There are many who believe that the Columbus Blue Jackets have one of most talented top-six forward groups in the NHL. When that group features Ryan Johansen, Brandon Saad, and Nick Foligno, they are definitely in the conversation.
Today we look at the Blue Jackets top-six body of work from an analytical view. For those of you who are not familiar, the HERO charts (Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic) that I am using can be found on ownthepuck.blogspot.com and are made by Domenic Galamini, @MimicoHero on Twitter. His charts have been all over social media of late, so there is a good chance that you have already encountered one.
The Hockey Writers’ Devin Slawson wrote a good article explaining the use of these charts.
“Using five-on-five ice time, it determines whether a forward fits on the first line, all the way down to the fourth line, or a defenceman should be on the first through third pairing by using Individual Production, Impact on Linemates Corsi, and Impact on Linemates Goals.” Devin Slawson THW
The full article can be found here. I strongly advise that you check it out for a more detailed look at the value of a HERO chart.
Each one of the top-six forwards has to work as a part of the unit, and if one of those parts isn’t working, it will impact the performance of the rest of the group. The following metrics will show how each player is impacting their linemates.
The sample size for these charts is from 2013-15. With a group as young as this, the sample may include a player’s rookie year, or at least a very early one and that must be taken into account, but this is still a good reflection on their performance.
When most people think of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the first name that pops into their mind is Ryan Johansen. In many ways as Johansen goes, so goes Columbus. So how is Johansen performing under those expectations?
Obviously being the Blue Jackets top center, he is getting top-line minutes. Looking at his individual production as adjusted for ice time, his Goals/60 is where you would like it to be. His First A/60 isn’t bad, but it could be better, and his Primary P/60 again is definitely where you want to see it.
Johansen’s possession numbers are where things get concerning. His CF60 isn’t that bad coming in at 2nd line production, but his CA60 is terrible with almost below fourth-line production. This indicates that when Johansen is on the ice, the opposing team is taking a LOT of shots. As a result, his overall possession numbers are that of a third-liner. Yes there have been injuries and line shuffles, but still not what you want to see out of your star center.
Brandon Saad’s numbers are not only a reflection of skill, but also of a player who spent a lot of time playing with elite players like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
Saad overall saw second-line ice time, and had an individual production that exceeded that. His Goals/60, First A/60, and Primary P/60 were all that of a first-line player. Amazing productivity.
His possession numbers are consistent with his ice time. Saad’s CF60, CA60, and CF% are all strong numbers, and will only get better with experience.
Cam Atkinson is all over the board here. He is getting second-line ice time, while scoring first-line goals. His First A/60, however, is that of a third-line player, bringing his Primary P/60 to sit at a second-line production.
Atkinson’s possession numbers show a large gap between Corsi For and Against. His CF60 has first-line productivity, while his CFA is very poor with fourth-line results. Again, a snapshot of the team’s defensive struggles.
Brandon Dubinsky is of huge importance to this team, and the numbers on the chart reflect this. He is getting second-line ice time, and is scoring at a third-line rate, but his First A/60 and Primary P/60 are running at a first-line pace.
Where his value really shows is his impact on his linemates. His possession numbers are all of first-line quality. The chart really shows that while Dubinsky is on the ice, his line is controlling the puck, and he is having a direct impact on the point production of his linemates.
Boone Jenner will be an exciting player to watch very soon. As a young player his numbers have room to improve, and everything indicates that they will.
During his time in the NHL he has averaged second-line ice time, and the Goals/60 live up to those expectations. His First A/60 and, as a result, his Primary P/60 are a bit lacking. Jenner’s possession numbers are very similar to his individual production with only a slight increase in production.
Finally the Captain, Nick Foligno.
Foligno racked up first-line ice time and, as one would expect, had first-line goal production. His First A/60 had low-end, second-line results, with his Primary P/60 at a mid to high second-line production.
Oddly, his CF was a bit low, and his CA was great. His overall possession numbers are about where you would expect.
The Top-Six as a Whole
It is scary how well the HERO charts reflect the current state of the Blue Jackets. They are a young team that is still developing. Columbus has amazing offensive potential, but needs to improve defensively. Yes they have a defensive unit that needs upgrading, but with the forwards possession numbers being what they are, you cannot put sole blame on the blueliners.
Saad joining the team, along with a healthy Dubinsky, and maturation of key players, this team will show some serious improvement.
To all Fantasy Players
On another note, recently our own Mark Scheig interviewed NHL.com’s Matt Sitkoff to preview the upcoming Fantasy Hockey season. I can tell you that as a Fantasy Hockey fanatic, I came away with a lot of great information that I will put to good use. I highly recommend that you check it out here.
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.