Team Overview: COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Columbus Blue Jackets
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COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: By the Numbers

2014-2015
Overall Record: 42-35-5-89
Standings: Metropolitan Division: 5, Eastern Conference: 11, League: 23
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs

2015-2016
Overall Record: 4-11
Home Record: 0-5
Away Record: 4-6
Shootout Record: NA (no shootouts)
Standings: Metropolitan Division: 8, Eastern Conference: 16, League: 30
Goals For: 35 (NHL rank: 22)
Goals Against: 54 (NHL rank: 2)
Power Play Percentage: 18.2 percent (NHL rank: 15)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 73.5 percent (NHL rank: 29)
Leading Scorer: Brandon Dubinsky (4-7-11)
 

2015-2016 Overview:

There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets heading into this season. The Blue Jackets finished the 2014-2015 season with a tremendous push, going 15-1-1 in the team’s final 17 games. The team amassed a substantial number of injuries last season, which eventually held Columbus back from a playoff appearance. However, the way the team finished the end of the season sent a message to everyone, and everyone was expecting a healthy Columbus team to be a force to be reckoned with this year. Surprisingly, things didn’t turn out that way; in fact, Columbus has been anything but threatening. The Jackets started the season 0-8. Head coach Todd Richards was fired after 0-7, at which time John Tortorella came in and took the reigns. Things are more in control now, as the Jackets have a more respectable 4-3 record since Tortorella took over. That’s still falling far short of expectations, however. With the addition of power-forward Brandon Saad over the summer, the Blue Jackets were poised to compete for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference this season. The good news for the Blue Jackets is that the team has showed in the past that it can rally, it can put together a dominant stretch and it can fight to climb the standings. Tortorella has put a more steady system in place to make everyone accountable defensively, which will help clean up this mess of a situation. Tortorella’s typical coaching style will not work long-term with this young Columbus club, but it seems as though he has made some changes in his approach and is guiding the team in the right direction. It is still early in the season, and nothing is written in stone. But suffice it to say, the beginning of the season for the Columbus Blue Jackets has been disastrous.

 
Last Game: November 6 vs. Anaheim (Final: 2-4)
Next Game: November 10 vs. Vancouver, 7:00pm EST
 

Line Combinations

Here are the line combinations the Columbus Blue Jackets used in the team’s most recent game:
 
Forwards
Jenner-Dubinsky-Saad
Foligno-Johansen-Atkinson
Hartnell-Karlsson-Calvert
Campbell-Wennberg-Boll

Defensemen
Johnson-Savard
Murray-Tyutin
Connauton-Goloubef

Goalies
Bobrovsky
McElhinney
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:
F Artem Anisimov, F Jeremy Morin, F Corey Tropp, F Marko Dano and 2016 4th-round pick to Chicago for F Brandon Saad, D Michael Paliotta and F Alexander Broadhurst

Re-Signed:

  • F Brandon Saad (6-year deal with AAV* of $6 million)
  • F Matt Calvert (3-year deal with AAV* of $2.2 million)
  • F Michael Chaput (1=year contract at $650,000)
  • D Justin Falk (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • D Cody Goloubef (2-year deal with AAV* of $750,000)
  • F Paul Bittner (3-year ELC with AAV* of $809,166)
  • D Blake Siebenaler (3-year ELC with AAV* of $709,166)
  • G Curtis McElhinney (2-year deal with AAV* of $800,000)
  • D Austin Madaisky (1-year contract at $575,000)–contract mutually terminated on 11/4/15
  • D Jaime Sifers (2-year deal with AAV* of $625,000)
  • D Oleg Yevenko (1-year ELC at $650,000)

Free Agents Signed:

  • F Gregory Campbell (2-year deal with AAV* of $1.5 million)
  • D John Ramage (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • D Dean Kukan (2-year ELC with AAV* of $767,500)
  • D Andrew Bodnarchuk (1-year contract at $650,000)
  • F Brett Gallant (2-year deal with AAV* of $750,000)
  • F Kole Sherwood (3-year ELC with AAV* of $750,000)
  • F James Sheppard–PTO (later released)
  • F Antti Pihlstrom–PTO (later released)
  • F Dante Salituro–PTO (later released)
  • D Oleg Yevenko–PTO (later signed)
  • G Brad Thiessen–PTO (later released)

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (8) D Zachary Werenski
  • Round 1 (29) D Gabriel Carlsson
  • Round 2 (38) LW Paul Bittner
  • Round 2 (58) C Kevin Stenlund
  • Round 3 (69) RW Keegan Kolesar
  • Round 5 (129) D Sam Ruopp
  • Round 5 (141) D Veeti Vainio
  • Round 6 (159) D Vladislav Gavrikov
  • Round 7 (189) D Markus Nutivaara

