Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Changing of the Guard in the D in Central Division

Nikita Nikitin in practice last year
With Philadelphia dropping a big money offer sheet on Shea Weber of the Predators last week, it seems as if there is a bit of a changing of the guard in the defensive corps in the Central Division.  Nashville may yet match the offer, but if they don't, we will have witnessed the rapid dismantling of two of the better D-corps in the Division, Detroit and Nashville.

While I am sympathetic to the Nashville fans over their plight, I'm more inclined to shrug and say 'Welcome to the real world of expansion franchises' and go about my business.  Which today is to talk about the changed status of the CBJ defensive corps.  A recent Puck Rakers post alluded to this, but more from the perspective of attrition of quality players from the Central Division.  My point is that the CBJ defensive unit may be the third best unit in the Division, with an upside that could be higher.  Wiz and Jack Johnson have the potential to be very dynamic on offense, and showed flashes of brilliance down the stretch in the disastrous 2011-12 campaign.  Those two 5 on 3 situations in the Avalanche and Islanders games, where they completely toyed with the penalty kill, keep sticking in my head.  They scored 3 goals in those 2 situations.  How many times before the trade deadline did we have a 5 on 3 and fail to score?

And then there's the Russian Resistance, Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin.

With Bobrovsky in goal, I'm hopeful (stick tap to Jeff Little 'hope is not a strategy') that this will be a reasonably stout defensive combination, capable of closing down some games.  While it is fair to say that one might wonder if Wiz and Johnson can close down a game, we certainly saw early in the 2011-12 season that going into a defensive shell will not win you games.  You have to be able to put pressure on the other team, and Wiz and Johnson can do that.  They are gonna make some aggressive mistakes, and give away a game or two in 2012-13 (if played, see CBA), mark it down.  But as long as they limit that to a handful of games, we will end up winning more than we lose with that type of offensive ability from our D.
Ryan Murray, First Round Draft Pick 2012

Now we come to the third pairing.  The addition of Adrian Aucoin as a stabilizing influence is a really good addition.  While only having 2G-7A-9P in 64 games last year, his +/- was 14!  I know its not a great stat, but it smacks to playing consistent defense.  John Moore and 2012 first round pick Ryan Murray stand to make up the final slot on the third pairing.  While Aucoin's veteran influence will help these young players, Aucoin has stated that he came to play.  Let's hope his body cooperates, and that he has an opportunity to have a relatively injury free year.  That said, it shouldn't be surprising if he misses 10-20 games due to injury, and having a pair of very young D-man as the third pairing is not especially reassuring.  Stay healthy Adrian!

With first ballot Hall of Famer Lidstrom retiring this year, and Rafalski retiring last year, the Detroit defensive corps is not what it was.  If Nashville loses Suter and Weber in the same off season, they have a much more vulnerable defense.  That leaves Keith and Seabrook for Chicago, and Petranglio and Jackman for St. Louis as the best top pairs in the Central Division.  Wisniewski and Johnson have a good chance of being a part of that conversation in 2012-13.  Unlike 2011-12, when we felt Carter and Nash had a chance to be in the conversation about top forward pairs, we have at least seen Wisniewski and Johnson play together, and they seemed to mesh from the first minute.  There is hope (not a strategy) that they could emerge as part of the conversation as the best defensive pairing in the Central Division.

Nash ought really reconsider leaving, as he has never played in front of a defense like this.  Historically, the defense featuring Luke Richardson, Scott LaChance, and Jaroslav Spacek back before the lockout was the best D we ever had on the CBJ.  This group is much more solid.

These are not your daddy's Blue Jackets!  GO CBJ!!

Note: The NHL site went down late in the creation of this post.  Sorry for the lack of links to players towards the end of the post.


  1. So are you saying Nash should leave or reconsider his decision to leave?

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  3. I, too, am cautiously optimistic about the defense. But what of the rest of the roster? Guess that's what the balance of the offseason is for...

  4. Great post! its amazing what has become of defense in the central division. I really appreciate your juxtaposition of Carter-Nash vs. Johnson-Wiz. Definitely able to know what we're getting versus the "hope" (stick tap Jeff ;) ) that we had last year sight unseen. DBJ also has a great point - this isn't football - defense can't win championships. But I'm proud of what we've built on that side of the blue line for 2012-13.

  5. But how do we deal with all the prospects? Good problem to have, but Murray, Moore, and Erixon will definitely be at a NHL level by the 2013-2014 season. Savard, Goloubef, and Prout will also be in that conversation, while Madaisky and Weber, as well as others could also make a push next year. I don't want to see CBJ dump their prospects because they don't have room on the roster. All those guys are competing for essentially two spots, plus the 7. Is Tyutin the weakest link if we have better options?


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