Dean Kukan may not be more than a bottom pair defenseman for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but there is plenty of evidence that he should have been a mainstay in the lineup for most of the season. For a team that struggled to move the puck and saw a lot of goals against, it doesn’t make sense that Kukan was often a healthy scratch.
Among all Columbus defensemen (playing 10 games or more) at 5v5, Kukan was 4th in CF% and GF% - he was 2nd in xGF% and HDCF%. However, despite those possession numbers, Kukan ranked last in TOI per game. Basically, all of those fancy stats to say this: Dean Kukan was easily a top six defenseman for the Blue Jackets this season. The fact that the coaching staff often rotated Scott Harrington and Gabriel Carlsson in over Dean Kukan is simply unreasonable.
Bonus stats: According to MoneyPuck, Michael Del Zotto and Dean Kukan were paired together for 25 games and a total of 240 minutes. They had a GF% of 63.2 and an xGF% of 52.4. Only the pairing of Jones and Werenski were on the ice for more goals for.
Games played: 35
5v5 CF%: 46.9%
5v5 FF%: 48.4%
Kukan’s lone goal on the season came against Dallas on February 2nd. The goal came after a long trip inside the Jackets’ zone when Kukan ripped one through traffic from the point.
Dean found himself at the mercy of a Tortorella benching more than once during the 2021 season. Twice during the year, Kukan played less than ten minutes in a game. In fact, of the 35 games he played, he only broke the 16 minute mark in 7 of them. The coach seemed to have Kukan on a very tight leash.
Kukan has one year left on his contract and has a cap hit of $1.65m. He will be a UFA when his contract expires, unless he’s extended beforehand. It’s unclear what his future with the Blue Jackets might be, but he’s been a very serviceable bottom pair defenseman. It wouldn’t be surprising to see an extension, but if he has a good 2021-2022 season, he might find himself a decent contract offer elsewhere.
How would you grade Dean Kukan’s 2021 season?
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