The Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves in a slump at the wrong time.
Entering Sunday’s game in Toronto, they have lost six games in a row. They haven’t done that all season to this point. They’ve been outscored 21-11 while scoring more than two goals just once in that stretch.
Even more noticeable on the score sheet are the power-play chances. The Blue Jackets had 10 chances on the man-advantage during their current losing streak, an average of 1.67 chances per game. That seems low. REALLY LOW. So I decided to do some checking into this. The results are staggering.
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Historically Low Numbers
Coming into Sunday’s finale in Toronto, the Blue Jackets have 209 power-play chances on the season in 81 games. That averages out to 2.58 chances per game for the season. Remember the days when some teams had upwards of 10 chances per night on the man advantage? There was also more offense in those days. Imagine that. Want more scoring in the league? Award more power plays to a team. That’s a start. And maybe call a little more interference here and there.
But back to this discussion with the Blue Jackets. I originally looked at the last eight seasons worth of numbers to see if that’s a low-water mark in the league. Turns out it is. In 2014, both the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins had similar power-play chances to what the Blue Jackets have now. The Devils finished with 212 chances while the Bruins finished with 213 chances.
If the Blue Jackets get two or less chances on the man-advantage Sunday, they’ll set the record for fewest chances on the power play in the last eight seasons. This does not count the lockout shortened season of 2012-13 when the league only had 48 games. Interesting to note though that Montreal finished the shortened season with 203 power plays, or just six less than the Blue Jackets have in 81 games this season. Things that make you go HMMMM.
It Gets Better (or Worse)
I thought having the lowest total in the last eight seasons was bad. Turns out I only scratched the surface on that one. I decided to look back on NHL.com to see how other seasons compared. Their stats site goes back to the start of the 1990 season. So we are talking the last 26 seasons not counting the canceled season of 2004-05 and the shortened seasons of 1994-95 and 2012-13.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have the lowest number of power-play chances in the last 25 seasons in the league. Here is a list of the 10 lowest number of power-plays in a season since 1990. These are for a full 82-game season only.
- 2016-17 Blue Jackets: 209 in 81 games
- 2014-15 Devils: 212 in 82 games
- 2014-15 Bruins: 213 in 82 games
- 2014-15 Sabres: 224 in 82 games
- 2016-17 Wild: 224 in 82 games
- 2016-17 Canucks: 226 in 81 games
- 2015-16 Rangers: 226 in 82 games
- 2016-17 Hurricanes: 228 in 81 games
- 2015-16 Islanders: 229 in 82 games
- 2016-17 Canadiens: 229 in 82 games
Notice the pattern? The 10 lowest number of power-play chances in the league for a full 82-game season have all happened within the last three seasons. The question is why?
Are players more disciplined than ever before? Not sure I buy that one. Are referees missing obvious calls? Absolutely they are. Have you seen recent Blue Jackets’ games? I rest my case.
To me, it seems obvious that referees make fewer calls in today’s game than they did in earlier seasons. Let’s now look at the total number of power-play chances awarded in the league to illustrate this point further. Special thanks to Sporting Charts for these numbers.
- 2015-16: 3.11 power plays per game per team
- 2014-15: 3.06
- 2013-14: 3.27
- 2012-13: 3.32 (average)
- 2011-12: 3.31
- 2010-11: 3.54
- 2009-10: 3.71
Yeah, the pattern is obvious. They are not calling as much as they used to. Still, to have 15 fewer chances than the next closest team and have several games this season with no chances, something seems off. Is there a lack of respect league-wide with the Blue Jackets?
I looked in the other direction to see how many times the Blue Jackets were shorthanded. Coming into Sunday, they have the sixth-fewest penalty kills in the league with 219. Maybe their up-tempo style of play does have something to do with the lack of calls in either direction.
Tell me your thoughts. Why are power-play chances down? Can anything be done about it? Feel free to leave your comments below.
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.