Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The bubble forwards

The herd is thinning, and statistical output
likely will play a role in determining who makes
Columbus' opening day roster.
I've been more than a little snakebit with regards to watching Columbus Blue Jackets preseason hockey.  Thus far, I've seen two whopping periods of hockey across six possible games.  My first game in person will be on Thursday against (oh boy) Minnesota, but enough hockey has come and gone to start poring through the box scores and do a little statistical comparison-making as we consider what the opening night lineup will look like.  Stats surely don't mean everything, especially in training camp when things like chemistry, playing style, maturity and other intangibles come into the decision-making mix...but overlooking statistical performance is never wise.

So here you go...the story thus far for what I consider the Blue Jackets' forwards who are sitting on the roster bubble:

Note that in addition to totals, I've posted game-by-game results for each player as well.  Click on the player's last name at the bottom of the spreadsheet to see their numbers.

But what to make of all this?
First, let's appreciate that the number of games where a player is on the ice isn't necessarily indicative of coaching admiration.  It could be that the coaches are trying a player in different positions or lines, which could impact the number of appearances.  It could be that a young player requires as much ice time as possible to get him ready for the season ahead.  It could be that a player is injured.  Surely there are other rationales.

These factors make the per game statistics all the more valuable. Sure, Max Mayorov, Cam Atkinson and Alexandre Giroux are getting extended tryouts.  I also have no idea why Derek Dorsett has only played in two games.  Regardless, the per game stats are a reasonable equalizer for comparison purposes.

It appears that, on paper, it's going to be hard
to mess with The Johan's claim to a roster spot.
When you look at those per game numbers, Ryan Johansen sticks out.  He's getting more shifts, minutes, goals and points per game than anyone else in the mix (but I find it curious that the young center does not have an assist yet).  His plus-minus is tied for the highest as well - and it's the most consistently positive of the group (+1 in every game).  While there are other considerations beyond the numbers, it's looking more and more likely to me that Johansen won't be in a WHL uniform this season; he's that close to sticking with the big club.

I've also been hearing a lot of good things about Max Mayorov, and the numbers lead me to believe that he's looking pretty good going in to the back half of the exhibition schedule.  He's tied for top point scorer with Giroux, but he's getting there with four fewer shifts per game and nearly 20 percent less time on the ice. Impressive.

Giroux appears to be playing like a man possessed, and CBJ head coach Scott Arniel is giving him every chance to make the roster.  He's right up there at the top in terms of minutes, leads the group in shots and is tied for most points.  He also leads the group in shifts by a huge margin.  Arniel appears to have his Kyle Wilson candidate for this season (the minor leaguer who finally breaks through), but will the AHL star have enough in this crowded camp to vault to the NHL roster in Columbus?

Atkinson is getting plenty of minutes, shifts and shots, but he is having a devil of a time capitalizing on his opportunities.  One goal in 11 shots isn't horrible, but it's not great for a sniper and doesn't measure up to Ryan Johansen's two goals on five shots.

Tomas Kubalik is a wild card right now.  He's big - giving him a leg up on the smaller Atkinson as the roster squeeze gets worse - and enjoys getting into the crease, something that I don't see on the rest of the roster.  But he sustained a concussion in the first period of his first preseason game of the year and, to date, has no book of work to evaluate.  Fortunately, he's been cleared to play again.  Coach Arniel placed him on the Nash-Carter line on the first day of training camp and apparently will do it again on Thursday against Minnesota, making me think that there's a significant unexplored quality that Arniel wants to explore before giving up on the experiment.  These last four games are huge to Kubalik if he harbors any hopes of lining up with the Blue Jackets roster on opening night.

Can someone help me understand what's up with Derek Dorsett?
Boll's numbers show me nothing while getting plenty of games in, which makes me think that Arniel has already made room for one of his favorites from last season.  I won't say that Boll is coasting, but I'd expect play with a little more desperation if Boll was actually on the bubble.  More shots and more PIMs at minimum.

Which brings me to Derek Dorsett.  Why has he only played in two games? Is he hurt?  (Perhaps banged up after the Winnipeg game, where he tallied 20 PIMs?)  He's getting a reasonable number of shifts when he is playing, and his plus-minus is positive (including the largest single plus-minus game, a +3 against Buffalo), which plays to his advantage.  I just can't get past the "only two games" thing.  Could it be that Arniel is hiding Dorsett from other teams and their scouts so the Blue Jackets can send him down to Springfield at the roster deadline?

Just my idle thoughts looking at the numbers thus far.  What do you make of all this?


  1. Dorsett is being held out so he doesn't get injured (concussed) or at the least suspended by tussling with some AHL-bound goon. That's my theory.

  2. Yeah, I can't see a scenario where Dorsett goes to Springfield.


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