Evaluating Performance of the Blue Jackets' Defense Early in the 2020-21 Season

By Sam Blazer on February 17, 2021 at 1:25 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) attempts to play a rebound of a Joonas Korpisalo (70) save against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty - USA Today Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets' 2020-21 campaign has been an all-out roller coaster ride. The year started without much offense and it has now devolved into a mess defensively where 5+ goals against on evening is to be expected.

On top of it all, the Blue Jackets have players with pedigrees that aren't currently matching with their results. We're going to rank players on output alone without any names next to them, and you'll get a sense of where this year is going right and where exactly it's going wrong.

We'll use a minimum of five games played as the cut-off to ensure newcomers into the lineup aren't overvalued.

1. Player A (Stat line: 1 goal, 5 assists, +/- 9, CF% 44%)

This player has started hot and has recently regressed closer back to what his normal play has been like. His first five or so games had him in the top defensemen in the league before slowing down.

Offensively he seems to point play in the right direction and despite his bad possession numbers, he has generally kept his goals against to a minimum. 

His pairing partners have been a bit of a revolving door, and it makes deciphering his faults difficult.

2. Player B (Stat line: 1 goal, 4 assists, +/- 0, CF% 49%)

Doing significantly better than what his most common pairing mate has been able to contribute this year. This player has been steady if not impressive. The expectations are likely higher for this player, but his consistent play has moved him higher in this ranking than initially expected.

He's playing more this year than he has in his entire career and is also seeing time on the penalty kill as well despite the unit being one of the bottom-five units percentage-wise in the league.

3. Player C (Stat line: 1 goal, 7 assists, +/- -9, CF% 46.6%)

This player is ranked higher than most due to his point output. Plainly, you expect better from this player and hope that he can not get caved in as much as he has considering the amount of ice time he gets. For a player with his mobility, you expect him to exit the zone with more consistency. 

After a dreadful start that has put him in a hole, it looks like he may be turning a corner but it is still too soon to tell.

4. Player D (Stat line: 1 goal, 3 assists, +/- 1, CF% 47.3%)

Started off hot, but has fallen off a mini-cliff over the past three games. Like a lot of players on the Blue Jackets, he has had an issue with exiting the zone and remaining consistent. Given where he was and where he is now, it doesn't look like he will be getting out of the doghouse any time soon.

In the last three games alone, this player has had a +/- of -5. While that's only a snippet over a small sample size, it's an indicator of play that doesn't add up to what he has done before.

5. Player E (Stat line: 1 goal, 4 assists, +/- -7, CF% 47.5%)

This player started dreadfully and is starting to come out of the funk he was once under. He can't get a save when he's on the ice, and that's partially due to his play and the quality of shots given up when he's on the ice. This player was beginning to plateau, and should get to a better spot by putting up points and possession numbers.

6. Player F (Stat line: 0 goals, 4 assists, +/- -6, CF% 43.9%)

This player, like a lot of others on this list, isn't playing up to his standards. He normally is able to help with zone exits and zone entries but has seen most of the play in his own end of the ice. 

This player has gotten consistent ice time despite poor play and a turnaround isn't coming if recent stats are to be considered. This start is confounding and should beg the question of whether or not a benching should be in order.

  • Player A: Michael Del Zotto
  • Player B: Vladislav Gavrikov
  • Player C: Seth Jones
  • Player D: Dean Kukan
  • Player E: Zach Werenski
  • Player F: David Savard

The most striking part, when looking at this list of players, is just how out of whack it all is. The Blue Jackets are supposed to be led by a defensive-minded coach in John Tortorella, but they have yet to show any prowess on that end of the ice–and only seem to be getting worse. 

There are many symptoms to the Blue Jackets' poor play, but even then, it's tough to diagnose where exactly it's all gone wrong.

Follow 1st Ohio BatteryFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

View 3 Comments