From the offseason up until the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets offloaded a lot of experience and talent. The team is now entering what Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen has called a “reload.”
With the Blue Jackets’ loss of faces like Nick Foligno and David Savard, other players have had more opportunity. Many players in the organization have been given a chance to extend their roles and playing time.
In the second and final part of my series analyzing how players are using their chance, we will be exploring how the Blue Jackets’ experienced players have been playing since the deadline.
Blue Jackets’ Experienced Players Since the Deadline
For this piece, the definition of a veteran player is someone who has played more than 50 games for Columbus or is 25 years old or older.
The hot start to the 2020-21 NHL season for center Alexandre Texier is long gone. Since the trade deadline, Texier has no points in his six games and a plus/minus of minus-8. In that same time, he has had just four hits, and one blocked shot.
When he is on the ice, the team gives up far more scoring chances than they create. They have a scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) of 33.1 percent, meaning that when he is on the ice, the Blue Jackets only have 33.1 percent scoring chances in the game.
The lack of production from Texier has hurt the Blue Jackets. With the loss of so much experience and leadership, he is a player that Columbus needs to step up.
Eric Robinson is another player who has been disappointing and has struggled since the trade deadline. In six games, he has one point and a plus/minus of minus-4.
When he has been on the ice, the team has struggled offensively. The Blue Jackets have a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 48.6 percent when he is playing. That means that when he’s on the ice, Columbus takes less than 50 percent of the shot attempts.
The team also has an SCF% of just 38.8 percent and an offensive zone start percentage (oZS%) of 43.6 percent, meaning that only 43.6 percent of faceoffs are happening in their opponent’s zone while he is in the game.
Robinson has shown before that he can create offense with his speed and power, but he has hurt the offense since the deadline. When he is on the ice, the statistics show that he is struggling to create scoring chances and hold the offensive zone.
Compared to Texier and Robinson, in his three games since the deadline, Kevin Stenlund has helped lead the offense to some success. He has had no points in that small sample size of games, but he does have four scoring chances and a plus/minus of plus-2.
The Blue Jackets have more shot attempts (50.6 CF%) and more scoring chances (55.6 SCF%) than their opponents while he is on the ice. The team also has an oZS% of 50 percent when he is on the ice.
However, Stenlund has struggled in the one spot that is most important for a center, the faceoff circle. In his three games, he has a faceoff percentage (FO%) of just 39.2 percent.
Stenlund has not been bad offensively, but if he wants to expand his role on the team and provide a real boost, he must improve his faceoff ability.
Since the trade deadline, no other player may have struggled more for the Blue Jackets than defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.
In his six games since the departures of Foligno and Savard, Columbus has played poorly on defense with Gavrikov on the ice. The Blue Jackets’ opponents have a CF% of 57.3 percent and an SCF% of 74.5 percent in that time frame. That means the opponent is taking 57.3 percent of shot attempts and getting 74.5 percent of scoring chances while he is on the ice.
His play on defense shows up beyond “fancy stats,” as well. Over those six games, Gavrikov has not shown good production on defense. He has only three blocks, one takeaway, and a plus/minus of minus-7.
On a team who is already lacking on defense, these are not the numbers and the production you want to see from one of your defensemen. He must improve if the team hopes to improve defensively next season.
Zac Dalpe has had quite the story in the last few weeks. He was given an extended opportunity after injuries, and he made the most of it, scoring his first goal since October of the 2016-17 season. His play has continued to be good in his five games since the deadline. He scored another goal and has four blocked shots.
However, being a center, Dalpe has excelled in his most important role, the faceoff circle. In his last five games, he has a FO% of 64.3 percent, nearly 20 points above the team average of 45.4 percent. Dalpe has been a great story for the Blue Jackets and has made a large impact at the center position, especially when it comes to faceoffs, a portion of the game Columbus has struggled with this season.
Michael Del Zotto
Michael Del Zotto has been the biggest surprise for the team this season. He was signed to a professional tryout (PTO) offer to a league-minimum contract. He got an opportunity because of offseason trades of Markus Nutivaara and Ryan Murray on defense.
Del Zotto got even more opportunity since the deadline with the trade of Savard and injury to Zach Werenski. He has since been paired with Seth Jones, and his average ice time has jumped to 22:67.
Like earlier in the season, he made the most of his opportunity. In his six games since the deadline, he has 20 hits and three blocked shots. When he is on the ice, the Blue Jackets have a CF% of 51.6 percent and an oZS% of 50.2 percent. The numbers show the team spends more time in the offensive zone than the defensive zone when Del Zotto is on the ice and plays a physical game. That is what you want to see from a top-pair defenseman, especially off a PTO.
These Players Are the Blue Jackets’ Future
It has been a mixed bag for the Blue Jackets’ experienced players since the deadline. The play has ranged from good to downright ugly. However, the overall play amongst these players must improve. Players like Texier, Stenlund, Robinson, and Gavrikov have got to play better if the team wants to compete next season.
As far as players like Dalpe and Del Zotto, the organization needs keep that veteran experience on the team any way possible. The Blue Jackets have a good framework for a roster and are just missing a few pieces. These players can improve, and if that happens, it most certainly is a reload, not rebuild.