While reporting on sports is seldom non-bias, I do my best. No one wants to constantly read about the bad or what is going wrong, so I generally put a positive spin on what goes on in CBJ-land.
This team, for all that has been said can be summed up in a few short words: underachieving and inconsistent. Honestly I'm not sure which is worse. Lets start with...
This time the underachievement isn't in the goal scoring department. While a 3-goals-per-game-average isn't a monument achievement, it is a big step for this team. The disappointment is in the fact that this team averages 3.5 goals against per game and has allowed a division high and 3rd worst in the NHL 70 goals. Vancouver and Ottawa are the only teams worse and neither holds playoff hopes. This is not the leagues best defense, there I said it. You cannot even begin to argue that this season. Put in perspective, Detroit has played one more game than Columbus and given up 4 fewer goals.
The CBJ have 21 points in 20 games. Slightly above .500. But they are a minus 10, meaning they have giving up 10 more goals on the aggregate than they have scored. That lands them 7th from the bottom in the league. In that regard they are overachievers. Their record should be much worse given that stat. And this division isn't that strong. Florida leads the division with Carolina just behind them. This may have been the Blue Jackets best opportunity to win a division...ever.
On paper this roster should be winning more. The talent level alone should carry them to more victories. The reality is that they all have been very inconsistent.
Rarely is there anything worse than inconsistency. Even being consistently bad provides some level of expectation. I began looking at several culprits of the CBJ's underachievement. Do they give up 3rd period leads? Yes, but they also have won almost as many games after trailing in the third period. Are they giving up the first goal and playing from behind too much. Not the case. Has one goalie been better or worse? Not particularly. Scoring goals hasn't been the problem as Columbus has scored 3 or more goals in 8 of 10 games this month. In one of those games (CHI on 2/13) they even managed to get a point.
There is consistency in one aspect. Poor in-zone play. I'm not pointing squarely at the D-corp, although they are not without fault. But team defense, not clearing zones, turning pucks over and allowing untimely goals have all plagued the Jackets. Seems like every game there has been one or more easily preventable goal.
Is it time?
Not so long ago Aaron Portzline reported that Tortorella wanted out of Columbus. The speculation was that there were million$ of reasons holding him back, none of them hockey related. He is in the last year of his current contract and most can read the writing on the wall. Is it time for the Jackets to bite the bullet and cut ties with him? Firing him would be doing him a favor and I'm sure that doesn't sit well with ownership. His contract would also be 'dead money' on a team that doesn't spend to the cap. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but may be time. He has gotten much more success out of this team than any previous coach. The results on the ice this season speak for themselves. Has he lost the commitment of the players? Maybe. One does not know what goes on behind closed doors.
There is time to salvage the season. They are not too far gone. The talent is on this roster to win now. Rarely am I in favor of an in-season coaching change because there isn't much in the way of a replacement. It shows lack of stability and that impacts players and the ability to re-sign them. I hope the reports were wrong, those that say Torts wants out. That would point to a lack of commitment, which would be sad after coming so far with this team. The beat goes on as Columbus faces Chicago again on Thursday.
Good Luck and Go Jackets!