Jason Brough

Columbus Blue Jackets' Nick Foligno, left, checks Washington Capitals' Zach Sill during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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Under Pressure: Nick Foligno

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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

There were people who said it was a mistake to give Nick Foligno so much money and term, that he was due for a regression.

So far, those people have been right. Because after scoring a career-high 31 goals in 2014-15 — during which he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension — Foligno’s production fell off a cliff in 2015-16. He finished with just 12 goals in 72 games, and his struggles put him through the wringer.

“I’ve gone through every emotion possible,” he said in April. “Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Eventually you realize that those things don’t make it better.”

Of course, not only is Foligno one of the highest-paid players on the Jackets, he’s also their captain. Which adds even more pressure to perform.

But it may be unrealistic to think that Foligno will ever break the 30-goal plateau again. His previous high was 18, in 2013-14, and even then he needed to score on 16.2 percent of his shots. The next season he converted at a 17.0 percent clip and notched 31.

And then it fell to 8.1 percent last season.

It was a classic regression, really. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. It’s why most coaches focus on the process, not the results. Results — goals, wins, etc. — can be misleading. They certainly aren’t always the best predictors of the future.

Foligno is still more than capable of scoring 20-25 goals. His career shooting percentage is 11.8 percent, right around average for NHL forwards. If he’d converted at that rate last season, he’d have scored 18 goals. And he missed 10 games due to injury.

For the record, this isn’t to suggest that the only factor in scoring goals is luck. Obviously, it’s not. Remember that Foligno enjoyed a lot of his previous success playing with center Ryan Johansen, and playing with Johansen wasn’t an option after January’s big trade for Seth Jones. The Jackets don’t really have a legit first-line center anymore. That’s going to be a challenge for them next season.

At any rate, Foligno is convinced that going through last year will make him “a better player” in the long run.

The Jackets had better hope so. Because he’s signed through 2020-21, and the last thing they need is another bad contract on the books.

Video: KHL player goes on rampage during preseason game

KHL
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A KHL player, Damir Ryspayev, has reportedly been suspended for the rest of the preseason after going on a rampage during a game between his Astana Barys club and Chinese expansion team Kunlun Red Star.

In a press release, the KHL said that Ryspayev’s behavior had “nothing to do with hockey” and the league “strongly condemns” what happened.

The 21-year-old defenseman could be disciplined further after a full hearing is held.

Video here:

The Red Star Kunlun coach apparently pulled his players after Ryspayev went wild.

Keeping Bobrovsky healthy is ‘a huge priority’ for Columbus, and for good reason

Sergei Bobrovsky
AP
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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

When the Columbus Blue Jackets broke a four-season playoff drought in 2013-14, their starting goalie, Sergei Bobrovksy, was a big reason why. Bobrovsky started 58 games that season, going 32-20-5 with a .923 save percentage. He was their clear MVP.

Likewise, it was Bobrovsky’s struggles that played a major role in the Jackets’ disaster of a 2015-16 campaign. Not only did his save percentage fall to .908, a recurring groin injury limited him to just 37 appearances. Though young Joonas Korpisalo was a pleasant surprise in relief (16-11-4, .920), the Jackets have a lot of money invested in Bobrovksy. The 27-year-old currently has the second-highest cap among all NHL goalies, lower than only Henrik Lundqvist‘s.

And Bobrovksy is signed for three more seasons.

Let’s just say it was no huge surprise when the Jackets announced in July that they’d hired a “high performance” consultant by the name of Nelson Ayotte. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the idea in bringing Ayotte aboard was to “bridge the gap between the medical staff and the staff of strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins, so that players don’t get injured and injured players get comprehensive treatment that gets them back on the ice quickly.”

As such, Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told the paper that he wanted to get Ayotte and Bobrovsky “on the same page” before the start of next season.

“I want them talking and reflecting ideas, making sure they each know what each other’s doing, and if there’s anything Nelson can do, he’s going to do it,” said Kekalainen. “Bobrovsky is one of the most important guys on that list. It’s a huge priority to make sure he’s going to stay healthy and perform at his best.”

