After the Columbus Blue Jackets signed defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a one-year contract, it started to become increasingly clear that the team is going to be ready for any type of lineup they need to throw out there this year.
The mainstays remain the mainstays. You aren't going to see Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Vladislav Gavrikov, or David Savard out of the lineup. They are just too vital to what they are going to do this season. While they are undoubtedly in the lineup, it isn't yet set in stone where they will be.
So it gave me this idea, what if the Blue Jackets put out pairings that were solely slated for the matchups they are facing on a nightly basis and the situation they are going up against.
Given the fact that Covid-19 can ravage a team at any time, making sure you have a rotating group of defensemen that are ready to go is going to be huge. Why not try to keep them involved?
This is a lineup that could be seen against what is going to be seen as the cellar dwellers of the division. That is expected to be the Detroit Red Wings or Chicago Blackhawks.
It would be interesting to see the likes of Gabriel Carlsson and Andrew Peeke get time in the lineup and potentially playing in a role that gives them more and more ice time. Peeke has shown that he has an offensive game and Carlsson appears to have stabilized professionally.
Seeing what you have in these two, whether that is pairing them together or putting them in advantageous spots, it should be of the utmost importance to see what these two are made of and they won't get a better opportunity than against (potentially) inferior teams.
The Blue Jackets are going to need goals wherever they can get them. And while the safe is death mantra is not back in the team's vocabulary, there are still players that can move the puck up and down the ice with ease.
This is the lineup that a Michael Del Zotto and a Dean Kukan should be featured to make sure they are skating up and down the ice with the best players on the team. That also means that they're going to need to possess the puck like nobody else. Del Zotto has a long track record of that, unfortunately, it comes with risk. Kukan is also offensive but is more so in the mold of a Ryan Murray who is as steady as they come while delivering a punch on the offensive end.
Seeing this lineup against the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning would make sense. You could naturally make an argument that you need to go in a shell and put out your best defensive lineup, for someone like myself, getting into a horse race sounds a little better.
Involving The Rest
You could make the argument for Scott Harrington in a defensively focused lineup considering he sees time on the penalty kill and is put in positions that are more defensively focused. Harrington along with Carlsson feel a bit like they are on the outside looking in compared to how other players jive in the lineup. That isn't to say they don't work for my thought experiment, they almost feel redundant. Redundancy may be needed in a pandemic though.
Adam Clendening is another interesting case as well. He has performed well with the Cleveland Monsters and he is no longer a prospect worth watching over like a hawk. In a way, he is like a right-handed Del Zotto. He can possess the puck and move it up and down for you with good pace. Whether or not you can rely on him on a nightly basis, isn't any guarantee.
The taxi squad is going to get a lot of play this year and with hyper-observant protocols it makes sense. You want to make sure that you have players ready at the drop of a hat. We've already seen a team take time to readjust their schedule due to the outbreak. Given the lack of the bubble, we're going to see it over and over again. Preparing properly is the only way to stay ahead of it.
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