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Columbus Blue Jackets 2020-21 Forecast and 20-Game Update

Welcome back to another exciting rendition of “let’s trust the guy with a degree in communication to do some basic math stuff”.

As you are hopefully already aware, I kept the 2019-20 forecasts under wraps simply because I didn’t have the time and/or motivation to write up an explanation for each and every one of them.

Even still, I’m “behind” on 2020-21 posts given that the Columbus Blue Jackets have already reached the 20-game mark of the season.

That’s why we’re looking at both what the expectations were coming into the condensed 56-game schedule, as well as how things are holding up after the first, well, almost half the season.

If you’re a fan of numbers and things, you probably already read about this “catch-up format” in my first forecast for the Boston Bruins roster entering 2020-21. If you’re just a Blue Jackets fan, I’ve done my best to paraphrase my own writing, but you can go back and read it if you feel inclined.

As always, keep in mind that my degree is in communication and my minor was in sport management. My Intro to Stats class only fulfilled the math portion of my “general education” and met once-a-week at night for two-and-a-half hours in the fall 2013 semester.

I actually learned how to use the forecast function in Microsoft Excel in one of my sport management classes. Besides that, I got a “C” in that Intro to Stats class, so my credentials for doing this seem promising, right?

First year players are impossible to predict until they’ve had at least one National Hockey League game under their belt.

Young players that have had minimal NHL experience may also reflect “inflated” results– Liam Foudy’s forecasted assists entering the 2020-21 season has been highlighted for this reason.

Entering this season, he had only been part of two career NHL games and had one assist in that span. The forecasting function accounts for a player’s entire career and does some mathematics to come up with something over a predetermined number of games for the upcoming season (in this year’s case, 56).

In other words, Foudy’s forecast after 20 team games played should look a bit more “realistic”, for the lack of a better term.

A forecast is not the same as predicting pace.

Foudy has three assists in 12 games played in 2020-21, for example, and is forecasted to finish with about 11 on the season, whereas he is currently on pace for about eight helpers.

There are numerous variables that can, and will, impact a players’ performance throughout the year, including injuries, being a healthy scratch (or on the taxi squad), other American Hockey League related or waiver related transactions, sickness, COVID protocol, suspensions and general superstitions related to individual routines, beliefs, etc. (getting enough sleep before a game, wearing a certain lucky tie, using the same undershirt or shoulder pads for the last 13 years or whatever).

Players can get “hot” or “cold” at any point.

It’s not something that can be accounted for in a numerical forecast that sets aside the “eye test” until you try to figure out the nuances of how or why a player is playing the way they are playing.

In a perfect timeline, this forecast pretends nothing bad could ever happen and every Blue Jackets player lives up to their expectations. In reality, some will pan out, some will exceed expectations and some will fall short for whatever reason.

It’s an educated guess for an outcome in a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collectivistic nature and sheer puck luck.


Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 0 Games (56 Games Remaining)

First up, let’s take a look at how things were expected to go coming into the 2020-21 season.

Prior to being traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, Dubois was forecasted to lead Columbus in scoring with 16-22–38 totals this season.

New acquisition, Max Domi, was forecasted as a close second to Dubois with 37 points– leading the team in assists in the process with 25 (among NHL regulars last season, since Foudy technically was forecasted to lead in assists among Blue Jackets with 28).

Of course, Dubois was traded and Laine and Roslovic are off to hot starts with Columbus– scoring goals in bunches when they find the scoresheet, it seems. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Cam Atkinson was forecasted to score 19 goals prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, which leads Dubois’ 16 forecasted goals and Gustav Nyquist’s 14 forecasted goals on the roster.

Dubois, of course, was traded and Nyquist is out due to injury for most of this season, so… that checks out.

On defense, Zach Werenski and Seth Jones were expected to continue to lead with the way with 33 and 27 points, respectively, from the blue line.

Both defenders are expected to amass 21 assists this season– good enough for the third most forecasted among Blue Jackets skaters entering this season.

