Sonny Milano

Columbus Blue Jackets: This season’s biggest surprises and disappointments

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Elvis enters the building as goaltending surprises for Blue Jackets

If any position in sports challenged the saying “You get what you pay for,” it would be NHL goaltending.

The Blue Jackets haven’t just watched Sergei Bobrovsky fall short of his $10M asking price with Florida already. They’ve also seen their $2M tandem of 25-year-olds (Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins) provide some of the best goaltending since John Tortorella took over as Blue Jackets head coach.

If forced to guess, people might postulate that Korpisalo would drive that bus. While his development’s been bumpy since Columbus took measures to keep him during the expansion draft, Korpisalo at least had NHL experience. As much as people loved the idea of putting on blue suede shoes and making bad Elvis jokes, could the Blue Jackets expect Merzlikins to convert nice Swiss league numbers to acceptable backup work?

Nope. Instead, Korpisalo has been solid but unspectacular, when he hasn’t been hurt. Meanwhile, Merzlikins has been a smash hit.

Speaking of surprises and prices, there could be more up ahead. Both Merzlikins and Korpisalo are pending RFAs. What’s even a fair contract for Merzlikins, especially if the NHL doesn’t resume action until 2020-21?

Torts walks the walk

For some time, the feeling was: whether John Tortorella is actually a good coach or not, he at least provides entertaining press conferences. When the Torts rage boils over, snarky folks are the biggest winners.

Tortorella’s backers must feel vindicated, as the Blue Jackets sit in the playoff bubble even after the team lost Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin — along with facing wave after wave of injuries.

Much like Barry Trotz nurturing strong numbers for Islanders goalies, there’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation in Columbus. Merzlikins deserves credit for his strong .925 save percentage this season, but surely Torts helped make life easier for Elvis.

Take a look at Hockey Viz’s coaching impacts and you’ll see that Tortorella seems to be getting more and more effective during his time as Blue Jackets head coach:

Pretty impressive stuff from Tortorella.

Numerous health-related disappointments for Blue Jackets

Chalk up the Blue Jackets’ crushing run of injuries to bad luck … I think.

There is one thought: maybe certain style choices increase the risks of injuries. Tortorella’s teams are notorious for being gritty, and most obviously blocking shots. Could that make his players more susceptible to injuries? Maybe such issues wouldn’t just crop up because of single seasons, but rather multiple years of playing that way?

Overall, I’d still say it’s mostly bad luck.

The Blue Jackets should definitely be careful though, particularly if the NHL opts to squeeze in some portion of the rest of 2019-20 while holding a full 82-game campaign in 2020-21.

Offensive disappointments for Blue Jackets

Look, any reasonable person expected Columbus to have a tougher time scoring goals without Artemi Panarin (and, to a lesser extent, Matt Duchene). Even so, when Pierre-Luc Dubois is your leading scorer at 49 points through 70 games, it’s dishonest not to put offense on the list of disappointments.

This is likely the more reasonable knock on Tortorella’s ultimately-worth-it focus on defense than injury concerns. Certain Blue Jackets would likely put up bigger numbers in a more open system; it just likely wouldn’t be the wisest strategy overall.

There are disappointments within those disappointments for the Blue Jackets:

  • To some extent, it’s a bummer that Sonny Milano never quite found his place. Not surprising, but a bummer, as there’s talent there.
  • Alexander Wennberg didn’t rebound to his most promising form. Instead, he sits at a middling 22 points in 57 games, including just five goals.
  • Josh Anderson suffered through a disastrous 2019-20 season. Along with injuries, Anderson enjoyed almost zero puck luck, scoring a single goal on just a 1.6 shooting percentage (four points in 26 games overall). That hurts after Anderson scored a career-high 27 goals and 47 points in 2018-19, and fell just short of 20 goals in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

My guess is that Anderson can still contribute as a power forward once he gets healthy. Those numbers almost certainly were affected by injury issues to some extent, too. Even so … ouch.

***

Overall, the surprises are more pleasant than the disappointments ended up being painful for the Blue Jackets. It’s truly remarkable that they’re in almost the same spot in 2019-20 as they were in 2018-19.

What should we expect if there’s more for 2019-20, and then in 2020-21, though?

MORE ON THE BLUE JACKETS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Looking at the 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 33-22-15 (81 points in 70 games played); fifth in the Metro, second East wild card
Leading Scorer: Pierre-Luc Dubois, 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists)

In-season Roster Moves:

  • Traded Sonny Milano to the Anaheim Ducks for Devin Shore.
  • Sent Markus Hannikainen to the Arizona Coyotes for a conditional seventh-rounder.

