Blue Jackets Will Rely on Zach Werenski's Scoring Ability As Postseason Nears

By Chris Pennington on June 24, 2020 at 8:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) skates on the ice during warmups prior to the game against the New York Rangers at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Werenski was unstoppable this season in lighting the lamp.

Not only was he second on the Columbus Blue Jackets in goal-scoring (only one behind Oliver Bjorkstrand), but he was also third on the club in points (43) and first in the NHL in goals amongst defenseman (20). He obliterated (his own) franchise record for goals scored for a defenseman of 16 that was set back in 2017-2018, and he did it in only 63 games during this campaign.

Now, there's nothing wrong with Werenski, as a defenseman, standing out on his team as a natural goal-scorer. But there is something wrong with him accounting for as many goals as he did considering how (un)productive the Blue Jackets' forwards were.

As a team, Columbus is really bad at scoring. "How bad are they?!" Well, let's just let this be a little more visually stimulating than writing another paragraph:

Blue Jackets' Scoring Rankings
  CBJ League Rank League Average League High
Goals 180 28th 208 243
Shooting % 7.9% 29th 9.5% 11.2%
Power Play % 16.40% 27th 20.03% 29.50%

The Blue Jackets are also only one of three teams in the entire 24-team playoff to not have a player score over 21 goals on the year (Nashville and Dallas are the others), hinting a bit at their lack of firepower up front. Now, natural goal scorers in Oliver Bjorkstrand and Cam Atkinson only played in 49 and 44 games respectively, but there's no denying that Columbus doesn't have any superstars in their forward group, let alone bonafide all-stars. 

Again, this is not a Werenski problem, it's a Blue Jackets scoring problem.

But, this is a problem that will not be solved without adding a star to the lineup or having internal players grow over multiple years - so I'm not here to say that "the forwards should step it up" come time for the qualifying round. I'm just saying that Zach Werenski better keep doing his Zach Werenski thing and score every two or three games, if not more.

Which, is up for question whether he will. The break in the season will surely hurt his momentum a bit, so it's hard to say if he will just pick up right where he left off, which was with 14 goals (and 25 points) in his last 36 games.

Not to mention, this was notably a breakout season for Werenski. It's not to say he's not a natural goal-scoring defenseman, but the pace he's on is quite a bit peculiar for any defenseman. I mean, he's four goals in front of the next highest scoring one in the league for crying out loud.

And, even with his 16-goal season in 2017-2018, he had 11 goals in his two other seasons, making this year's 20 even wilder.

I'll be clear, I hope this is the real Zach Werenski, and for the Blue Jackets' scoring sake, they should hope it is, too. Otherwise, we may see three-straight 1-0 losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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