by PuckStopsHere on 12/29/16 at 04:12 PM ET
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of a 13 game winning streak. They are currently in second place in the NHL. They are one point behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, a team in which they have four games in hand. This is a significant improvement from last year's finish which was second worst in the East Conference. When a team makes as big a step forward as this it is reasonable to believe that they are overachieving. They may be an improved team, but this improvement is not as big as the statistics show to date. One place where we see some significant improvement is on the power play.
Columbus has the best power play in the NHL with a 27.1% success rate. This is almost a ten point improvement from last year's 17.3% success rate, which was good for 21st in the league. This power play is the most successful that the NHL has seen since the 1990 Calgary Flames had a 27.7% success rate. This is the most successful power play in 27 years. The Calgary team had future Hall of Famers in Joe Nieuwendyk Joe Mullen, Sergei Makarov and Al MacInnis manning their power play. Does Columbus have any future Hall of Famers in their line-up? It is possible that young players such as Zach Werenski may get there some day, but they have a long way to go. I th ink it is clear that Columbus does not have the talent to be the best power play in 26 years. It is a stretch to say they have the most talent on their power play this year. However their success is clear.
The problem with power play numbers is sample size. Columbus has spent about 150 minutes on the power play so far this season. That is two and a half games. Would you trust a trend that has only lasted two and a half games? As time passes and the sample size increases I would expect their power play to regress to its expected level and hence become less effective.
The Columbus success this year has been a big story so far this season. It is a big story because it is unexpected and so large. There are several indicators that suggest that it is bigger than sustainable. The power play is the most obvious of those indicators. Is it reasonable to believe that Columbus is the best power play in 27 years? They do not have the personnel for it and the year on year improvement is bigger than anyone could expect given the similarity of their roster to last year.
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