Looking at the back end for the Blue Jackets, there’s a fairly clear top-four of Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov, Damon Severson, and Adam Boqvist. After that? It’s a battle.
The glaring question that keeps coming up from last year’s group: where does Andrew Peeke fit in? He played 80 games for the team last season and did the hard work, blocking a ton of shots and remaining remarkably healthy in the process. Still, the team felt the need to go out and upgrade this summer, bringing Damon Severson to an already crowded right side of the defense corps.
Like Roslovic, Peeke is a veteran guy in a situation where he might just be passed up by other players. Through not fault of his own, it’s just that this team is improving around him, and he doesn’t bring a ton to the table. He can’t play the left side on defense. He doesn’t bring a lot (anything) to the table offensively. He’s not strong enough to be the physical presence or the enforcer on the back end. Really, he’s been playing out of his element for about two seasons now – evidenced by his league-leading -41 rating last season.
I like Andrew Peeke, and we should all be appreciative of the things he did for this team through the roughest parts of the rebuild. But, is he anything more than a bottom pairing guy, who chips in some second unit PK minutes and blocks shots? That’s fine, but to me, that also shows he spends a lot of time in his own end. Does he do enough to beat out guys like Adam Boqvist, David Jiricek, or even a less expensive guy like Nick Blankenburg? It’s going to be tough for him, and even with his NHL-only contract, it could go either way. Peeker might be a trade candidate before the season even starts. Chance Peeke is on the team: 51%.
Jake Bean begins his training camp still on the IR list, which is terrible news. He first landed on the IR last November, and we have not seen him on the ice since – almost 10 months ago to the day. For a guy who might be contending for his job this fall, that is not a good place to be. He has missed a lot of hockey.
Bean has shown glimpses of being a good top-four, puck moving defenseman. But he has yet to remain healthy for enough time to prove himself, and over the last few years has gone from promising former first round pick – to 25 year old fringe NHL player. He just hasn’t broken out and produced enough to mask his shortcomings defensively, which are still huge issues.
Worse for Jake, the Jackets come into the season with a bounty of other options. They could elect to move one of their right-hand shooting defensemen over to the left side. I think his job would have been a lot safer with the head coach they had last week (Babs loves the lefty/righty tandems) – but Pascal Vincent may not see that as important. If Andrew Peeke, or Nick Blankenburg, or Erik Gudbranson, or even David Jiricek prove they can play on their off-side, that could spell doom for Jake Bean.
Or, he could simply lose his job to a 20 year old prospect Stanislav Svozil. He’s my dark horse out of training camp; his skating, physicality, and playmaking, will draw lots of attention from coaches, scouts, and management. If he wins a job, it would be at the direct expense of Jake Bean, who might become a trade candidate at that point. As far as value, well, we would have to see. Chance Bean is on the team: 50%.