We do have the stats on that.

As it does usually, curiosity gets the better of me when it comes to hockey statistics. Now that the Columbus Blue Jackets are more than halfway through their season, I wanted to take a look at what the top producers’ numbers might look like on April 13, when all is said and done, and how that compares to past production. To do so, I took each player’s numbers, divided them by his number of games played (stat/gm pace), then multiplied it by 34 – the number of games remaining before tonight’s match-up against Los Angeles. This is obviously a huge plate of assumptions – assuming nobody who is cold gets hot, nobody who is hot struggles, and that [knock on wood] nobody takes a hit from the injury bug. I’ll undoubtedly be wrong, but it’ll be fun to see how they finish the year versus mid-season form. If you would like to look at the whole team, check out my spreadsheet on Google Docs.

Ryan Johansen

Player GP G A P PP SH S
Ryan Johansen 48 18 18 36 4 0 131
Projected 82 31 31 62 7 0 224

Nobody has to tell you this guy is way off his prior pace, but he’s 21 and he’s going in the right direction, so we’re obviously down with this. I’ve already talked about that. If Johansen does indeed finish with 31 goals or better, he will be only the third player in franchise history to do so. Geoff Sanderson and Rick Nash are the others. (But you already knew that.) 62 points would also be the most by one player since 2011.

Brandon Dubinsky

Player GP G A P PP SH S
Brandon Dubinsky 42 10 22 32 3 2 108
 Projected 76 18 40 58 5 4 195

When Dubinsky, Anisimov, et al came over from New York, I had said that if we got two twenty-goal scorers in exchange for one streaky 30-40 goal scorer, I would take it. Let’s pretend last year never happened. Dubinsky is on pace for eighteen goals. His career high is 24, but let’s look at the point total – his career high is 54, but averaged in the forties. He’s having a career year, and I’d guarantee much of that has to do with the electrifying chemistry he creates with Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert. We’ll take it.

James Wisniewski

Player GP G A P PP SH S
James Wisniewski 41 4 24 28 1 0 90
 Projected 75 7 44 51 2 0 165

When Wisniewski came over to the Blue Jackets in the summer of 2011, I wasn’t sure what to think at first. They paid him an extraordinary amount of money, but the kind you need to bring in talent when you’ve got little by way of bragging rights. I did some nerdy stat breakdowns at the time and declared it a deal. He hasn’t come anywhere close to his career high of 51 points in 2011 that earned him the deal, but — oh, look at that — he’s on pace for exactly that amount. He’s topped his first full-season point total with Columbus, and appears to be continuing upward. We can only hope for good health. Right now, he’s figuring fifteenth among defensemen in points. Good news for #21.

Cam Atkinson

Player GP G A P PP SH S
Cam Atkinson 48 15 12 27 2 1 135
Projected 82 26 21 46 3 2 231

Cam Atkinson has yet to play a full season in the NHL – this will be his first – so its hard to compare his numbers versus the past. However, in both of his first two (partial) seasons, he averaged around 0.51 PPG. This season he’s upped that to 0.56 PPG. That isn’t a huge difference, but it shows Atkinson can be counted on to be consistent. Likely, these numbers are helped by a pretty hot last five games, but even streaky players even out over time.

Nick Foligno

Player GP G A P PP SH S
Nick Foligno 42 12 14 26 2 0 70
 Projected 76 22 25 47 4 0 127

Foligno has played 438 NHL games, but has never surpassed twenty goals in a season, despite also putting up 47 points in 2011-12, just before moving over to Columbus. Steady, Foligno has been, in his parts of seven seasons, and he’s every bit on pace to continue that.

RJ Umberger

Player GP G A P PP SH S
RJ Umberger 48 11 13 24 5 0 84
Projected 82 19 22 41 9 0 144

Before I say anything, let me remind you that Umberger is third on the Columbus Blue Jackets in cap hit, behind Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton. He makes more than every single player ahead of him on this list. Up until 2011, Umberger was putting upwards of 50 ponts on the board every year, with one year just below that. Since then, Umberger has been on a steady decline: 40 in 77 games in 2011-12 (0.52), 18 in 48 games in 2012-13 (0.375). This year he’s returned to 0.50, but he’s still well below the 0.67 clip that earned him his deal. Prognosis: not good enough. (Side Note: five minutes after I wrote this, he scored a goal.)