In the crease, John Tortorella will have to find the right balance between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.

There’s potential for a really solid goaltending duo in Columbus if Korpisalo is the starter and can best his 2.66 forecasted goals against average, as well as his forecasted .911 save percentage, while Merzlikins manages to find a way to reach his 2.35 forecasted GAA and .923 forecasted SV%.

Of course, after 20 team games played, Merzlikins is currently out with an upper body injury, so time will tell if he can return to form.

Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 20 Games (36 Games Remaining)

Through 20 games of the 2020-21 season, the Blue Jackets are three points outside of the last playoff spot in the Discover NHL Central Division, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks for this season’s 4th place cutoff line.

The acquisition of Laine and Roslovic have been quite a welcome sight for Columbus fans, though consistency from the rest of the lineup remains to be an issue.

Laine, however, is currently forecasted to lead the team in goals (26) and points (46), while Roslovic is on track for 10-17–27 totals, which is about what he had in 71 games with the Jets last season (29 points).

Using the current forecasted totals, Roslovic is on track for about .551 points per game this season. He had .408 points per game with Winnipeg in 2019-20.

Atkinson remains in the top-three in scoring, trailing Laine in goals and points with 20 forecasted goals and 39 forecasted points, respectively, while Oliver Bjorkstrand is currently forecasted to amass 15-21–36 totals (the third most on the current roster).

On the blue line, Jones leads the way among defenders in points (32), as well as all skaters in assists with 27 forecasted assists through 20 team games played in the 2020-21 season.

Werenski is more in line with what you’d expect from a young defender of his caliber (8-16–24 forecasted totals) and has missed time due to injury, so that’s clearly a factor in his forecasted drop from before the season began to now.

In the crease, Korpisalo is sure to get more starts than Merzlikins as the latter is currently injured.

Korpisalo’s current forecast yields a goals against average between 2.59-2.63, while Merzlikins is on track for a 2.29-2.33 in however many games he ends up getting.

Why the range in GAA?

That’s new for this season.

It’s just to show a range between what the forecasted total is according to the model and what the adjusted forecast shows (calculated based on the forecasted goals allowed/forecasted minutes multiplied by 60, as one would traditionally do with goals allowed/minutes played multiplied by 60 to determine GAA).

I’m no statistician and I felt like there might be a way to try to get a better read on how things are going for goaltenders (with or without enough necessary data to yield a “realistic” result).

Don’t make any bets using only this forecast. If you’re a professional, you probably already know that.

Anyway, Korpisalo has a forecasted range between .912 and .913 in save percentage through 20 team games played and Merzlikins is on track for between a .923 and a .924 in SV%.

Again, a similar principle applies here.

One end of the range is the straight up forecast, while the other is influenced by forecasted saves/forecasted shots against.

Well, that does it for this forecast. Tune in after 40 team games played to see how things might go down the stretch (the final 16 games this season).

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Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 24 Games

It’s past the quarter mark of the 2018-19 regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but thanks to the way the calendar (and life) works out, I’m a few games behind on presenting my latest forecast for Columbus.

Thankfully, the Blue Jackets have a couple of days between their game on Monday (a 7-5 victory against Detroit) and their next matchup against Minnesota on Thursday.

As such, here’s a quick look at what to expect through the remaining 58 games this season.

Keep in mind, there’s many unknown variables that will change what’s to come due to injury, lineup changes, roster moves and whatever else Microsoft Excel doesn’t already know. My degree is in communication– not math– and I’d like to keep things as brief as I can in John Tortorella fashion so you can look things over, get a gist of it and go back to watching the game.

If a player meets the forecasted stats I’ve updated, they’ve met the latest expectations. If they do better, they’ve exceeded expectations. Of course, if they do worse– they just didn’t live up to expectations– it’s that simple. Well, either that or they missed a lot of action due to injury or something.

Anyway, you can’t forecast puck luck, but you can indicate general trends and estimated hunches based on what the scoresheet indicates each night.

