The Blue Jackets are winning games but they have been doing it with a little bit of puck luck. Who are the difference makers? Where can the team improve? Who makes the team tick over the long haul of the season?
Lukas Sedlak deserves your attention
Before the season started I was highly critical of the Blue Jackets move of leaving Sedlak on the team after training camp and the preseason was over with. I even made mention how our staff didn’t even have him on our “Top 25 under 25” list. He had a fantastic playoffs last year for the Lake Erie Monsters and it was the best scoring stretch of his entire career. Personally, I never thought he would ever come close to that output again, he hasn’t thus far but he has brought something that has been missing in the bottom six in recent years, stability.
Through 11 games this year, Sedlak has a 5v5 CF% of 50.2, good for fourth on the team. Those shot differential numbers are good, not entirely earth shattering though. We know that John Tortorella is a big fan of scoring chance data and that the team internally tracks it, according to Natural Stat Trick, Sedlak leads the Jackets in Scoring Chance For percentage at even strength with 55%. That means that Sedlak is making moves offensively while being a stalwart defensively. His four points are just icing on top of the cake and makes for a very good, very feisty third liner. He won’t be the flashiest rookie on the team and will never get the recognition of someone like Zach Werenski, make sure to not take his game for granted next time you are catching a Jackets game.
Will the real defensemen please stand up?
When Seth Jones went down with an injury it wasn’t just a big blow to the Jackets lineup, it was going to expose their lack of high end depth as well. Last year on many occasions David Savard and Jack Johnson played on the top pairing. It was never the Jackets best option, it was just what was available to the team and they bought into the idea that both of those players were capable of eating up such minutes. Simply they aren’t and never have been able to do so.
Savard is now slotted into the top pairing with Werenski and Johnson is now paired with Ryan Murray. It is a hodge podge at the moment and it doesn’t feel right. The Jackets have been killed in shot differential since Jones went down and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Savard and Johnson are passengers, they are too passive defensively to make a difference long term. Both are making way too much money for their roles.
They give the illusion as if they can play 20+ minutes a night when in reality they can’t do so efficiently. Slowly but surely it feels like Murray is falling into a similar category as them too. It remains unclear whether this is something exclusive with Jackets defensemen or if these players are just always going to be caved in when looking at shot differential metrics. They’ll need a positional upgrade sooner than they think if they continue to compete all season long.