John Tortorella Is Counting On Bounce-Back Seasons From Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky, Bolstering The Blue Jackets' Depth At Center

By Rob Mixer on September 15, 2018 at 12:31 pm
 Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg looks on in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tom Szczerbowski – USA TODAY Sports

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"Center depth" is a four-letter word for some NHL teams.

You either have it, or you don't.

If you do, you're in good shape. If you don't, well, good luck.

The Blue Jackets have been on-again, off-again with their depth at center ice and when things are strong, they're a solid team. When they have down years from key players, it forces the issue and requires other players to step up. In 2017-18, not having the usual production from Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky could've been a dagger for the Blue Jackets – but in stepped Pierre-Luc Dubois to save the day.

While it was an exciting development, the Blue Jackets can ill afford to have two of their centers fall off the way they did a year ago.

As this training camp begins, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella is looking to those two players as crucial components to his team's success. If they can get going in the right direction, the Blue Jackets will have a formidable four-man center group.

"I'm trusting that they understand where they stood last year at the end of the year," Tortorella said of Wennberg and Dubinsky. "I think they understand where they can be. So that's encouraging."

Wennberg spoke to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and had this to say about the new season:

“I like it there (Columbus),” he said. “I want to be there. But I did stress about points. (Coach John Tortorella told me), ‘Don’t change. Do the little things right, don’t get caught up in worrying and change how you play.’” He was very interesting talking about watching Washington finally bust through and win. “I think we are good, too. We must be doing things right because the best teams beat us. We are young, still gaining experience.”

Aaron Portzline and Tom Reed of The Athletic have written excellent pieces this week on how Dubinsky is preparing for the season, having lost weight and gotten leaner with a new trainer and diet this summer.

A healthy scratch and in a limited role during the playoffs, Dubinsky's drop-off in 2017-18 was surprising and it depleted the Blue Jackets' depth. Wennberg's production going from 59 points to 35 took a chunk out of the team's offense, and it didn't help that their power play (where Wennberg is a key contributor) was atrocious for the first part of the year.

The Blue Jackets are a more balanced, dangerous team with Dubois-Wennberg-Nash-Dubinsky as their four centers – and if they can find a way to get two important players back where they should be, they'll be even better off.

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