Special Teams Impress in Paul MacLean's First Game Behind Bench As Assistant Coach

By Max Steele on November 23, 2019 at 10:15 am
Nov 21, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (28) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
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Thursday morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that Paul MacLean would join the coaching staff as an assistant coaching focusing on special teams.

The team was originally unsure whether or not he would be behind the bench Thursday for the game against Detroit (because of immigration paperwork and the visa process), but MacLean would eventually make it.  And his presence on the bench may have been an influential factor in the special teams' performance that night.

In the 5-4 win against Detroit, the Blue Jacket power play registered 2 goals in 5 chances (thought giving up a shorthanded goal) and the penalty kill held Detroit without a power play score.  Thought the Red Wings are not the formidable opponent they have been in years past, these remain impressive numbers.

First of all, this analysis recognizes correlation does not mean causation.  Just because it was MacLean's first night in charge of special teams and these units played well does not necessarily mean he is the sole reason for success.  Also, since it was his first day, he more than likely did not have any time to implement any new strategy or method.

However, much can be said on the influence of bring in a different voice and the positive effect it can bring. 

The Blue Jackets are no stranger to this policy. Just last year, the team brought in Martin St. Louis to consult with the power play and, after his arrival, the unit began to increase in output.

MacLean may already be having an effect on the special teams' units simply by being another voice in charge.

The Blue Jackets special teams units currently sit near the bottom of the league's statistics, but both benefited from last nights' performance.  After Thursday's 2 for 5 outing, the teams' power play percentage rose from 24th in the NHL to 20th.  And after keeping Detroit scoreless on the penalty kills, the Blue Jackets penalty kill percentage rose from 22nd to 21st.

Since both units have not been performing at a high level, it can be argued that the only place the Blue Jackets' special teams can go is up.  While that may be true, the Columbus club has taken steps to increase the likelihood for positive change by bringing in this different voice. 

A strategy that so far has worked.

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