Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The bubble defensemen

Because reviewing the preseason performance of the Columbus Blue Jackets bubble-perched forwards was so much fun, and my template was already set up, I figured it was easy to toss together the CBJ bubble blue-liners.

The training camp numbers are nowhere near as large
as on opening day of camp, and the competition is that much
more intense for the last few roster spots.
The same caveat applies to the defense as to the forwards: Statistics should be a significant factor, but not the only factor, in judging the preseason performance of a player. There are a host of other issues that come into play when building a roster beyond the boxscores.  (Never mind that the advanced statistics movement in hockey is widely acknowledged to have taken off with the development of the Corsi rating, something tailor-made to compensate for inadequate boxscore data on defensemen.)  Still, it's foolish to overlook the publicly available stats altogether, as they can tell us stories as well.

With no further ado, here are what I see as Blue Jackets defensemen on the bubble for the opening day roster (note that I've got an update at the bottom of this post, but humor me as I share my completed work in this fluid environment):

Again, the individual player statistics are available by clicking their names at the bottom of the spreadsheet.  Also, the disparity in games played make the per-game statistics useful.  With that out of the way, let's look inside the numbers, shall we?
Unlike the four lines of three players (plus the obligatory press box inhabitant) on the forward side of the roster, we're talking about only seven defensemen to suit up on opening day.  Presume that Fedor Tyutin, Grant Clitsome, Marc Methot and Radek Martinek are givens.  James Wisniewski would have been, but he's tied up until October 25.  So that makes four locks and three bubble players for opening day.  

On paper, David Savard is sitting on top
of the blue line bubble in Columbus
The immediate "jump off the page" positive from this training camp has to be David Savard.  At this point, I can't help but think that CBJ head coach is putting Savard through a trial by fire.  "You think you're ready for The Show?  I'm going to put you in as much as I can get away with and see if you can run with the big dogs."  4 games to everyone else's three.  Highest in per-game minutes.  Second-highest in average number of shifts.  The only "plus" in the plus-minus.  Also the highest point tally thus far.  Presuming Savard keeps this up, I can't see how you keep him off the opening day roster.

Nick Holden seems to be getting a fair shake with a median number of average shifts and average minutes, scoring a little at the same time.  But is Holden distinguishing himself?  I don't see it on paper and look forward to seeing him on Thursday night in person.  There might be something there, but there might not, too.

John Moore has demonstrated that he has a shot, but
statistics suggest his defensive skills could use sharpening
Then you have John Moore.  Second-lowest average number of shifts and average TOI.  The worst plus-minus number.  (But two assists, which should count for something.)  In my estimation, a straight-line progression off of these numbers will land him in a heavy minutes role in Springfield.

Lastly, the two veterans, Kris Russell and Aaron Johnson.  They're getting their shifts (Russell getting more per game than everyone else).  Russell is getting his minutes, but Johnson trails the pack in that category.  But an aggregate -1 in plus-minus?  Nothing - at all - on the scoring side of the ledger?  If I was looking at this sheet and forced to bring in two players for the opening day roster, I'm not sure either of these two veterans would make my cut.  If they did, it would be for intangible reasons.  

On stats alone, I'd go with Savard as the 5th man and Holden as the 6th, likely pairing them with veterans to spare the team from forcing two green players to guard Steve Mason's flank at the same time.  It's an inconvenience from a chemistry perspective, knowing that Wiz will return for game number nine, but on-the-fly adjustments are the name of the game.  

I'd then pick Russell or Johnson as the 7th (likely swapping out with Holden until Wiz returns).  Which one?  I'm on record as saying that in the case of a perfect tie for the last slot, the winner will be Rick Nash's buddy, Aaron Johnson.  I'll stick with that.  It's good to be in tight with The Man.  Once Wiz returns, I'd reassess how Holden and Johnson have done and send the lesser of the two to Springfield.

Sitting back and looking at this post and the post on bubble forwards, I'm a bit stunned.  Have I suggested a scenario where Kris Russell and Derek Dorsett are duking it out for the captain's "C" in Springfield this season?  Good golly, I think I might be...

What do you think?

UPDATE since I wrote this...

CBJ general manager Scott Howson apparently has awarded a roster spot to Kris Russell, taking him off the bubble.  Looks like Russell has shown something (or perhaps his inexpensive, one-way contract makes it hard to send him to the minors without getting nabbed on waivers?) beyond the numbers that Howson appreciates.  

I guess that makes Savard the 6th man and Holden/Johnson in the 7th spot by my estimation.  Johnson had best get it in gear, or he's going to be riding buses to Manchester and Providence instead of being Rick Nash's "Johnny Drama" on Blue Jackets One.  

Note that all four bubble blue liners will be getting playing time in each of the last four preseason games.  Four men enter, two men leave...


  1. . . .not for nothing, how can you come to these conclusions when your facts are completely inaccurate???

  2. My facts are inaccurate?

    If you're correct in your statement, then's boxscores are inaccurate. And is inaccurate. And is inaccurate. I drew my facts from no other places.

    Take some time to point out specific inaccuracies, and I'll respond. I'm not going to shadowbox.

  3. whoa...down boy. maybe simplify your life & just look @ the 'Official NHL' gamesheets that are posted on either team's website after a game...they are wonderful sources of info ie: who scored vs whom? was it a veteran line vs a rookie line? which pp unit was successful? which pk line successfully killed vs who didn't, etc...we are first & foremost jackets fans. howson & co are 'trying to build a house' per se. there is too much rhetoric where the 'electrician outplayed the plumber'...all are important! go jackets!

  4. Good points, Anon #2. Your suggestions edge closer and closer to the "advanced statistics" that some NHL teams (apparently not the CBJ, though...) have invested in.

    If I had time (and likely the skill), I'd dive in deeper in that particular pool. Perhaps, over the course of the season, I'll take some stabs at it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.