When the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they had acquired Thomas Vanek from the Vancouver Canucks, many immediately began to wonder how a relationship with demanding head coach John Tortorella would work. Not only has the partnership worked out just fine, Vanek has thrived as a member of the Jackets.
Vanek failed to register a point in his first four games with his new team, but he’s been terrific since then. The 34-year-old has picked up seven goals and seven assists (five primary) in his last 11 outings. With him in the lineup, they’ve gone 12-3-0, which has allowed them to move back into third place in the Metro.
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The veteran has moved around a lot over the last five years (he’s suited up for eight teams during that stretch), but he finally appears to be comfortable in his current situation with a coach that not many people expected him to survive with.
His advanced stats would also suggest that he’s fit in really well with the Blue Jackets. He has a CF% over 50 (51.54 percent) for the first time since the 2010-11 season when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres. His FF% is also higher than it’s ever been at 54.85 percent and when he’s on the ice, 85 percent of the goals scored are scored by Columbus. Yes, this is a small sample size, but this is a story about his immediate impact.
That’s some valuable production from a player that GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t even have to give up a draft pick for. Instead, he sent 23-year-old forward Tyler Motte and veteran journeyman Jussi Jokinen to the Canucks in exchange for Vanek. Motte has one goal in 13 games, while Jokinen has a respectable five points in 10 contests.
Of course, it’s also important to realize that Vanek’s current totals probably aren’t sustainable. His sky-high 1.129 PDO suggests that his numbers will regress at a certain point, but even that won’t take away from the contributions he’s made over his last 15 games.
We all know that he’s the kind of player that will look awesome for stretches and invisible during long periods of time, but all the Jackets have to do is ride the wave as long as they can.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.