With injuries up and down the lineup, it's clear that the Columbus Blue Jackets could benefit from a player that can provide a spark.
Which makes it all the more curious that Sonny Milano, who's calling card is his dynamic offensive skill, has been a healthy scratch in each of the past two games, while players like Stefan Matteau, Jakob Lilja, Calvin Thurkauf, and others take his spot in the lineup.
It's not like the Blue Jackets have been a scoring machine this season, no?
For John Tortorella and co., the risk associated with Milano is clearly not worth the reward. The timing associated with the two recent healthy scratches couldn't come at a worse time for Blue Jackets management, who will have a hard time convincing potential suitors around the NHL of Milano's worth (today is the NHL trade deadline, after all), as he's been surpassed by career AHLers. What is the market like for a player like that? It's not uncommon for players to be held out of the lineup to protect an asset in a pending trade. I don't get the sense that's the reason for Milano sitting in the press box.
For years, we've heard Tortorella lament Milano's play away from the puck, his defensive play, his decision-making, etc.. It's clear now that the coaching staff has seen enough, as the club signed a career AHLer (Matteau) to a two-way, two-year contract, and re-called another player (Thurkauf) who had never played a game in the NHL. Both of those options were seen by the organization as preferable, in the midst of a playoff battle in which goals have been hard to come by, to playing the Massapequa, NY, native.
Consider: Milano, who has 5-13-18 in 46 games this year, can't crack a forward lineup currently missing Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg, and Brandon Dubinsky. Where does he rank organizationally on the depth chart?
This summer, I suggested that Milano may not be in the club's plans going forward. That, even after Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene left as UFAs. A pending RFA, Milano's days with the club may be numbered. If Jarmo Kekalainen is offered a mid-round pick for Milano, he'd be wise to accept.
I don't doubt that Milano can still carve out a career in the NHL. Like Anthony Duclair, he has warts that coaches/playoff-contending teams can't overlook. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he found success playing for a team on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in (See: Duclair in Ottawa), as a more free-wheeling, low stakes style of hockey is clearly more to his advantage. And at just 23, there's reason to believe he'll still become a more complete pro.
If Milano is unable to crack this lineup, how/why would Tortorella justify playing him once players return from injury, as the playoffs near closer and the margin for error is even slimmer?
With that logic, the Blue Jackets may - and should - look to acquire an asset in exchange for Milano before the trade deadline passes.