By the time you read this, the Columbus Blue Jackets will have started the 2015-2016 NHL season 0-7. They have allowed 34 goals and only scored 13 through these seven games. It’s amazing that a professional hockey team has started the season 0-7 in such dramatic fashion.
The question everyone is asking is…
What’s wrong with this team?!?!?
Now I’m sure you can pick apart players and come up with line combinations until the cows come home. However, the Blue Jackets problems break down into three areas (below). Until these three areas are fixed no General Manager will be able to fully determine what Blue Jackets positions need upgrading. Until the team turns the three areas noted below around first, they’re not going to be able to do much of anything productive on the ice.
Defensive Zone Coverage
After allowing 34 goals in just seven games it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Blue Jackets could not stop pucks going in. If ever there was one goal that summed up their defensive zone issues, it’s this one from their home game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs last week.
At the five second mark I want you to watch how ALL five players are down in one area leaving the Leafs point men wide open. Also note how the defensemen are watching the puck and not the players behind them.
Now imagine this happening 34 times over seven games and you’ll get the picture of why the Blue Jackets are in the mess they’re in right now. Normally, a defending player would take a quick glance back to see if the opposing players away from the puck (left side of the screen) are sneaking into a scoring position like they did here.
THIS kind of defensive lapse is a coaching problem especially if it happens repeatedly over seven games. Todd Richards and his coaching staff could not stop goals like this from happening. This alone was justification for his termination. This is some of the worst case defensive zone discipline I’ve ever seen on an NHL team.
It’s well known Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky told the media that he’s lost his confidence. Let me show you an example of this. Just watch and note how he wasn’t ready for this shot on goal and how he reacted too late.
There’s not a lot that can be done here as it’s up to Bobrovsky to work through his confidence issues. He’s a great goaltender but he needs to get back to believing he’s a great goaltender.
Mental Game is Off
The Blue Jackets lack of mental strength or confidence is a team wide issue. Over the course of the first seven games you could see the confidence of the entire team erode as each of the 34 goals the Blue Jackets allowed were scored. A goal would be scored and the team’s confidence and their performance went down hill quickly.
It’s tough righting a sinking ship when the ship has so many holes in it that have been ignored. Until the new coaching staff solves this, there’s just going to be more of the same.
New Coach In Columbus
With the hiring of John Tortorella as Todd Richards replacement, people are speculating if this is the right hire for the team because the franchise has been sinking hard and fast for a few years now. This team needs a winner now.
I personally don’t think he is the man for the job based on his performance in Vancouver along with the stories from other members of the NHL media (specifically TSN’s Gary Lawless on the radio yesterday) I’ve heard from about the way he coached (or didn’t coach) there. He was also an extremely poor assessor of talent and wasn’t able to put together lines to help alleviate the scoring pressure off the Sedin Twins line.
To stop Tortorella’s Canucks, all you had to do is shut down the Sedin Line and watch lines two through four not be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a puck. The Canucks had talent to provide some help but Tortorella could not figure out who could do the job for him. HUGE red flag here.
What people should look for here is to see if he’s changed his ways from his time with the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks. The Blue Jackets need a coach to crack the whip and lead them out of the darkness of losing while developing young talent. The Blue Jackets don’t need a coach who can’t relate to players or properly assess the talent he has on his roster.
“I need to have better listening skills,” Tortorella said during his press conference in Columbus Wednesday. “I want to know what is going on here and then act accordingly as we talk as a group. It’s so important that we do it collectively here. We need to have some honesty amongst ourselves so we can get on the right road.”
Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets need a coach who can teach and guide the players through the challenges of the three points I made above.
Can John Tortorella do this job? That remains to be seen.