Last week, the Blue Jackets beat the hapless Ottawa Senators in their own barn, then returned home to Columbus with one of their top scorers.
Ryan Dzingel, who played his college hockey down the road from Nationwide Arena at Ohio State, came to his new team with legitimate expectations. The Blue Jackets didn't need Dzingel to suddenly become an All-Star, but they did expect him to be the same productive player that he's been in Ottawa.
Unfortunately, John Tortorella has had a hard time infusing his other new forward into the lineup. Dzingel, who is having a career year with 22-24-46 in 61 games, has yet to score and tallied only 0-2-2 in four games with the Blue Jackets. He's looked comfortable at times, but just like his coach is working to figure out where to play his new toy, Dzingel is seemingly working to figure out how to play with his new linemates.
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Since the trade, Dzingel's ice time has plummeted down to 12:53 per game, the lowest since his rookie year in 2015-16, when the then-23-year-old played just 10:48 in 30 games. In the three years since, he's averaged nearly 16 minutes of ice per game, or about two shifts more per period per game.
It may not sound like a huge difference, but to a player that's been accustomed to playing higher in the lineup and touching the puck more, a reduction in ice is a difficult roadblock to overcome. Dzingel was utilized in a more prominent role on a bad Ottawa team and was counted on heavily at 5v5 as well as on the power play.
Through four games, Dzingel has not played one second on the power play, which is a slap in the face for a player who was brought in to provide offense.
Similarly, Dzingel has yet to play 15 minutes with the Blue Jackets, meaning he's not even getting a regular shift. According to naturalstattrick, Dzingel played 12:01 in Sunday's 5-2 loss to Winnipeg playing primarily with Alexander Wennberg and Josh Anderson in a third line capacity.
At the risk of overstating the obvious, Dzingel thrives playing with better line mates. He thrived with Matt Duchene in Ottawa. Playing the two of them together makes sense, but Tortorella has mixed and matched Duchene with Nick Foligno, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, and Artemi Panarin in recent games.
Playing Dzingel in a more pronounced role should benefit the Blue Jackets. Placing him with Duchene and Anderson on the second line would create perhaps the fastest line in the NHL. Substituting Anderson for Bjorkstrand would give the line a less physically imposing personality, but it would allow the Blue Jackets to maintain the Foligno-Jenner-Anderson line that has been effective this year. Both scenarios would also leave the top line of Atkinson, Panarin, and Pierre-Luc Dubois intact, and would give Tortorella and the coaching staff plenty to work with lower in the lineup.
The speedy forward was brought to Columbus to improve the club's offense. Playing him in a limited capacity will almost certainly lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where the gifted Dzingel is unable to achieve the expectations he was brought in to fulfill.
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