Zach Werenski set a Columbus Blue Jackets franchise record for goals by a defenseman on Nov. 9. He accomplished this in his fourth NHL season, which says a little bit about the history of the franchise and Werenski’s talent; it only took 42 goals for him to reach the top of the list.
He surpassed Rostislav Klesla as the franchise leader. The record-setting goal against the Colorado Avalanche was the start of a three-game goal streak. Seth Jones and David Savard are tied for third place in franchise history with 40 goals each.
Werenski already has 56 shots on goal this season, putting him at a third of his total from last season with only 19 games played. His decision to shoot the puck more is great for the Blue Jackets. He has six goals already which is tied for the third in the NHL for goals scored by a defenseman.
Werenski returning to form from his rookie season is what the Blue Jackets need. I think he can do it, though he’s not quite there yet. That said, his offense is important considering he is sometimes victimized in the defensive zone which leads to goals. He has to bring his offensive ability to the table in order to be the best version of himself.
Working His Way Back to Rookie Form
Werenski was drafted high by the Blue Jackets because of what he can do with the puck. He’s not known as a shut-down defenseman, but he can change the game with a pass or a shot. His rookie season was his best and, as mentioned, he’ll be able to play like that again soon.
At times, in the past few seasons, he’s seemed tentative to shoot the puck and wasn’t as decisive on the power play. His goal in last season’s playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning showed what he does best and needs to do more.
He was decisive on the play and made something happen. He kept his head up and fired the puck through traffic. Even his most recent goal against the St. Louis Blues on Friday, which won the game in overtime, seemed like he decided to win the game on the the power play and kept shooting.
He is great at getting the puck on net from the blue line and needs to continue doing so the rest of this season. Not only do some of them go in, but it helps to create rebounds which the Blue Jackets need right now. The team ranks 30th in goals scored per game at 2.37.
Improving on the Defensive Side of the Puck
Every so often, it looks like Werenski is not putting in a solid effort in the defensive zone. It’s not that he doesn’t try, but he has a few tendencies that lead to negative outcomes, like clearing the puck out of the defensive zone. He’ll get trapped and turn the puck over a few times per game,or so it seems. If he stops trying to make the perfect pass and focuses more on getting it out, he should be able to cut down on turnovers.
Even though he’s used to making great outlet passes, he should be quicker with the puck when there’s a defender nearby.
Another problem is that he relies on the poke-check too often which is why he gets skated around from time to time; he wants to use his stick when he should play the body. He’ll get better at this eventually as well, as he’s still young.
Keeping in mind all aspects of his game, Werenski is a good player. Some forget how young he is and that most defensemen don’t get to enter the league as early as he did and only a handful of defensemen in the league have his offensive abilities.
The Blue Jackets need to make sure he continues to take shots and stay confident no matter how tough it gets. They need him to make big plays, like he did against the Lightning, for the team to be at its best. It’s a big deal that he set a franchise record and he should continue to improve as he gains experience.
After being born and raised in Ohio, Tony is excited to join the team and write about the Columbus Blue Jackets.