Blue Jackets Continue to Experiment with Defensive Personnel and Combinations

By Chris Pennington on October 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Scott Harrington
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets just have too many-NHL-caliber defensemen.

Poor them? Of course not. It’s a great problem to have for any club - but especially a young and new-look team like Columbus that is still finding their style and what they will lean on.

That leaning will likely be on defense for the time being, and before you point out the 14 goals allowed through the first three games of the season, keep in mind they have allowed 87 shots against, tied for the lowest amount through that many games of any team in the league right now.

The Blue Jackets have looked OK - not good - not great - through these three contests, and though they are 1-2-0, there's never a better time than the beginning of the season to experiment with line combinations and lineup personnel as a whole.

Management has been doing just that - giving eight different defensemen the opportunity to suit up thus far into the young season. No specific pairing, not even on the first pair, has stayed intact for all three games.

Here are the combinations we've seen in each game:

Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, 10/4


@ Pittsburgh Penguins, 10/5


Vs. Buffalo Sabres, 10/7


This morning, Blue Jackets' Team Reporter Jeff Svoboda tweeted out the pairings from Wednesday's practice as the following:


Harrington-Kukan (likely the two out for the next game)

If these pairings hold for Friday night against the Anaheim Ducks, we will have seen a different group combination in each of the first four games. Again, now's the time to experiment, right?

Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray and David Savard's jobs are all safe. Markus Nutivaara, surprisingly, was a healthy scratch against the Penguins, meaning he may be in the mix to an extent as a bubble player now. Either that or John Tortorella is trying to light a fire under him.

The true bubble players are Scott Harrington (38.5 CF%), Vladislav Gavrikov (52.1 CF) and Dean Kukan (52.4 CF), and all are yet to record a point in their limited ice time. Who's to say if this internal competition for the final pairing will go on for the next few weeks, months, or until April, but at least for the next few games, you'll likely see different personnel on the Blue Jacket blue line night by night.

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