How To Fall in Love With Thomas Vanek and Forget The (Occasional) Defensive Mistake

By Sam Blazer on February 27, 2018 at 1:17 pm
Canucks Thomas Vanek avoids multiple St. Louis Blues players
Bob Frid – USA TODAY Sports

If there's one area that sorely needed addressed by the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline, it was goal scoring.

When they started their trade deadline with acquisitions of Ian Cole and Mark Letestu, they filled smaller holes in the lineup but not the most pressing need. The addition of Thomas Vanek raised eyebrows for one reason only: Vanek puts points on peoples' faces. 

He isn't a player that plays in the defensive zone and isn't a player that defends well, either; Vanek is given a lot of shifts starting in the offensive zone, and he translates those starts into points, which is exactly what this team needs.

What you might see from him outside of those moments is what will make him a storyline to follow for the rest of the season. He puts up a negative possession number despite those zone starts, and the on-ice save percentage when he is out there is often horrendous. This revelation wasn't found over just one season; it's many seasons over his decorated career. It has only gotten worse with age, and at this point, it can't be addressed.

Vanek has to be loved and appreciated for what he does with his minutes on the ice. He does all of this while also playing less than 15 minutes a night, which sounds like where he may fit with the Blue Jackets.

Vanek is deadly on the power play and has 14 power play points this season, including 10 power play assists. He's a unique player, and at a low acquisition cost, is a risk worth taking for the Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets are saying they're willing to take the risk on a defensive liability if it means that Vanek scores consistently. We've seen them try similar moves before, and due to matters they couldn't predict, it hasn't worked out for the Blue Jackets. 

A plus for the Blue Jackets is the insistence from head coach John Tortorella to use individual players and lines advantageously. While he doesn't line match, Tortorella will put his most offensively-adept lines in positions to succeed. It's a big reason why forward Sam Gagner flourished the way that he did, and also why defenseman Zach Werenski has looked so comfortable on the ice in his "rover" role. Tortorella did what he had to do to make them into contributors.

It sounds silly to say that the Blue Jackets need to coddle Vanek, but if they can use the player correctly, there will be significant dividends. There's no need to risk it if Vanek is scoring the biscuit.

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