Artem Anisimov

Player GP G A P PP SH S
Artem Anisimov 48 12 10 22 1 1 88
Projected 82 21 17 38 2 2 150

For most of the beginning of this season, it felt a bit like Anisimov was skating lost and accomplishing nothing. Anisimov plays a two-way game, counted on for his defensive game, but he’s got hands like buttah and we know know he can snipe when he wants to. Even in his best year with the Rangers, Anisimov only put up 18 goals. He’s on pace for just over twenty, and his second-highest point total. It’s believable that Anisimov is hiding more in his arsenal, but the positive takeaway is that he’s not actually getting worse.

 

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets are 3-1-1 in their last five. Yes, you read that correctly. Could this be the team we were led to believe that we’d really be seeing this season? It’s probably easy to get caught up in the furor of the moment and to be dazzled (or glamored, if you will) by a five game uptick after such an agonizingly slow death – I mean start – but there are enough positives to pull from the situation that it’s hard to believe that this isn’t for the relative long haul.

The Beast has been awakened: Trade drama,slow start, injury, slow start, trade drama, and Welcome to Columbus, Jeff Carter. After a tumultuous start to his born again career in Columbus, the blonde bombshell wasn’t exactly winning fans over on the ice. In the last two games, the snakebite has been healed and Carter has sniped three goals. Pure snipes, wicked wristers that nobody is going to corral. So this is why we traded an underachieving kid and a high draft pick. Next time we’ll make sure to specify that October 7th is when the party starts on the invites. Provided the snake of doom doesn’t bite again, Carter’s spark – along with the chemistry starting to build up front – could and should ignite a snowball effect that will turn into the Nash/Carter/InsertWarmBodyHere combination we were really hoping could score 60-70 goals.

Out with the old, in with the Wisniewski: Congratulations! You just have just acquired and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a semi-proven offensive defenseman. Now learn to play without him for half of preseason and eight games of regular season. The Jackets definitely missed this guy for the first eight games, and that showed when he roared back onto the ice against Detroit for the team’s first victory of the year. However, his stability faltered after just a few games (something absurd like -11 in just three games), but he seems to have regained form and netted a monster goalforthe Jackets to topple Darth Vader/Goliath/The Devil/World Hunger/the Nashville Predators.

- Not so Vermeaty: What the heck happened with the former first/second line Antoine Vermette? This guy was struggling to epic proportions to start the season, but since being moved to the third line has seemed to calm down. He’s playing more defensive minutes with Pahlsson & Dorsett, and is pressing less to make offensive opportunities.

Nikita Nikitininininin and the Surprise Defensive Corps: Great, Howson. One Nikita wasn’t enough drama, so you went out and traded the well-loved (hold your snorts, please, media-types) Little Shake (oh, just me?) for a guy WHOSE NAME IS NIKITA-SQUARED. What a surprise this guy has been, eating minutes, putting up a few assists, and otherwise quietly getting the job done. John Moore has also stepped up to the plate and has seemingly matured before our eyes. Perhaps it was the lack of pressure for him this season to be somebody they could depend heavily on, seemingly relegated for heavy AHL duty, that allowed him to slow down mentally. Whatever it was, Moore has done relatively, surprisingly well when called into service, though Arniel has him on a tight leash and is hesitant to use him in the third period of close games.

Let’s be realistic, now. The hole has been dug deeply, and even if the recent surge continues for the next 60 games, there’s little chance that this team can elevate itself to a dominant, sure bet for the playoffs. Can we hope so? Absolutely. The same way the Jackets tripped, stumbled, and rolled out of the gate and into a puddle of quicksand, teams are going to hit these patches. The Jackets need to capitalize on those moments when their competitors stumble, and make the most of every opportunity. If nothing, to salvage their dignity and that of their fans, and to prove that Howson & co. made the right moves last summer. You can buy all of the pieces to the car, but if you don’t assemble them correctly, or some of them misfire, the car isn’t worth its weight in metal. Are the Jackets worth their weight in salary cap? On paper, and in theory, you want to hope so. Over the last five games? Absolutely. Has the ship been righted, or are they going to continue taking on water? Time will tell.

