Statistical odds and ends, courtesy of the NHL.com Event Summary for the 10/7/11 game:

  • Marc Methot had only 15:33 TOI, the least of the entire D corps, though he was far from the worst. His last shift was with four minutes left in the third. Likely because they were looking for an offensive push on the blue line in the waning minutes, but never the less bizarre. He drew a minute and a half less PK time than Martinek & Tyutin, also.
  • Sometimes the numbers do lie (despite Mike Commodore’s insistence that his -8 last season was the statisticians’ fault): Cam Atkinson was a -2 on the night, the worst on the team (his linemates were -1 each), but otherwise, Atkinson did not have a bad night. He wasn’t a force to be reckoned with, but he had a few great  opportunities dissolved by Pekka Rinne.
  • Let’s talk about Jeff Carter on the face off dot. 24-7? That is more than half of the team’s combined 42 wins on the draw. He looked a little lost at times (we’re not in Philadelphia anymore, Toto), but a 0-2-2, 6 SOG, +1, 77% face off percentage earned last night’s paycheck for Goldilocks.
  • Hit me with your best shot: Without a whole lot of bumping & bruising, the Jackets still took the line on hits, 23-10. Dorsett had 4; Russell, MacKenzie, and Pahlsson each had 3. No word on if Russell’s check on Rick Nash counted toward that number.
  • Give it away, now: Clitsome (3), Atkinson (2), & Russell (2), cost the team, contributing to the ugly 11 team turnovers.
  • TOI leader: Clitsome, 24:29
  • TOI loser: Calvert, 8:55

As announced earlier today, Marc Methot has re-upped with the Jackets for four years, and according to the Dispatch, the deal breaks down as follows: “$2.25 million this season, $2.75 million in 2012-13, $3.25 million in 2013-14 and $3.75 million in 2014-15″ (source). Methot, aged 26 and a veteran of 229 NHL games, averaged just under twenty minutes of ice a night, including a regular helping of shorthanded time (second to only the departed Rostislav Klesla). In just his third full season, he has elevated himself to the second pairing and can be depended upon to bring a heavy physical presence to the lineup. But did the Jackets make a good deal signing him to a deal with an average cap hit of $3M? Here is how Methot compares to a handful of his defensive cohorts across the league:


Hits BkS GvA TkA Pts Cap Hit
Marc Methot 176 98 27 21 15 $3M
Braydon Coburn 177 133 51 32 16 $3.2M
Cory Sarich 175 109 51 15 17 $3.6M
Greg Zanon 169 212 28 21 7 $1.9M
Jan Hejda 152 158 30 21 20 $3.25M
Mike Weber 158 99 34 14 17 $950K

Highlighted are both Methot and his most comparable from the above list, Mike Weber of the Buffalo Sabres, who comes in with a surprisingly low $950K cap hit. Methot’s hits – all 176 of them – put him in good company with Braydon Coburn and Cory Sarich, though he is much less likely to cough up a turnover (hey, we like that out of our defensemen, right?), but also much less likely to block a shot. His 98 was only good for third among Jackets defenders, behind departed Hejda (listed for comparison) and Kris Russell (fewer hits, fewer giveaways, $1.3M hit). Methot’s giveways/takeaways are similar to Greg Zanon’s, but Zanon held a considerable edge in blocked shots. These comparisons aren’t worth the imaginary electronic paper they are typed on, but if we pretend that they are, Methot’s deal value can really go either way. It could be argued that Coburn and Sarich’s deals are overpays – thus causing an overpay of Methot – when compared to Zanon & Weber, but we’re going to go on a whim and call this a deal for one reason: the graduated structure of Methot’s contract. His salary for this coming season is only $2.25M, climbing yearly up to $3.75M. If he continues to progress the way he has over the last three seasons, by the conclusion of his contract he should be a mainstay on the top pairing along James Wisniewski and almost a steal at that value, and by the time his salary touches three million, the bottom portion of the defense should be filled out by names like John Moore and David Savard, who will likely still be entry level or on sub-million contracts.

The only question left to be asked is, with the commitment to Methot, what and who can they afford to round out the second defense pairing with?

For part two, we’re analyzing 2010-11 output [only] for all of the defensemen who played a measurable amount of time in a Blue Jackets jersey. It is no secret the defensemen were terrible, but let us illustrate, anyway.

