The Columbus Blue Jackets let three potential 4th liner’s test the free agency waters this summer, all three found homes elsewhere. Derek MacKenzie, Jack Skille and Blake Comeau will not be back to fight for positions on the 4th line this fall, this is something the Blue Jackets have never really had the luxury to do. They had to make room for the young pipeline of talent they have that is itching to make the big squad, the funny thing is even with those three gone the Blue Jackets have enough depth to fill the 4th line and a top 9 in Springfield.
Apr 9, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu (55) skates against the Dallas Stars during the first period at American Airlines Center. Letestu scores a goal in the first period. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
A Top 9 in Columbus could theoretically look something like this, Boone Jenner–Ryan Johansen–Nathan Horton, Scott Hartnell–Brandon Dubinsky–Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson–Artem Anisimov–Matt Calvert. These lines could be shifted, but I like the looks of those pairings, and chemistry will always play a part as well. That leaves Jared Boll, Mark Letestu, Corey Tropp to fend off Jerry D’Amigo, Brian Gibbons, Simon Hjalmarsson, Marko Dano, Kerby Rychel, Alexander Wennberg, Michael Chaput and a few others for the final 3 roster spots. That leaves a lot of depth if injuries arise during the season, now you can see why those players were allowed to dip their toes in the free agency waters. The Columbus Blue Jackets have four lines and another 10 players who could vie for a spot.
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I will miss Derek MacKenzie, he was a player that had more hustle than skill, but what 4th line player doesn’t? He played the game the right way and I wish him luck with the Florida Panthers, however Blue Jacket fans need to start getting used to this type of thing. We have had lovable players on a losing team, without much competition, to attach our allegiances to. This team is being built a different way, it is a way that brings out the best in players, breeds competition and a winning brand of hockey. We as fans have been asking for just that for over a decade, a winning product on the ice, and with that comes a few things we as fans will have to get used to. Losing fan favorite players to free agency is one of them, I for one will be able to live with that.
As long as the 4th line is as exciting as ever, plays hard and fast, and lays the lumber I do not care who is apart of it. I can see Boll and Tropp flanking Letestu to start the season, with a handful of players making it known that they are ready to sub in if/when needed. The season is still more than 2 months away, there will be a lot of decisions to go into the makeup of this years roster, but by the looks of it this will be the most talented and deepest roster the Columbus Blue Jackets will ever field.