The Blue Jackets are nearly at full health, a rarity in the NHL.
For a club that's won 17 of its first 27 games, this means a plethora of options, and ultimately it meant Sonny Milano was the odd man out.
The 21-year-old winger was demoted to the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL on Sunday. To say Milano has had an up-and-down season would be underselling it; he started off the year with four goals in his first three games, but hasn't scored since Oct. 21 against the Los Angeles Kings, a 16-game cold streak.
Despite Milano's high-end skill, the coaching staff has had a difficult time affording him the appropriate minutes and role with the club, and with a healthy Lukas Sedlak and Alexander Wennberg returning to the lineup made that task all the more difficult.
Here's how they could line up tomorrow night:
Panarin – Dubois – Anderson
Jenner – Dubinsky – Atkinson
Calvert – Wennberg – Foligno
Motte – Sedlak – Bjorkstrand
This may be the viewpoint of the minority, but sending a healthy and underutilized Milano to Cleveland makes sense. The Jackets have 14 (!) healthy NHL forwards, and Milano, Tyler Motte, and Markus Hannikainen, among others, have been jockeying for playing time.
Milano hasn't been playing poorly. In fact, quite the opposite. He's registered two assists in his last five games, and in that time has fed several teammates for breakaways (none have converted).
His recent stint is backed up by possession metrics: His 5v5 season CF% of 53.47% is encouraging (and seventh among Blue Jackets forwards), and in his last five games, he's been above 57% three times. The other two games saw him under 50%, but he was only a minus-three shot differential each time.
Unlike early in the season, where Milano was playing lower in the lineup, recent games have given him a shot to play with higher-end skill. He's played several games with Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson, and in the most recent game at Washington, he played primarily with Wennberg and Foligno.
Ultimately, management decided that Milano would be better served playing a major role in Cleveland as opposed to a secondary role in Columbus. In the meantime, Motte is likely to get back in the lineup and Calvert could see more ice time as well.
A focused and improved Milano will not only aid the Monsters, but also give Milano a chance to prove to management that he's a legitimate NHL player who can play a defined role.
It would be surprising for Milano to find himself in the minors for a long period of time.