The Columbus Blue Jackets are ridiculously stacked on offense. The team features Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, Brandon Dubinski, David Clarkson, Boone Jenner, Scott Hartnell, and Cam Atkinson as its main core.
Although, the strong offense comes at a price. While the team features great depth with its forwards, Columbus is severely lacking on the defensive front. Many say the Blue Jackets are a Stanley Cup threat, but it’s once heralded defenseman group has fallen on hard times.
The Columbus defensive attack was led by Jack Johnson, who produced an impressive 40 points for the team this season. Johnson might be the team’s best defenseman, but after him there is very little to rely on.
Columbus saw increased production from David Savard, who stepped up greatly die to a myriad of injuries to Blue Jackets defenseman. Savard, who is only 24, recorded 36 points for the team, and has established himself on the Blue Jackets blue-line attack.
And while Savard’s play was greatly needed, he isn’t a player that Columbus wants to build it’s franchise around. Savard and Johnson are quality options for the Blue Jackets, but Ryan Murray is going to be a star in this league, at least that’s what everyone says.
Murray, the second overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, only amassed three points for the team last season, but only played in 12 games due to injury. So far, Murray’s career has been plagued by numerous setbacks. He has only played in 83 games since his debut in 2012.
Murray’s injuries have had a negative effect on Columbus. He was thought to be the next great NHL defenseman, but so far has proven to be nothing more than a band-aid boy. That’s not to say Murray won’t every become a legitimate NHL player, but his production and health have the Blue Jackets looking for some increased help defensively.
The trio of Savard, Johnson, and Murray are a quality group of defenseman, but neither of the three are considered elite scoring defenseman. (Murray has the most potential but his skill set has yet to be fully displayed) To truly take the next step as a team, the Jackets must look for some alternative options at the blue-line.
The first step in reestablishing the defensive unit came at the NHL Entry Draft. Columbus drafted two defenseman in the first round, Zach Weresnki and Gabriel Carlsson.
“We got two defenseman from what we call our Priority 1 list, the guys we call first round picks,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told The Columbus Dispatch.
“Much better. Now we have two young defenseman growing in our system, and we have a lot of forwards. This is what our goal was.”
Columbus was a team that once prided itself on having one of the deepest defensive units in hockey. However, trades of James Wisnewski, and injuries to key players have weakened the team considerably.
The Blue Jackets might be one piece away from a Stanley Cup run, and it all starts with good defense.