The Columbus Blue Jackets defensive corps still doesn’t have its #6 man figured out.
The Columbus Blue Jackets came into training camp knowing they needed to fill the sixth defensive slot on this team. The loss of Ian Cole and departure (it wasn’t a loss, lets be honest) of Jack Johnson left this team with a gap on the blue line that needed to be filled.
There were three obvious candidates starting training camp. Former first round pick Gabriel Carlsson, newly signed Dean Kukan, and two year team vet Scott Harrington. After training camp, eight preseason games, and five regular season games, we are no closer to figuring out who will be the regular sixth defenseman than we were two months ago.
Gabriel Carlsson clearly needs at least another year in the AHL and showed us so in his one regular season game and his preseason work. He has been given opportunities in Columbus, he just isn’t ready.
Columbus Blue Jackets
His departure should have cleared up the picture a bit, another defenseman played his way into the conversation. Off season pickup Adam Clendening had a great preseason, arguably the best of any Jacket defenseman, and earned regular season playing time.
The 26-year-old journeyman has suited up for four of the Jackets first five games. He looked impressive against the Florida Panthers last week but threw away that great showing with a poor outing against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In Clendening’s defense, no one looked good against Tampa but his play stood out.
Scott Harrington has earned three starts this year and is the only defenseman in the discussion to score a point. He tallied the primary assist on Boone Jenner‘s goal in the third period against the Panthers. That was the lone bright spot in that game for Harrington who looked poor in his 16 other shifts against the Panthers.
Dean Kukan has been quite this season so far. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world for your future sixth defenseman. He has only played in two games and hasn’t done anything terrible or impressive. I’d like to see Kukan get some more ice time and would be surprised if he didn’t get the start against Philadelphia on Thursday.
Today is the three week mark from Seth Jones knee injury. Originally the diagnosis had Jones out four to six weeks and all indications from the team is that Jones is on track and recovering nicely. If Jones is ready to go in four weeks, that gives the Jackets just two more games in which Kukan, Harrington, and Clendening draw into the lineup as a pair before only one of them start alongside of David Savard.
It’s a challenging situation to handicap but right now I think Harrington has the inside edge. Torts loves Harry and he has played well enough in his three preseason games.
These guys still should have another game each before Jones comes back but then the Jackets need to make roster space for Jones. Crunch time is now for these three defenseman.