The 2020-21 NHL season begins on Jan. 13. With the new season comes a league-wide realignment based on geographic location. The Columbus Blue Jackets will have many new divisional opponents, as the Carolina Hurricanes are the only other Metropolitan team now in the Central Division.
Here’s a look at the other teams in the Central Division in comparison to the Blue Jackets’ offense in 2019-20 to determine how Columbus stacks up to compete in their new division.
Central Division Offense
In 2019-20, the teams that make up the Central Division averaged 2.89 GF/G (goals for per game). However, those teams range from the Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, who averaged a league-best 3.47 GF/G to the Detroit Red Wings, who were the worst in the league with 2.00 GF/G. The GF/G and GF (goals for) for each team in the Central in 2019-20 are shown below.
|Tampa Bay Lightning||3.47||243|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||2.57||180|
|Detroit Red Wings||2.00||142|
Compared to the rest of the new divisions, the Central is the worst offensively (2.89 GF/G). The East is the best, whose teams average 3.09 GF/G, followed by the North (3.04 GF/G) and West (2.90 GF/G) Divisions.
The Central also features nine of the top 30 point-scorers from last season; three were on the Lightning, two on the Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, one on the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators, and none on the Dallas Stars, Blue Jackets, or Red Wings. The division will further hold the second most players in the top 30; only the North Division is ahead with ten players, the East has seven, and the West has four.
The list of top 30 scorers in the Central Division are:
- #7 Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning, 85 points
- #8 Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, 84 points
- #10 Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers, 78 points
- #20 Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes, 66 points
- #21 Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, 66 points
- #24 Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 65 points
- #26 Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning, 64 points
- #28 Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes, 63 points
- #30 Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, 62 points
How Do the Blue Jackets Compare?
The Blue Jackets were one of the lowest-scoring teams last season, ranked 28th in scoring at 2.57 GF/G. They had the second-worst offense compared to the rest of the new Central Division, ahead of only the Detriot Red Wings.
The Blue Jackets were also the only team in the Central without a player to reach 50 points; their leading scorer was Pierre-Luc Dubois, who recorded 49. Their top goal-scorer was Oliver Bjorkstrand with 21. The Predators and Red Wings’ top scorers also had 21 while Dallas’ top-scorer only had 20.
The Blue Jackets’ offense was mediocre last season. They tried to boost their offense by adding Max Domi during the offseason. Domi had 44 points in 2019-20 with the Montreal Canadiens, and the team will need him to step up this season, along with others like Cam Atkinson, to get their scoring back on track.
Can the Blue Jackets Compete Offensively?
While it seems like the Blue Jackets are outmatched, they have the ability to compete in the Central. Here are the reasons why:
The Division Is Defense-Focused
The Central is the toughest of the new divisions defensively. Last season, the se teams averaged about 3.00 GA/G (goals-against per game), which is second-worst among the new divisions. However, the division also features some of the biggest names on defense including Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Miro Heiskanen, and Jaccob Slavin.
Defensively, the Blue Jackets are among the NHL’s elite. If the division plays strong defensively, the team might not have to score very many goals to win games.
Teams Will Look Different
The above stats are from the 2019-20 season. Since then, most teams will look a little different. Here are the two biggest changes in the Central Division.
The Blue Jackets made a big move this offseason by trading Josh Anderson for Max Domi. This is an upgrade at center for Columbus. Domi had 44 points in 2019-20, while Anderson had four in a season plagued by injuries. This trade will give the team a boost offensively, more stability on the roster, and a chance to compete.
Another major change is Nikita Kucherov’s season-ending injury. With 85 points in 2019-20, he was not only the Lighting’s top scorer but also tops in the division. Tampa Bay is now missing 85 points of offense, which is sure to lower their league-best average of 3.47 GF/G.
Where Will the Blue Jackets Finish?
Even though the team is weak offensively, they can compete in the newly formed Central Division offensively. Their defense compares favorably to other teams in the division, and they will be able to win games without a high-powered offense. With an upgrade at center in Domi, the injury to Nikita Kucherov, and the uncertainties of this season, the Blue Jackets will be able to hang with the rest of the division. Expect them to finish in the top four and make the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.