Blue Jackets Scratch Scott Hartnell

The Columbus Blue Jackets need a wake-up call on offense. With just six goals for in their last four games, they need to shake things up. Scratching one of their best players is one way to do that.

In a surprising move, the Blue Jackets have made Scott Hartnell a health scratch in their game against the Florida Panthers. You’re probably thinking to yourself, what are the Blue Jackets thinking? I’ll give you that it’s a curious decision. But a closer look at things reveals that there is some logic to this move.

Recall that in the third period of their game against Montreal, with under three minutes left, the Blue Jackets were tied at one and cruising towards overtime. At least it was a point. They figure they’d take their chances in overtime.

Not so fast. P.K. Subban gets tripped by Hartnell. The Canadiens score on the ensuing power play. Game over. More importantly, that elusive point was gone. The Blue Jackets played a nice road game against a quality team. 57 minutes of hard work disappeared in a matter of seconds. It was a disheartening loss.

Fast forward to Thursday’s practice. There was an interesting line combination that came together. William Karlsson found himself centering a line with Matt Calvert on his left, and Alexander Wennberg on his right. That’s the first time that the two Swedes Karlsson and Wennberg skated on a line together. It’s only practice, but you take note. See if the fellow countrymen have some chemistry. I like the thought process. Add a player like Calvert to the mix, and you have some potential.

That’s your third line. The top two lines were Boone Jenner-Ryan Johansen-Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson. That left a fourth line of Kerby Rychel-Gregory Campbell-Michael Chaput. Chaput was recently called up to the Blue Jackets after Markus Hannikainen was put on IR after suffering a shoulder injury.

Nowhere in those lines do you see Scott Hartnell. This possibility became more realistic when he wasn’t in a regular line rotation during practice. To make things more interesting, coach John Tortorella was asked if Chaput would play. He said he didn’t know. But he also admitted that Chaput “was interesting.” Tortorella then admitted that some “wrinkles” were coming. And here we are.

A quick look at Hartnell’s latest games shows that he hasn’t played very well. In his last eight games, Hartnell has just one goal and one assist, is a -2, and has 20 PIM’s, which includes a 10-minute misconduct. The most damaging two minutes took place Tuesday in Montreal.

Will Hartnell also be scratched against his former team the Flyers? [photo: Amy Irvin]
Will Hartnell also be scratched against his former team the Flyers? [photo: Amy Irvin]
So in summary, Hartnell out, Chaput in. But the offense is struggling! You need Hartnell in. I 100% agree Hartnell needs to play. But, I love this move. This is a strong message that will last.

It doesn’t matter who you are. If your play warrants it, you will sit. At 10-16-0, the team needs a major wake-up call. Scratching a veteran like Hartnell will tell everyone, get your game in gear. You are not exempt from this. The hope is that Hartnell will come back with more fire in his belly to never let that happen again.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Blue Jackets play the Flyers Saturday. Will Hartnell get scratched against his former team? We’ll see. If that happens, it won’t sit well with Hartnell, nor should it.

The message is crystal clear. Do your job, or have a seat in the press box. Tortorella is not messing around. Hopefully, this leads to more consistent play from the Blue Jackets. Was it the right move? We’ll all soon find out.