -4 51.3
C 27 Sam Gagner 81 50 18 32 10 54.8
C 30 Brandon Dubinsky 80 41 12 29 16 49.1
LW 34 Scott Hartnell 78 37 13 24 14 52.9
C 23 Boone Jenner 82 33 18 15 14 48.3
RW 22 Josh Anderson 78 29 17 12 12 46.9
C 24 William Karlsson 81 25 6 19 10 47.3

Top Defensemen

POS Age Name GP Points Goals Assists +/- CF%
D 19 Zach Werenski 78 47 11 36 17 54.1
D 22 Seth Jones 75 42 12 30 6 52.4
D 26 David Savard 74 23 6 17 33 50.6
D 30 Jack Johnson 82 25 5 18 23 48.7
D 23 Ryan Murray 60 11 2 9 3 45.7

Top Goaltenders

POS Age Name Games Started W/L Record Shutouts GAA Save %
G 28 Sergei Bobrovsky 63 41-17-5 7 2.06 .931
G 22 Joonas Korpisalo 13 7-5-1 1 2.88 .905
G 33 Curtis McElhinney 5 2-1-2 0 2.39 .924
G 24 Anton Forsberg 1 0-1-0 0 4.07 .852

Trades Made During the Season

What They Acquired Team They Traded With In Exchange For
LW Lauri Korpikoski Dallas Stars D Dillon Heatherington
D Kyle Quincey New Jersey Devils D Dalton Prout
D Ryan Stanton Colorado Avalanche D Cody Goloubef

Impending Free Agents

POS Age Name 2016-17 Cap Hit
C 33 Gregory Campbell $1,500,000
D 31 Kyle Quincey $1,250,000
LW 30 Lauri Korpikoski $1,000,000
LW 28 Brett Gallant $750,000
C 27 Sam Gagner $650,000
D 34 Jamie Sifers $625,000
C 25 T.J. Tynan $600,000
C 27 Zac Dalpe $600,000
D 27 Ryan Stanton $600,000
D 36 Marc-Andre Bergeron $575,000

Draft Needs

  • The Blue Jackets have seven picks in the upcoming draft, one in each round and they are their own picks.  Columbus has a solid core at every position group locked down for the future.  There is a good chance that they are going to lose someone of value in the Expansion Draft – possibly Josh Anderson, William Karlsson, or Matt Calvert, unless they can convince Vegas to take Jack Johnson.  If the Blue Jackets lose a forward in the Draft, especially a center, they have plenty of depth in the minors to call upon to replace that player.  They also have quite a young defense unit and appear to be set in that area.  Based on the fact that they took Pierre-Luc Dubois, who can play both wing and center, with their first round pick last year, I think that they should take a defenseman with this year’s first round pick.  Other than that, Columbus has the luxury of drafting best available instead of drafting for a position.

What I Said About Them Before the Season

  • Prior to the season starting, I basically ripped apart every move made by the Blue Jackets. I thought that the team signing Sam Gagner as their only free agency transaction was a huge oversight by the front office and that he wouldn’t even be a regularly dressed player this season. I even questioned the trade of Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones because I didn’t like leaving Brandon Dubinsky as the team’s first line center.  I also thought that the team should have entertained ideas of firing John Tortorella and thought that he was going to take the team down a rough path towards mediocrity.  For the season, I predicted that they would most likely miss the playoffs and were actually moving in the opposite direction of developing into a contender with their inability to score goals being the main reason they were going to miss.

Success/Failure

  • Success – The 2016-17 season was the team’s best season in franchise history and by quite a significant margin.  The biggest reason for their success this season was the play of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who was the team’s best player and seems almost guaranteed to win the Vezina Trophy.  He led the league in save percentage and goals against average and finished third in the league in wins.  Bobrovsky helped propel the Blue Jackets to a high PDO due to his elite save percentage.  The only other areas where Columbus were really good were that they scored a lot of goals (sixth most in the league) and had high special teams numbers.  They were not good in terms of puck possession numbers and struggled didn’t have a lot of high end production but rather were a balanced offensive team.  They had just three players score at least 20 goals and just one player eclipse the 60 point mark.  They were also an amazingly streaky team, winning 16 in a row midway between November and January while also dropping six in a row at the end of the season.  Once they reached the playoffs, they proved to be closer to the team that had the losing streak than the one who won 16 in a row.  Bobrovsky wasn’t able to make the same saves against the Penguins as he was during the regular season, only allowing 3 or fewer goals in one game.  They were outplayed in just about every way possible except perhaps aggressiveness and that ultimately cost them the series.  Tortorella got the team away from the system that helped them become the third seed in the Eastern Conference and became the hard-hitting, gritty team that most Tortorella-coached teams are.  The difference now is the Penguins no longer get bogged down by that kind of play and won’t retaliate anymore like they used to.  The Blue Jackets have a lot of positives to take from this season – Bobrovsky proved himself to be among the best goaltenders in the league once again, Cam Atkinson emerged as one of the better goalscorers in the hockey, and Zach Werenski is already one of the best puck-moving defensemen despite it just being his rookie season.  Columbus got out to a quick start but was unable to continue this type of play throughout the duration of the season.  One way to ensure that they are able to continue a high-quality style of play is to develop into a better puck possession team.  Controlling play just 49.5% of the time isn’t a good recipe for long-term success and any attempt to advance in the playoffs next season or seasons in the future will be impacted greatly by bettering their game in this area.

Offseason Needs

  • The Blue Jackets first task this offseason will be determining which player they are most comfortable parting with in the Expansion Draft.  As of right now, Matt Calvert, William Karlsson, Alex Wennberg, Josh Anderson, and Jack Johnson are the players most likely to be taken by Vegas.  Johnson would certainly be the most ideal player to lose as he has the highest cap hit and is a free agent after next season anyway.  I think that there is a strong chance that Columbus will try to convince Vegas to take Johnson by offering them either a draft pick or prospect in return.  Losing Johnson’s cap hit of $4.3 million would help the Blue Jackets greatly as they have just under $3 million in cap space available for next season at this moment.  They will most likely end up having more space than what is projected since David Clarkson will probably be on long-term injured reserve, freeing up another $5.25 million in cap space.  This cap space will go a long way to helping the Blue Jackets re-sign their RFAs this offseason which include Wennberg and Anderson, both key contributors to this season’s team.  They will probably also entertain re-signing Sam Gagner who had a career-reviving season and was an asset on their powerplay.  As far as the free agency market goes, I think that they should pursue a good puck-driving center who can play on their second line.  Perhaps Martin Hanzal would be a good fit for the team.  Regardless of what the team does this offseason, I already think that they are a good candidate to regress next season and won’t be surprised to see them miss the playoffs.  Any sort of regression by Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets don’t really stand a chance.

*All stats and information came from hockey-reference.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, NHL.com, hockeydb.com, capfriendly.com, tsn.ca, and eliteprospects.com*

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