Among the things that stand out:

Plus Minus: Only three guys maintained a plus-rating in their tenure. One being Rusty Klesla, whose numbers are diminished by the fact that he was traded at the deadline and was not around for the final damning slide. Two others who maintained a plus are Grant Clitsome and Marc Methot, who easily were the team’s best defensemen. Plus/minus, of course, is an oft-argued, hard to defend (pun intended) stat, but it can often be so telling. Fedor Tyutin being even at home, but -12 on the road? Kris Russell being +1 on the road but -10 at home? Hejda clearly much worse at home than on the road? These guys could use a dose of consistency.

Blocked Shots: Apparently this is something that Jan Hejda and Kris Russell have learned to do, but not many guys are following suit. Surprising for Methot to have only blocked 98, given his strength and size, same for Tyutin. These guys have to get over whatever fear they have of laying down in front of a puck. As defensemen, you know, it’s their job. The more shots they block, the less Mason/Garon/Goaltender-to-be-named-Later have to turn aside. Novel idea, yes? Let’s work on this, boys.

Anton Stralman, you heartbreaker: For the guy acquired to be the offensive touch and PP QB and who argued his case damn near into arbitration and to an overpriced deal, who has been given chances upon chances when he probably didn’t deserve them, Anton Stralman had 1 goal (on the powerplay, hooray!), and 17 assists (I’ll take those). A minus rating both on the road and at home. The team scored only 45 goals while he was on the ice. He only had 39 hits, 46 blocked shots, 15 takeaways – are we sure this guy is suited to be a defenseman?

Grant Clitsome just makes everybody better: Grant Clitsome played 31 games and had 19 points. Two power play goals (more than anybody else), a shooting percentage of 8, was out for FORTY goals-for (remember, in less than half as many games played), only 27 goals against (Tyutin, Hejda 90 and 89, respectively), and while he did spend time on the PK unit, only 4 PPG against. Grant Clitsome, welcome to the NHL. If the Jackets don’t re-sign him…

Next Year: Only Tyutin and Russell are under contract for next season, along with a handful of AHL rookies who will be fighting to make the jump in camp. The Jackets should undoubtedly reward the matured play of Methot and Clitsome with contracts. The verdict is out on Hejda, who supposedly is looking for a multi-year deal. It’s hard to jive with that when his effectiveness has declined with each year. Stralman just needs to go. His good play was so shortlived it’s hard to believe it even happened.

  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!

It’s almost comical how the perceptions fans – and sometimes media – have for players is how a player is expected to develop. Obviously you expect good things from first rounders (Derick Brassard, Nikita Filatov) or guys who have big first seasons (Steve Mason).  Sometimes you’re gifted with met expectations (Brassard, to some degree), and sometimes you’re left wanting more (Mason, Filatov). But realistically, not every first round draft pick is going to turn into a Rick Nash or a Steven Stamkos. The talent is not always that deep. As evidenced in the 2010 draft – there were two primary prospects who were expected to be the crème of the crop. (Were they, in retrospect? Not yet, at least.) The other 28 kids taken in that round were, essentially, the actual first round. You can’t expect #30 to be #1, and you can’t expect it overnight.

Photo by Elise Lotz

Similarly, why does anybody expect Kris Russell to be Drew Doughty or Cam Fowler? They were different-round picks. Different ages. Different sizes. Different backgrounds. Russell was a 30-goal scoring WHL Defenseman of the Year, but he is a 5’10” (generous), 180 (again, generous) sometimes-clumsy-but-speedy skater. He was also a third round draft pick because of one thing: his size. That is the same reason teams were hesitant to draft him higher and is the same reason he has gone through growing pains in the NHL. He isn’t conveniently large like Marc Methot – he has to use his feet, stick, and mobility to get into places the bigger guys just are. (Sidenote, Russell has 31 more blocked shots than Methot and 37 more than Tyutin, our so-called defensive defensemen.)

And who says he’s got to score 20 goals to be effective at his “style” of play? He is a “puck-moving defenseman” not a “goal scoring defenseman” and has excelled in moving the puck up ice as he’s expected to (in a way that only he and Clitsome have managed to do). But that doesn’t always translate to the score sheet. If the forwards aren’t effective with the puck themselves, the ability of the defenseman to move the play out of his zone goes unnoticed on the score sheet and shamefully, to the eye of most of the fans. But for the most part, Russell’s ability to move the puck forward does not come at the expense of the defense the way it hurts Fedor Tyutin or Anton Stralman.