Season Overview: 

In 2018-19, the Blue Jackets finished the season in the second wild-card spot, right behind the Hurricanes. In 2019-20 … the Blue Jackets went into the COVID-19 halt in the second wild-card spot, right behind the Hurricanes.

Now, sure, it’s not the exact same situation. In this year’s case, the Islanders would take that spot if you went by points percentage, as they’re only a point behind the Blue Jackets (80 to Columbus’ 81) while the Islanders hold two games in hand (68 to Columbus’ 70 GP).

Yet,  how many people would have expected the Blue Jackets to manage this feat? Columbus didn’t just lose Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency. The Blue Jackets also lost a ton of players to injuries, often significant ones, from Seth Jones to Cam Atkinson to Joonas Korpisalo.

Like him or not, this season’s been a testament to John Tortorella’s coaching abilities. While the Blue Jackets aren’t winning every possession battle (especially regarding high-danger chances), they’re not cratering in the same way Winnipeg has after painful personnel purges.

All things considered, it’s impressive that the Blue Jackets fall in the middle of the pack by various metrics, including this “Reality vs. Expectation” chart from Charting Hockey (which uses Evolving Hockey’s data).

2019-20 Blue Jackets Charting Hockey Evolving Hockey

For Torts’ structure to bend-but-not-break, Columbus did need strong goaltending, though. Elvis Merzlikins delivered (13-9-8, .925 save percentage) even more than Korpisalo did (19-12-5, .911 save percentage) to help hold everything together.

We’ll see if the Blue Jackets get the chance to prove that they could hold onto their current spot. Either way, Tortorella and the Blue Jackets already proved a lot in 2019-20.

Highlight of the 2019-20 Season for Blue Jackets: 

The Blue Jackets didn’t only win six in a row during some of Elvis’ hottest days in the building. They also pulled off a 10-game point streak from Jan. 11 to Feb. 7 (9-0-1). Stretching back further, they went 11-1-1 in 13 games (Jan. 6 to Feb. 7) and 13-2-1 in 16 (Dec. 31 to Feb. 7).

Yes, they plummeted into the pause (3-6-6 from Feb. 8 to March. 8), but that previous tear was really something.

If you need something more of the highlight reel variety, recall Sonny Milano’s between-the-legs goal, a nice memory Milano created before he was traded:

And, hey, if you need some righteous Tortorella rage at refs, there was some of that this season, too.

MORE ON THE BLUE JACKETS

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

What’s the long-term outlook for the Ducks?

Ducks
Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Anaheim Ducks.

Pending free agents

The core

The face of the franchise at this point is still John Gibson, and while his numbers took a bit of a hit this season he is still one of the league’s elite goalies. As long as the Ducks have him as their foundation there is always the chance that he can give them a chance.

Is it unfair to put so much on one player to carry a team? Of course it is, but right now he is the reason for hope.

Beyond him, the Ducks have a handful of long-term contracts on their books.

Defenseman Cam Fowler is signed through the 2025-26 season. Forwards Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg are signed through 2023-24, while Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all signed through the 2021-22 season.

Ryan Getzlaf, one of the franchise icons, still has one more year after this one at $8.25 million.

Long-term needs

Offense, offense, and more offense.

Even when the Ducks were still a contender as recently as a couple of years ago they were still only a middle-of-the-pack team offensively. Over the past two years, though, they have plummeted to the bottom of the league.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season they are the second-lowest scoring team in the league (2.47 goals per game, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings), second-worst in shots per game (again ahead of only Detroit) and third-worst on the power play (ahead of only Nashville and Detroit).

Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg are still good top-six options, and they do have some young players starting to break into the league (Sam Steel, Max Jones being at the top of the list) but they need to start taking big steps in the coming seasons.

For as promising as those young players may be, they still lack a young franchise player to serve as a long-term building block. Their best hope for acquiring that: Some draft lottery luck. The Ducks have two first-round picks this season (Bostons, plus their own pick which will be a lottery pick) and along with their own second-round pick will have three of the top-40 picks in the 2020 draft.

Long-term strength

For all of their current and long-term flaws, they still have an impact player at the one position that can make a meaningful difference — goaltender.

Even though Gibson had a down year this season he is still one among the league’s best and is capable of single-handedly changing their short-term outlook.

Since becoming Anaheim’s starter during the 2015-16 season his .919 save percentage ranks eighth in the NHL among 55 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games.

