Archive for June 2012

Blue Jackets Free Agency Primer

The Blue Jackets did not make this post easy on me. As we head into the beginning of free agency July 1, and look at the Jackets’ needs, we still have to consider the pending trade of Rick Nash which will almost certainly bring back at least one NHL roster player. Who will that player be? What position will he play? Will there be multiple NHL players? A couple of top six forwards coming back really changes the Blue Jackets goals heading into free agency. So for the purposes of this post, I will be considering the NHL roster as-is, minus Rick Nash.

As I currently see it, the team needs at least one top six forward, at least one bottom six forward, a depth defenseman, and an NHL goaltender. Preferably, they would add two top six forwards and one bottom six forward. On offense, this would push Vinny Prospal, Ryan Johansen,  and/or Cam Atkinson into the bottom six, who could then form a third scoring line with Mark Letestu and either Derek Dorsett or a trade/free agent pick-up. The versatility of Ryan Johansen and Mark Letestu really helps with the flexibility, as does having Johansen, Atkinson and Ryan Russell on two-way contracts. Johansen and Letestu can shift to the wing, and Johansen, Atkinson and Russell could all be sent to Springfield if better options are added.

On defense, the selection of Ryan Murray solidifies the Blue Jackets top six for next season. Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin and Marc Methot should be locks for five of the spots. The last spot will come down to Ryan Murray, John Moore or possibly David Savard. I would expect to see Murray get a nine game regular season tryout before the winner of that spot is selected. Only one of those three should be on the NHL roster, while the other two play big minutes in the AHL/WHL. This would require a seventh defenseman for the NHL roster, one who would likely only play in emergency situations, or if the blueline is struck by multiple injuries. In net, a better option than Steve Mason is necessary. Whether or not that player will be better than Sergei Bobrovsky is up in the air, but someone needs to be brought in. For a better handle on their needs, let’s take a look at the Blue Jackets roster:

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CBJ at the 2012 NHL Draft

Well the next to last weekend in June has come and gone, meaning the NHL draft is over. The Blue Jackets went to the Steel City with eight picks, using only six due to the Bobrovsky trade (a deal I don’t really have a problem with). I was lucky enough to go to the draft – I say lucky because getting tickets was a pain in the butt and a half, (we had to resort to eBay and a friend of one of my dad’s coworkers to go both days).

As for the draft, as I said before, the Blue Jackets added six players with it being an even split on multiple levels. Of the six the team selected there were two of each position (forward/ defenseman/ goalie) and three each coming from North America and Europe. So, without further ado, lets meet the newest Jackets.

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Why Scott Howson Made the Right Decision

Today Aaron Portzline reported the New York Islanders offered their entire draft for the number 2 selection. Twitter went crazy at how terrible Columbus GM Scott Howson is for turning down that offer. I’ve recently done a lot of research regarding the draft and the value of draft picks. Per that research, here are the corresponding draft pick values for that trade: Pick #2 is equal to 185 points of value; pick #4=140, pick #34=25, pick #65=14, pick #103=8, pick #125=7, pick #155=6, and pick #185=5. That is a total of 207 points of expected value. However, those later picks don’t actually hold value, they only hold value if an NHL player is found, which is about 10% of the time for rounds 3-7. The 34th pick gets you an NHL player around a quarter of the time. So essentially, this trade would be a move down for a worse player with a lower chance of being a major contributor, for a couple of low chances at an NHL player. But don’t take my word for it, below I went through every draft from 2000-2009 and looked at the players selected with the picks in the rumored Isles deal. Read through these picks and try to tell me Scott Howson made the wrong decision.

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Draft Expectations Part Two: Theory into Practice

Before the draft I posted a piece detailing research I had done into the expected value of draft picks. One of the conclusions I came to was “it would be smart for a team to draft forwards in rounds one and two, then take defensemen in the middle rounds, then pick up a goaltender or two in the later rounds every year.” With this thought in mind, I went back through the Blue Jackets draft picks from 2000-2009 to see how they would have fared had they followed that advice. This was a simple exercise. I changed the Blue Jackets draft picks in rounds 1-3 into forwards, rounds 4-6 into defensemen, and round(s) 7 (and 8-9 pre-2005) into goaltenders. If the Blue Jackets selected the proper position, that picked stayed. If they didn’t, then the next player picked at the proper position was subbed in. Most of this research was done Friday night and Saturday morning. In other words, as the draft was occurring. By picking Ryan Murray (D), Oscar Dansk (G) and Joonas Korpisalo (G) in rounds 1-3, Josh Anderson (F) and Daniel Zaar (F) in rounds 4-6, and Gianluca Curcuruto in round 7, they did not even come close to following my recommendation. So let’s take a look back on how the Jackets would have fared, as well as try to figure out why forwards are better early and defensemen/goalies are better late.

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2012 Draft: Day Two

After the exciting finish to round one yesterday, I was expecting a real bang to start the morning session.  There were at least two offers on the table for Columbus’ 31st pick last night, and a number of players who had slid from many analysts top 30 chart.  With Howson noting their last minute decision to not take the Kings 1st round pick this year, I was under the assumption that Columbus had at least one player, if not a couple of players circled.  The Jackets also had five additional picks after the Ryan Murray pick of Friday, and my full attention.

