Adam Boqvist, Andrew Peeke, Columbus Blue Jackets, Commentary, David Jiricek, Zach Werenski

Blue Jackets Jiricek Making Strong Case to Stay in NHL

Not much went right for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night against the Detroit Red Wings. They couldn’t score any goals. They made costly mistakes that gave the Red Wings all the momentum they needed.

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It got so bad that head coach Pascal Vincent benched defenseman Damon Severson (and his new 8-year, $50 contract) for the entire third period. His turnover led directly to the 2-0 goal. The Blue Jackets chased the game the rest of the night.

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However there was one bright spot on the night for the Blue Jackets. Defenseman David Jiricek had his second-straight solid game. His impact didn’t appear on the scoreboard. But a closer look suggests that he was the best skater for the Blue Jackets on Monday.

Jiricek More Confident

Jiricek had a good training camp. Had it not been for the business side of things, he would have made the opening-night roster. Both Adam Boqvist and Andrew Peeke made the team as a result of needing waivers whereas Jiricek didn’t need them to get to the AHL.

Then in game one, Zach Werenski takes a shot to the knee from Garnet Hathaway. The timeline of 1-2 weeks opened the door for the Blue Jackets to call Jiricek up.

Of note, the Blue Jackets had enough defensemen even without Jiricek. Boqvist could have entered the lineup and the team would have had six defensemen. While Boqvist did enter the lineup, so did Jiricek. It was Peeke who became the healthy scratch on Saturday against the New York Rangers.

Jiricek showed his new found confidence early while playing with Ivan Provorov. Jiricek was decisive. He was also playing at a faster pace. He ultimately got rewarded with his first NHL goal by snapping a shot over Igor Shesterkin for a game-winning goal.

David Jiricek Columbus Blue Jackets
David Jiricek used his first two games this season to show he’s ready for more. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

But where Jiricek really stood out on tape was his commanding presence on the ice. He looked much more under control both with the puck and away from the puck. This carried over to the game Monday. One play in particular stood out.

Jiricek had the puck in his own zone with multiple Red Wings around him. He skated right out of the zone and then connected on a pass to setup a three-on-two rush the other way. That’s the impact many have come to expect from him. This was a sign of a confident player who is ready for more.

With Jiricek on the ice in Monday’s game, the Blue Jackets held a 13-9 shot attempt advantage and a 6-2 advantage in scoring chances at 5-on-5 according to Nat Stat Trick.

Jiricek’s play shows he deserves another chance. He may get that chance Friday night against the Calgary Flames. But then again, he might not get that chance.

Werenski’s Return

The original timeline for Werenski to return from his quad contusion was 1-2 weeks. Should he be able to play Friday, that will mark eight days.

On the Rothman & Ice Show on 97.1 FM in Columbus on Wednesday, Werenski admitted he’s shooting for Friday to return. While that’s certainly great news to get a player like him back, it means the Blue Jackets will have to make a roster move.

The easiest move seems to point to Jiricek returning to Cleveland as he was the one called up when Werenski was injured. However being the best player on the ice Monday is his way of making a case to stay.

Can the Blue Jackets keep Jiricek and still make room for Werenski? The answer is yes. They have a couple of ways they could accomplish this task.

One way the Blue Jackets can do this is to send another waivers-exempt player down to the Monsters. That list of players include Kent Johnson, Adam Fantilli, Cole Sillinger and Kirill Marchenko.

If anyone from that list would go down, it would be Sillinger. He’s currently in a bottom-six role with other possibilities available and ready to play. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for the team to allow Sillinger to play top minutes as their top center. But he did skate at Wednesday’s practice as the third-line center which points to him playing Friday night.

In fact, all four of the mentioned players skated on a line which suggests they’re all going to play Friday night. So if this is not an option, there’s two other things they could do if they want to keep Jiricek up.

The Blue Jackets could make a trade. They’ve been linked to Conor Garland talks. But for a trade to come together quickly this early in the season is rare. While one phone call can change everything, there doesn’t appear to be anything imminent on a potential trade.

Absent a trade, the Blue Jackets could elect to waive a player like they did Eric Robinson. While Robinson cleared waivers, there’s no guarantee other players would clear. This would allow the Blue Jackets to keep Jiricek up. That would give them eight defensemen on the roster.

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It’s no secret the Blue Jackets want to keep Jiricek up if at all possible. But the business side of things might get in the way here. Sending Jiricek back to Cleveland to activate Werenski would be the outcome most expect to happen.

Stay tuned over the next day or so. While Werenski wants to play Friday, he has to show he’s ready. The Blue Jackets held a hard practice Wednesday. If he’s able to show he got through everything with no setbacks, that would clear the way for his return.

The Blue Jackets have a few options that could play out. Even if it is Jiricek that does go back, he did his job. He told everyone through his play that wants to stay and is ready for more.

Now will the Blue Jackets go out of their way to make that happen now? We’ll get that answer here in short order.

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