The Fuse: A Reliable Secondary Scoring Option Would Be Huge for the Blue Jackets (And They Might Have It)

By Rob Mixer on October 11, 2018 at 6:07 am
Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and center Alexander Wennberg celebrate a goal scored against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tom Szczerbowski – USA TODAY Sports

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One game doesn't cure all, but...

The Blue Jackets sure looked different on Tuesday, didn't they?

Not just different. They looked dangerous.

They had some moments and shifts from the top line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson, but the contributions from both their secondary scoring lines and their defense (hello, Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara) helped them put away the Colorado Avalanche. A much-needed win, too.

Nick Foligno scored twice – and both of his goals were beauties – set up brilliantly by Alexander Wennberg, whose play is under the watchful eye of head coach John Tortorella. To hear Tortorella speak about Wennberg is like hearing a hockey dad talk about his burgeoning youngster: while Wennberg made two nice plays to Foligno, "he should be doing that all game long."

Tortorella told Anthony Rothman and Bobby Carpenter that he believes Wennberg has another level of potential. He's doing his best to draw it out of him.

The Wennberg-Foligno connection produced something the Blue Jackets desperately need: offensive support. The power play has been atrocious (more on that in a minute!) and the top line has been OK, leaving the scoring hope to Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson and Brandon Dubinsky-now-Riley Nash's line. Not ideal.

Wennberg isn't too far removed from a 59-point season, which was followed up by a season not anywhere close to that. Foligno's goal production has oscillated from All-Star status to bottom-six forward territory, but he's off to a much better start through three games of 2018-19. The Blue Jackets are in good shape if those two can get going, which should alleviate some pressure from the No. 1 line – and if you can get some extra space for Panarin and Atkinson, well, you've got something.

It's obviously a situation worth monitoring in the short term, as Tortorella is already moving players around to try and stabilize the other three forward lines. Anthony Duclair has played well and played himself into the top six, while the Blue Jackets still don't know what's going on with Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand. 

This Florida swing should be fun.


ORDER OF MERIT

Listening to Tortorella talk to Rothman and Carpenter is so ridiculously refreshing. 

I mean, he's always a good listen, but he's in a different element with those guys. He and Rothman are tight, and Tortorella also gets on well with Carpenter (who asks really good questions in his own right). Tortorella gave them plenty of good stuff on the early power play struggles, the play of Duclair, and how those two may be intertwined.

What really stood out was Tortorella discussing his new approach to the power play units: it's based on performance now, he said. He felt there was a tinge of "entitlement" with the No. 1 unit, who at times seemed like they just expected to hop over the boards and get the first reps even when the power play was awful.

If you're producing and doing the right things, Tortorella said, you can find yourself on the top unit. Otherwise, move aside so other players can get an opportunity. It's definitely interesting, but interesting is the appropriate adjective to describe Tortorella. 

They'll kick off this new tactic tonight in Florida, where Duclair will start on the No. 1 power play unit. Tortorella feels he's earned it. 

HEY, RICK

Let's talk about something: Rick Nash's playing future, whether you like him or not, is a story. And because the Blue Jackets had/have interest in signing him when/if he's healthy, it's a story pertinent to Blue Jackets fans and, in turn, this website.

Glad we're on the same page.

There's a lot happening in the Nash News Cycle right now, beginning with an erroneous Twitter report, a solid report from Aaron Portzline (who spoke to Nash) on where the player stands in his recovery, and continuing Wednesday morning with Bob McKenzie's hit on TSN 1050. McKenzie said Columbus is more than likely Nash's first choice, which many around the league have believed to be the case for a while.

We'll see where this goes. And we'll cover it. And we'll also hope that Nash is able to feel better and feel normal, regardless of whether or not he chooses to play hockey in 2018-19.

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