Training camp and the preseason are finally over for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now it’s time to play the games for real starting Friday night.
Welcome to part two of our series on the Blue Jackets’ preseason. In case you missed part one, we talked about the goaltending situation and the roster bubble. We now focus on what’s coming as the regular season gets underway.
One thing remains obvious inside the Blue Jackets’ room. They do not care about what anyone is saying about them. Coach John Tortorella reiterated on Thursday that they have a chip on their shoulder. If there is one thing you can count on, it’s that this team will be very motivated. Whether that translates to results is anyone’s best guess.
What else did we learn in the second half of the preseason? This discussion starts with another youth movement and the fearlessness of the Blue Jackets to embrace it.
Blue Jackets Getting Even Younger
Yes, if you can believe that, the Blue Jackets will start this new season even younger than the last few. Consider Brandon Dubinsky is starting this season on injured reserve. Alex Texier made the roster. Emil Bemstrom made the roster. Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins are your goalies.
Clearly, the team is not afraid to play the kids. They’ve deserved this chance to make an immediate impact.
Korpisalo had an outstanding preseason and will get the start Friday night in the opener. Merzlikins will get his chances to show what he can do. Texier got a head start last season and is carrying that momentum into this season. Bemstrom will get first unit power-play time on top of a top-12 forward role.
In some of the most important impact spots, the Blue Jackets are playing very young players with limited experience. They’re confident in them despite what others are saying. The game is getting younger and faster and it seems the Blue Jackets are embracing this approach. Just look at who went to Cleveland. Marko Dano. Adam Clendening. Zac Dalpe. Any of these guys could have made this roster. But the kids rose up and answered the call.
Defense Will Carry This Team
This season will come with ups and downs. But in the end, the defense will be an important reason why the season went the way it did. The top-four get the attention for how good they are. But have you seen how deep they are, including in Cleveland now? It’s a good situation.
We know Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, David Savard and Ryan Murray make a formidable top-four. But let’s look at the next six. Markus Nutivaara. Vladislav Gavrikov. Dean Kukan. Scott Harrington.
With the top-four in tact, the Blue Jackets are in great shape no matter which combination of the other four play. Werenski said Thursday that he’d put the Blue Jackets’ defense with anyone’s in the league. We haven’t even discussed the two in Cleveland that could absolutely be up in Adam Clendening and Andrew Peeke. Clendening played in the playoffs last season and Peeke was the last cut from camp. If injury strikes and they need defenseman, two are within two hours and can step right in.
While the other areas of the team have questions, the defense is the clear strength and it’s in numbers. They will need to flex their muscles and show they can carry the team at different stretches. As Werenski said on Thursday, it’s about consistency. He knows he’s good. He has to go out and show it every night.
That’s our official wrap on the 2019 preseason and training camp for the Blue Jackets. Stay tuned to the Hockey Writers for our season previews dropping over the next day or so. We’ll explore questions and you’ll meet the newest Blue Jackets all just in time for puck drop Friday night against the Maple Leafs.
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.