BY MURRAY PAM
OTTAWA – The Columbus Blue Jackets have the No. 1 ranked power play in the NHL with a 26 percent efficiency, which is quite an about-face for a team that sat dead last in the league last season with a paltry 12.7 percent.
A big part of the drastic turnaround has been newly acquired defenseman Anton Stralman. The 23-year-old shares the team lead with Rick Nash, garnering 10 points with the man advantage, and has been a blueline revelation for a team that badly needed one.
Stralman, who credits the Blue Jackets’ team play for his success, has already surpassed his career highs in goals with four and points with 15. Not surprising, all four of his tallies have come on the PP.
“It has been a great run so far,” said the native of Timbro, Sweden. “Our team has a high potential. We are extremely competitive.”
Stralman’s summer was a busy one, changing addresses on two occasions. Stralman’s 2008-09 club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, had made over their entire defense and with 10 defenseman under contract, Stralman was caught in a number’s game. He knew the writing was on the wall for him as a Maple Leaf.
“When (coach Ron) Wilson and ‘Burkie’ (GM Brian Burke) came in, they did not give me a lot of opportunity to show what I had.”
Stralman was dealt to Calgary in a multi-player deal July 27 that included center Wayne Primeau moving east. In the final days of the Flames training camp, it appeared that Stralman would be the odd man out once again. Fearing losing Stralman to a waiver claim if he was to be demoted to the American League, Stralman was dealt to the Blue Jackets Sept. 28 for a third round draft-pick.
Since arriving in Columbus, Stralman has earned the confidence of Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, who has rewarded the 6-foot-2, 193-pound youngster with 20 minutes of ice-time per game. That’s a far cry from the 15 minutes that Stralman averaged last season with Toronto in 38 games.
“I knew that I had it in me,” Stralman said. “I didn’t have the support in Toronto to show it.”