Welcome back to Columbus Blue Jackets News & Rumors, but with a twist. It’s back with a new name. Moving forward, this piece will be known as Blue Jackets Blasts, a collection of thoughts, news, opinions and reactions to stories around the Blue Jackets and the hockey world.
We have plenty to talk about this week. We got to catch up with defenseman Andrew Peeke. We react to the Gregory Hofmann suspension. And is Jack Roslovic really available for trade? Let’s go.
Peeke Getting Into a Rhythm
Seth Jones was originally set to return to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night before it was discovered that he tested positive for COVID-19. Although he didn’t play in the Blackhawks 4-2 win, he still keeps close to several of the Blue Jackets’ players. Peeke is one of them.
Jones holds a special place in Peeke’s heart. Peeke got to watch and learn from Jones firsthand. To this day, Jones’ influence still has an effect on Peeke.
“(I) became pretty close to him the last two years,” Peeke said. “Being a defenseman, I was able to watch him really closely and I just learned all the habits that he did on the ice everyday, off the ice. Learning from him everyday, he’s one of the best defensemen in the league.”
Peeke went on to say that he stays in touch with Jones. They remain friends. They even play xBox together on occasion. He admitted it was really neat to see Jones back (Jones was pulled from the morning skate when the positive COVID test was discovered.)
Jones has offered plenty of advice to Peeke over the years. When asked which one piece of advice from Jones stuck out for Peeke:
“Just take it day-by-day. There’s things that are going to happen on a daily basis that are sometimes out of your control. If you just focus on getting a little bit better each day and improving your game on and off the ice, it’s going to help you in the long run. I’ve taken that to heart and been trying to focus on that.”
The Important Contributions of Peeke
So far, so good for Peeke in the early going this season. He’s played in all of the Blue Jackets’ 34 games while playing an important role on the blue line. His improvement especially physically has been noticeable. It has earned him the trust of head coach Brad Larsen to the tune of over 18 minutes per night of ice time. For him, it’s continuing to find consistency in his game.
“The biggest thing for me is finding that consistency level on a nightly basis…it’s been a huge part for me this season. I just took a look at what I needed to bring this season on a daily basis. For me, being engaged physically, moving the puck up the ice, using my feet. I just try to do that every game.”
A big part of Peeke’s success has been the influence of assistant coach Steve McCarthy. The duo spent time together with the Cleveland Monsters. That familiarity has certainly helped Peeke get more comfortable with the Blue Jackets.
“Having Mac (McCarthy) behind the bench, I was able to spend the last two years with him in Cleveland. He’s an awesome coach…he’s really helped me get to this point where I am today. And I’m thankful to have him here now because he’s an awesome coach.”
One thing that has stood out for Peeke as mentioned earlier is his physical play. He has stepped it up several notches. That has resulted in him having the most penalty minutes on the team this season. He understands there is a fine line between being physical and taking too many penalties. How is he walking that line?
“I think there’s little things you notice. You’re going into the corner and say a forward’s getting the puck on the other team first, the route you take so you don’t overcommit or under-commit. There’s little tendencies that you pick up on and habits that you pick up on that help you find that fine line of what’s too far (or not).”
“Playing physical is getting under your opponent’s skin but that doesn’t mean you have to take penalties. For me I try to take the body when I can and just eliminate plays.”
If there is one area where the Blue Jackets have struggled in, it’s been the overall physical play throughout the lineup. Peeke has done a nice job answering the call there stepping up when needed. He was known as an offensive defenseman at Notre Dame. He’s now embracing the other side and it’s paying off for him. He’s finishing his checks and is not afraid to get in the face of the opposition.
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In a season where development is of utmost importance, Peeke has been one of the bright spots for the Blue Jackets. There has been clear, noticeable improvement. He’s becoming one of their most important players in short order as a result.
One of the reasons Peeke is in this position? All of that time being able to watch and learn from Jones. Jones might be gone. But you can still see his influence on certain players such as Peeke.
Hofmann Quits the Blue Jackets
It started out as being away from the team for personal reasons. Then it was thought he was coming back soon. Then next thing we know, the Blue Jackets suspend Hofmann.
Here is what GM Jarmo Kekalainen had to say about Hofmann’s situation.
“Gregory was given permission by the club to step away for personal reasons and informed us today that because of those reasons he has decided not to return. Obviously, we are disappointed, but we have no other recourse than to suspend him.”
On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Hofmann was returning to his old team in Switzerland to play. Per those reports, once all the contract stuff was figured out, he would join them.
Hofmann needs to clear unconditional waivers first before this can happen. The Blue Jackets can start this process any day now.
As for what it means for the Blue Jackets, the thought was Hofmann would play as soon as he returned. This will allow guys like Yegor Chinakhov to play more regular minutes now that the spot is open. Given the recent struggles, the Blue Jackets need someone, anyone to step up. But what a turn of events and a disappointing ending for Hofmann’s tenure in Columbus. He quit on his team. That will follow him for the rest of his career.
Roslovic in Rumors?
We’re starting to slowly count down towards the trade deadline. With that rumors start to fly around the hockey world. This one may shock some folks around the Blue Jackets.
According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, Roslovic is potentially available. In his report, Seravalli cites the drop in ice time as a tell, from over 16 minutes to just over 12 minutes.
In watching Roslovic this season, he definitely hasn’t performed to the level that was expected after enjoying a nice offensive season post trade. Some even considered the trade ‘the Roslovic deal’ given the offensive success he had.
However Roslovic has had trouble adjusting to the center position and has had long stretches of inconsistent play. The question is just what is he at this level? The Blue Jackets saw him as a potential option down the middle. But with limited ice time and consistently playing on the bottom-six, it’s apparent he doesn’t fully have Larsen’s trust to play bigger minutes.
Does this mean the Blue Jackets are looking to trade him? Maybe. The team has to decide which players are part of their future. These games will tell management who deserves to stay once the top prospects arrive in town.
Kent Johnson is likely starting in Columbus next season. Kirill Marchenko has a great shot of starting with the Blue Jackets next season. Dmitri Voronkov is two years away. Decisions will have to be made. If Roslovic can’t find consistency in his game, he might find himself on another team despite him being from Columbus. There just simply isn’t enough room for everyone on the roster.
Roslovic appearing in rumors will catch some folks off guard. But his play and who’s coming soon make this reasonable if in fact it’s true that he’s potentially available now.
That’s it for now. See you next week.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.