by Professor ggrib
At the beginning of last year, it was pretty much acknowledged that the Blue Jackets had a weak offense, but a strong defense, the Jackets backbone. Looking back over the year’s results, we see that was true, but only kinda. If it weren’t for the Brobrovsky circus act of stopping the puck even if you had to stand on your head while hanging from a highwire and perhaps drinking a Gateraid at the same time, the Jackets would not have fared so well.
For any hockey neophytes, defense is only partially about the goaltender stopping the puck. It is a whole lot about the rest of the team limiting shots and particularly quality shots. The 2 defense men have the biggest responsibility in this, as they are the defending layer between the up front skirmishers and the goaltender. They are also the clean up men who are supposed to grab rebounds off the goaltender’s stop and “get that puck out of Dodge”.
Having gone a little basic on you thus far, we can just say that the Jackets as a team did not quite live up to the defensive expectations of the campaign. Thus a star was born and we named him “Bob”.
2013-2014 Defense– thoughts
Last year the defensemen were visible helping defend the goal. You could see them coming in when the puck went to their opposite side. In past years this was not nearly as noticeable. Kudos. But this year, we must get better. Bob IS NOT SUPERMAN!!! Let’s not rely on a piece of leather snaking in front of a puck screaming into the goal to catch it.
Feddor Tyutin, perhaps Toots’s namesake should be “Old Man River” because as in the song, Toots just keeps rolling along. Starting his 6th year with the Jackets, He could also be described a Mr Reliable. He’s developed into a top assist/scorer as a D man. He seems to play where he’s needed, does what he needs to do and doesn’t make waves. He’ll be teamed with someone again this year obviously we don’t know who yet, and will tend to make them a better player.
Last year Tim Erixon grew up a bit in the NHL. He was mostly teamed with Adrain Aucoin, who was to mentor the young D men. Aucoin’s style is conservative and that’s how Tim played. Tim’s year could be described as “Tim played very responsibly, and was not an aggressive offensive player”. Hopefully this year, he will be a bit more comfortable and open up a little on offense.
Ryan Murray is expected to make the Jackets. He missed most of last season with a separated shoulder. He could also be a frequent flyer to Springfield to get more pro experience. He is not a big goal scorer, he has been more of an assist guy as he is an excellent passer with great ice vision.
Dalton Prout will be a big question. This is likely to be a watershed year for him. Was his steady performance of last year typical or an anomaly? If he stumbles, there will be a revolving door between Springfield and Columbus. Adding to the question is the fact that Dalton underwent surgery and his recovery will put him at a scheduled return after missing most of the pre-season games/training camp. Thus he could start his season in Springfield.
The 2 big offensive D men in Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski are exciting to watch. They have defensive lapses as they are offensively orientated. The Wiz has a cannon from the point, which could be a little more accurate, but is an awesome weapon. They need to be paired with a more conservative D man to provide a decent defensive line. But these guys both draw attention when on offense, thus opening scoring chances for the other D man. But both need to stay healthy.
About half way between a responsible D man and an offensive D man is Nikita Nikitin, or Niki 6. He had a break out year after joining the Blue Jackets in a trade from St Louis. Last year, not so much. Was it because he was not paired with F Tyutin? Was it coming back to reality? Was it because of an injury [which he had]? Another watershed point in a career.
In May, Jarmo threw another curve into the consideration, Ilari Melart a Finish 6’2″ D man who is 24 years old. He’s gotten a bit more offensive sided as he’s gotten experience and he has a lot of penalty minutes. Ilari signed to an entry level contract, Could he be in Columbus? Could he fill the 7th spot? I think it’s a case where he needs to get his bearings. Wanta bet that Jarmo wasn’t just shooting in the dark? Look for him to start at Springfield, but also look at the Dalton Prout injury recovery timeline……. hummmm.
Humm again, I already mentioned 8 “D” men, that’s one more than is usually on a roster. Is there no room for any of the other young D men who are in Springfield? Based on the injury history of the Blue Jacket defensive corpse, I would bet yes. Based on the rather short experience of the 3 youngsters who are likely to make the roster’s first cut, I would say yes? So look for movement back and forth to the Falcons for young players, it’s important for them to play, not gather splinters on the bench.