Notable Extensions:
D David Savard (5-year deal with AAV* of $4.25 million)–starting next season

Free Agents Lost:

  • F Mark Letestu–Edmonton
  • F Brian Gibbons–NY Rangers
  • F Sean Collins–Washington
  • F Luke Adam–NY Rangers
  • G Oscar Dansk–Rogle BK (Sweden2)
  • D Will Weber–UFA
  • D Frederic St-Denis–EHC Red Bull Munchen (DEL-Germany)
  • F Jack Skille–Colorado
  • F Ryan Craig–UFA
  • D Thomas Larkin–Medvescak Zagreb (KHL-Russia)
  • F Dana Tyrell–UFA

Buyouts:
None

Organizational Changes:

  • Announced multi-year affiliation deal with Lake Erie (AHL)
  • Announced the resignation of general manager Chris MacFarland
  • Fired head coach Todd Richards
  • Named John Tortorella head coach

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here is an overview of the most significant moves made by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and how the those moves will continue to affect the 2015-2016 season:

Trading For Saad:

Columbus Blue Jackets

via bluejackets.nhl.com


Columbus Blue Jackets

Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images


Columbus Blue Jackets

Elise Amendola-Associated Press

When the Brandon Saad trade was announced over the summer, the majority of the hockey world was shocked. There were rumors that the Blackhawks might not be able to re-sign Saad because the team would be up against the cap once the $10.5 million contracts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane kicked in this season. However, not only did the trade seemingly come out of nowhere, but it also came very early on in the offseason, much sooner than most would have expected. At this point in the season it doesn’t really matter what the reaction to this trade was. However, there was a lot of hype surrounding the Blue Jackets heading into this season, and the Saad deal was a huge part of that.

At only 23 years of age (22 at the time of the trade), Saad is a highly accomplished and talented NHL player. He has won two Stanley Cups and was an important part of both of those Cup runs. A mainstay in the top six of a very talented offensive Blackhawks team, Saad is one of the best up-and-coming stars in the NHL and is considered one of the top power forwards in the game. Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen went out and completed a major trade that would significantly affect the franchise’s future. Kekalainen then signed Saad to an extension, locking up the top-six forward for six years with an average annual value of $6 million.

In three full seasons with the Blackhaws, Saad scored 146 points (assuming his 2012-2013 lockout-shortened season scoring was on pace for 47 points in a prorated 80-game season). He has also tallied 33 points in 65 playoff games over the past three seasons. Those are certainly impressive numbers for such a young forward. Yes, he had the advantage of playing with players like Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa, etc., but he brought a lot to the table for Chicago in his own right. Despite the struggles Columbus has faced so far this season, Saad has scored a respectable 8 points in 14 games. Line combinations have been shuffled repeatedly due to the 0-8 start and the coaching change, but Saad most recently played on the top line with Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky. Saad is capable of being a top-line player and was one of the few players who was able to put points on the board in the first 7-8 games of the season. Saad currently is on a four-game point streak, scoring four points (2 goals, 2 assists) during that stretch. The Blue Jackets expect a lot out of Saad, and he seems more than capable of producing for Columbus. He will continue to be a dependable player for this Blue Jackets team, as well as a positive influence for all the young players on the team who have never won a playoff series.
 

Savard Extension:

Columbus Blue Jackets

Jamie Sabau-NHLI via Getty Images

In early September the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that the team had signed defenseman David Savard to a five-year extension with an average annual value of $4.25 million. This extension came after Savard had a career year in 2014-2015, scoring 11 goals and 25 assists and averaging 22:56 of ice time per game. In a statement, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement:

“Getting David signed to a contract extension was a priority for us and we are very happy to have reached a long-term deal with him. He has taken tremendous steps the past two seasons and responded very well to the larger role he played on our blueline last season. We are excited about his future with the Blue Jackets.”

To many, this seemed like quite a leap for a relatively young and unproven defenseman with one solid year on the books. In a way, this is a legitimate point. Savard has only really played two full seasons with the big club, one in which he only tallied 15 points. However, it also makes sense for the Blue Jackets organization to be proactive in resigning a solid defenseman who was developed in the Columbus system and who had an impressive 2014-2015 campaign. Good defensemen in this league command a lot of money, and while Savard wouldn’t necessarily be considered a top-pair defenseman on most teams, that is the role he has taken in Columbus; $4.25 million for a top-pairing defenseman who is still only 25 (he was 24 at the time of the extension) could pay dividends. Though Savard possibly could have commanded more had he followed up last season with another solid effort this year, it makes sense from his perspective to take care of the extension before his current deal expires at the end of this season. For one thing, he is cashing in on a great year. The hope is that he will build on it and continue to play at that level every year, but it’s a significant pay raise over his current two-year deal worth $2.6 million total. From Columbus’ perspective, if Savard turns out to be a true top-pair defenseman in the organization, then $4.25 million could turn out to be a bargain a few years down the road.