They have him signed long-term at $6.4 million per season. Given how good Gibson has been, how dominant he can be when he is at at his best, and his age, that is a more than fair number for the Ducks to build around. The issue now is whether or not they have the players and resources to do that.

MORE:
Looking at the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks
Ducks’ biggest surprises, disappointments so far

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking at the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks

Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim Ducks

Record: 29-33-9 (71 games), 6th place in Pacific Division; out of playoff spot
Leading scorer: Adam Henrique — 43 points (26 goals, 17 assists)

In-season roster moves

Season overview

Things looked somewhat promising at the beginning of the year when the Ducks won six out of their first eight games, but it quickly turned into another season of regression and disappointment after that.

At the time of the season suspension the Ducks were in sixth place in the Pacific Division and on track for their worst overall record since the 2003-04 season.

They rank among the bottom-five in goals scored, goals against, power play percentage, penalty kill percentage, and shots on goal per game. It is going to be their second straight season without the postseason and the third consecutive year with a decrease in total points. Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell proved to still be productive players, but none of them made a significant impact that could help carry the offense. Most concerning is that none of their young forwards took a meaningful step forward offensively.

Along with a lack of offense, they have also been hit hard by injuries, especially on defense. Not one of their defensemen has played in more than 60 games this season, while Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson (their top-three blue-liners) combined to miss 49 man-games due to injury.

Put those two things together, along with a down year (by his standards) season from starting goalie John Gibson and it is the recipe for a long season.

Highlight of the season so far

This is an easy one. Nicolas Deslauriers recording a natural hat trick against the Ottawa Senators. Before this game he had just four goals in 58 games this season and only 28 goals in 375 career games.

MORE:
Ducks’ biggest surprises, disappointments so far
Ducks’ long-term outlook

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

The Pro Hockey Talk 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for all completed deals. The 2020 NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

NHL Trade Deadline candidates
Non-UFAs who could move
Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline
• Trade Deadline live blog

Feb. 24, 2020
San Jose Sharks: Brandon Davidson
Calgary Flames: Future consideration

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Joel Persson
Edmonton Oilers: 2022 conditional seventh-round pick, Angus Redmond

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Christian Djoos
Washington Capitals: Daniel Sprong

Feb. 24, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Lorito
New York Islanders: Jordan Schmaltz

Feb. 24, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers: Nathan Noel
Chicago Blackhawks: T.J. Brennan

Feb. 24, 2020
Columbus Blue Jackets: Conditional 2020 seventh-round pick ( If Hannikainen plays 10 games for Coyotes the rest of this season, Columbus will receive the pick.)
Arizona Coyotes: Markus Hannikainen

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Matt Irwin, 2022 sixth-round pick
Nashville Predators: Korbianian Holzer

Feb. 24, 2020
Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Cousins
Montreal Canadiens: 2021 fourth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Brady Skjei
New York Rangers: 2020 first-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020
San Jose Sharks: 2020 first-round pick, Anthony Greco
Tampa Bay Lightning: Barclay Goodrow, 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020
Vancouver Canucks: Louis Domingue
New Jersey Devils: Zane McIntyre

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Vegas Golden Knights: Robin Lehner, Martins Dzierkals (Vegas retains 22% of Lehner’s salary)
Chicago Blackhawks: Malcolm Subban, Slava Demin
Toronto Maple Leafs: 2020 fifth-round pick (Maple Leafs retain 50% of Lehner’s salary)

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Sonny Milano
Columbus Blue Jackets: Devin Shore

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Sami Vatanen
New Jersey Devils: Fredrik Claesson, Janne Kuokkanen, 2020 conditional fourth round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Dominik Kahun
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evan Rodrigues, Conor Sheary

Feb. 24, 2020
Dallas Stars: 2020 sixth-round pick
Florida Panthers: Emil Djuse

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Calgary Flames: Erik Gustafsson
Chicago Blackhawks: 2020 conditional third-round pick (Chicago will receive the earlier of Calgary’s two third-round picks in 2020.)

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Tyler Ennis
Ottawa Senators: 2021 fifth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Calgary Flames: Derek Forbort (Kings retain 25% of Forbort’s salary)
Los Angeles Kings: 2021 conditional fourth-round pick (If Flames make Western Conference Final and Forbort plays half the games or if they re-sign Forbort, it becomes a 2022 third rounder.)

