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2023-24 Player Review: David Jiricek was underwhelming, but his future is still bright

Oct 14, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman David Jiricek (55) celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Mr. Jiricek was a hot topic of conversation this season. From his performance on-ice to making the news off-ice, he was a contributor in many different ways. The good news is that his stock isn’t any less than it was a year ago.

We will discuss the highs and lows later, but for now, let’s focus on the trend I mentioned in the Danforth review: coaching. Jiricek spent most of the season getting jerked around. He was scratched, sent to Cleveland, recalled, scratched again, and so on. At one point, Pascal Vincent said that Jiricek was being scratched despite not deserving it.

When he was in the lineup, he averaged 14:35 per game, 5 minutes less than Gudbranson. He was benched in critical situations and sheltered significantly. That’s not unwarranted for a young defenseman, but it would have been nice to see Vincent give more opportunities, especially when it became obvious the season was lost.

My other issue with Jiricek’s usage was his lack of power play time. He spent a whopping 25 seconds on the power play despite playing in games when both Werenski and Boqvist were injured. The Blue Jackets power play was awful, and Jiricek was a big part of a successful power play in Cleveland. Why not give him a shot?

The coaching staff didn’t fully trust Jiricek – that much was obvious. It’s also true that he didn’t always inspire trust. His skating and gap control still need work, and it wasn’t infrequent to see him missing passes or being forced out of position. I’m not worried about him long-term, but many of us thought his development would be further along.

2023-24 Stats

Games: 43
Goals: 1
Assists: 9
Points: 10
Plus/Minus: -4
PIM: 22
5v5 Corsi%: 47.64
5v5 Fenwick%: 47.12
Off Zone Start %: 53.55


Jiricek’s entry-level contract runs through 2025-26 and has a cap hit of $918,333. According to CapFriendly, he’s eligible for up to $1 million in performance bonus each season.

High Point

On December 14th, the Blue Jackets blew a five-goal lead before beating the Maple Leafs in overtime. This game was a prime example of how many of the blown leads throughout the season were a result of bad play from the veteran players, not the youngsters.

Jiricek had two assists, a plus-one rating, and an xGF% of 52.27 in the game. He was on the ice for one goal against, while players like Peeke, Provorov, and Danforth were on the ice for multiple. Despite his good play, he only played 15:43, good for 5th among defensemen.

In the clip below, a simple, quick play earned Jiricek an assist. Matthews’s sloppy entry was thwarted by Provorov, and the puck ended up on Jiricek’s stick. Jiricek looks up the ice but decides to make a no-look pass to an open Provorov while the Leafs are changing. It’s a simple play, but the quick decision opened up the opposite side of the ice and led to a Chinakhov goal.

Low Point

Aaron Portzline reported in January that former Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Jiricek he should get a place in Columbus—a signal he would remain in the NHL lineup indefinitely. Only a couple of days later, he was sent back to Cleveland. He expressed his displeasure publicly, gaining the attention of many in the national media. It’s very possible that this incident was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” when it came to the firing of Jarmo.

Report Card


Despite some bad games, he had an FF% of 50 or more in 23 of his 43 games. In fact, he was in the top six in nearly every advanced stat among the 10 defensemen who played for the Blue Jackets this season. I think that’s worth some praise as a 20-year-old on a bad team.

That said, both of these things can be true at the same time: Jiricek’s performance was slightly disappointing compared to expectations, and he was also a top-six defenseman in the organization. As with so many others, it’s also true that the coaching staff (and the GM) didn’t put him in the best position to succeed.