Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Blue Jackets Improvement

The most improved team in the NHL this is the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Last season they finished second last in the East Conference with 76 points.  So far this year they are one point out of first place in the Metropolitan Division with games in hand.  They have a 15-9 record with four regulation tie points.  This is good for 34 points.  How has this team improved so much?

The answer is largely due to goaltending and offence.  In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky has proven to be a top level goalie when he is healthy but doesn't always have successful healthy stretches.  Last season he put up a .908 saves percentage and a 2.75 goals against average.  Those numbers have improved tremendously this year.  He is posting a .930 saves percentage and a 2.03 GAA.  This is an improvement of over 26% percent in his goals against average.

Offensively there were no significant scorers on the Blue Jackets.  Brandon Saad and Cam Atkinson tied for the team lead in points with only 53 points.  This season there are six Blue Jackets on pace to better that mark.  They are Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad, Sam Gagner and Zach Werenski.  Gagner and Werenski are both newcomers to the team.  Werenski is a rookie and Gagner is a free agent signee from the Philadelphia Flyers.  Of the other players making significant offensive improvements, only Wennberg is young enough that he might be making a sustainable jump.  He is 22 years old.

Brandan Saad is on the edge of the age range when people take a big sustained step forward at age 25 but he has other signs that he may be able to sustain a higher scoring rate.  Cam Atkinson is a 27 year old who has never scored more than 53 points in a season, though his totals have improved in the last few years, it is rare that players his age sustainably increase their scoring rate.  Nick Foligno is 29 years old.  He scored 73 points two years ago, which was his highest total since 2012 and the only time he ever cleared 50 points.  It isn't clear that his offence is sustainable.

Of the Columbus newcomers, Sam Gagner's offensive totals do not look sustainable either.  His 17 points so far this year is one more than he managed last season.  He scored 49 points as a rookie in 2007/08 but it has been downhill since then.

Columbus is an improved team.  Their goaltender is playing much better.  They have an improving group of offensive players including defenceman Zack Werenski.  Some of the improving offensive players will not be able to sustain their recent success.  That is probably expected.  Any team that takes a big step forward usually takes a partial step backwards as they regress to their true talent level.  The Blue Jackets may make the playoffs this season.  They will not likely be a serious contender to win their division, as they look right now but they are a team that is on the rise.

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They are going to crush us tomorrow.  Hopefully, we keep it close.

Posted by wingsrul91 on 12/08/16 at 11:02 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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