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Detroit Red Wings: 2020 and 2021 second-round picks, Sam Gagner
Edmonton Oilers: Andreas Athanasiou, Ryan Kuffner (Oilers retain 10% of Gagner’s salary.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 seventh-round pick, Aaron Luchuk
Ottawa Senators: Matthew Peca

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Danton Heinen
Boston Bruins: Nick Ritchie

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: Conditional 2021 fifth-round pick (Turns into a fourth if Sabres make the playoffs and Simmonds plays 10 games)
Buffalo Sabres: Wayne Simmonds (Devils retain 50% of Simmonds’ salary.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Anaheim Ducks: Kyle Criscuolo, 2020 fourth-round pick
Philadelphia Flyers: Derek Grant

Feb. 24, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Calle Rosen
Colorado Avalanche: Michael Hutchinson

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Patrick Marleau
San Jose Sharks: 2020 conditional third-round pick (Pick becomes a second if Penguins win the Cup.)

Feb. 24, 2020
Philadelphia Flyers: Nate Thompson
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 fifth-round pick

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Carolina Hurricanes: Vincent Trocheck
Florida Panthers: Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie, Eetu Luostarinen

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Ottawa Senators: Conditional 2020 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2022 third-round pick. (If the 2020 first-rounder is top three, it moves to 2021. Ottawa only receives the 2022 pick if the Islanders win the 2020 Stanley Cup.)
New York Islanders: Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Feb. 24, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Ottawa Senators: 2021 fourth-round pick
Colorado Avalanche: Vladislav Namestnikov

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Mike Green (Red Wings retain 50% of Green’s salary)
Detroit Red Wings: Kyle Brodziak, 2020 or 2021 conditional pick (Detroit gets a fourth-round pick in 2020. It turns into a third-rounder in 2021 if Edmonton reaches Western Conference Final, and he plays in half of their games.)

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Washington Capitals: Ilya Kovalchuk (Canadiens retain 50% of Kovalchuk’s salary)
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 23, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Edmonton Oilers: Mike Green (Red Wings retain 50% of Kovalchuk’s salary)
Detroit Red Wings: 2020 or 2021 conditional fourth-round pick

Feb. 22, 2020
Nashville Predators: Ben Harpur
Toronto Maple Leafs: Miikka Salomaki

Feb. 21, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Winnipeg Jets: Cody Eakin
Vegas Golden Knights: Conditional 2021 fourth-round pick (becomes third-rounder if Eakin re-signs or Jets make playoffs)

Feb. 21, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Anaheim Ducks: Axel Andersson, David Backes (Bruins retain 25% of Backes’ salary)
Boston Bruins: Ondrej Kase, 2020 first-round pick

Feb. 20, 2020
Florida Panthers: Danick Martel
Tampa Bay Lightning: Anthony Greco

Feb. 20, 2020
Pittsburgh Penguins: Riley Barber, Phil Varone
Montreal Canadiens: Joseph Blandisi, Jake Lucchini

Feb. 19, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Max Veronneau
Ottawa Senators: Aaron Luchuk, conditional 2021 sixth-round pick

Feb. 19, 2020
New York Rangers: Jean-Francois Berube
Philadelphia Flyers: future considerations

Feb. 19, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Los Angeles Kings: 2020 second-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Vegas Golden Knights: Alec Martinez

Feb. 19, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs: Denis Malgin
Florida Panthers: Mason Marchment

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Washington Capitals: Brenden Dillon (Sharks retain 50% of Dillon’s salary)
San Jose Sharks: 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2021 third-round pick

Feb. 18, 2020
New York Rangers: Julien Gauthier
Carolina Hurricanes: Joey Keane

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
St. Louis Blues: Marco Scandella
Montreal Canadiens: 2020 second-round pick, conditional 2021 fourth-round pick

Feb. 18, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Winnipeg Jets: Dylan DeMelo
Ottawa Senators: 2020 third-round pick

Feb. 17, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Los Angeles Kings: Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, 2020 second-round pick, 2022 conditional fourth-round pick (if Toffoli re-signs)
Vancouver Canucks: Tyler Toffoli

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2020 first-round pick, Nolan Foote
Tampa Bay Lightning: Blake Coleman

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2021 second-round pick, David Quenneville
New York Islanders: Andy Greene

Feb. 10, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild: Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick

Feb. 5, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Toronto Maple Leafs
: Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick, conditional third-round pick in 2021

Jan. 17, 2020
Dallas Stars:
Oula Palve
Pittsburgh Penguins: 
John Nyberg

Jan. 7, 2020
Nashville Predators: Michael McCarron
Montreal Canadiens: Laurent Dauphin

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Michael Frolik
Calgary Flames: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Montreal Canadiens: Marco Scandella
Buffalo Sabres: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020
Ottawa Senators: Mike Reilly
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Sturtz, 2021 fifth-round pick