It seems fair to say that when the Columbus Blue Jackets traded defenseman Marc Methot for Ottawa Senators forward Nick Foligno in 2012, very few could have seen what the trade would mean for the organization.
At the time, Foligno was a bit of a scorer who was expected to bring a little offensive punch to the lineup. Not necessarily a first-line guy, Foligno was coming off of consecutive seasons with the Sens in which he played all 82 games, combining for 29 goals and 52 assists in those two seasons.
Foligno followed along a similar offensive trend line the next two seasons until a breakout 2014-15 season in which he had career highs of 31 goals, 42 assists and 73 points. On top of that, he showed exactly the kind of leadership material the team was looking for in its search for a captain.
Pretty much everyone knows what happened next. The disastrous start to 2015-16, his first year as captain. The dismissal of Todd Richards and hiring of John Tortorella. A tough personal campaign that included just 37 points and a minus-14 rating.
What did we expect?
As a result, Foligno's performance this season was one of the biggest questions facing the Blue Jackets.
When the team broke up after the difficult 2016 campaign, Tortorella now somewhat famously told Foligno he wasn't sure he was up to the captaincy role. Another bad season – personally or professionally – and major changes could be afoot.
Everyone likely knew Foligno's 31-goal, 73-point season in 2014-15 was something along the lines of a career year, but the 12-goal, 37-point performance that followed was well short of expectations. Something right in between along with improvement out of the team was what the Blue Jackets had to hope for going into the season.
What did we get?
Foligno delivered a season much more along the lines of what was expected, more than doubling his goal total from the previous campaign to reach 26 goals. While the assist mark was a little lower than some might have hoped, Foligno still posted the second-highest point total of his career with 51.
A couple of things helped contribute to Foligno's stronger campaign in the goal-scoring department. After a shooting percentage of 8.1 the previous year, he scored on 14.1 percent of shots this past season, still below his 2014 and '15 marks. Foligno tied a career high with 11 power-play goals, exactly 11 more than he had the season before. In addition, he was deployed in more offensive zone situations, with 57.4 percent of his non-neutral zone starts coming in the attack zone.
At this point, Foligno is the player he is. He'll likely never have another 30-goal or 70-point season unless a lot of things break his way. Some of the underlying possession metrics, relative Corsi and Fenwick, were a bit down this year, and you could argue shooting percentage and power-play time boosted his stats. But while Foligno isn't a star on the offensive end, he's a solid offensive player and adds some grit as well.
Of course, any discussion of Foligno must also take into account his work as the team's captain, and plenty of ink was spilled as the season went on about how he had made progress in that regard throughout the year, especially in the eyes of Tortorella. It seems fair to say the Jackets wouldn't have had the season they had without a strong performance from Foligno in the leadership realm, and things seem to be on much stronger footing there than when the team split up after the 2016 campaign.
Two of Columbus' biggest losses came back-to-back in early January. After winning a franchise-record 16 in a row, the Blue Jackets were blanked 5-0 at Washington on Jan. 5, and two days later the team blew a two-goal lead in a crushing 5-4 setback at home against the New York Rangers on goal in the final seconds.
That put a certain air of importance into a game a day later at Nationwide Arena against the Flyers. The game was tied at 1 when it went to overtime, and there, Foligno scored one of his five game-winning goals on the year to remind Columbus of its winning ways.
According to CapFriendly.com, Foligno has four years remaining on a contract that runs through 2021. The captain, who is soon to be 30, carries a cap hit of $5.5 million per season.