At Christmas time, we surprise our friends and family with presents. For Hockey fans in Ohio and the NHL in general, no team has been more of a surprise than the Columbus Blue Jackets have been so far through almost 3 months of the season.
Following their 4-3 overtime win in Vancouver yesterday, the Blue Jackets enter today at 20-5-4 (44 points), Easily the best start through 29 games in their history, a franchise that has only been around for 16 years. They are 17-2-3 since November 1st and have gotten 37 out of a possible 44 points during this 22 game stretch. They are currently are on a 9-game winning streak – tying the Franchise Record and are on a pace to win 56 games, that would obliterate the franchise record which is currently 43 wins from 2013-14. They’re 3rd in the Metropolitan Division currently, 3 points back of the leading New York Rangers and only 1 point back of the Defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Penguins.
As usual when we talk about a team having any success we always start at the top, for The Jackets that starts with their owner; John P. McConnell, then to John Davidson their President of Hockey OP’s. The longtime Goaltender and Broadcaster had no management experience when he 1st became an NHL executive; starting as president in St Louis in 2006 and then after 7 years with the Blues organization came to Columbus in 2012, Shortly after Davidson’s arrival came the hiring of General Manager; Jarmo Kekäläinen, The NHL’s 1st ever European GM. Before coming to Columbus, Kekäläinen’s resume in Hockey Operations included being General Manager of both IFK Helsinki and Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League, and he also was with Davidson in St Louis as their Assistant GM and Director of Amateur Scouting. His draft resume in St Louis you ask? included guys like; Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron, and David Backes. Kekäläinen had an unwritten escape clause with ownership of Jokerit that permitted him to leave if he was ever offered a GM job in the NHL. Which he was in Columbus when J.D. relieved then-GM Scott Howson of his duties.
Of course, the next level goes to the coach, and for the Blue Jackets, their Head Coach is John Tortorella, who yesterday became the 1st US Born Head Coach to win 500 NHL Games. If you are a Hockey fan then you know all about Tortorella. Won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04, He spent 7 seasons in Tampa and still is the winningest coach in that franchise’s history with 239 wins. After that, he then spent 6 seasons as the bench boss in New York with the Rangers. He went 171-118-1-29 in his 6 years in New York with a trip to the Conference Final in 2011-12 but went 6 and out to the Devils. After a cup of coffee in Vancouver and part of a year in TV with ESPN and The NHL Network, the Blue Jackets came calling last year. The Jackets got off to a 0-8 start in 2015-16, that led to Todd Richards being let go and in came, Torts. Since his arrival in Columbus, The Jackets went 34-32-8 the rest of that year and 20-5-4 this year, that totals a 54-38-12 record under Tortorella, who is making a real case as the lead candidate for Coach of the Year this season (and I think he is the lead candidate).
When you look at the Blue Jackets you have, to begin with, their defense as the catalyst for this hot start that they are on.
- The Blues Jackets Statistics Defensively:
2nd in Goals Allowed – 60
7th in GA/G – 2.07
3rd in SA/G – 28.9
16th in PK – 81.9%
19th in Home PK – 81.1%
14th in Road PK – 82.6%
8th in PP Goals Allowed – 15
12th in Home PP Goals Allowed – 7
T-5th in Road PP Goals Allowed – 8
2nd in 1st P Goals Allowed – 14
T-2nd in 2nd P Goals Allowed – 23
T-2nd in 3rd P Goals Allowed – 20
27th in Hits – 572
20th in Blocks – 433
24th in Turnovers forced – 169
8 of these 15 statistical categories, the Blue Jackets rank in the top-10 in the NHL defensively, and it’s just the defense that’s been terrific, their offense as well has been very good. They rank in the top-10 in several Offensive categories too; Goals/G, Goals scored, Power Play%, Shots/G to name some of them.
Now to the players on the team, we begin with their top 6 scorers comprising of; Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, Sam Gagner and Zach Werenski all range from 31 points in Atkinson to the 21 in Werenski. The teams is filled with young talented player. Along with Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski are players like Seth Jones, Boone Jenner, David Savard, Josh Anderson, Markus Nutivaara, Lukas Sedlak, William Karlsson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Ryan Murray and a host of other. All theses guys were either drafted or acquired in trades, They only have 4 players over the age of 30 in Scott Hartnell, Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson and Curtis McElhinney.
In speaking of in net, The Blue Jackets are anchored in goal by Sergei Bobrovsky, who is having a terrific bounceback season after a disappoint year last year. Bobrovsky is 19-5-2 with a sparking 1.94 GAA and a .932 Save %, He is currently on pace to have a 58-15-6 season, Now I don’t think he’ll encompass that record but that shows you the kind of year he’s having in net for Columbus this season.
In a state where The Cavaliers are ruling The NBA as Champions and The Ohio State Buckeyes recent success in College Football under Urban Meyer, the Blue Jackets are yet another nice feel good story in Ohio Sports that has had plenty of things to enjoy the last few years.
This is shaping up to be one of the best seasons in Blue Jackets History. They’ve only made the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice ever, in 2008-09 and 2013-14. What will this season result in for the Jackets? That’s what we and the rest of The NHL Community will be excited to watch.
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