Hey look, hockey is coming. With training camp starting this weekend, and actual real NHL hockey starting later this month, I figured it might be time to finally post my goal predictions for the 2012-13 season. So for this post, I did an obscene amount of research, spent an insane amount of time crunching numbers, and poured over data from many years relating to every player on this team. The problem is that all this time was spent back in September. So the numbers sat, and sat, and sat, and sat, and sat, until now when there really isn’t a 2012-13 season anymore, and goal projections for an 82 game season make no sense. Nor does a lot of the logic behind how I came to those conclusions. Sigh.
The Blue Jackets forwards corps have undergone a massive overhaul this offeason. Gone is Rick Nash, and with him the semblance of having a traditional top line. Much discussion has happened over the summer of how the forwards will look this coming season. The Cannon has been breaking down the battles we should see in training camp, and a lot of the comments have been focused on a “Top Six” versus “Top Nine” approach. There are a number of schools of thought on how to build a forward group. Some people, like Toronto GM Brian Burke, prefer a Top Six-Bottom Six approach (ie. six offensive forwards, six defensive/checking forwards). Vancouver has built a specialized line up consisting of a pure offense 1st line, solid two-way 2nd line, defensive specialist 3rd line, and rugged 4th line. Boston rolls three lines who are capable in both ends of the rink. Last season the Jackets planned to have three lines capable of scoring, with one shutdown group. While that failed for a number of reasons (impatience, coaching, and personnel), I think we are going to see something in between that approach and the Boston approach in 2012-13.
But what exactly does this mean? The potential for an offensive struggle is something I have been batting around in my mind since the Nash trade. The Blue Jackets don’t appear to have any 1st line talents, but a large contingent of 2nd to 3rd liners. It’s difficult to see how this compares to other teams, as so many factors come into play. To quantify these players, I took a very simple approach: points per game. I broke down every forwards who played at least 27 games last season, then split them into approximately the top 90 forwards (ie. three forwards per team), the second 90 forwards, and the third 90 forwards, with any players below being “4th liners”. With this breakdown complete, I was able to look at forwards and teams in a number of ways, from what that means practically, to the availability of each group of players, to how those players fit into their teams for next season.
Let’s start this one off with some quick trivia. Tell me which one of these prorated stat* lines belongs to what player:
Player A: 21G, 21A, +3
Player B: 21G, 18A, +6
Player C: 11G, 38A, -8
Player D: 11G, 40A, +5
*Prorated stats devised from dividing total goals, assists and plus-minus by games played with the CBJ in their first full-ish year with the team, then multiplying those numbers by a full 82 game season.
I’m sure the title of this post will give away who the four players are, but without looking at their stats there is really no way to differentiate between Cam Atkinson (Player A) and Matt Calvert (Player B), as well as Nikita Nikitin (Player C) and Grant Clitsome (Player D). Traditional stats show almost no difference at all. Cam looks like a little bit more of a playermaker, but those three assists are basically negated by the extra +3 heading to Calvert. Clitsome on the other hand, looks like the better player, with 2 more assists and a +13 jump on Nikitin.
With the offseason at it’s peak right now (hence the lack of activity lately), a number of team-focused websites around the NHL have been posting on their team’s top players under the age of 25, as well as looking at the NHL Equivalency numbers (NHLE) of their prospects. I thought I’d combine those two ideas. What follows is a look at the NHL stats and the NHL Equivalency stats for every Blue Jackets player or prospect under the age of 25. After that, I ranked the top 25 Blue Jackets under 25. NHLE was established by Gabe Desjardins and finds the equivalent statistics for players who did not play in the NHL. For example, a point in the OHL equals 0.30 points in the NHL. So 70 OHL points in 70 games is equal to about 25 points in 82 NHL games. To further clarify, this is not a predictive measure, but historic, as it looks at what these players would have done in the NHL last season, not what they will do when they get there. Without further ado, a look at all the CBJ players under the age of 25.