Under Pressure: Nick Foligno

AP
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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.