Devin Shore

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.

Trade: Ducks get younger, ship Cogliano to Stars for Shore

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The Anaheim Ducks, losers of 11 in a row, and the Dallas Stars, who have dropped three of their last four, made a good ol’ hockey trade Monday morning by swapping forwards Andrew Cogliano and Devin Shore.

On Sunday night Ducks general manager Bob Murray released a statement following yet another defeat stating he was sticking with head coach Randy Carlyle and he would be focused “on our players, specifically with who is going to step up in this situation.” A goal by Cogliano Sunday night was apparently not enough to keep him in Orange County.

“In acquiring Andrew, we are able to add a conscientious player who brings a veteran-presence to our room,” said Stars GM Nill in a statement. “His explosive speed, 200-foot game and iron-man mentality will help our team both on and off the ice.”

The Stars have their own issues this season, as have been documented, and while this move to acquire a veteran in Cogliano (3-8—11 pts.) will give them an upgrade in their bottom-six, he also carries some cap implications. He’ll turn 32 in June and his contract, which carries a $3.25M cap hit, expires after the 2020-21 NHL season. As someone who’s missed only two games in his entire 12-year career — and only due to suspension — he’ll be a veteran presence who will allow Jim Montgomery to re-jigger his lines and free up someone like Radek Faksa, who can provide more offense than he has this season.

Shore (5-2—17 pts.) will be 25 in July and carries a $2.3M cap hit through the end of next season. He’ll bring a bit of a two-way presence and help the penalty kill and, more importantly for the Ducks, is younger, cheaper and not signed as long as Cogliano.

The Ducks are in the midst of a big losing streak and the Stars were called out by their head coach on Saturday for having a “culture of mediocrity”. Both Murray and Nill may be seeking bigger trades to shake their teams out of their respective funks, but those deals aren’t always out there or beneficial to one side.

We’ll see if this move is a precursor to more wheeling and dealing from each GM, but for the time being it’s an upgrade with speed for the Stars, and for the Ducks it’s youth plus cap help in the future, as well as an attempt to wake-up his team.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Tonight on NBCSN: No. 4 New Hampshire squares off with archrival Maine

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One wants in the postseason, the other wants the No. 1 seed in Hockey East.

No. 4 New Hampshire Wildcats (18-8-6) vs. Maine Black Bears (10-17-7)

It’s the final weekend of the conference schedule in Hockey East, and both New Hampshire and Maine have things to figure out heading into their rivalry battle. UNH is seeking to finish No. 1 overall in the conference and needs to score a pair of wins while hoping UMass-Lowell slips up against Providence to make it happen. If the Wildcats needed extra motivation, being able to keep Maine out of the Hockey East tournament should do it.

The Black Bears are hanging on to the eighth spot in the conference by just one point over UMass and while they can’t hope for the Minutemen to just lose to Merrimack, it’s on them to find a way to slow down a New Hampshire attack that’s done well this season.

UNH rolls with five players who fill the net regularly (Kevin Goumas leads the way with 37 points) and it’ll be up to Maine’s junior goalie, Martin Ouellette, to hold down the fort. He’s done well since taking over for Dan Sullivan and after the disastrous start to their season, Maine just making the Hockey East tournament would be a great accomplishment. Maine’s not-so potent offense will have to deal with one of the better goalies in the country in sophomore Casey DeSmith who made headlines earlier this season for UNH.

NHL prospects to watch

This game is light on draftees with just six players in all who’ve had their name called. New Hampshire has just two with Eric Knodel (D – JR – Toronto) and Greg Burke (F – SR – Washington). Knodel is a solid blue liner and he and Trevor van Riemsdyk (James’ younger brother) are their two most productive defensemen. Goumas, an undrafted junior forward, has been the set-up man for fellow undrafted guys like John Henrion, Austin Block, and Grayson Downing (38 combined goals).

Maine, meanwhile, rolls with four draftees led by Ouellette, a Blue Jackets prospect. Joining him are a pair of solid freshmen forwards in Devin Shore (Dallas) and Ben Hutton (Vancouver). Shore is second on the team in points to undrafted senior Joey Diamond. Senior defenseman Nick Pryor (Anaheim) has played in 17 games this year earning just two assists.

Tonight on NBCSN: Slumping No. 13 Boston U. faces off with Maine

A slumping Terriers squad looks to get back on track against the Black Bears.

Maine Black Bears (8-15-5) vs. No. 13 Boston University Terriers (13-12-1) — 7:30 p.m. ET

The second half of the season hasn’t gone well for BU. They’ve lost five of their last seven games and have just one win in that span. They were upended by both Northeastern and Harvard at the annual Beanpot Tournament and their defense and goaltending have been more than suspect. Over their last 11 games, BU has allowed 45 goals. Giving up over four goals a game is a good way to lose a pile of games.

As tough as things are for BU, they’ve been even worse for Maine. The Black Bears came into the season with high hopes but starting off 1-9-0 put a large damper on things. Things have turned around a bit, however, and before losing to Vermont last Saturday they rattled off a four-game unbeaten streak. Tonight they’ll hope to extend BU’s misery.

NHL prospects to watch

BU isn’t lacking in NHL-recognized talent. Senior forward Wade Megan (Florida) leads the way in goals while a pair of San Jose prospects, forward Danny O’Regan and junior Matt Nieto, are prime attackers. Undrafted sophomore Cason Hohmann is their top point man. You’ve read plenty here about super freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (Boston) but junior blue liner Garrett Noonan (Nashville) is having a solid offensive year as well. He’s got to tone down the penalties though.

Others: Sam Kurker (FR – F – St. Louis), Sean Maguire (FR – G – Pittsburgh)

Maine doesn’t offer much in the way of offense but freshman Devin Shore (Dallas) joins undrafted senior Joey Diamond as two of three guys on the team in double figures in points (sophomore Connor Leen is the other).  Freshman defenseman Ben Hutton (Vancouver) has had a steady first year for the Black Bears. Junior goaltender Martin Ouellette (Columbus) has taken the starting job from last season’s wunderkind Dan Sullivan by putting up strong numbers of his own.