Elevated Offense Made For Exciting Blue Jackets Hockey Last Season And They Need More Of That In 2022-23

By Will Chase on June 14, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Patrik Laine celebrates his goal with teammates in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena.
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Do you want to talk about something fun?

The Columbus Blue Jackets' offense was fun to watch last season as they made fun history, potting a franchise-high 258 goals on the campaign.

This offensive spike was spurred by a plethora of players up and down the roster, with stars like Patrik Laine scoring 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists) between January and March, and finishing second on the team in scoring with 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists). This despite missing a significant stretch of time beginning in November with injury and then mourning the loss of his father. He only had 11 points through December.

It's expected that Laine, an RFA, will be signing some form of a long-term contract this summer. That's at least the desire.

Jack Roslovic helped his case for his recent two-year extension, going red-hot down the stretch when he put together a 13-point April including 10 goals in 14 games. Starting with a three-goal effort at the Detroit Red Wings on Apr. 9, in which he won the game in overtime to complete the hat trick and four-point night, it was all getting started for Roslovic.

He scored twice four nights later against the Montreal Canadiens and then had a three-game stretch where he scored four goals from Apr. 19 against the Sharks in San Jose to Apr. 24 at home against the Edmonton Oilers.

It all culminated in Roslovic's best season as a pro, with 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) in 81 games, all new career highs. Similar to Laine, Roslovic battled his own adversities before turning his play around and earning a promotion up the lineup.

The Blue Jackets leading point-getter was none other than the reacquainted Jake Voracek, who put together one of the most fun but also strangest statistical oddities the NHL has seen when he had 56 assists—second in Blue Jackets history for most assists in one season—but only six goals to lead the way with 62 points.

The six goals in a season are his lowest goal total for any season in his 14-year career, but the chemistry he found with Laine and others helped the team's historic offense find its way. Having a facilitator like Voracek producing at a more than half a point per game pace is something this team sorely needed.

The first-year captain, Boone Jenner (44 points, 23 goals, 21 assists) was on his way to having a career year before a lower-back injury shut him down in March. He was certainly on pace to surpass his career-high of 49 points set in 2015-16.

With the added responsibility of wearing a letter on his sweater for the first time, and having to adjust his game due to personnel changes all around him, alternate captain Zach Werenski still found a way to keep his consistent scoring marks with the team as he set a personal high with 48 points—he had 47 in his rookie season of 2016-17—and scoring at least 11 goals for the fifth time in his career.

Thanks in large part to Werenski, the Blue Jackets' defense scored 43 goals, placing the team sixth in the league in that category per Jeff Svoboda of Bluejackets.com (Svoboda has much more on all the fun numbers from this past season). Only the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals, and St. Louis Blues had more goals from their defense.

Adam Boqvist (22 points, 11 goals, 11 assists), Jake Bean (25 points, seven goals, 18 assists), and Vladislav Gavrikov (33 points, five goals, 28 assists) contributed to the offensive form from the blue line, each setting career highs in points.

Good teams need secondary scoring and the Blue Jackets found that in some of the unlikeliest of ways.

Justin Danforth had 14 points including 10 goals in 45 games. We recently covered his journey from the ECHL to where he is now in the NHL at the age of 29. Danforth was one of the 10 rookies to debut with the team, tying the franchise record set in 2000-01, and was one of eight rookies to score a goal.

Sean Kuraly had a career year with 30 points, 14 goals, and 16 assists and Alex Texier also had his best year with 20 points and 11 goals in 36 games before a fractured finger and personal reasons kept him away from the team. Remember, Texier was arguably the best Blue Jackets player in the first couple of months to start the season.

From the youngest player in the NHL with Cole Sillinger's rookie season (31 points, 16 goals, 15 assists) and a hat trick to Gus Nyquist, the offensive numbers were flying.

