If the Columbus Blue Jackets were going to name a captain as a successor to Nick Foligno, it was going to have to be an obvious choice. The team wanted to see how the new dynamic in the locker room was going to work.
However it didn’t take long for the Blue Jackets to realize that an obvious choice was not only in the locker room but also signed to an extension. He signed an extension partly because of the direction of the team and partly because he loves it in Columbus.
To the surprise of no one, the Blue Jackets named Boone Jenner their captain. But the decision was met with some questions and criticism by some. The main concern centered around how he would do on the ice. There was no issue with his popularity amongst the fanbase. But there was concern that he wouldn’t be able to produce as much as would be needed for someone wearing the C.
It’s early as we’re only 14 games into the season, but Jenner has not only shown he can be an effective captain, after all it’s been his life long and career goal to be an NHL captain. But he’s also raised his game to a point in which we haven’t seen yet in his career. And that’s even accounting for the one season he scored 30 goals.
All things considered, Jenner has been the Blue Jackets’ best forward in these 14 games. And it’s not even close.
Jenner’s Overall Impact
Let’s start with the numbers on the surface. As of this writing, here are Jenner’s season to date stats.
- 9-2-11 in 14 games. Four power-play goals. One game-winning goal. Shooting 19.6%.
Nine goals in 14 games certainly jumps out. He’s getting most of his goals in one area, right in front of the net. His inclusion on the top power-play unit has certainly been one of the factors in an uptick in scoring.
What doesn’t get enough credit is how effective he is in front of the net. He’s able to make a variety of plays from in close to both finish and setup teammates. One has to have really good hands in order to be an effective player in that area. Jenner has that but it’s an underrated part of his game.
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Jenner is a career 9.6% shooter so we should expect some regression as the season goes on. But it is reasonable to expect an uptick based on his usage.
The thing that sets Jenner apart this season though is his overall impact. Notice that he plays in just about every important situation in any zone. When there’s an important faceoff, Jenner is usually the one handling it. In fact, he’s 10th in the NHL in winning percentage and he actually leads the league in winning percentage at even strength amongst all skaters who have taken at least 200 draws this season. He is usually in the middle of a critical moment in a game.
Jenner’s Performance in Arizona
Thursday’s 5-4 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes was one of if not Jenner’s best games ever in a Blue Jackets’ uniform. He was everywhere on the ice.
Jenner scored two goals and had a third taken off after credit was given to Zach Werenski. He had an overtime breakaway that was denied. His shootout attempt hit the iron. And when he wasn’t creating chances and scoring, he was helping to limit the Coyotes when on the ice.
All numbers presented are courtesy of Nat Stat Trick unless otherwise noted. With Jenner on the ice at five-on-five, the Blue Jackets held a 24-12 edge in shot attempts, a 14-3 edge in scoring chances and a 5-2 edge in high-danger scoring chances. To top it off, the Blue Jackets had an xGF% of 80.43% when he was on the ice. This is dominance in a performance.
What Center Concerns?
Taking it one step further, Jenner’s early performance has quieted for now the questions about the need for centers on the Blue Jackets. He is playing at the level of a number-one center. How many thought this would be the case coming into the season?
Two things stand out in the above graphic: WAR and finishing. Both have seen a drastic uptick for Jenner. WAR stands for wins above replacement. In short, this is a measurement of how much better or worse a player is as compared to a replacement level player. Jenner has improved this by 27%. That’s huge.
And then as a finisher, Jenner has realized a 25% improvement. Nine goals in 14 games is evidence enough that he is finishing at a better rate.
Jenner’s surge has allowed the team to play Cole Sillinger as their other top-six center. And then it’s allowing both Sean Kuraly and Jack Roslovic to play the other two center positions. Many wondered how the center depth would fare. At 14 games in, they’ve exceeded every expectation to this point.
The Perfect Blue Jackets Captain
In summary, Jenner leads the team in goals. He plays in every important situation on the ice while turning in strong surface and underlying numbers and has become one of the best faceoff men in the NHL. On the ice, he has done everything asked of him and beyond.
Off the ice, he’s a natural leader who leads by example and is consistent in his approach. He plays with the same energy every night and it rubs off on his teammates. He makes them better and is the perfect representative of what the Blue Jackets are about.
Given everything to date this season, while one can make an argument for Elvis Merzlikins or Jakub Voracek to be the team MVP, Jenner is the runaway winner so far. His impact on the ice plus leading by example off the ice make him the perfect captain for the Blue Jackets and the early team MVP.
Try imagining where the team would be without him. It wouldn’t be pretty.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.