In the playoffs, every little part of the team counts and any weaknesses can be exploited by a good coach. Looking up and down the Blue Jackets line up, it is tough to pinpoint an area in which another team can take advantage of the Jackets’ in some way. But a player that sticks out every time I look at his numbers is William Karlsson.
In Sunday’s game against New Jersey, Karlsson moved up in the lineup to Alex Wennberg’s spot and it wasn’t a great fit for him. So what does he do well? Where can he succeed?
Karlsson kills penalties and centers a line that has featured Matt Calvert and Josh Anderson for large portions of the year. It contributes offensively but they tend to fall off of a cliff after a while. Offensively, they can’t necessarily be counted on to contribute consistently.
So how do you utilize him? Is he someone that should be counted on long term?
Karlsson was acquired in a trade with Anaheim with Rene Bourque and a draft pick in exchange for James Wisniewski. The trade was divisive at the time as Wisniewski was easily the best defenseman on the Jackes’ team and internal strife was partially the reason for the trade. On the surface, it looked like the Ducks had won the trade. It makes sense considering the fact they got a player that was only one season removed from a fifty point season. Those don’t grow on trees for defensemen.
Luckily, the move ended up working out. The defensemen situation ended up getting figured out for the Blue Jackets with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones coming aboard but what Karlsson brings to the team has yet to be defined. He has enough skill to make you think twice about him but he is often underwhelming enough to frustrate as an onlooker. Is he a player that should be pushed down to a more minimal role as the playoffs approach?
He is still relatively young and is putting up a career year in points. He is doing this in limited minutes as well. His shot differential numbers are below average and could be explained by less than ideal partners on his line. When I say below average, they are near the very bottom of the team. His Corsi For% relative to his teammates is terrible. If he can’t succeed with what he is given, why should he move up into a more beneficial spot?
His shooting percentage is down but his assists are up, having a streaking Josh Anderson on his line has helped that. But it isn’t completely clear that he can create offense on his own. It should concern anyone watching the Blue Jackets. He can slot in on the third and fourth line but that is about it. That should be fine for the team but it makes for an interesting conversation when discussing his future role.
He’s an okay player and middling at best. It’s time to stop talking about him like he is going to be this game changing player, at least in the short term. He has flashes of it but it may only reveal itself in the form of untapped potential.
It wouldn’t surprise me if he became expansion draft fodder. Until then, and into the playoffs, he should be utilized as a bottom six forward with his share of offensive zone starts. He could be a targeted player come playoff time and putting him in an advantageous spot will help the team avoid any matchup issues.
Little improvements to the team can still be made. It can be the difference between a first round exit and a Cup run.