directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Mid term grades

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mid term grades

Allan Muir of recently gave out his mid-term grades for the league.

Here is what he had to say about the Jackets:

Season So Far
Grade B-

Finally committed to coach Ken Hitchcock's system, the Jackets have taken a major step toward their first-ever playoff berth.

The Skinny

MVP: Pascal Leclair. Breakthrough season for the goaltender -- among the league leaders in save percentage (.926) and goals-against (2.66) who has powered the team's rise to legitimacy.

BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: Jan Hejda, Nikolai Zherdev. Unheralded Czech league vet Hejda slid comfortably into shutdown role alongside Adam Foote. Down to his last chance, Zherdev ditched the bad attitude, got with Hitchcock's program, and became one of the most exciting players in the game.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: David Vyborny. So much for cashing in on a big season. Vyborny, typically the best playmaker in the lineup, was called out by Hitchcock for "overthinking." Forcing plays instead of making them, Vyborny has been too easy to neutralize. Watch for the impending UFA to be dealt by the deadline.

HARDWARE HOPEFULS: Leclaire (Vezina)

Playoff Prognosis

Their 8-3-2 start raised expectations of a playoff berth. Although one's still within reach, this season looks more like just another stride toward respectability.

Now of course here is what I have to say:

How anyone can give this team anything other than an A grade overall is beyond me. Everyone, and I mean everyone predicted this team to be a doormatt this season and finish along with Phoenix either dead last or close to it in the league.

Overall Grade: A

Coaching: A+

Hitch and co. have this team playing to its strengths which are solid team defense, exceptional goaltending, and using checking to create its offense.

Offense: D+

With the 5th worst goals for in the league, the offense has struggled this year putting pucks in the net.

On the bright side both Rick Nash and Nik Zherdev on pace for career years - both are tied for the team lead with 43 points. Zherdev has already doubled his goal total from a year ago. Nash is only 1 goal away from matching last year's season output of 27. Both sit 47th and 48th respectively in overall league scoring.

On the downside David Vyborny has been a major dissapointment collecting only 16 points in 41 games and is a -9. Freddy Modin has been dogged by injuries and is just not returning to the ice. Jason Chimera, Gilbert Brule, Dan Fritsche have also struggled most of the year offensively.

Defense: A

On the flip side the Jackets have given up a the 5th best goals against in the leauge. In other words its damn hard to score against this team. The team has completely bought into Hitch's system and the top four in Foote, Hejda, Klesla and Hainsey have done a tremendous job on the blueline this season.

All four of those defensemen are '+' players with Jan Hedja leading the way with a +10. After being a -16 and -17 in his first two years as a Jacket, Adam Foote is second on the team with a +6.

Goaltending: A+

Is there any bigger surprise in the league this year than Pascal Leclaire? He's having his breakout season and leads the leauge in shutouts with 8 and is second in GAA ans SAVE%. Leclaire is a BIG reason why this team remains in the hunt.

Special Teams: B

Power play: C-
While better of late the powerplay really struggled at points this season and is ranked 21st in the league.

Penalty kill: A+
The leagues #1 penalty kill heading into the All Star break.

Expectations versus actual performance: A+

The Jackets have certainly followed Howson's manta of under promising and over delivering. This team has by far and away exceeded expectations.

Need improvement:

The Jackets will need to win more on the road to stay in the hunt. They are currently 9-14-2 on the road. Things have quietly begun to change in that area as they went 3 for 5 on their last road trip. With 9 of their next 15 on the road that will have to continue if they want to stay in the race. The good news is that 9 of their remaining 16 games are at home to round out the season.

The offense has got to score more goals. With the addtions of Brassard and Modin into the lineup and the continued development of guys like Russell, Murray and Boll its hopes scoring will pick up. Don't rule out a deal to help in this area.


The Jackets will be very actice at the deadline. They will be both buyers and sellers. Fedorov is dealt for a younger roster player. David Vyborny, Dan Fritsche and Jody Shelley are dealt for picks or prospects.

The Jackets stay in the hunt for that final playoff spot in that final week. They will finish 7th, 8th or 9th.


1 comment:

Shaggy said...

I'm plenty happy with a B. I came into this season hoping for third in the Central, and here they are in the thick of things. But you're analysis highlights why the team is just a B for now... Offense needs to get in gear.

Which is funny, because in years past, it's been the defense that has betrayed us.

(BTW: Thanks for the link back!)