Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Blue Jackets, Seattle expansion and one rule NHL should adopt

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/6728/" data-ylk="slk:Artemi Panarin">Artemi Panarin</a> and the Blue Jackets are very good. (Adam Lacy/Getty Images)
Artemi Panarin and the Blue Jackets are very good. (Adam Lacy/Getty Images)

Hey everyone.

I don’t really have a fun snappy intro this week except to say this is the part of the season where teams that got out to hot starts and are very bad start to falter. And this is the part of the intro where I look kinda furtively at Vegas, which has one regulation win since Thanksgiving and isn’t that so interesting all of a sudden?

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But then again, the Canucks of all the teams in the world are still third in the Pacific, so sometimes up is down. I dunno.

Anyway here are some very intelligent answers to very incisive questions. Send me emails with hockey questions. I like when that happens. Thanks so much and I hope you have a great week.

Mike asks: “Why do you feel Columbus is good this year but you were so hard on them last year?”

This is one of those things that seems self-evident to me but fanboys might not have an easy time grasping the concept, so here goes:

Last season, Columbus was eighth in the league in score- and venue-adjusted corsi at a little less than 51 percent, which is good but not great. They also shot like 30 percent on the power play for the first few months of the season, and shot a little better than the league average at 5-on-5. Plus, if you dug into the numbers, it turned out they were getting caved in by good teams but crushing bad teams, which is one of those things where you go, “Ah, this is probably a lower-upper-echelon team in the league.” Which put them somewhere in the 10-12 range.

They also got elite goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky, which wasn’t likely to change since he’s excellent when he’s healthy.

That’s all good, especially for a team with a lot of young talent, but people thought they were a top-5 team in the league, which they very obviously were not unless you were, again, a fanboy.

This season, however, they’re currently fourth in the league in adjusted corsi, have a much more sustainable (frankly a little low) shooting percentage, aren’t relying so much on the power play to win games, and Bobrovsky is still great. Their good young players have all gotten better, etc.

Basically, all the stuff they were kinda good at last year, they’re better at this year. I kinda doubt they’re a top-5 team in the league yet, but they’re certainly trending in that direction.

Corey asks: “What one rule or concept from another sport would you bring into hockey, and why?”

I have two here that are of a piece. First, I would have goal-line technology like there is in soccer. You just determine whether the puck went across the line with a computer so reviews don’t have to go into effect for questionable calls. Toronto just gives a thumbs up, or hell, just someone upstairs looks at an iPad, and off ya go.

But the big problem in hockey is how long reviews take. In baseball, there’s a two-minute limit on replay reviews. I’d love to see that in hockey. If you can’t come to a conclusive decision after two minutes, maybe three, then why sit there and try to nail down whose skate was where 20 seconds before a goal? Let the call on the ice stand. Just in the interest of moving the damn game along.

This is one of those things where people would say, “Wouldn’t you rather have the call right?” Sure, but only up to a point. If a review takes 10 minutes or whatever, it’s just too close to call definitively, and that’s the sort of thing that would even out over the course of a season.

And yeah, you say, “Well what about playoffs?” Same thing for me: I’d rather get the game moving along than sit there deliberating for 20 minutes about a goal in Game 3. Whatever.

Matt asks: “What do you think of Charlie McAvoy’s season so far? Is he really this good? What’s his ceiling?”

I mean, he has been very obviously great, right? Best possession numbers on the team (and elite within the league, too) a pretty good amount of points, eating a huge amount of fairly tough minutes, and he’s not even 20 for another two weeks? C’mon man, unreal.

But because so much of his underlying stuff really looks very good despite the tough deployment — also his pairing partner is a still-useful-but-also-40 Zdeno Chara — I’m willing to say, yeah, he really is this good. He was great in college and frankly I was a little surprised he dropped to the Bruins where he did, but there was never really anything in his track record to suggest he wouldn’t be a good NHLer. Maybe not this good, and certainly not still as a teenager, but here we are.

I’d be curious to see what he looks like away from Chara in the long term, of course, just because we have so little track record with this kid, but the current underlyings (in a small sample) look like it’s McAvoy propping up Chara and not the other way around.

His ceiling, then, seems like it’s probably “higher-end No. 1 defender.” Maybe not like a top-5 defenseman, but maybe right around there. And with so much room still to grow — he’ll probably improve for another five seasons or so — it’s allllllllllmooooooost a “sky’s the limit” thing.

Brendan asks: “Is Brayden Schenn actually a first-line center now, or are the Blues gonna be tricked into thinking he is and then stuck without one for another 15 years when he inevitably cools off?”

Probably not a first-line center.

The numbers so far in St. Louis have been incredible and I always thought he was a little underrated in Philly, but Schenn isn’t going to shoot 17 percent all year. His career high in points is 59 and he’s already blown past the halfway mark on that in just 28 games. While he has certainly been great, this is a performance that is unlikely to last the full 82, let alone for the final two years of his contract after this one.

Plus, he’s 26, so he’s going to start slowing down a bit in all likelihood over the remainder of this contract as well. That’s just how these things work.

Let’s put it this way: The Blues are extremely lucky this isn’t a contract year. I’m trying to think of something, though … are there any centers on the Blues’ roster who got signed long term because he had a really hot start to one season and was always well-regarded anyway, but then he basically never scored like he did in that half-season ever again, and some smart, funny guy who could be a model probably if he wanted to said it might not have been that good of an idea? Doubt it!

A person with an inscrutable Twitter name asks: “If you were the GM of the new Seattle expansion team, how would your expansion draft strategy differ from Vegas’?”

Maybe I don’t take 14 bottom-pairing defensemen and use a couple more spots on goalies who have played more than a handful of games at the NHL level. And maybe try to just put together a good team for the long term instead of whatever nonsense roster got cobbled together here.

But hey, they won all those games in the first 20. So obviously this is the model to follow forever.

Tristan asks: “If you had to choose between Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry, and Casey DeSmith, who would you choose?”

I’m assuming this question is from Tristan Jarry, but I gotta say, bud: Instead of these two guys only nerds like me who pay too much attention to the draft have heard of, gimme the guy with two Stanley Cups already. This was a tough one, though.

Thanks for asking.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise.

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