The largest source of criticism over the signing of James Wisniewski is the amount of money the team has committed to him in his spanking-new contract, and the ensuing argument has been whether or not he was deserving of that type of money. So, why not find out for ourselves? The table below lists the top ten scoring defensemen in the 2010-11 season (Wisniewski ranked fifth):

G A P +/- PPG GW HITS BkS GvA S% 2011-12 CAP HIT
Lubomir Visnovsky 18 50 68 18 5 4 52 116 45 11.8 5.6 M
Nicklas Lidstrom 16 46 62 -2 7 1 49 92 33 9.1 6.2 M
Keith Yandle 11 48 59 12 3 0 30 103 61 5.5 5.25 M *
Dustin Byfuglien 20 33 53 -2 8 6 140 72 59 5.8 5.2 M
James Wisniewski 10 41 51 -14 7 2 108 119 67 6.3 5.5 M +
Tobias Enstrom 10 41 51 -10 6 0 30 137 29 8.8 3.75 M
Christian Ehrhoff 14 36 50 19 6 3 54 108 47 6.7 4.0 M #
Dan Boyle 9 41 50 2 4 2 55 139 51 4.5 6.7 M
Kris Letang 8 42 50 15 4 2 167 109 52 3.4 3.5 M
Shea Weber 16 32 48 7 6 3 211 113 51 6.3 UNSIGNED ^
AVERAGE 13 41 54 5 6 2 90 111 50 7 5.08

* first year of a new contract, increased from 1.2 M in 2010-11
+ first year of a new contract, increased from 3.25 M in 2010-11
# first year of a new contract, increased from 3.1 M in 2010-11; heavily back-loaded contract, actual salary is $10M + $8M bonus, cap hit is seriously misleading
^ unsigned; previous cap hit was 4.5 in 2010-11

The green highlighted boxes on Wisniewski’s stat line are where he is above the average of the ten. He is above average in assists, power play goals, hits, blocked shots, and giveaways. Sixty seven giveaways is certainly nothing to write home about and has him quite a bit ahead of the average, but he also ranks above his high-scoring comrades in other defensive stats (the good ones – blocked shots & hits). Wisniewski’s -14 is also misleading: he was an uncomfortable -18 on the Islanders before being traded to a stable, playoff-bound Montreal team where he was a +4.

Provided that Wisniewski continues his gradual yearly progress (he only had 30 points the year before – still nothing to shake a stick at, though), he appears (at least on paper) to have a good balance of offense and defense. That balance is something the Jackets have long been lacking: what offense they’ve seemed to extract has sometimes seemingly come at the cost of a solid defense (guys like Stralman & Russell, for example).

At a cap hit of 5.5 million, that shakes down to $107,843.13 per point. Compare that to Fedor Tyutin, whom the Jackets are paying approximately $105,324.07. Hardly more than they are paying Tyutin on a per-point basis, with a lot more production. And if you compare Wisniewski to a guy like Shea Weber, whose contract has yet to be market-inflated, they’re paying him only a million more than Weber made last year, and less than he will likely make next year. Compare that also to Christian Ehrhoff who has made out like a bandit from the Sabres’ wallet; his one-point-less has garnered him a Swiss bank account to envy.

In the scheme of things, Wisniewski seems like an overpay, but among his top-10 scoring defensemen, he is absolutely middle of the road. Unless he suffers a steady decline, the Jackets should get exactly what they paid up for.

The verdict: DEAL.

