The Columbus Blue Jackets have jumped out to a 3-2-0 record to start this season. The team, missing Seth Jones and Brandon Dubinsky, the team has had to rely on their newly acquired players to stabilize the lineup. These players have provided depth that Columbus had to wait until the trade deadline to have last season. Let’s have a look at how three of them are performing through five games with Columbus.
Riley Nash, while perhaps not putting up points for Columbus like he did last season in Boston while called up, has been able to help the team weather the loss of Brandon Dubinsky. Nash has stepped into a third line role while still playing heavy minutes on the penalty kill.
Through five games, Nash has just one assist and a 42.6% CF% while playing 15:38 per night. Nash’s impact is felt beyond those numbers, however. His signing has allowed Nick Foligno to remain at wing, allowed Boone Jenner to remain at wing, and allowed Lukas Sedlak to settle back in on the fourth line. His stability keeps other players from playing out of position or in roles over their heads.
Nash will only continue to gel with his new teammates, and perhaps the points will come. Even if he does not score 41 for the season like he did last year, however, his mark comes beyond the scoresheet - he helps other players remain in the roles they should be in.
Adam Clendening signed a one year, two-way contract on July 1 of this summer. Clendening has registered four goals and 20 assists for 24 points with 49 penalty minutes in 86 career NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks. He has also collected 28-133-161, 267 penalty minutes in 261 career AHL games.
Clendening has failed to stick in the NHL on a permanent basis throughout his career, but has made an impact with Seth Jones out. He has played 10:39 per night on the third pair which, while not much, has prevented Columbus from icing the disastrous pairing of Dean Kukan and Scott Harrington. Harrington has gotten too many minutes this season, but Clendening has prevented the coaching staff from being forced to utilize the worse pairing the team could ice.
Clendening may not stick with the big club when Jones returns from injury, but he has provided depth stability for the third pairing while Jones has been out.
Anthony Duclair has been a pleasant surprise to open this season. Signed on just a one year “prove it” contract, Duclair has managed to register one goal, two assists for three points through five games while playing 15:37 per night. Duclair’s speed has proved to be an asset this season as he has been sprung on several breakaways and forces teams to defend him possibly cheating out of the zone. He definitely requires gameplanning around.
Duclair’s play has also forced Tortorella to move him onto the first power play in place of Cam Atkinson. For a unit that has been reluctant to shoot at times, Duclair has shown no fear in throwing the puck at the net or making goal-mouth passes. Duclair has injected life and creativity into a stagnant unit that has struggled for some months.
Depth has helped Columbus weather key injuries better than the team has in the past. While these players are hard to replace, at least Columbus is in a better spot going forward.