David Jiricek Should be Playing in the NHL

The Blue Jackets demoted their top young defenseman, David Jiricek, to the American Hockey League again on Thursday. He cannot be happy with this move.
Minnesota Wild v Columbus Blue Jackets
Minnesota Wild v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

Great news for the Blue Jackets on Thursday, as #1 defenseman Zach Werenski has been activated from the IR list by the club. Zach was out of the lineup for almost exactly one month; with the team winning just three of their ten games without him (none in regulation).

As things go in the NHL, the team needed to make a move and clear a roster spot for him. Their decision is to send 20-year-old David Jiricek to the Cleveland Monsters. In my opinion, this is the wrong move.

Jiricek has been out of the lineup for each of the last four games for the Blue Jackets, with the team going 1-3-0 in the process. They've been outscored 18-9 in those games, showing a team average of 4.5 goals against per game.

I won't say that his presence alone would help this team win more of those games, or even make an earth shattering difference in their goals against.

But, I think it's worth pointing out that he's been clearly better than at least one veteran who is still hanging around the NHL roster. Arguably, he's been better than two or three of them. See the clip below for an example of what we're talking about:

I get that it's important to let young players grow at their own pace. Especially defensemen. I also agree that having young players play nightly is better for their development. The problem here is, Jiricek has actually played pretty well. Aside from the occasional mistake, he's NHL ready, and he's being blocked by players who have underperformed.

If the whole point in hiring a tougher head coach this year was to weed out players who don't fit long-term, here's one big question for management: Why does a young player who is playing pretty well get benched in favor of players who have been part of the losing culture here for the last few years? What kind of message is that sending?

You don't see this kind of move with other teams in the league nearly as often as you do in Columbus. It really seems like the only plan the team has with Jiricek is to do whatever makes it so they don't lose another player via waivers.

That's the wrong way to handle your future #1 defenseman. This isn't how they handled Zach Werenski in his rookie season, and he turned out pretty good. Let the kid play.