The injury-riddled 2022-23 season was unfair to the Blue Jackets in a lot of ways; but perhaps no player suffered more than defenseman Jake Bean. Finally given an opportunity to play big minutes with the absence of Zach Werenski, Bean suffered the exact same injury just a few days later, ending his season. So we enter another year without an answer to the same question we’ve had since acquiring him from Carolina two summers ago: where does Jake Bean fit into this lineup long-term?
D Jake Bean
6’1”, 186 lbs
2022-2023 stats: 16 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS, -2, 6 PIMs
Acquired: Trade with Carolina, July 2021
(Originally drafted by Carolina 1st round, #13 overall, 2016 NHL Draft)
Contract: $2.33m AAV through 2023-2024
Role: Third Pair Defense
In the short 14 games that he played before being injured, he started off on the third pair but eventually landed top pairing minutes and on the top power play unit due to Werenski’s injury; where he faired honorably. There were glimpses of his potential and he showed flashes of the high-end skill that saw him taken in the middle of the first round. However, his own shoulder injury put all of that to an end.
As for the 2023-2024 season, Bean is expected to be fully healthy and to contribute. The CBJ overhauled the blue line with the addition of Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson, so he likely won’t be tasked with handling more than can fathom, at least in theory. Bean will likely be on the 3rd pair of the defense, as he is one of the few left-handed defensemen on the roster. He will likely be paired with right-handed defensemen Erik Gudbranson. That would be a good spot for Bean. It takes some of the pressure off of him but will give him opportunities to showcase his strengths.
One bold prediction: Bean will score more than 40 points this season. Now, he won’t be one of the flashiest offensive defensemen for the CBJ this season. He likely won’t see a lot of power play time either. However, through his playing career, he has been a consistent scorer. Being on the 3rd pair will take some defensive pressure off him, as he likely won’t to defend top lines too often. That will allow him to play looser and focus more on moving the puck. With the offensive talent at forward, there is a good chance that Bean will be on the ice for a decent amount of scoring. If he can sustain his health, 40 points does not seem out of reach.
Three keys to success:
- Stay healthy. Bean missed a majority of the 2022-2023 due to a shoulder injury. To be effective, he needs to play, which starts and ends with his health. The hope is that he focused on his recovery and on his fitness this offseason.
- Don’t try to do too much. Bean does not need to be a #1 defensemen for the CBJ, who has others who can fit that role (Werenski, etc.). His role will likely be a 3rd pair defensemen, which is a role he needs to embrace. He excels as moving the puck out of the zone and is decent in the offensive zone. He needs to utilize those strengths. He should not try to do more than he is capable of handling.
- Establish chemistry. The defense has been overhauled with the additions of Provorov and Severson. If David Jiricek makes the team, then the entire defense will look different. Chemistry with his defensive partner (likely Gudbranson) will be key to the success of both players.
This upcoming season is important for Jake Bean. It is the final year of his contract before becoming an RFA next summer. With all the highly touted, young defensemen coming for the CBJ (Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, Stanislav Svozil, Corson Ceulemans, etc.), Bean will need to have a big season to earn another contract from the CBJ. If Bean struggles with injuries again or has a sub-par season, he will likely be traded next summer to make room for the aforementioned young talent.