The Newbs:
  1. James Wisniewski: Pretty much an essential, maybe not deserving of the 5.5 per, but worth it. As in, he just gets the PP, and if the Jackets didn’t pony it up, he was going to get it elsewhere and their problems would still be unsolved. Plus he seems pretty stoked about coming to Columbus which is, like, Chicken Soup for the Blue Jackets Fan’s Soul (ya hear, JCarter?). And he is proof that not all things from the State of Michigan have to be nasty. Okay?!
  2. Curtis Sanford: This is one of those times when Scott Howson reads my Twitter feed and listened to me, except that he signed him as a #3. (That’s okay – I can dig it.) Sandman is a little old (relatively speaking, so stop making that face and taking it personally), and has been a pro since 1999 (Steve Mason was, like, 11). He’s played backup in Vancouver to Roberto Luongo, and split duties for a few years in St. Louis. The last two, however, he was a mainstay in the Hamilton Bulldogs crease until an injury ended his year. He won 23 and 22 games the last two years with Hamilton, respectively and led the team to consecutive regular-season division Championships and onto Conference Finals, while mentoring a young Cedrick Desjardins and Robert Mayer.
  3. Mark Dekanich: 25, signed on to be Stevie Mason’s backup goalie. 1 game of NHL experience – OH MY GAWD THE WORLD IS ENDING –  but he has over 100 pretty solid ones in the AHL and from personal experience having seen one of his games in the ECHL – he has quick reflexes. Comes from the Nashville Predators Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Play Goal Good Too and was a back up back up to Pekka Rinne. Obviously this guy’s not going to carry the load, but he should be in prime form to step up to the challenge. Oh, and he’s on Twitter. @dexshow
  4. Some minor league guys: Mostly the rest is depth, nothing even worth making fun of except Aaron Johnson, who had his Best Year Ever in the AHL last year, but had some mediocre years in the NHL. But he’s BFFs with Rick Nash, so he’ll probably be starting on D every night. Just kidding. I hope.
The Departed:
  1. Jan Hejda: $3.25M x 4 years, Colorado Avalanche. Really? asdksjfdsjgdfg… HAHA, WHAT? Rumored he was wanting the big bucks to stay in Columbus, but those big bucks needed to be used for an upgrade. His $2M payday last year seemed fair. If he wanted long-term in Columbus, sticking at $2M would have been cool. But a raise AND lengthy deal? For a guy who is getting progressively worse? Maybe the altitude will be good for him…?
  2. Scottie Upshall: $3.5M x 4 years, Florida Panthers. Hated to see him go, but… he was a little redundant in the Top 6 and too expensive for the Bottom 6. Would have loved to keep him for his old salary of $2.25M, but… yeah. Have fun on the beach.
  3. Mathieu Garon: $1.3M x 2 years, Tampa Bay Lightning. :(
  4. Mike Commodore: $1M x 1 years, Detroit Red Wings. We’re paying him more than they are! Hello, indigestion. Positive this will be a bite-in-the-ass someday when he’s motivated to try playing aggressively and smartly… oh, wait, HAHA. Carry on.

1. The Predators are (maybe) in trouble, or are perhaps pulling an imitation of the Blackhawks, and have screwed up their QOs. (Qualifying offers, for those of you who don’t do acronyms.) Apparently, the Predators have some difficulty discerning the difference between how a fax machine and FedEx work. Suppose we’ll let them slide, it is only 1981 in Tennessee, afterall. Please, nobody tell them about email for a while.

2. Wisniewski. Yeah, he totally played for one of those Canadian teams a certain person around here (ahem) seems particularly fond of. Spelling his name is today’s daunting task. Spelling test will be administered shortly after the conclusion of his contract signing, so read up on Porty and Reed retweeting each other today. Seriously though, he seems familiar with this “power play” thing that has become exinct in Columbus, so ultimately Scott Howson should do whatever it takes to make good with this guy, even if it means a year’s supply of Buckeyes co-eds. Wait, wrong acquisition. Whatever, sign him, bro.

3. Ciao, Commodore: He’s been placed on waivers (again), this time the buy-out kind (cue scary Halloween ominous music). So long, Commie. It’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. We should’ve known this would end badly when we saw those dollar bills haphazardly strewn across his jungle of wiry burnt orange hairs.