Blue Jackets' Gregory Hofmann experiment failed, but worth it - Sports1
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Blue Jackets’ Gregory Hofmann experiment failed, but worth it

The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the season with some excitement. The exodus of their old core has created a vacuum that a slew of new players will have the opportunity to fill.One player looking to play a major role in the squad is the Swiss striker Gregory Hoffman.

Hoffman is one of Columbus’ biggest X-factors of the new season. The 29-year-old forward had a terrific career overseas before finally biting his head and coming to the U.S. to play for the Blue Jackets this season. Limited on-ice time and a few other factors contributed to a slow start, but it was no different for the new face of North American hockey.

Gregory Hoffman, Columbus Blue Jacket (Jess Starr/hockey writer)

In late December, the striker returned to his home country for the holidays and the birth of his first child.Then he told the brass in the blue jacket that he would will not return to Ohio – thus ending the Hoffman experiment. This is a post hoc analysis of everything involved in the experiment, and a decision on whether the attempt was worthwhile.

Hoffman’s Best Case Scenario

Hoffman is a European talent that many teams have followed over the years. As a 28-year-old free agent, he’s far from new to professional hockey. Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes a decade ago with the 103rd overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Hoffman decided to ripen on the Swiss National League vines rather than head to North America like many of his contemporaries.

Mature he did it. Over the past four seasons, he has earned a reputation as one of Switzerland’s top scoring forwards with his scoring performance. He has a string of illustrious accolades, including leading the league in goals scored, a title-winning goal, and another title on top of that.

related: 3 Blue Jackets That Probably Won’t Reappear Next Year

Hurricanes keep his rights until June When the Blue Jackets traded for them. Rumor has it that Hoffman is awaiting a one-way contract that would make his North American trip more certain. Whether they’re playing in the NHL or the American Hockey League (AHL), a one-way deal guarantees the salary seen when the NHL cap hits. This is the opposite of a standard entry-level contract, which is a two-way deal. Time spent in each league has a different salary. The Blue Jackets are willing to offer him that, offering him a one-year, one-way deal worth $900,000.

Hoffman’s signing has left others guessing what he’ll become.This best case Hoffman has featured in several Swiss players in recent seasons, including one scene with Chicago Blackhawks player Dominic Kubalik. Kubalik came to North America after a season of domination in the Swiss league — similar to Hoffman’s numbers last season. In his first season in Chicago, the Czech scored 30 goals against a score-seeking Blackhawks team. Many thought Hoffman could bring the same level of scoring ability.

Another case that many people are concerned about is asylum suter, he also went from the Swiss League to the Blackhawks. Souter saw less success, but similar. He scored 14 goals and 27 points for Chicago while serving as a responsible center on an inexperienced team. Even with pieces like this, Hoffman is in demand.

what the blue jackets gave up, what hoffman gave up

The seventh-round pick that the Blue Jackets spent to acquire Hofmann was dubbed “a bag of pucks” by many general managers in the chairs. Very little for a player who can be turned into a major asset.

Hoffman played 24 games and scored 2 goals and 7 points. The key stat behind his production is his performance in key scenes. Both of his NHL goals were game-winners, one against the Dallas Stars and the other against the Winnipeg Jets. As you can see in the tweet below, he got a wicked shot when he let it rip.

💥 Start our season with the top 10 goals 💥 Hofmann scores his first @NHL goal against the Swiss ile 🚀 https://t.co/LByBMFVxIn

However, Hoffman went up and down the lineup and never really found a home. For the most part, he was in the bottom six. He averaged 12 points and 30 minutes per game, but his ice time actually increased as the season came to a close. He played at least 16 minutes in his final three games, and his season-high was the penultimate game in 19:46 against Seattle on Dec. 11.

Hoffman’s early departure left about $500,000, For CapFriendly. So at the end of the day, they only gave up about $400,000 in payroll, which could have been spent in some form anyway. His pay per point breaks down to around $57,000 per point, which is much cheaper than the other players — by comparison, top scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand costs $97,000 per point, and Jakub Voracek’s salary at the same point in the season The cost is $148,000 per minute. A cost-benefit analysis shows that value remains.

What’s wrong with Hoffman?

Maybe go wrong isn’t the right phrase, but there are plenty of things that don’t go wrong at all. Hoffman was creaking on the opening night roster. While the Blue Jackets were slammed preseason for their lack of depth, that might not be the most accurate way to go. They actually have a plethora of fringe and mid-six NHL wing talent, and Hoffman mixes with those fringe types. The list includes Justin Danforth, Yegor Chinakhov and Emil Benstrom, all battling for fourth-line wing positions.

Another factor against Hoffman is that this is his first season in North America. Let’s review his best cases. Both Kubalik and Suter spent time as Canadian juniors in the Ontario Hockey League before returning to Switzerland to start their careers. Therefore, Hoffman’s adaptation process was not as easy as Kubalik’s or Souter’s.

The phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” probably played a role in this situation. European and American hockey leagues are so different in style. Less space, tighter inspections and faster speeds all make for a very different game on the ice. That in itself brings up another interesting question: How many times over the past decade has a European star player who hadn’t played in the U.S. came to the NHL at 26 with great success?

With Hoffman gone, the list of those failed experiments grew.The other failed experiments we’re looking at aren’t limited to Vadim Shipachyov, Jori Lehtera, Jan Kovar, or even Blue Jackets’ others Recently departed Mikko Lehtonen.

Vadim Shipachov
Vadim Shipachyov was probably the most high-profile European free agent signing, but it didn’t pan out.
Photo: HC Vititz

Laitonen and Hoffmann have a similar story. Before moving to North America, he was at the top of the Euroleague. They find themselves deep in an organization and playing highly competitive roles. Lehtonen competes with five players for two spots on the bottom pair of Columbus. After several healthy bruises and failing to report to the AHL’s relegation, Raitonen decided to terminate his contract and return to Russia. Now Hoffman, after being buried in the lineup and facing some health scars of his own, has decided not to return to Columbus.

Is it worth signing Hoffman?

Now a question must be asked, is it worth a try? The answer is yes. This is the definition of a low risk, high reward situation. For a European star player with a lot of upside, a bag of pucks is always worth it in an organization looking to fill a huge hole. Although neither side succeeded this time, at least neither side will be bothered by another question “what if?”



Writer covering the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Also a radio personality and journalist currently living on Vancouver Island.


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