Blue Jackets Find Early Power Play Success with Paul MacLean

The Columbus Blue Jackets have finally hired a new power play coach. Paul MacLean officially took over the job on Thursday before the Blue Jackets matched up against the Detroit Red Wings.

This has been a topic of debate over the past few seasons with many fans in Columbus begging for a change. Their wish came true as Brad Larsen is no longer leading the power play. Larsen will remain in charge of the penalty kill, so he’ll still be making an impact on special teams.

According to head coach John Tortorella, Larsen deserves credit for stepping up, mentioning that the power play could use a new voice. This move was long overdue, but nobody was fired so it even worked out for Larsen. The organization must value his relationship with the players.

Paul MacLean Ottawa Citizen Blogs
Paul MacLean as head coach of the Ottawa Senators (Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)

So far, the power play has had success since MacLean stepped in. The Blue Jackets scored three power-play goals against the Winnipeg Jets and two against the Red Wings in MacLean’s first two games. On the negative side, they gave up their league-worst fifth shorthanded goal against of the season to the Red Wings.

Moving forward, I wouldn’t expect as many shorthanded chances for the opposing teams. The Blue Jackets have now scored a power-play goal in four straight games so they have momentum building in the right direction.

A Quick Jump to the 12th Best Power Play in the NHL

The past few games have elevated the Blue Jackets to 20.3% on the power play, which is good for 12th-best in the league. It almost feels like that isn’t possible considering how the season started, but it shows that the Blue Jackets have good pieces in place and can get hot.

Larsen was right when he mentioned that they need a new voice in charge. Going about the power play the same way for so long had a negative effect since it didn’t allow them to be creative. It was clearly holding the Blue Jackets back from what they are capable of doing.

Columbus Blue Jackets Oliver Bjorkstrand Colorado Avalanche Tyson Jost
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand moves the puck past Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

It’s good for the players to know that their lack of execution caused a change, and it’s already made a difference. They desperately needed to figure it out as one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. That isn’t to say that the Blue Jackets will without a doubt be good on the power play for the rest of the season, but they do have the potential to be consistently great.

Confidence doesn’t seem like an issue anymore, as prior to MacLean the players were too passive. This stretch in the recent games could prove to be vital in allowing them to get over the hump for the rest of the season.

What’s Next for the Blue Jackets Power Play?

Even though the Blue Jackets power play has been on fire lately, I still expect some changes and improvements to come from MacLean. As he learns more about the players he’ll be able to better figure out how to implement them into his system.

One thing I liked about the power play against the Jets was Oliver Bjorkstrand’s positioning on the left side. He has a great release that he can use to fire off quick shots. Little things like this will help improve the puck movement and the overall flow of the power play.

I’d also expect for MacLean to consider doing his best to develop a few young players as power play regulars. Two in mind are Emil Bemstrom and Alexandre Texier. Both of them have the skills to contribute on the power play but haven’t gotten much of an opportunity yet.

Columbus Blue Jackets Emil Bemstrom Vegas Golden Knights Nicolas Roy
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Emil Bemstrom controls the puck in front of Vegas Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Bemstrom’s shot and Texier’s passing, in particular, have the potential to play a role in becoming a consistently solid power-play team. The Blue Jackets have to find a way to feed Bemstrom on the left side or else it’ll be wasted talent. He’s already made his mark on the power play in Sweden and I expect him to do the same for the Blue Jackets in the near future.

Ultimately, they need to be in a position to score an important power-play goal if necessary. I think MacLean will help them get there as he has a good reputation in the NHL. Even though it took longer than it should have, the Blue Jackets made the right decision to implement a new voice and it should be a tremendous help for the rest of the season and beyond.