Is it because the Dispatch and the media like to tout every player as “the next [insert player here]” that people build up unreasonable expectations of players? Did Scott Arniel or Scott Howson ever tell you that Kris Russell was going to be a Norris Trophy winner? No. He fits the bill for a third-rounder, 5’10”, low cap-hit player moving into his fifth season in the fall, and that’s exactly what he is.

    Kris Russell will miss the IIHF World Championships

  1. From Puck Rakers – Russell Out of Worlds: Update on defenseman Kris Russell, who according to Scott Howson has a spiral fracture of his tibia. He’s been ruled out of the World Championships, but who isn’t? Rick Nash (Canada), Fedor Tyutin (Russia), and Jakub Voracek (Czech Republic).
  2. From Carry the Flag – Methot Set to Wear Half Shield: With Marc Methot‘s decision to switch to a visor for 2011-12, Dan – a hockey player himself – gives us his $0.02 on the matter.
  3. From The Cannon – Game 80: Insult and Injury: As always, Matt conjures up a pretty in depth look at the last game, with a pretty interesting point – “Does anyone else feel a moment of bemusement that there was a disputed goal in yet another game against Dallas, and Derek Dorsett was involved each time?”
  4. From the Dark Blue Jacket – DBJ’s crowdsourced ballot for the 2011 NHL Awards: In lieu of our beloved (protesting) NHL writers doing it, DBJ is running a fan vote for the NHL Awards. Check it out and weigh in on his Facebook page.
  5. From Fire the Cannon – Eric Smith’s Weekly Podcast: This week featuring Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch and rookie Cam Atkinson.

For the first twenty minutes, this game had all of the makings of “one of those nights.” A lethargic, sloppy first period. Colorado as the opponent. The only thing consistent were the punches landing on Jared Boll‘s face off the fist of Cody McLeod. Philippe Dupuis broke out of the pack and netted an unassisted breakaway goal, the only scoring in the period, but after twenty minutes things were looking grim.

Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images

But that was all the Avalanche would get. In the second period, the Jackets came back to life. Boll fought again – Koci this time, another predictable loss – and three and a half minutes later, an agitated Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves with Daniel Winnik. Another loss there that prompted a hysteric outrage from Fox Sports Ohio commentator Bill Davidge when Winnik landed a punch on Dorsett after he was down on the ice.

Not even thirty seconds later, the Jackets finally got on the board. First from Rick Nash, then seven minutes later Derick Brassard, and after two it was 2-1. They had more than doubled their shots on goal in the second, and Mathieu Garon turned aside all 13 Colorado shots.

The third period started off with a bang. Even before the first whistle, Samuel Pahlsson sent Peter Forsberg flying into the back of Dorsett’s legs, which would literally send him head over heels flying down onto his head. He would leave the game in obvious pain and not return, and head coach Scott Arniel was quoted as saying he had the symptoms of a concussion. Dorsett, who has been playing solidly on the third line with Pahlsson and their rotating left wing, took an elbow to the face against San Jose. Not a good week for the scrappy little guy.

The only other scoring would come late in the game when Derek MacKenzie sealed the deal with an empty net goal at 19:56. Colorado had only seven shots in the third period, though it felt like they all came in the final few minutes of the game as they pressured Garon. The energetic 16,000+ on hand at Nationwide were very vocal in the final frame, applauding the Union Blue when they were able to stifle any Colorado attempts to take over the game.

Studs: Easily the top line. The 61-16-93 line now has 11 points in the last 3 games.
Duds: The first period.

Notable:

  • Marc Methot and Chris Clark each had five hits. It was a good game for the oft-replaced Clark.
  • Nash had a goal and an assist, six shots, and as tweeted by CBJ PR guy Ryan Holtmann, “From Elias: With his 25th goal of the season last night Rick Nash is the only #NHL player to score 25+ goals in seven-straight seasons.”
  • Brassard has been looking better and better every game. His game-winning goal was his fourth point in the last three games.
  • The Jackets only took one minor penalty in the game – a delay of game, at that.
  • For an Avs view of the game, please check out Katie’s recap at Hockey Without Oxygen!

Where we are: 27-23-5, 59 points (12th place), -5, 8th place Calgary

What’s next: Sunday, 3pm, at Dallas.