It's About Time: Center Depth is Finally a Strength for the Blue Jackets

By Jacob Nitzberg on October 20, 2020 at 8:05 am
Aug 6, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois (18) scores on this shot as Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen (24) looks on during the third period of Eastern Conference qualifications at Scotiabank Arena.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In recent seasons, the Blue Jackets have struggled to solidify their forward lines.

One of the main reasons for this is that they've been particularly thin at the center position. Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno, who are naturally wingers, have been asked to play there in years prior. Alexander Wennberg, who was recently bought out by the Blue Jackets, wasn't doing enough to justify his contract. 

This offseason, the Blue Jackets have made moves to shore up their deficiency. Max Domi, acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens that sent Josh Anderson the other way, is a talented, dynamic playmaker who will step in and center the second line. Domi played wing last year, but in 2018-19, he played center and had a fantastic year. He put up 28-44-72 while averaging 17:23 of ice time.

Mikko Koivu, acquired in free agency, is another center who can make a difference. He's primarily a defensive player, but can chip in with the odd goal here and there. His passing ability will help set up his linemates, and it's also a possibility that Koivu sees power play time as well. 

With Koivu and Domi coming in, it will allow Foligno and Jenner to play on the wing, where they are both better suited. This will help the Blue Jackets be more offensively consistent, as more players are able to play in their preferred positions. 

On their roster, there are currently six players who have experience playing center at an NHL level:

  • Max Domi
  • Pierre-Luc Dubois
  • Boone Jenner
  • Riley Nash
  • Mikka Koivu
  • Nick Foligno

After that, there are four players who have played center in a different league than the NHL: 

  • Alexandre Texier
  • Mikhail Grigorenko
  • Liam Foudy
  • Kevin Stenlund

All of a sudden, center depth isn't a problem. While the Blue Jackets could certainly use another scoring winger (Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund are still available), they've improved down the middle of the ice significantly. If there are injuries, or the offense isn't performing, there are many backup options.