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Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 24 Games (58 Games Remaining)

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Good news, Blue Jackets fans, Artemi Panarin should reach the 80-point plateau this season. Bad news, Blue Jackets fans, Panarin’s still a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and still doesn’t seem intent on sticking around in Columbus.

Other than that, Cam Atkinson is expected to amass 62 points this season (35 expected goals, 27 expected assists) and lead the team in goals, while Pierre-Luc Dubois sits one goal shy of reaching 30 this season.

Josh Anderson should tie Panarin for third place on the roster in goals scored this season with 26 expected goals, while Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner contribute close to 20 goals each.

Newcomer Anthony Ducliar continues his career revival with respectable 19-18–37 expected totals and Zach Werenski should lead all defenders in expected goals (14), assists (32) and points (46).

Meanwhile, noted top-pairing blue liner Seth Jones, should amass 10-28–38 totals from the point with Werenski beating out Jones in goals from the blue line by four.

Scott Harrinton’s expected 18 points fit perfectly behind Ryan Murray (30),  Markus Nutivaara (25) and David Savard (24) as the Blue Jackets defensive corps continues to improve at moving the puck out of their own zone and into quality scoring opportunities.

Other than Panarin’s uncertain future, the only other concern for Columbus revolves around the franchise’s stability in net.

Sergei Bobrovsky‘s expected goals against average has worsened after the first quarter of the season. It’s now set to be a 2.46 GAA by season’s end. Yeah, that’s not great.

In fact, it would be Bobrovsky’s worst GAA since he posted a 2.75 in 37 games played in 2015-16. To begin with, he’s at a 2.74 currently with a .912 save percentage in 16 games this season.

At least Bobrovsky’s save percentage is expected to improve to a .920 SV% by the time 2018-19 wraps up.

Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo should end up with a 2.61 GAA and .919 SV% by season’s end, which would be significant improvements from last season’s 3.32 GAA and .897 SV% in 18 games.

As is it, Korpisalo has a 3.73 GAA and .886 SV% through nine games played this season, so things can only get… better? That’s the hope anyway.

Columbus has to work on suppressing shot attempts against, let alone shots on goal, since they’re evidently overworking their goaltenders and it’s showing (remember, a goalie has to move around and “make the save” regardless of whether or not the puck actually hits the net as an official shot on goal).

It’s either that or maybe Bobrovsky isn’t worth as much as some might think he is (because he’s also a pending-UFA in July)– especially in a contract year.

Somehow the Blue Jackets find themselves 2nd in the Metropolitan Division with 30 points on the season and a 14-8-2 record on the season and a plus-six goal differential.

So has Columbus been under the radar and quietly good? Or are they just quietly lucky and surviving in a volatile division (whereby the Pittsburgh Penguins– remember them? they won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017– are currently 6th in the division outside the playoff picture)?

Time will tell or @capncornelius and/or @vanekatthedisco might fill you in on their outlook sometime.

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Columbus Blue Jackets 2018-19 Season Projections

Hello Columbus Blue Jackets fans, I’m not Cap’n Cornelius, but since we know each other and I visited your wonderful city in August, I was determined to deliver some Blue Jackets forecasted stats throughout the season.

Alas, the regular season started almost a month ago, but I promised I’d have some forecasted stats for Columbus’ entire roster for the entire season by the end of the month and I have finally gotten around to it.

These things take time when you’re transferring data into a new system and trying to watch every game on TV, as well as exist on Earth among its people.

For now, let’s pretend the season hasn’t started or that we’ve all jumped into a time machine and gone back to October 1st. How would things play out for the Blue Jackets this season?

Based on last season’s results– a 45-30-7 record, good enough for 97 points on the season and 4th place in the Metropolitan Division as the first wild card team in the Eastern Conference– Columbus is poised for a bit of a bounce-back in the division standings.

Why? Because the other teams ahead of them got worse– namely the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.

