Three Who Got It Right: October Was Rough, But These Three Blue Jackets Prevented An Even Worse Month

By Ed Francis on October 31, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Despite playing in just four games, Nick Blankenburg has one of very few bright spots for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

It can't be sugar-coated.

October was bad. Miserable. Pitiful. Putrid. Despite three wins, the argument could be made that, on the ice, it was the worst month in Columbus Blue Jackets history. Expectations were there, and results weren't only not there — they weren't even close.

And while it couldn't have been much worse, it could have been a little worse.

There were at least a few steps in the right direction in the opening ten games, and specifically, these are the three Blue Jackets who showed up in an otherwise rough first month:

Johnny Gaudreau

To the surprise of no one, Gaudreau has been as-advertised. He leads the team in goals (five) and points (eight), and has single-handily won at least one game for the team (see below). 

He has five high-danger scoring chances, which doesn't seem like a lot on the surface but does rank top 30 across the league (and only four players have more than eight) — It's also good enough to lead the team. 

There haven't been any power play goals, there hasn't been that triple-digit point pace that he had with Calgary last season, and he's not gotten the team off to a 10-0-0 start — but take Gaudreau off this team and the misery is substantially worse.

If this team ever lives up to its potential, Gaudreau is going to be the offensive force of a very good hockey team. 

Kent Johnson

Would it come as a surprise to know that Johnson is second on the team in goals, tied for third in assists, and tied for second in points? What about the fact that he's doing all of that averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time per game, well into the bottom half of ice time amongst forwards? 

His 1.54 goals per 60 is tops on the team (Gaudreau is 1.50). Johnson has been one of the most productive forwards on the team, and remember, he's not yet old enough to drink and won't be at the beginning of next season, either.

And take a look at his heat map — the underlying metrics seem to indicate Johnson may be developing a sense for how to play right in front of the goaltender.

Johnson's Heat Map

He's played exclusively on the wing so far but was a center in college and projects as a center in the NHL long-term. With a well-below average group of centers, it should be asked: How much longer before Johnson gets his chance to play between Gaudreau and Patrik Laine?

Nick Blankenburg

There won't be a single reference to numbers or statistics when talking about Blankenburg — though the numbers are fine.

Blankenburg, despite playing just four games and currently being sidelined as a result of an injury sustained last week, is proving that he belongs in the NHL. Similar to Elvis Merzlikins' rookie season in 2019-20, the team just plays different when Blanks is in the lineup. You can't measure heart and you can't measure soul, but Blankenburg has tons of both and has been a bright spot in a so far dark season. His upper-body injury isn't expected to keep him out of the lineup long term, yet his return is already too far away. 

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