With losses of both Jack Johnson and Ian Cole this offseason, the Columbus Blue Jackets will have some changes on their defense. Those changes could alter the entire defense, as head coach John Tortorella said recently in a Q&A with The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (subscription required). In fact, Tortorella said he will have to consider whether he’s ready to break up his two star defensemen in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. At the moment, he’s not ready to do so.
“It certainly makes me think about it, and I have thought about it this summer,” Tortorella said. “I’m going to let it play out. Right now I’m going into the season with ‘Z’ and Jonesy together, and we’ll see what comes of that second pair.”
Jones had a breakout season a year ago, while Werenski had an off year, but dealt with a shoulder injury that hampered him all season. However, Tortorella hopes that others will fill in for the team’s offseason losses, including Markus Nutivaara and Ryan Murray.
“I think (Markus) Nutivaara has improved tremendously,” Tortorella said. “I think (Murray) looked different to me in the playoffs. He can’t even grow a beard yet, he’s just got this stuff all over his face, but he looked different to me. He had more of a game face than I’ve seen since I coached him. He was really good in the playoffs. Can he take those minutes? I know he wants to. I know he’s pissed at me that I don’t give him enough time at certain times, but hopefully, he stays healthy and plays with an attitude.”
- The Pittsburgh Penguins look to be breaking up their top-four as well as the team promised to give top minutes to free-agent signee Jack Johnson, which will force the team to make some changes, according to Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Jason Mackey in a Penguins’ chat. While the team has no intention of breaking up their top defensive pair of Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang. That means the likely second line will be Johnson and Justin Schultz, which will likely force Olli Maatta out of the top four. Maatta, who tied a career-high in 29 points last season, will likely be moved to the third pairing next to Jamie Oleksiak.
- The Athletic’s Ryan Clark’s (subscription required) writes a Q&A interview with New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher, the second-year defenseman has said he’s spent his offseason working on his shot. “My huge emphasis this summer has been on my shot from one-timers to just getting it off quicker,” Butcher said. “Just try to shoot the puck more. Look to shoot the puck more than pass.” The 23-year-old posted impressive numbers in his first year in the league, putting up five goals and 39 points last season. An impressive shot could improve his goal numbers in the future.
- When New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider returned from a two-month break when he was recovering from a blood clot, the 27-year-old had lost 15 pounds, which actually proved helpful to him, according to The Athletic’s Shayna Goldman (subscription required). In fact, Kreider played some of his best hockey upon his return, which could fit in well around head coach David Quinn’s new system. The scribe writes that Kreider found the perfect balance between his size, speed, strength and skill, which could carry over to this season, especially now that he’s out of Alain Vigneault’s system that focused only on his speed.