In the first installment of Blue Jackets By the Numbers, we’re going to compare all of the returning forwards’ statistics from 2009-10 to 2010-11.

It is no surprise that Rick Nash is at the top fo the list once again. With his 66 points (down one from last season), he put up exactly the same the same points-per-game ratio at 0.88 per game, also the best on the team. Second this season was RJ Umberger, at 0.70, just slightly up from the season before.

The Conundrum That is Jake Voracek
This season, Voracek was elevated to the first line for the majority of the season, where he played alongside (when healthy), Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. At times, the line was unstoppable, and other times they couldn’t seem to find each other or differentiate their head from their rear ends. Jake played just one fewer game this season than last (two games missed due to Scott Arniel’s Healthy Scratch Hammer of Doom™), and put up just four fewer points. So why the drama over his lack of production? His 46 points were only one less than his highly-lauded linemate Brassard, and his plus/minus was better (though still not great). Yet as the season winded down, Voracek was the whipping-boy, with his rough twelve game slump. But why was Voracek so unappreciated over Brassard?

Speaking of Brassard…
Yes, he did look as good as we thought. His ice time jumped over two minutes a game on the average, and in five fewer games, he had eleven more points. It’s safe to say that he stepped up to the plate in his new role on the top line. 47 points, however, is underwhelming for a top-line guy playing beside Rick Nash, but he made strides in the right direction.

Second Line, Where Are You?
Kristian Huselius was limited this year to only 39 games, nearly half of what he played the season before. But when he was in the lineup, Juice and Antoine Vermette were absolutely unacceptably ineffective for a second line – 0.59 and 0.57 PPG, respectively, and down from 0.85 and 0.79. Why haven’t Huselius and Vermette received the kind of slack Voracek has? Sure, Juice wasn’t healthy, but when he was, he wasn’t good. And Vermette had an absolutely brutal season: a drop of 18 points without losing any games to injury. The only saving grace for the second line was the predictably predictable, never-wavering RJ Umberger and his 57 points. The second line – if this is the second line in 2011-12, HAS to be better.

Secondary Step-Up
Andrew Murray lost  most of his year to various injuries, but Weighty put up one more point (8) in only 29 games this season. Derek MacKenzie, finally seeing his first full-time action, stepped up just as beautifully: 23 points in 63 games, while averaging 2:09 more a game. For a fourth-line grinder sometimes thrust into top-line duty, D-Mac took the increased role on well.

  1. With the addition of defenseman Marc Methot and head coach Scott Arniel (associate coach to Ken Hitchcock), the Blue Jackets could be well-represented by Team Canada at the World Championships. If Rick Nash (back) goes, they could have three. Goaltender Steve Mason was apparently also asked, but has chosen to rest. It was rumored that Kris Russell (ankle) had also been on the short list.
  2. Jakub Voracek is fat: okay, that’s not really what this says, but kind of. Jake Voracek, who only had a small drop-off in his offensive productivity over a year before, struggled through a painful slump at the end of the season, and it seems as though the kid has some kind of issue staying in shape. Really, Jake? You’re 21 years old. Get it together. There’s no excuse. Cut back on the potato chips, ding dogs, and Bud Light. We’d like you to be less of a lardo.
  3. The Word from the Birds: Springfield Falcons owner Charlie Pompea posted a letter on the Falcons’ site today addressing the unfortunate end to the Falcons season, and promised they’d work with the Jackets to “assure” change for next year. And this article from MassLive eludes to a general warm-fuzzy feeling out of Falcons camp when it comes to the Jackets. Big change from the years in Syracuse, and it’s good to see that there is a sense of optimism in Springfield, despite the trouble.
  4. From Ten Minute Misconduct - Playing Twister: Jeff Little is at it again with his excellent work. This time, he injected a nice slice of reality into the CBJosphere by spinning the tables on the choices that Scott Howson didn’t make (appropriately), but the Dispatch seems to have a love-affair with anyway.
  5. From Dark Blue JacketOut of Time: Look out, DBJ’s on a roster-clearing rampage in his season review!

Over the next few weeks – look for our season in review, player “awards” (hold your laughter), and a little playing with numbers!