Another thing the organization was considering is Savard’s past performance in the AHL and the QMJHL. Though those numbers never quite correlate with NHL performance, Savard has a history of piling up the points; in 2009-2010 he tallied 77 points for the Q’s Moncton Wildcats. He also scored 43 points (11 goals, 32 assist) for Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, in 2010-2011; those numbers are comparable to Savard’s output from last season. It seems as though Savard is capable of producing on a consistent basis, as he is averaging almost half a point per game so far this season, which is quite impressive when you can consider how poorly the team has performed. In the end, it’s most likely a solid deal. $4.25 million for any solid defenseman these days is completely reasonable, and if Savard could end up being a top-pair defenseman for Columbus then it will be an absolute steal.
 

Coaching Change:

Columbus Blue Jackets

Jim Mone-Associated Press

After getting off to an 0-7 start, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired head coach Todd Richards and replaced him with John Tortorella. Tortorella has an impressive resume, though he is known to be brutally strict and tough. The general consensus is that Tortorella either discussed with Blue Jackets management or was told by management that he would have to somewhat alter his go-to coaching style. His coaching style can wear on a player and on a team and can ultimately hinder the team’s chances of success. While the team isn’t on a 10-game winning streak, things are certainly starting to turn around in Columbus; the team has a 4-3 record since Tortorella took over and the team looks more sound overall.

Of the hiring, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement, “None of us saw our season unfolding the way it has and every one of us from management to coaches to players bears responsibility. There is still a lot of hockey to be played and we believe this change was necessary to give our team the best chance to accomplish the goals we’ve set for this season.”

Tortorella was most recently the head coach in Vancouver, where he was involved in a controversial altercation outside an opponents’ locker room. He was suspended for 15 days and the Canucks’ season collapsed in the second half, which led to his termination. Coming into Columbus, Tortorella had a 446-375-115 record (.538) in 936 games as a coach for the Lightning, Rangers and Canucks. His teams reached the postseason eight times, including a Stanley Cup victory in 2004 with Tampa Bay and an Eastern Conference Final appearance with the Rangers in 2012. Tortorella is first among U.S.-born coaches in all-time NHL wins with 446; he was recently named the head coach of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

“John Tortorella is an experienced National Hockey League coach with a proven track record of success,” Kekalainen said. “He is a Stanley Cup winner and we believe the right person to lead our team at this time.”

Though Tortorella doesn’t always do things the easy way, he is a proven coach and should be able to turn things around for Columbus. The fact that he has been more receptive to players’ opinions and needs shows his growth as a coach, especially through the help of Brandon Dubinsky, whom he coached in New York from 2008-2012. So far it seems as though Torts has been able to strike a balance, which will be very important for the team. Though it may take some time, Columbus certainly has the talent to be a very competitive team in this league. Even after such a miserable start, the Blue Jackets aren’t too far behind that a comeback is unlikely. It will be difficult, but it can be done. Though Todd Richards had been the coach of the team since 2012 and led the Blue Jackets to the playoffs in the 2013-2014 season, the team was in need of a change. The coach is normally the first person to go when things don’t go as planned. A change was certainly necessary, though, and the fact that Kekalainen was able to get an established coach with NHL success made it an even more necessary change. Tortorella will build the team’s confidence and get the team in shape and motivated to be the competitive threat everyone expected it to be; it is just a matter of time.
 
 

Final Thoughts

Things Are “Looking Up” in Columbus

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Jim Mone-Associated Press

The Blue Jackets became just the sixth team in NHL history to lose the first seven games of the season in regulation. Columbus has been one of the most surprising story lines in the 2015-2016 season, but things should turn around for the better. Every player should be held accountable when a team plays so poorly, and new coach John Tortorella will definitely make his players accountable as part of his plan to fix this team. It is only one month into the season, so there is plenty of time. The team seems to be responding to Tortorella, and if goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky can be decent, the team has a shot of making up ground and climbing its way into a competitive spot in the standings. The fact that the team went out in the offseason and landed Brandon Saad shows that this organization is committed to winning. The team has talent, youth, speed, leadership and scoring. Though the defense leaves something to be desired, there are talented players on the blueline who are capable of playing better hockey, and Bobrovsky certainly needs to make drastic changes to clean up his game. The team is capable of making a comeback, and players up and down the lineup should respond to Tortorella’s demanding and intense coaching style; former players admit that he is tough but he is fair, and he is never one to shy away from the media. He will defend his players and will hold them accountable, which seems like it is exactly what this team is in need of right now. The team is talented enough to make a comeback; don’t be surprised to see the Blue Jackets rising steadily in the standings.
 
 
Featured image credit: Jason Mowr-Icon Sportswire