The Unstoppable Columbus Blue Jackets
Nobody on this planet could have predicted that by the Christmas break the Columbus Blue Jackets would be battling for first in NHL standings. Nobody could have predicted their incredible 13-game winning streak. Nobody could have predicted the success that John Tortorella has had in Columbus thus far.
In fact, this time last year the Blue Jackets sat among the bottom in league standings and just prior to the 2016-17 season, odds makers had Tortorella among the most likely to lose his coaching job in the NHL.
All that changed after delivering a crushing 10-0 loss to the Atlantic Division leading Montreal Canadiens. One could look back at that game as perhaps the moment when Torts and the Jackets let the league know just who came to play this year.
So let’s break down the Blue Jackets’ success.
From post to post, the blue paint of net minder Sergie Bobrovsky has been off limits to opposing teams for the better part of the 2016-17 NHL season. And it’s been showing in a big way for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, Sergie Bobrovsky, has been having a stellar year thus far, posting 22 wins, a 1.94 GAA, 0.932 save percentage, and three shutouts.
Over the Jackets’ 13-game wining streak, Bobrovsky has been rock solid, posting an 11-0-0 record and a .944 save percentage.
Will it be another Vezina worthy year for Bobrovsky? The numbers are certainly there. For comparison’s sake, his GAA and save percentage are both better than his 2013 Vezina Trophy winning numbers.
Okay, sure. Goaltending has been great. But let’s forget about that for now. Offensively, the Jackets have been an absolute powerhouse.
Where to start? The Columbus Blue Jackets boast the league’s best power play. With guys like rookie Zach Werenski, who has earned 12 of his 22 points this year on the power play, Columbus is among the league’s most lethal teams with a man advantage. With a 27.1% success rate when their opponent is in the box, the Jackets are simply frightening when it comes to special teams.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are also third in the league in goals. Forget, for a moment, that the Columbus Blue Jackets have amassed an impressive 114 goals for; behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins (129) and New York Rangers (123). Let’s look at these numbers in terms of goal differential.
While Pittsburgh and New York might be able to lay claim to more overall goals this year, the Columbus Blue Jackets have managed a goals for/goals against differential of +46, making them number one in the league for goal differential.
This can be attributed to many of the team’s core players enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, Sam Gagner, and Scott Hartnell have over 20 points each. And rookie Zach Werenski has been making an excellent case for the Calder this year, with 22 points of his own.
Last year Columbus’ defense struggled greatly, and there were some personnel changes made in an effort to get Sergie Bobrovsky the kind of back end support he deserves.
Enter Seth Jones.
Seth Jones seems to have settled in nicely alongside his Calder Trophy candidate line mate, Zach Werenski. Acquired last year from the Nashville Predators, in return for center Ryan Johansen, Seth Jones seems to be doing quite well. He holds down the first line unit with Werenski and has collected six goals and eight assists in 27 games so far this season.
With a +46 goal differential, a new and improved defense, and a Calder Trophy candidate on the blue line, Columbus has shown that they are more than just the League’s most dangerous offensive juggernaut.
What, then, do we make of John Tortorella?
It’s hard to comment on what happens in the dressing room. It’s hard to say how players perceive their coach. These things tend to happen outside the view of fans and sports analysts. These are the intangible aspects of the game.
Whatever it is that we make of John Tortorella, the wins are racking up and things are looking good for him and his team right now. John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets have a lot going for them. They are cruising through the competition and are poised to make the playoffs and take a run at the cup this year.
The season is still young, but Tortorella might find himself with another Jack Adams Trophy. His name has been tossed around for coach of the year. Obviously this is predicated on the continued success of his team, but the conversation is being had.
Who knows- maybe there is even a second Stanley Cup in John Tortorella’s future.