Another player whose season was cut short in an unfair manner, Jake Bean lost the opportunity to take advantage of an expanded role with Zach Werenski out of the lineup. The 2023-24 season needs to be a big one from Jake – or he might have to seek out a future elsewhere.
Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for a second round pick two summers ago, Bean has struggled to find the consistency required to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Originally the 13th overall selection at the 2016 NHL Draft, he’s shown flashes of that first round talent here and there, but has yet to carve out a niche for himself on either those Canes, or the Blue Jackets thus far.
When Werenski was ruled out for the season in November, we all turned our eyes to Jake with the hopes that he could at least stem the tide for the team. After all – he’s a similar player; a capable puck mover who likes to join the rush and create offense. He has defensive shortcomings, but we’d hoped with improved strength, he could help make up for some of those issues by being more physical. Maybe enough to earn him more opportunities to do this:
Unfortunately, things went sideways in a hurry. After Werenski’s injury, Bean played one full game and looked pretty good – earning two assists in over 21 minutes against the New York Islanders. But the next game, just 5 days after the team lost Werenski, Bean suffered the exact same injury – a torn labrum – against the exact same team, the Philadelphia Flyers. His season was over as well, leaving the Jackets critically thin on defense.
It’s a harsh fate for a player who had been working and striving for more of an opportunity. He started the year paired with Erik Gudbranson and they definitely struggled, looking very much the part of two players who had never played together. But he seemed to be finding his confidence and offensive mojo when the injury happened. Sometimes, the sport just isn’t fair.
Getting Jake Bean back and healthy next season, could help solidify the third defense pairing for the Blue Jackets. However, to date, he’s not shown that he’s capable of holding down a second pairing role, and this injury did nothing to help him in that department. Already 24 years old, he’s at risk of being passed up by younger, more talented prospects in the system – and I would not be surprised to see this team add some insurance on the left side this summer, with or without him in the plans.
Final season stats: 14 games played, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, -2, 16 shots on goal. Overall grade: incomplete.
We can’t give Jake an overall grade because he just didn’t play enough this season. He seemed to be trending in the right direction before his injury, so we just have to hope that he comes back with that same level of confidence next season. He’s a talented guy who deserved a better fate, and the Jackets would find themselves in much better standing with him on the ice.