Photo: Paul Vernon/AP Photo

In a game started already short their third line right winger Derek Dorsett, injury trouble was the last thing the Columbus Blue Jackets needed. On his first shift of the night, Derick Brassard was hit in the hand and would be lost at least for the immediate future. Not long after, RJ Umberger went down with an apparent knee injury. It looked grim for the Jackets, especially after a Justin Williams goal put the Kings ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard.

As they so often have this year, the Jackets regrouped and recovered. Jakub Voracek notched his eleventh goal of the season, assists going to Rick Nash and – wait for it – Derek MacKenzie. D-Mac jumped up from the fourth to the first line after two of the top six went down, and looked fantastic beside Jake and the Cap’n.

 In the second period, Loktionov put the Kings back ahead, but Nash made it look easy when he roofed a shot past Jonathan Quick, again assisted by temporary first liner MacKenzie. Tie game, end of two.

 Drew Doughty’s (boy, wouldn’t we love to have this guy) eighth goal of the season put the Kings ahead for the third time in the game, and for much of the third period it looked as if it would stay that way. Umberger returned to the game and the first line, but their shots weren’t getting through traffic, even on 1:53 of 5-on-3 power play.

 With just over a minute to go, Mathieu Garon was headed to the bench at precisely the moment Kris Russell flipped a backhander past Quick to tie the game once again. Russell, the object of many a Puck Rakers commenters’ ire for his lack of Mike Green-ness, scored his first goal since December 6th.

 On to overtime. Each time got two shots, but nothing materialized in the extra frame, and the shootout would decide this game. The Jackets were unable to get anything past Quick except for Matt Calvert himself, which to the dismay of many did not actually count. Jarret Stoll scored on Garon to seal the victory for LA.

The Jackets were far from dominant, but they were resilient tonight. In a game spent without two of their top six, at least for the majority of the time, they were able to keep the game from spiraling out of control. One point in the stands beats a goose egg, but two would’ve been twice as nice.

Tonight’s Stud: Derek MacKenzie. He saw 17:12, and was 0-2-2 with +2 and 7 hits. Very effective in his opportunity to jump up with the big boys.
Tonight’s Dud: Mathieu Garon. Specifically on the third goal, Garon was soft on the puck and sloppy. Out of character for him lately.

Where we stand: 28-23-6, 62 points, 12th place (-5, 8th place Los Angeles)
What’s next: Friday at Chicago, 8:30pm Eastern

Other notes:
The Jackets assigned D John Moore to Springfield on Tuesday. Klesla is a week or more away from playing, but the rookie needed the playing time Anton Stralman’s heightened play would not allow him.
— Derek Dorsett is hurt, but nobody’s quite sure how bad. He skated today, so it must be manageable. Though Dorsett would probably skate sans head if he could.

Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Who is this team, and what have they done with the Columbus Blue Jackets?

In Pittsburgh, everybody showed up to play. The defense was solid – especially the play of frequent scapegoat Anton Stralman. Paired with Hejda, he was a +4 (note: actually +3, the NHL’s statistics gave him credit for the first goal, which he was not on the ice for). Rick Nash got the scoring going early with a beautiful one-timer fed by Derick Brassard. Samuel Pahlsson scored on a delayed penalty, Voracek on a partial break, and Vermette tucked one through on a Pittsburgh giveaway to lead the Jackets to a 4-1 victory.

Cue the excuses. Pittsburgh has no Crosby. No Malkin. No Kunitz. Despite injury trouble, Pittsburgh is (including the L to the Jackets), 7-3-0 in their last ten. That is not a struggling team. The Jackets were simply a better team than the Penguins last night, and for that they prevailed on the scoreboard.

 

Photo: Terry Gilliam/AP Photo

And then they came home to meet San Jose…

For the first twenty minutes, they were buzzing. With two big power play goals from Kristian Huselius and Grant Clitsome, it was suddenly 2-0 Jackets with a whole forty left to go. Unfortunately, the chances stopped coming, despite a massive 44 shots on goal. Niemi stood tall after the first, even when guys like Derek Dorsett and Jakub Voracek peppered him relentlessly with shots (8 and 7, respectively). Even with San Jose’s three unanswered goals, the foot was never entirely off the gas pedal, perhaps just slowed in the middle frame. A heartbreaker. Can’t win them all, but it would have been nice to take that one. 

Where we are: 12th place, Western Conference, -6 points from eighth place Calgary

What’s next: Friday vs. the Foote-less Colorado, 7pm