How do you replace an Artemi Panarin?
Well, unless it's another top-10 winger in the world, you don't.
Artemi Panarin, through his 28 goals and 59 assists (a club record), accounted for 87 Blue Jackets goals last season, in some facet, and 169 over the past two campaigns. He had six power play goals and 18 power play points (which led the team), and finished his two seasons in a Blue Jacket sweater with the two highest season point totals in franchise history.
Again...how do you replace that?
This question was posed to John Tortorella in his first press conference of the new season ahead of training camp on Wednesday afternoon, but he had a much more reasonable answer than we did:
"It's opportunity for the people...hopefully other guys take more strides and continue to get better as players. (Alexander Wennberg) hopefully, he steps up and finds his way, so there's a lot of different things that can happen."
Wennberg is not the only player who has an opportunity to step up, either. Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois – all under the age of 26 – are forwards with 25-plus goal-scoring ability.
Not to mention, the veterans like Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner, who will now have even more pressure to make an impact. Let's not forget the newest veteran addition, either.
"I thought the signing by Jarmo (Kekalainen) and the staff with (Gustav Nyquist), it goes under the radar, as it usually does," said Tortorella. "He's a pretty important guy, (a) 50-point guy."
Tortorella will not insinuate that replacing Panarin with Nyquist is a one-for-one deal, or that it'll come with struggle. It will take a lot of players stepping into new and challenging roles to help the team believe that life will certainly go on without Panarin (and Duchene, for that matter).
"'Bread' is a very good player. He's a game-breaker," Tortorella said. "I'm not going to sit here and say that that's (not) a hole. But it just gives other people the opportunity to fill that. And I feel comfortable where we're going with some of our young kids that can do that."
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