In a late night surprise of a move, the Blue Jackets sent down Oliver Bjorkstrand and called up Sonny Milano for their upcoming road trip. Bjorkstrand was a revelation late last year as he scored 8 points in 12 games and more than made a stamp on the team. This training camp, he came in slowly and in the final preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins got himself a few points. So why send him down after an already average training camp?
He hasn’t been any good.
This will hurt for even the biggest Bjorkstrand fans, the Danish right winger hasn’t been any good. Out of the players that have played in all three games, he has the least amount of ice time. You may think this is a personal vendetta from head coach John Tortorella but Bjorkstrand hasn’t been able to drive any play either. Last year he was otherworldly with the puck on his stick, whether it was in the NHL or AHL, it didn’t really matter. In 12 games last year Bjorkstrand has an even strength CF% of 50.4. Thus far he has been third to last on the team in even strength CF% with a 43.5.
Small sample size not withstanding, he isn’t a player that has those kinds of games, he looks lost and isn’t playing like his normal self. He had 25 SOG in 12 games last year and only has 2 in 3 games this year. That doesn’t even bring up one of the core facts of players like Bjorkstrand, they’re damn streaky.
Should they have let him find his groove?
Pension Plan Puppets did a quick informal study on wingers who score in bunches much like Bjorkstrand. The average drought for those type of players like Phil Kessel, Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash and Jeff Carter is just over three games without a goal. Bjorkstrand is right at that mark and mind you it is just an average. Meanwhile when these type of players are “on”, they are hot for a total of the third of the season. Coming in around 30 games in which they are “hot”. Even the most dominant of players have some time in which they don’t contribute offensively. It may be frustrating that Bjorkstrand doesn’t score every game but he doesn’t have to, players built in that mold are hard to come by. It is preemptive to put Bjorkstrand in those categories but you hope he makes it to that spot at some point. Giving up on him now may break his confidence.
The law of averages works out and Bjorkstrand scores a couple of goals while he is in Cleveland because that is just how this stuff works. Who knows how the Jackets will view Bjorkstrand’s time in Cleveland. Will they want more consistency or do they want to see the spark he showed at times last year? His possession numbers need to improve drastically, three games just isn’t enough to make a strong evaluation. It isn’t time to abandon the hype train just yet, it may just be time to pump the brakes and realize a hat trick isn’t coming every time he steps onto the ice. Can this fact be accepted or will it be a constant fight against expectations?