After one of the boldest trade deadlines in recent memory, it’s fair to say things aren’t going the way Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets were hoping. Three wins in eight games have them hanging on to the last playoff spot by the skin of their teeth while the Penguins and Hurricanes are slowly pulling away. Their defense is still hovering around the 2.94 goals against mark they’ve posted this season, but their offense has cratered since the trade deadline passed.
The Jackets have scored a meager 13 goals in eight games, only better than New Jersey’s 7 goals in 6 games, yet their numbers since adding Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel remain strikingly similar to their season-long performance, if not better in some cases.
Most categories hover in the same range, but the inner slot shots stick out like a sore thumb, dropping by almost 50%. Now, it would be easy to blame it on the new guys and call it a day, but a deeper dive in the individual per-game numbers tell a different story. Quick disclaimer, I’m excluding the two games Matt Duchene played prior to the deadline from the “before” numbers because two games just isn’t a viable sample size. You can click here for a quick refresher on how important inner slot shots are.
This is a massive drop in performance from the Jackets’ core, and it’s especially concerning when you look at John Tortorella’s line deployment. His two most used lines have remained the same after the deadline as they were before. Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson is still the most used trio, followed by Foligno-Jenner-Anderson. Duchene and Dzingel play on a line with Bjorkstrand and are third in ice time. This means none of their top five players in inner slot shots have played meaningful minutes with their new acquisitions.
Their drop can’t be justified by a lack of chemistry with new linemates. The Jackets just can’t seem to get to the front of the net and it has played a key role in their offensive drought. Atkinson, Dubois, and co. need to find their way back to high-danger area and chances if they hope to make the playoffs because less than two goals a game isn’t going to cut it. Whatever happens, don’t blame it on Duchene for once.