Lack of Depth Scoring Plagues Blue Jackets
If the 2022-23 NHL season ended today, the Columbus Blue Jackets would own the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery. This is a statement that is unfair to make only 12 games into a season, but it is certainly a sign that the situation is reaching a disastrous level. Not a lot has gone right for the Union and Blue so far. From inconsistent goaltending to porous defensive play across the board, the current 3-9 record has truly been a team effort.
However, a quick glance at the stat sheet showcases a key issue. The team has been seriously lacking for depth scoring. Johnny Gaudreau has five goals and Kent Johnson has three. Nobody else on the team has more than two.
In some cases, like that of Patrik Laine, it is excusable since he has only played six games. Still the fact that Justin Danforth, who has not played since Oct. 25 and is out six months with an upper-body injury, remains wedged within the top-10 in team scoring and tied for third in goals is highly concerning.
Comparison to Rest of NHL
Columbus is second-to-last in the league in goals scored and goals per game. The team behind them, the St. Louis Blues, has significantly better marks in goals against per game and goals against in general, and also sits in last place in the Central Division, so they are not exactly an example of a thriving team this season.
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When looking at the Blues, who are still clearly going through a similar issue, the scoring is slightly more spread out. St. Louis has four players with at least three goals and have also played one less game than Columbus.
Another example could be the Ottawa Senators, who are 4-8 thus far and sit in last place in the Atlantic Division. The team is notably in the top half of the league in scoring, but could be argued to have some depth scoring issues as well. Still, the Senators have five players with at least four goals and three with six or more.
These comparisons are not made to showcase which teams are doing well and which teams are doing poorly. All three of these teams are struggling with depth scoring, yet the situation in Columbus appears to be worse. The depth in Columbus is more likely to have one or two goals, but that also means that a majority of the team is providing lackluster production. This makes it harder to imagine it will get much better, which can cause the team to dig an even deeper hole in the standings.
Blue Jackets to Watch
The easy answer to who needs to step up is simple — everybody. Gaudreau and Johnson look the best so far, but they are by no means near the top of the league in scoring. Still, there are a few key candidates who need to pick up the slack.
One name that comes to mind is Laine, whose lack of scoring can certainly be blamed on only playing half of the team’s games this season. Still, his best talent on the ice is his goal-scoring ability, and the Blue Jackets do not improve unless Laine is firing on all cylinders.
Another name who is a popular target is Cole Sillinger. The former first-round selection potted 16 goals in his rookie season, but has just two points and zero goals in 12 games in 2022-23. It is necessary to acknowledge the third-line center role he has played in for most of the season playing a part in this lack of production, but the 19-year-old is expected to be carry at least some of the scoring responsibility, and that is something he has failed to do this season.
The last name that will be discussed in this column is Gustav Nyquist. The veteran winger is in a contract year and could be appetizing to a contending team if the situation continues like this in Columbus. The 33-year-old is relatively far removed from his peak of 28 goals but scored 18 just a season ago and will need to put the puck in the net more consistently for the Blue Jackets to have any shot at contending in the Metropolitan Division.
Overall, the Blue Jackets’ slow start is attributable to a number of core issues, but a lack of scoring depth is a known recipe for disaster. The team cannot rely solely on the back of Gaudreau and Johnson, especially considering the talent that does exist on the roster. Living up to potential and capitalizing on opportunities will help this team put more pucks in the net and more “W’s” in the standings.
Jack is a Columbus Blue Jackets writer at THW and will provide NCAA coverage as well. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Ithaca College. He enjoys covering Hockey, Baseball, Football, Golf, Tennis and many other sports.