After years of being paired together, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski saw some time apart. Over a three year period, Jones and Werenski spent 75 percent of their 5-on-5 time together and were almost inseparable. The two star defenseman stayed together on the top pairing line. However, that changed a bit last year. Jones and Werenski were split up sometimes as the two ended up spending just 57.7 percent of the time as Werenski, who was working on his defensive game, was often paired with Ryan Murray or David Savard.
The Athletic’s Alison Lukan (subscription required) analyzes whether the pair should be kept together or the split should finally be made and have each one of them on separate defensive lines. She writes that while they were more successful when they were together, the Jones and Murray combination and the Werenski and Savard combinations were among the top three combinations in terms of getting good chances and converting. While the split up likely affected Jones and Werenski’s goal-scoring last season, it created a deeper defense overall.
However, Lukan does note that Werenski’s defensive numbers actually dropped last season when not playing alongside Jones and considering that’s his weakness, Columbus might have be better off keeping the pair together. The Blue Jackets overall defense is improving and the combination of Murray and Markus Nutivaara actually put up solid numbers together as well and might serve the team even better as the second pairing. Of course, no one really knows what head coach John Tortorella is thinking.
- In his most recent mailbag series, The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir (subscription required) comments on the goaltending depth in the Washington Capitals’ system. The team has a number of young goaltenders, including Ilya Samsonov, who they hope is the goaltender of the future. The team also houses Pheonix Copley and AHL All-Star Vitek Vanecek. However, El-Bashir points out that trading away some of their goaltending depth is extremely unlikely considering the team doesn’t know what will happen with current starter Braden Holtby, who will be an unrestricted free agent next season. With starting goaltender salaries beginning to skyrocket, it seems unlikely the team would be able to retain him, but if the Capitals win another Stanley Cup title this year, then things might change. Of course if Holtby does leave, then is Samsonov ready? If not, then the team might have to turn to Copley or Vanecek or even look elsewhere.
- Chris Ryan of NJ.com writes that it’s highly unlikely that the New Jersey Devils consider signing defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who became a free agent after the New York Rangers bought him out last week. The Devils courted back in 2017 when Shattenkirk was the top defensive free agent and might be inclined to add him once again. However, considering the changes in the last two years, there is little need to bring Shattenkirk in. In those two years, the team has brought in P.K. Subban, Sami Vatanen, and Will Butcher as well as drafted Ty Smith and seen the emergence of Damon Severson.