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Jackets 20: Seth Jones is future captain material - if he stays in Columbus

Jones has been a key cog in the franchise’s turnaround from moribund also-ran to a perennial playoff team. Can the front office convince him that this team is a Cup contender?

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Columbus Blue Jackets v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

January 6, 2016 - The Columbus Blue Jackets, at the bottom of the NHL standings, sent Ryan Johansen (their number one center and former All Star) to the Nashville Predators for former #4 overall pick defenseman Seth Jones.

Reactions at the time were varied, to say the least:

I like Seth Jones. But I don’t think I’m ok with this move. Like, not at all.
Posted by Dan P.

I am absolutely friggin speechless.
I hate this move.
Posted by MrSwift13

I honestly don’t have the hockey chops that a lot of guys here do, but this still seems like a loss from my perspective.
We could have waited. This season is over anyway. Ugh.
Posted by stinerman67

I kinda don’t like it because I know that Johansen is going to get better.
On the other hand, our defense has been awful so Seth Jones is a big upgrade there.
On the other other hand, our scoring has been a bigger issue of late.
On the other other other hand, Johansen hasn’t been helping.
It’s definitely the first sign that this team is punting on the season and is readjusting who the “core” is that we’re building around. I’m sure there will be several more moves before the deadline. A mini fire sale.
Posted by Pale Dragon

think i’m starting to realize CBJ’s problem
Overvaluing the guys they have. Ryan Johansen might turn out to be a superstar, but he’s not on the Toews/Kopitar level, much less Crosby. He’s a 1C for a team that wants to make the playoffs, not win a championship. If he continues his previous trajectory, sure. But I don’t think that was going to happen here. His defense this season has been utter trash, and he’s taken plenty of dumb penalties. I get it, he’s big, strong, talented. He’s also not a 1C this year, and potentially may never be. Is there really anyone who’d take him over Crosby/Toews/Kopitar/Bergeron/Stamkos/Tyler Johnson? That’s the level you need a 1C to be at to get to the Cup finals lately. Not even win – but get there. I’ve got doubts Johansen will get there. And if you think he’s there already, well, I don’t know what to say.
Jones is an excellent young talent. Watch the series against the Blackhawks last year. Dude ate top pairing minutes after Weber’s injury and did extremely well. And that’s against the Cup champs. So when we’re talking about proven commodities, to me, Jones is more proven than Johansen. And look at the last few Cup champs – their #2 D is always a likely #1 on most other teams. Anyone want to take Ryan Murray or Jack Johnson over Brent Seabrook or (pre-arrest) Slava Voynov?
It bolsters a weakness by dealing from a position of strength, in the sense that there’s plenty of forwards in the organization. But hey, if you want to think the sky’s falling because a 23 year old who potentially already hit his skill plateau is gone, go for it. I’m an Ohioan, I get it, I’ve watched the Browns too. I totally understand why everything is always THE WORST.
FWIW, LeBrun and a few others are shocked Nashville dealt Jones. They think CBJ got the better of this.
Posted by the_tom_burns

Nearly five years on, most of the Blue Jackets fanbase was wrong - Johansen has not panned out in Nashville, while Seth Jones has blossomed into a Norris-caliber defenseman in Columbus.

Since arriving in Columbus, Jones has been a stalwart on the blue line:

Games played: 325
Goals: 45
Assists: 150
Points: 195
Time On Ice: 24:42
Plus/Minus: 18
Penalty Infraction Minutes: 34
Power Play Goals: 11
Power Play Points: 59
Game-Winning Goals: 11
Playoff Games: 31
Playoff Goals: 5
Playoff Assists: 15
Playoff Points: 20
Playoff Game-Winning Goals: 1

In addition to the on ice counting stats, Jones has been named to three All Star Games (2017, 2019, 2020), and was named to the 2017-18 postseason All Star second team. He has finished in the top 20 of Norris trophy voting in each of the last four seasons (18th, 4th, 9th, and 14th)

Oh, and that one playoff game winning goal?

Jones has developed as a leader during his time in Columbus, finally earning an “A” on his jersey at the start of the 2018-19 season.

Jones took over wearing the “A” and has flourished as a leader on and off the ice for a team that needed a steadying hand. He’s a calming presence on the back end, a threat to score from the blue line, and rises to the occasion when necessary (he played nearly 30 minutes per game in the playoffs during). He will be the captain of the club one day, and Columbus could do no better in that regard.

...if he stays, that is.

It is the dark cloud looming in the back of every fan’s mind, the thing they dread most, haunted by the scars of offseasons past - Seth Jones is an unrestricted free agent and can walk away from the team in two seasons.

There have been no indications that he will do so thus far, but Jones has stated that his goal is to win the Stanley Cup sooner rather than later. To retain the services of their number one defenseman, the team must show that they are a destination where he can meet that goal. Last season’s squad finished 33-22-15, good for 14th overall in the league, but were brushed aside in the playoffs by the eventual-champion Tampa Bay Lightning (that series did see Jones set the NHL record for time on ice, however, with 65-plus minutes in game one’s five overtime defeat).

Jones himself has said he’s not trying to think about his next deal much, and that he loves it in Columbus:

I don’t feel like I’m even thinking about it at all yet. I don’t really want to at the moment. But we’ll see where it goes. I love it here in Columbus, but there’s a long time ahead for us to still have that discussion.

To keep a player of Jones’ caliber in the market long-term means winning consistently in the postseason, and Columbus has yet to do that. Time is running out.

Jones has been an outstanding blue liner for the Blue Jackets since he was acquired in 2016. He has developed into the player many could have only hoped for in their wildest dreams - the best defenseman in franchise history, a true number one that would be a top pairing player on any Cup contending team in the league, a bona fide star in a market desperate for one.

Now they just need to keep him around.