Damon Severson (currently on IR) has shown promising moments, but also the occasional glaring mistake.
Of the three defensemen acquired over the past two offseasons, Severson may be the most capable at defending in zone. But traditionally, he’s struggled unless paired with another steady defenseman. His best season came when playing alongside Ryan Graves last year in New Jersey. They took on a lot of the tougher assignments and played a simple style. The problem here: the Jackets do not have one single defensive defenseman capable of playing alongside Severson and taking on that role.
Zach Werenski is the team’s #1 defenseman, and he’s not good enough in his own end to take on top opposition. You want him on the ice for offensive zone faceoffs, power-plays, and clutch goal scoring situations. Which, coincidentally, is when you also want your #2 left-shot defenseman – Provorov – on the ice. The third guy on the left side depth chart? Jake Bean, who, by the way, was drafted and developed to play in that exact same role.
Down the right side, they have Severson (when healthy), Gudbranson, then David Jiricek – who has shown a penchant for being strong in all three zones, but he’s still very young and developing. After those three, they’re down to another player who is all offense: Adam Boqvist. Then comes Andrew Peeke, who sure puts in the effort defensively, but aside from getting hit with the puck a lot, leaves a lot to be desired. Lastly, currently on the roster is Nick Blankenburg, who shows flashes of potential, but also brings the occasional glaring mistake to the table.
When you take a step back and look at it from a simple perspective: this team has one, maybe two guys capable of playing in-zone defense against strong competition. And one of them is 19 years old. That’s why it isn’t working. They have good pieces, but the mix is all wrong. There’s way too much offense, too many guys who want the puck, or who want to lead the rush up the ice; and not enough guys willing to stay home and battle defensively.
They need someone who can come in and play the shutdown role on that second defense pairing, alongside Damon Severson. Funny enough, I think former Jacket Vladislav Gavrikov would have been perfect in that spot; but he’s an LA King now. I know they just acquired Provorov, and he has been productive here offensively. But, it’s time to admit that he’s the wrong type of defenseman for the role they acquired him to play.
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Correcting that mistake and bringing in someone who can hold pace defensively, could push everyone down the depth chart enough to help this team win some more hockey games. At the very least, it will mask some of the other shortcomings here, and make the games more entertaining.