My original hopes included Martin Frk, a Canadian junior prospect with an excellent shot and solid size.  Instead, the Blue Jackets opted to resolve a major hole in their prospect pool by drafting the 2nd rated European goalie, Oscar Dansk.  Dansk put up strong numbers with Sweden internationally, and will likely enter the Canadian Hockey League this coming season.  Dansk profile at Elite Prospects

If people were still concerned with the depth of Columbus’ goalie prospects, they certainly wouldn’t be after the 62nd pick, in which the Blue Jackets called Joonas Korpisalo.  He was the third ranked European goalie behind only Dansk and Vasilevski.  Not unlike Dansk, he could very well find himself entering the Canadian Junior system for the upcoming season, and to my understanding, both drafted goalies will join the team for the development camp held in early July. Korpisalo profile at Elite Prospects

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2012 Draft: Day One

Hours ago, with the fate of Columbus’ selection resting solely in the undeserving hands of the Edmonton Oilers, I sat wavering on who I wanted the Jackets to select in the second position.  Originally I was committed on the Oilers finally addressing their defensive issues, leaving Yakupov and Galchenyuk on the board while taking either Murray or Reinhart.  Shockingly, or I suppose completely not shocking at all, Edmonton opted to take the best player available in Yakupov.

A day ago, I would have been openly frustrated at the idea of Columbus taking a defenseman with the second overall pick.  I was committed to Galchenyuk or a trade to a team in the 3-6 pick range.  It took only a handful of tweets, blog posts, and analyst commentary about Ryan Murray’s stability and leadership as a player to realize just how special he can be for this team.

Realistically, I would have accepted a trade, but as soon as Howson said his name I was satisfied, and I believe based on the reaction I read throughout the tweets, on the Union Blue forums, and in texts that Columbus found a real gem.  It also shows the confidence that Howson has in his group of scouts, and in Ryan Murray.  He was noted saying that Murray still being on the board closed the door to a potential trade of the number two pick, and I support that kind of confidence.

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Draft Position Expectations

Heading into tomorrow’s NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets have the opportunity to do something they have only done once before: draft a player with a top two pick. The first time they got long-time franchise player Rick Nash. With Nash on his way out, who Columbus should take has been debated ad nauseum. There are many schools of thought when it comes to the draft, with the consensus being to take the best player available. If there is n0 clear favorite, then draft for need. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets biggest need is a goaltender. With no clear pick for the Blue Jackets (unless Nail Yakupov falls to them), I thought I would head to the history books to try and analyze what players should be picked where. I went back through the Entry Draft’s from 2000-2009, applied a formula to every player’s statistics to assign a value to every player, then analyzed the resulting data. What I found is very interesting. It suggests the Blue Jackets should NOT draft Ryan Murray with the number two pick, nor should they consider drafting Malcom Subban or Andrei Vasilevski with a first round pick. Check out the rest for more analysis and further information on the methodology.

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Hartsburg Named Associate Coach

The Blue Jackets announced this morning that Craig Hartsburg will be joining Todd Richards behind the bench this season.  This move brings a tremendous amount of additional experience to the Columbus coaching staff, as Hartsburg has spent time coaching in Minnesota, Philadelphia, Chicago, Anaheim, Ottawa, and Calgary.

Additionally, he coached the Canadian junior team to two consecutive Gold Medal wins in 2007 and 2008 (after having won a gold as an assistant in 2006), and enjoyed a ten year playing career with the Minnesota North Stars.  During that time, he wore the captain “C” for seven years.

Hartsburg has over fifteen years of coaching experience between the Canadian Junior hockey leagues and the NHL.  It is hard to put a value on knowledge, but it seems like Richards has made a wise choice in bringing someone on board with such depth of experience.  Craig will be able to relate to the players and be a vital resource.

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The Goalie Carousel

With the signing of Josh Harding today, and the subsequent walk off the deep end by many Blue Jackets fans, I thought I would put together a quick list of the goalies that are either available as unrestricted free agents and trade, as well as goalies who might be available by trade, and those goalies that are currently unsigned restricted free agents (of those with 10+ NHL GP last year). This list is currently sorted by even strength save percentage, which is the best statistic for goaltenders that is readily available (removes the randomness/team factors of shorthanded and powerplay goals). Also included are the standard save percentage and goals against average (and the chart is sortable). Curtis Sanford, Allen York and Steve Mason are also in there for perspective. So dig in and let us know in the comments what goalies you want to see in Union Blue next season!

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Columbus Cup Struggles Are Not Uncommon

It seems like the early stages of the off-season are a tough time for optimism in Blue Jackets discussions.  People tend to focus on the lack of playoff success, the lack of a serious Stanley Cup run, and the inability to draft all-star players at the draft.  While I can appreciate any number of failed seasons can cause even the more patient fans to question the ability of a franchise, the Blue Jackets plight is not THAT bad.

I decided to see how poorly the Jackets measure up to some of the other NHL teams struggling to find post season success and a Stanley Cup to call their own.  As it stands, Columbus is tied for 19th in terms of longest drought without the Cup.
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