The Chicago Blackhawks have had arguably one of the worst blue lines in the league over the past few seasons. As a result, you’d think most fans would’ve been happy that the Blackhawks finally went out and acquired legitimate first-pairing defenseman Seth Jones – however, most aren’t. Critics online frequently point to him as a reason why the Blackhawks are where they are in the standings.
It started when the Blackhawks shipped off two first-round picks, a second-round pick, and their young blueliner Adam Boqvist to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In return, they received Jones, a first-round pick, and a sixth-round pick on July 22, 2021. After the deal was done, it became clear that the Internet pundits would use Jones as a scapegoat for any misfortune that came at the expense of the Hawks. Such is the standard nowadays when you ship away future assets for immediate needs.
Still, the multitude of new faces in the locker room and the ongoing investigation regarding the sexual assault of Kyle Beach leading into the season were sure to have made for a rocky start. These are several significant factors that could deter a once-promising season. Opting to ignore these facts, the pundits decided to blame the Blackhawks for giving up too much for Jones.
Well, I’m here to stand up for the three-time NHL all-star. I can appreciate an elite defenseman when I see one – and that’s exactly what Jones is. The Blackhawks have not had a defenseman of this caliber since Duncan Keith was in his prime. He is exactly what this team has been lacking both in the D zone and in the Hawks’ dressing room. To help illustrate just how good Jones is, I’ll look to five points to help prove that the trade has been, and will continue to be, worth it for Chicago.
Jones Has Strengthened Cardio
Historically, Jones has played big minutes against the league’s best players. He seems to have an endless gas tank and can play at a high pace longer than most. As of today, he’s sitting fourth in the league for ATOI for a defenseman – playing only a mere second less than former teammate Zach Werenski. Analyzing those numbers, it’s clear that those minutes are naturally tough, but finding someone capable of playing those minutes effectively, is even more challenging – which makes Jones even more valuable. When he is out against the league’s best, he doesn’t look mismatched at all. Truth be told, he looks to be a reason why the opposition struggles.
He’s also the current record holder for the most ice time in an NHL Playoff game with a ridiculous 65:06 of ice time.
Jones Improves Blackhawks’ Offense
One of the criticisms leveled against Jones is that his offensive numbers have declined the past few seasons, which could largely be attributed to the revolving door in Columbus that saw talents like Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Sergei Bobrovsky depart. When your best players leave, you don’t have as much to work with. You can see now that his numbers are beginning to improve since Jones is back playing with some star power. A quick look at the top five highest point-scoring defensemen confirms this:
- Adam Fox, NYR (13 games, 3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points)
- Roman Josi, NSH (12 games, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points)
- Quinn Hughes, VAN (12 games, 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points)
- Seth Jones, CHI (14 games, 1 goal, 11 assists, 12 points)
- Kevin Shattenkirk, ANA (14 games, 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points)
Yep, Jones is tied for second in league scoring for defensemen. Just last night, he sniped home his first goal as a Blackhawk. Currently, he’s quietly leading all defensemen in assists and is tied for fifth in the league for defensemen power-play points. He’s a great puck mover and it’s been helping the Hawks offensively, regardless of their record and how bad their team has played through the first few games.
An interesting side note: He remains the Blue Jackets’ all-time leader in points for a defenseman after only six seasons in Columbus.
Boqvist Wasn’t the Answer
When former general manager Stan Bowman traded for Jones, he opted for proven talent over potential talent. Doing so can always bite you in the you-know-what, but it made sense with a talent like Jones. We know what he is and what he can do – not to mention he’s still relatively young. You could even argue that he’s entering the prime of his career.
For all that believed Boqvist was the answer for the Blackhawks, I must stop you there. He was never going to be what they hoped he would be. I can admit that I, too, bought into the hype when they drafted him. I thought he would be the next big thing for both the Blackhawks’ power play and offense. Unfortunately, that never materialized.
Boqvist, while still young, is an undersized defenseman who consistently makes poor decisions and shows a lack of defensive awareness. He was given ample opportunity to prove himself during his time in Chicago but never broke through, which ultimately made him expendable.
If you have the choice between Jones and Boqvist, it’s a no-brainer. Jones. Every. Day. Of. The. Week.
