CALGARY, CANADA - DECEMBER 22: Miikka Kiprusoff #34 of the Calgary Flames makes a save against the Detroit Red Wings in third period NHL action against the Detroit Red Wings on December 22 , 2011 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)
"Floundering" isn't a strong enough word to describe what the Blue Jackets are going through this season. After starting the season 0-7-1 and without the services of Jeff Carter (who had a broken foot), the Jackets were able to emerge victorious in the return of James Wisnewski from his suspension-and that's pretty much been the high point of the season for them.
GM Scott Howson said repeatedly that he wouldn't make a decision on Coach Scott Arniel's future until he had the whole team to work with. But now that Arniel's had his full team for about 15 games, the record really hasn't improved. The Jackets are currently last in the NHL with a 9-22-4 record, which works out to be a 52 point pace. They also happen to be worst in the league in terms of goal differential, with a -35 rating.
In reality, the Blue Jackets aren't a bad team. They sit at 11th in the league with a Close Fenwick percentage of 51.28-ahead of teams like the Philadelphia Flyers , Florida Panthers, and the New York Rangers. It's been all luck, or lack thereof, for Columbus this year. With only two players above the PDO threshold of 1000 (Derek MacKenzie and Sami Pahlsson), their team PDO this year is a putrid 970, 30 points below the mean.
The main reason for that low PDO is the horrible play of former Calder winner Steve Mason, who's only made saves on 89% of the shots he's faced at even strength-good enough for 3rd last in the league. It's nothing new for Mason to have a sub-par EVSV%, as even his 08-09 EVSV% was .925, good for 18th in the league. He's living on reputation right now.
If Howson gets fired-and I don't know if he will, due to the financial constraints of the franchise-and the team goes on a run, it will simply be regression to the mean.
For the Flames, Alex Tanguay is expected to miss at least the first 4 games of the road trip with the nefarious "upper body injury". Also, Anton Babchuk is close to making his return, which garners a "sigh" from me.
The two games before the break were definitely a positive sign and really the first time all year where the team played two quality games in a row.
Players to Watch
T.J. Brodie-The Rookie had a huge game on Friday.
Rick Nash-The guy is so good, it kinda makes me sad.
This game isn't going to be as easy as some people think for the reasons I laid out above, but Calgary should be able to get the win.