There has been a massive swing in fortunes for the Columbus Blue Jackets since their historic 16-game winning streak. Despite the plethora of complaints and worries, there is still plenty of reason to stay optimistic, while still being a realist, about the Blue Jackets chances of having a successful season, in relation to their history.
Stop Complaining, the Columbus Blue Jackets Are Still Good
The analytics are a good starting point to look at when talking about what teams are playoff-bound and which ones should be putting their eggs in the draft lottery basket. While the numbers aren’t fantastic for Columbus, there is plenty of reason to believe that they are still a good hockey team, even including this stint of mediocre hockey. Every season has its ebbs and flows, but the analytics speak for themselves.
When comparing the Blue Jackets to the rest of the season, they are in a playoff position for multiple reasons. For one, their Corsi-for percentage is sitting at 50.57% over the course of 55 games. While this is, by no means, a stellar number, it is still higher than 15 teams. Seven of those teams are from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference. Another point that should be made is that this number is higher than teams like the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and even the Minnesota Wild.
Another good team-based analytic to look at when determining if a teams play is “worthy” of being in the playoffs is shots-for per 60 (SF60) and shots-for percentage (SF%). This will show us where Columbus rates in shot production league-wide, and in relation to the shots they are giving up as well. These are another two analytics proving that Columbus has had a fantastic season as they have an SF60 of 30.87 and an SF% of 51.26%, which rank seventh and ninth respectively in the NHL.
When you look at the other end of the ice, the analytics aren’t bad either. While much of them are not ranking in the top 10 for Columbus, they are still well worthy of proving the Jackets are a legitimate contender. The Blue Jackets shots-against per 60 (SA60) is at a respectable 28.8 SA60, which puts them at 12th in the NHL. Another point to make is that in the-not-so-distant past, the 2015-16 season, the two main worries were goaltending and the defensive corps. This is no longer something to be complaining about.
Another analytic that was dreadful in the 2015-16 season, aside from special teams, was the teams PDO. For the less analytic-savvy hockey fans out there, a teams PDO is their shooting percentage (S%) plus their save percentage (SV%) on the season. The PDO for Columbus last season was a less-than-average 99.7, which came in at 17th in the league. It should be said, however, that the PDO last season was affected by the lack of consistency by Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney. However, with Bobrovsky back to form the PDO this season has risen to 101.2, coming at fifth in the NHL.
It should also be said that some in the hockey analytics circle see PDO as a stat to show relative luck. In the Columbus Blue Jackets case, however, it can show how well the players have taken the system head coach John Tortorella has put in, and how well Bobrovsky has done under goaltending coach Ian Clark. It is safe to say that these two, accompanied by the rest of the current staff, deserve massive praise for what is currently going on in The Buckeye State.
So Why Are So Many Fans Complaining?
When we look at this question, and the fans who are complaining, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless of the sport or the organization, there is always going to be fans, and bandwagon fans, that are going to be doing more than their fair share of the complaining when things level out. This point is exactly why Fifth Liners need to understand that there is obviously going to be complaints when standards reached such a massive pinnacle throughout this season.
With the season over 60% complete, there’s virtually no chance the Blue Jackets don’t make the playoffs. Aside from that obviously important note, the analytics stated above show exactly why the Blue Jackets could just as easily experience their best playoffs run in franchise history, not like there’s much success to compete with. They’ve only made the playoffs twice before. But all pessimism and optimism aside, the analytics and realism will prevail. The regression the Blue Jackets are currently experiencing will eventually level out, so enjoy this historic season.