Jones Is Known As A Top Defensemen In The NHL
To determine how good players are, I always look at what other players around the league have to say about how they – especially good players. The Boston Bruins superstar-pest Brad Marchand chose Jones as one of the toughest defensemen he’s ever had to play against, stating that:
“Seth Jones is really difficult to play against. I find him very hard to play against. He’s very fast, he’s tall, he covers a lot of space. He’s not overly physical but he creates enough contact to seperate you from the puck and he’s very skilled and talented.”Brad Marchand
Receiving high praise from a player of Marchand’s stature should not go unnoticed. The Bruins have been a top team in the NHL for the past decade and Marchand has been a big part of it.
It doesn’t stop at the players, either. A year ago, the NHL Network had Jones ranked as the fifth-best defenseman in the league. Heading into this season, he was ranked 43rd overall in the Current NHL Players Ranked list released by the NHL Network and 48th by TSN’s top-50 players. They don’t just toss these rankings out casually either, they have a panel of former players and analysts that develop these lists.
Lastly, Jones was one of three players immediately named to the U.S. Olympic roster. Even if Bowman was the GM of the United States Olympic team for a brief period before stepping down, he would still be named to the team and will most likely play in a top-four role.
Jones Is A Safer Choice Than Draft Picks
Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, Henri Jokiharju. These are the names of three first-round picks by the Blackhawks that have since been traded. They are all good players, but they’re not elite and were expendable.
That’s the thing when it comes to draft picks, you never know what you’re going to get. You can get franchise-level talent like Connor McDavid or busts like Nail Yakupov. That’s the mystery of the draft, and if you look to the Blackhawks’ track record in the draft, their picks haven’t turned into the players they thought they would be – aside from a handful of selections.
And let’s not forget, Jones was drafted fourth overall in 2013. He’s a first-round pick that lived up to the reasons he was picked in the premiere round of the draft and that he can play at a high level. He’s the type of defensemen that is highly sought after simply because they’re so rare. Good skating defensemen with a big frame and excellent vision – these types of players don’t come around often.
Now, losing draft picks is never ideal. But when you can exchange them for someone like Jones, you have to consider it – if not jump at the chance. It always sucks losing out on a young, promising prospect, but having someone like him would help soften the blow considerably.
Jones Is A Proven Winner
Simply put, Jones has always been a winner – and one that performs in the big moments, which is an intangible trait. He’s tallied 24 points in 37 NHL playoff games, which is exceptional for a defenseman.
Dating back to his Portland Winterhawks days, he won the WHL’s Ed Chynoweth Cup; he won back-to-back IIHF U18 World Championships and followed it up by winning gold in Ufa, Russia, at the IIHF U20 World Championship for the United States.
Players with a winning pedigree are always great to have because they have a hunger for victory. A competitive trait like this should never be ignored because it’s contagious, it will only spread throughout the locker room. Admittedly, it hasn’t yet, but he’s still settling in. Remember, he’s only been here for 14 games.
Final Two Cents
Realistically, most who critique Jones are analytical-focused individuals. Statistics are undoubtedly important and can highlight players’ strengths, but they can also be misleading. Look at the plus/minus stat for instance: his plus/minus is often knocked, but when you look at the common scenarios in which that stat could be affected, you can see why it’s a misleading stat.
- He’s on the ice for the fourth-worst team in the league for close to half the game. When you’re playing that much for a team that’s been playing that bad, it’s almost impossible not to go minus.
- The team has barely led in any games they’ve played, and, if you’re on a team that is constantly trailing, you’re more likely to have your goalie pulled in an attempt to tie the game – and when you’re the team’s best defensemen, you’re most likely going to be on the ice during those situations.
The better you are, the more you play. The more you play, the higher the risk is of getting scored on is—simple stuff.
I’ve been a fan of the trade since it happened, and I’m a fan of the trade still. Jones has passed the eye test, and I’m excited for the Blackhawks to finally have one of the league’s top defensemen on their roster and believe it will only help them get back to being a competitive playoff team. After witnessing Jones shut down a top-end talent like Nikita Kucherov in the 2019 playoffs and Auston Matthews in the 2020 playoffs, he’s clearly established that he can play impressively in the big moments. And with him on the team, the Blackhawks will have more of those big moments to play in.
American born, Canadian living. Wilfrid Laurier University graduate, loyal Chicago Blackhawks fan, poor golfer, and life-long hockey player.