It is widely agreed upon that the Columbus Blue Jackets, when fully healthy, have arguably the best defensive corps in the NHL. When you have Seth Jones and Zach Werenski as your top pairing, it is hard to argue against it. However, the quality doesn't stop with the top pairing.
Despite that fact, the Jackets are not healthy and their quality and depth are truly being put to the test. Just recently, Jones was revealed to have fractured his ankle which required surgery. This surgery has one of the best defensemen in Columbus history out for 8-10 weeks, a big hit for a team in a playoff push. But don't fret.
Jones isn't the only blueliner with injury issues currently. Ryan Murray, someone who is no stranger to the injured reserve list, is still out and has just skated with the team this week for the first time in quite some time. Murray, 26, is a talented player when available but has only appeared in 24 games this season. On top of that, the Jackets have largely been without young depth defenseman Dean Kukan for the 2019-20 season as well.
Seeing these facts laid out is proof to point out the depth and talent that the Jackets have on the back end. This is further proven by players like Vladislav Gavrikov, Markus Nutivaara, who also missed a good chunk of the season, and younger players like Andrew Peeke and Gabriel Carlsson filling in as needed. This shows the ability of the Columbus front office to identify talent defensively.
To further that point, you can take a brief look at the first full season of Gavrikov. The talented left-handed defenseman may not be lighting up the stat sheet, but getting 12 points in 56 games from a second pairing defenseman known almost solely for his defensive contributions is quite solid. Pair this with his obvious discipline, showcased by only having 18 penalty minutes during that time, and you get the recipe for a top-four defenseman for a long time to come.
Great John Tortorella quote on Vladislav Gavrikov: "If he gets his tentacles (on you), he's like an octopus. If he gets you, it's tough to get away from him. He's all arms and he's strong and he's ugly as sin at times, but he doesn't get beat." #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) February 12, 2020
Despite the positive effect that the depth has had, Columbus is going to have to rely heavily on the aforementioned for continued success down the stretch. Peeke and Carlsson will be tested, but if the past can be used to predict the future, there is strong evidence to show that Columbus will be able to rely on their defensive depth and talent.
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