The Flyers are off to their usual slow start (wait, I forgot, we’ve time travelled back to the beginning of October) just overall worse and the Capitals look to be dethroned by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan crown at the end of the regular season.

Last season’s Blue Jackets won two playoff games on the road against the eventual Stanley Cup champions, then lost the next four games to extend Columbus’ misery as the only NHL franchise without a playoff series win.

Ian Cole and Matt Calvert left for the Colorado Avalanche in the offseason and defender, Jack Johnson, signed a long-term five-year contract with the Penguins.

Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky survived an offseason of trade speculation, but they’ve both still pending-unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2018-19 season.

That’s the major storyline to the Blue Jackets this year– will it be one last hurrah or will Panarin and/or Bobrovsky leave the city in the dust among the cornfields on its outskirts in what might become the franchise’s greatest departure(s) since trading Rick Nash to the New York Rangers in 2012?

If this season is a failure, is it head coach, John Tortorella’s fault, a roster problem or General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen‘s inability to construct the necessary components of a successful organization?

Critics will be sure to point out all the flaws that mar the franchise, but one thing’s for certain– there’s a lot of expectations.

One way to generate an unnecessary buzz about expectations is to believe your educated guesses about how players should perform this season makes any difference to what actually goes on the ice.

Fear not, for I am about to do just that.

Before I do, however, I’d like to remind those of you in the audience that are familiar with my roster forecasts before and inform those of you that are new here for the first time of my actual area of expertise.

It’s words. My degree is in communication.

There’s nothing that I will present here that you cannot do yourself, better and/or read anywhere else. All of this is an educated guess– an educated expectation– thanks to one of my sport management classes from college.

A player who performs better than their expected outcomes here is merely exceeding these presented expectations. A player who doesn’t meet the expectations could’ve been injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak that’s technically unpredictable.

Anything else is just an error outside my expertise and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault.

That, or there’s a little gut-feeling added for players with substantially fewer career NHL games played than the rest of the data shows (basically, if someone’s projected to score 100 goals and has only played in nine games, I might tweak the result until they’ve played a quarter of the season and have either proven themselves as Wayne Gretzky 2.0 or nothing like “the Great One”).

Take a look at the charts below as though everything were to fall in line and nothing bad could ever happen– an utopian view, if you will. Some things may pan out, some things may not– it’s just a suggested (expected) outcome in a sport that’s highly unpredictable thanks to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.

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Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)

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As has been the custom since his arrival via trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin is expected to lead the Blue Jackets in points with 30-49–79 expected totals. The next best player on the team? Cam Atkinson.

Atkinson’s bound for 27 goals and 24 assists (51 points) this season, while the third best forward on the team, Pierre-Luc Dubois, is expected to match his rookie season totals with another 48-point season, at least.

Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand are both landing somewhere in the mid-40s in total points as complementary complete players for the Blue Jackets this season.

In the meantime several other forwards fall within the 40-point range, while free agent signing, Riley Nash isn’t expected to break into the 30-point plateau after amassing a career-high 41-point season with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.

On defense, by default (thanks to Seth Jones‘ delayed start due to injury) or by talent, Zach Werenski emerges as the best two-way defender in Columbus with 14 goals and 30 assists (44 points).

Werenski’s expected totals tops Jones (9-28–37 expected totals) by seven points and is in a league of his own compared to his teammates on the blue line.

Ryan Murray (4-19–23 expected totals) and David Savard (7-19–26 expected totals) land in a respectable range for top-4/top-6 defensemen.

In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky is looking for redemption with an expected goals against average of 2.37 and an expected save percentage of .923 over the course of 2018-19. Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo seeks to provide healthy competition with an expected 2.68 GAA and .917 SV% prior to puck drop on the season.

Of course, now that we’re a month into the regular season, it’ll be time to update this entire forecast once Columbus is about a quarter of the way through their 82-game schedule.


Feel free to check out this season’s forecasts for Boston, Carolina or Vegas.