The Columbus Blue Jackets’ protection isn’t going to be absolutely wholesome for the rest of the 2022-23 season. Zach Werenski and Jake Bean are out with torn labrums and aren’t scheduled to return till coaching camp at the earliest. As a outcome, the rest of the season will contain a rotation of gamers making an attempt to indicate that they deserve a possibility to stay with the workforce transferring ahead. With an abundance of right-handed defensemen and virtually no lefties, a transfer can be seemingly previous to subsequent season to be able to clear the logjam. Since we gained’t be capable to see how the protection actually appears till subsequent season, let’s consider what it ought to appear to be when everyone seems to be wholesome.
Werenski will instantly come again into the lineup on the primary pairing when he’s absolutely wholesome. The largest query shall be who ought to play alongside him. The most evident match shall be a participant who’s presently not on the roster. David Jiricek looks like a really perfect candidate to log fairly a couple of minutes in the course of the 2023-24 season. Many coaches shall be hesitant to lean so closely on a rookie, particularly early within the season, however every part he has accomplished to date in his profession makes it appear as if he’ll be capable to deal with it. The Czech defenseman had an outstanding efficiency at the World Junior Championship and has been dominating the American Hockey League with the Cleveland Monsters. He’s a star within the making, so it is smart to offer him a significant alternative as quickly as attainable.
After the primary pairing, issues turn out to be a little bit of a toss-up. The Blue Jackets are overloaded with an abundance of right-handed defensemen and one of many solely lefties on the roster, Vladislav Gavrikov, is likely to be moved earlier than the commerce deadline. Bean seemingly will get the nod on the left facet of this pairing, just because he has the good thing about his handedness. It’s not unparalleled for gamers to play their off-side, nonetheless, it’s finest to keep away from it if attainable. The solely method another person will get the spot could be if a prospect like Stanislav Svozil has a powerful coaching camp and makes the roster, or if there’s a commerce between at times. But it’s seemingly going to be Bean’s job to lose.
Considering Bean is an offensively-minded defenseman, it is smart to pair him with somebody who will concentrate on the defensive facet of the sport. Erik Gudbranson might be a logical selection, as it will give him a veteran mentor to play alongside. While followers haven’t been proud of the signing to date, he’s not going anyplace anytime quickly, so the group may as properly get some use out of him. If the teaching workers determined to push him right down to the third pairing, a logical substitute could be Nick Blankenburg who definitely deserves to be rewarded with top-four ice time. With that being stated, there’s one other key cause why he’d be good for the third pairing.
Blankenburg is among the few Blue Jackets defenders who’s reliable enjoying on the alternative facet. He can play the left facet of the ice with virtually no points and offers a stable defensive and bodily presence whereas nonetheless with the ability to contribute offensively. As a outcome, he’s the right participant to depend upon late in video games and on particular groups. The second and third pairing ought to obtain comparable ice time, and it permits him to relaxation a bit throughout even power contemplating he’ll get known as on in almost each scenario.
The proper facet of the underside pairing is probably the most troublesome spot to fill as there are many deserving candidates. Both Adam Boqvist and Andrew Peeke have been seen as vital items of the longer term only a season in the past. As it stands now, although, one shall be on the skin trying in. They’re not the one ones deserving of consideration both, Marcus Bjork wasn’t thought-about a significant acquisition in the course of the offseason; nonetheless, he has carried out properly when known as upon this season. Out of the three, Boqvist undoubtedly has the very best ceiling, it’s only a query of whether or not or not he can keep wholesome lengthy sufficient to achieve it. Oddly, he’s not the primary defenseman to have that concern whereas sporting the No. 27 for Columbus.
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If he’s utterly wholesome, Boqvist can develop right into a star offensive defenseman, which has been the expectation since he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s proven indicators that he can get there, however he hasn’t been in a position to take action for a whole season. The most video games he has performed in a season was final yr, during which he performed 52 of 82 video games. For him to constantly have a spot on the roster, that’s going to have to vary shortly.
Peeke then again has utterly modified his sport to be able to match the wants of the group, which might’t go unacknowledged. Prior to Columbus, he was generally known as an offensively expert participant who was additionally succesful in his personal finish. He didn’t have a lot of a bodily facet to his sport; now he has primarily became a David Savard substitute. I’d count on Boqvist to get the job in the intervening time, nonetheless, if he’s unable to remain wholesome going ahead, Peeke will definitely have a possibility to take the spot again.
Having an abundance of NHL-caliber defensemen is a luxurious and though it makes issues troublesome, it’s going to create a aggressive setting that ought to make everybody higher because of this. There is loads of time for issues to vary, as trades or perhaps a shock signing within the offseason can utterly shake issues up right away. The the rest of the 2022-23 season is basically a try-out for the entire younger defensemen on the roster and it’ll be fascinating to see who takes benefit of it.
William Espy is a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus. He has been writing about hockey since 2016 on varied platforms. He presently covers the Columbus Blue Jackets however had a earlier stint protecting the Calgary Flames.