Tuesday, November 14, 2006

QOTD: Is Columbus better than their record?

Well let's take a look at their roster...

G - Leclaire and Norrena
Leclaire came into the season with 33 career starts under his belt (11 wins). He was drafted 8th overall in 2001 which was the weakest 1st round in recent history. While he played well last year as Denis' backup, he was clearly unproven as a #1 goalie. Instead of bringing in an experienced goalie to help shoulder the load and teach the 24-year old Leclaire, the Jackets decided to go with Fredrik Norrena, a 32-year old goalie (on Nov 29) with absolutely no NHL experience. Norrena has spent his career playing in Finland and Sweden.

D - Foote, Klesla, Hainsey, Eriksson, Johnson, Tollefsen
IR - Westcott (out 6-8 weeks), Berard (out 2-3 months)

Even with Berard and Westcott this is not a strong group but without them it's quite weak. They knew going into the year that Berard would be out for a while but they didn't bring in anyone to quarterback the powerplay. Foote has been left to play over 26 minutes a game (10th in the entire league) and is being relied on too much. Overall the group has limited offensive capabilities/mobility, little depth and they have Anders Eriksson. And those aren't good things.

F - Nash, Zherdev, Fedorov, Vyborny, Carter, Modin, Brule, Malholtra, Fritsche, Svitov, Chimera, Goertzen, Shelley

On paper this should be the strength of the team but Columbus only has 32 goals in 15 games, and 18 of them have been on the powerplay. The main problem is that they have guys who can put the puck in the net but not players who can create offense on their own. That is why they are scoring less than one goal per game at even strength.

There is no doubt that Nash is a pure goal scorer - he has 93 career goals and only 68 assists. He needs somebody to get him the puck in a scoring position or a defenceman with a great shot from the point so he can crash the net and create havoc on the PP. Modin and Carter are similar-type players - Modin also has more career goals than assists (186 to 183) and Carter has almost the same number of goals and assists for his careeer, but in recent years he has been much more one-dimensional (last 2 seasons: 48 goals, 35 assists). Zherdev can create offense off the rush but his forte is as a one-on-one player and he definitely still has to learn how to use his linemates better.

With those four scorers the Jackets should have picked up somebody who can get them the puck. But their only true playmaker in his prime is Vyborny (who is a winger). Fedorov is almost 37 and his best days are behind him. His goals and assist numbers have declined drastically in recent years and he's also had problems staying healthy. Columbus may have been hopeful that Brule could step up but at 19 that was clearly wishful thinking (as were any thoughts that Svitov would finally breakthrough after being drafted #3 overall in the same draft as Leclaire). All their other players are third liners at best and can't be relied on to produce offense consistently.

In the "new NHL", bad teams are getting exposed 5-on-5 and the Jackets have been outscored 32-14. Looking at this team on paper I am not surprised at all that they are 5-9-1. I've mentioned a few times already that there are 10 teams in the West who are playoff contenders which means that to make the playoffs the Jackets would have to finish ahead of three of: Anaheim, Detroit, Nashville, San Jose, Minnesota, Dallas, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Colorado. No matter who the next coach will be (and Hitchcock would be a great choice) this team will be drafting high for the 8th straight year and will need more playmakers and guys who can skate before they turn it around on the ice. The future is bright with all their high draft picks but for now Columbus is pretty much where they should be in the standings.

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