Nyquist's story is particularly impressive considering he missed all of the shortened 2020-21 season to repair a labral tear, and then played in all 82 games last season, notching 53 points—he just missed his career mark of 54 in 2014-15—scoring 18 goals and 35 assists.

Nyquist's four shorthanded goals, and four of the Blue Jackets' seven on the season, picked up the slack from Cam Atkinson, who of course was traded last summer for Voracek. Atkinson is the franchise record holder with 16 shorthanded goals and Nyquist's four tied Atkinson (2018-19, 2020-21), Rick Nash (the eventual leader with five in 2008-09 and four in 2007-08), and David Vyborny (2003-04), for the second-most in a single season.

The four shorthanded goals from Nyquist placed him tied for third in the league and one off the pace for the NHL lead. Eric Robinson scored two shorthanded goals and he set career highs with 27 points, 10 goals, and 17 assists. Texier was the other player to score shorthanded.

The offensive surge from the team comes at a time when NHL offenses operate at a high-octane level, an increasingly prevalent theme in today's NHL. According to NHL.com, Columbus finished 14th in goals per game, with 3.15 goals per game being their highest-scoring production of any season in franchise history.

The offensive surge from the team comes at a time when NHL offenses operate at a high-octane level, an increasingly prevalent theme in today's NHL. According to NHL.com, Columbus finished 14th in goals per game, with 3.15 goals per game being their highest-scoring production of any season in franchise history.

While 5v5, they were at 2.65 goals per 60 (14th) per Natural Stat Trick.

The Blue Jackets' increased offense in 2021-22 was also a welcome sight after the team finished 29th (2.35 goals per game in all situations) in 2020-21, and the renewed offensive engine was part of the reason why it felt like the Blue Jackets were never truly out of a game, lending further credence to the franchise-high 23 comeback wins (sixth-most in the league).

Speaking of comeback wins, the clutch gene was certainly in this group's DNA. Check out the following nuggets per Svoboda.

The Blue Jackets entered the month of March with just 18 goals in franchise history that tied a game in the final minute of regulation. Columbus then notched three of them in that very month, much to the delight of the 5th Line. Voracek's goal at 19:57 of the March 5 game vs. Boston knotted the score, then Werenski did the same six days later when he scored at 19:28 to tie a game in Nationwide Arena vs. Minnesota. Then on March 25, Bjorkstrand scored at 19:46 to push the Jackets to overtime against Winnipeg. Though Columbus would win only one of those games -- the contest vs. the Wild -- in extra time, they were still thrilling moments.

But that's not all:

Speaking of late heroics, there were also a pair of late winners for the Jackets, and those are even more rare. Just six times in franchise history going into February had Columbus won the game with a goal in the final minute of regulation, then the Blue Jackets did it twice on the same road trip in early February. First, Jenner scored at 19:15 on Feb. 8 at Washington to break a 4-all tie and give the Jackets the win, then Laine's power-play laser at 19:52 (the latest regulation game-winner in team history) gave the CBJ a 2-1 win Feb. 12 at Montreal.  

Among Columbus' off-season priorities is improving the defense after giving up a franchise-worst 297 goals. The defense, previously a strength of the club and particularly in the John Tortorella era that coincided with four straight playoff appearances between 2016-17 through 2019-20, appears to have flipped with the offense now being what gives the team a chance on a nightly basis.

Offensive cornerstones like Oliver Bjorkstrand round out the six players to set career highs in points as he comes off his best scoring season with 57 points, 28 goals, and 29 assists. Werenski, Laine, newcomers through the draft like Sillinger and Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko coming, players like Yegor Chinakhov continuing to find form, and many more contributors including those mentioned above are great pieces to start with.

However, even with all the weapons in the toolbox, the power play continues to struggle as they came in 24th (18.6%). Maybe the solution is finally on this roster.

All in all, there were 12 players who scored at least 10 goals, tying the franchise mark set in 2016-17. The Blue Jackets will need more of that scoring recipe for success next season.