Indeed it is. Because while there are certain teams that can still make the playoffs with mediocre (or even poor) goaltending, the Blue Jackets are not one of those teams. They gave up 31.1 shots per game last season, tied for the fourth most in the NHL. Unless they can dramatically improve their possession numbers in 2016-17, they’ve got little chance of making the postseason without consistently good play between the pipes.

“A common thread of every successful team in our league is outstanding goaltending,” Kekalainen said not long ago, “and we believe we have one of the best at the position in the world in Sergei Bobrovsky.”

Related: Jackets say Bobrovsky didn’t return too early from groin injury

Poll: Did the Jackets make the right call drafting Dubois over Puljujarvi?

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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

There was the Big Three, and then there was the rest. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi were supposed to be the first three picks of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and there wasn’t really much debate about it.

Except Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t see it the same way. Going against the consensus, he used the Blue Jackets’ third overall pick on Pierre-Luc Dubois, allowing Puljujarvi to fall to the Oilers at No. 4.

It was the surprise of the draft, even if Kekalainen didn’t see it that way.

“That’s the guy we had our eye on all year long,” he said of Dubois, per the Jackets’ website. “Our scouts loved him. He’s everything we were looking for: he’s a smart, skilled, big player with a lot of character and leadership qualities.”

The Jackets also believe Dubois can play center in the NHL, and that was a position that needed to be addressed after they traded Ryan Johansen to Nashville for Seth Jones. Though Kekalainen insisted the selection had “nothing to do with position” and everything to do with “character and hockey sense,” it was at least a bonus that Dubois showed well in the middle last season in junior.

“When he moved to center, he played his best hockey at center,” Kekalainen said. “We see him as a centerman, and we see a lot of potential there.”

Puljujarvi, meanwhile, may be a winger, but the Oilers were sure happy to get him. The big, talented Finn is most likely going to be in the NHL next season, and his selection made it “easier” for GM Peter Chiarelli to trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.

Given Puljujarvi’s potential, Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace was one of many observers who wondered if Kekalainen made the right decision on draft day:

Nothing against Dubois, who won the QMJHL’s Best Professional Prospect award. He is a versatile center who fills an area of need. He might be a terrific player in a year or two or three. The point is this: Every scout in the world rated three players at this draft as NHL-ready. The third was Jesse Puljujarvi. After him, there was a cliff.

Granted, it’s going to take a few years before we really know which player Kekalainen should’ve picked, but we want your vote now:

(Click here if the poll doesn’t show up for you.)

Looking to make the leap: Zach Werenski

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

All of a sudden the Columbus Blue Jackets have the makings of an outstanding blue line.

Zach Werenski, the eighth overall draft pick in 2015, is expected to be a big part of it, along with last season’s major trade acquisition, Seth Jones. Beyond those two are Ryan Murray, David Savard, and Jack Johnson, though the latter only has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, so there may not be room to keep him long term.

If Johnson, 29, ends up elsewhere, the top four of the future could be Werenski, Jones, Murray and Savard. The oldest of those four is Savard, who’s still only 25. Jones is just 21, Murray 22.

Werenski, 19, only turned pro late last season, leaving the University of Michigan to do so. He joined AHL Lake Erie and helped them win a Calder Cup, piling up 14 points (5G, 9A) in 17 playoff games.

“The skill set he has,” said Monsters coach Jared Bednar, “his size, strength and poise with the puck, he’s a complete player. To be able to step into our lineup in intense games and get the job done, it’s impressive especially for his age and that’s why everyone’s so excited about him.”

Werenski was also named the top defenseman at the 2016 World Juniors, joining a list that includes the likes of Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo.

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said there’s “a very good chance” that Werenski is in the NHL next season. Considering the Jackets only have six defensemen signed to one-way deals, Kekalainen may actually be counting on it.