The Columbus Blue Jackets power play has been a drag for the past number of seasons. But with the addition of Johnny Gaudreau, there is optimism that there is room for growth.
Coach Brad Larsen has already publicly stated that Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, and Zach Werenski will make up three spots on the club's top power play, but that leaves room for two more. Who should get the first crack at those spots, and why?
First, a primer on the club's power play. The below image diagrams the formation that most NHL teams, including the Blue Jackets, utilize. The 'big three' all have the preferred handedness to make for the most efficient power play. It all starts at the top (the point) with Werenski. He has several options, including shooting through traffic and passing to the 'shooter' (Laine). But his primary read will be to pass to the half-wall, where the 'quarterback' (Gaudreau) is stationed.
Once Gaudreau has the puck, he has a few options. In a perfect world, he'd find a seam through the slot and hit Laine with a pass that would allow the sniper to unleash his patented one-timer. More often, though, he'll distribute a pass to options 4, the bumper, or 5, the net-front player, who will move to the goal line to receive a pass from Gaudreau.
So, who fits best as the bumper and net front?
Last season, Jakub Voracek was the quarterback, but with Gaudreau's arrival, he will likely move to the net front. The below goal from the preseason shows exactly the type of play that could foreshadow future success.
Scoracek crashes the net on the power play to jam home the puck to make it 3-0! pic.twitter.com/nOetTEz2JJ— CBJ Center (@CBJcenter) September 26, 2022
On the play, Gaudreau passes to Voracek, who immediately centers a pass to the bumper (Justin Danforth), then cashes in on the rebound. Voracek has the frame and the hands to benefit from a move to the net front.
Other options at the net front could be someone like Gus Nyquist, Boone Jenner, or, if he makes the team, Kent Johnson.
The bumper position is probably the most unsettled spot on the power play. In a perfect world, the bumper would be a right-shot shooter who can also distribute effectively. Right now, the prevailing wisdom is that Jenner will get the first crack there. All due respect to Jenner, who is a fine player, but he's not an optimum fit.
The above video shows why having a right-handed shot is helpful. The Washington Capital's T.J. Oshie has dined out on power-play goals from the bumper spot for years. Having the ability to one-time a pass from the net-front player (Voracek) is a high-danger play. Being a left-shot, Jenner won't be able to one-time passes from Voracek, nor is he a high-end distributor.
Still, he may win the job by default. Jack Roslovic could get some play in the same spot, and maybe someone like Cole Sillinger, too. Down the road, I could easily see Kirill Marchenko becoming the top unit's bumper.
For a power play to be at its best, all players have to work in concert. The Blue Jackets haven't had a playmaker like Gaudreau since Artemi Panarin, and even then, they didn't have a shooter like Laine that could threaten. They're closer today than ever to having that level, but questions remain. Is Voracek the optimum net-front player? Can Jenner elevate and provide offense from the middle of the ice? Time will tell.