The Columbus Blue Jackets ended their four-game losing streak (if you count their shootout loss against the Lightning) with a shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings and it has coincided with the use of 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Forwards Tyler Motte and Markus Hannikainen have been without a center and have seen multiple players line up with them on the bottom line. Additionally, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson has also played and filled in where needed.
The addition of another player on defense, in theory, sounds like a smart move, especially when you consider that the defensemen on the Blue Jackets are more offensively inclined. The results from both the extra forwards and defensemen have almost been tragic.
Simply, the Blue Jackets are playing with fewer players than they have to and it has to do with this alignment.
Hannikainen and Motte are playing less than ten minutes a game with Motte going over when being used on the penalty kill. Carlsson has it even worse and is playing less than eight minutes a game since moving to this alignment.
Why does this matter? Because the shot share is moving in the other direction and is a concerning development. The Blue Jackets were outshot for most of the Red Wings game until the game got tied up. Score effects could be part of it but we saw a similar pattern in shot differential against the Carolina Hurricanes the night before.
Carlsson and Hannikainen were both under 50% even strength CF during both games with the 11F/7D decision. Motte was able to be above 50% against the Hurricanes but fell well below that mark against the Red Wings.
None of the extra players are being used properly and neither is getting the ice time needed to make a difference in the game. Most importantly, they aren't being used enough to alleviate ice time from other players in the lineup. No forwards should be playing well over 20 minutes like they have been. That is with overtime notwithstanding either.
Playing the fourth line more consistently and getting players enough ice time to learn and grow should be the preferable method. Especially when comparing the numbers from when they had a full lineup. No need to put yourself up against it, even if it means that Sonny Milano makes a poor decision in the defensive zone.
The other offensive benefits will help out defensively by avoiding the defensive zone entirely. It is why an effective fourth line is so important and was a difference maker for the Blue Jackets last year. They don't have Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner but that doesn't mean they can't use the players they have similarly.
Until they even out the ice time, it wouldn't be surprising if the offense continues to stall. Luckily for the Blue Jackets, they have the answer right in front of them.