Spotlight on: Defensemen

May 24, 2006

We’re almost finished with our “Spotlight” series here at EOB, where we give our opinions on the players’ pros and cons, a little bit of salary info (if we can find it) and any other tidbits we find interesting. Today, the blueliners get the heat lamp.DefenseAdam Foote
– Age – 35
– Status – Signed through 2008
– Pros – The Blue Jackets captain is still a good defenseman in his own zone, even at his advanced age (and if Chris Chelios is any indication, he doesn’t have to slow down for quite a few years). Foote seems to be a quality leader, one who will be tasked with transforming the team attitude to being a winning one. Of anyone that is currently on the team, he is the one person who could get this done in my opinion.
– Cons – As noted over at Tom Benjamin’s place upon hearing of his signing with Columbus, the Adam Foote of the Avalanche and the Adam Foote of the Blue Jackets are inherently different players. Though he may help in the short term, it will remain to be seen if this signing (big money for older player, kind of sounds familiar) will pay dividends. Foote is not a big offensive force, but he didn’t get the money to score goals.
– If I were GM/Coach – Adam Foote is the captain on a team that needs stability. Unless a great deal rears its ugly head, I’d keep Foote wearing the “C” until his contract expires. At that point, it will probably be time to shake hands and part ways.

Bryan Berard
– Age – 29
– Status – I’m unsure of Berard’s contract status, but I’m pretty sure he’s back this year.
– Pros – Berard is what I (relative hockey novice) like to call a “puck confidence” guy. He’s not afraid to handle the puck for longer than a few seconds. This seems to help increase team puck possession and create a balanced offensive attack, something the Jackets have historically been poor at doing. Brian is a decent power play quarterback who is not afraid to shoot the puck.
– Cons – For a defenseman, Berard is merely an adequate defender. He must be paired with a more responsible blueliner to guard against too many odd-man rushes from the other team.
– If I were GM/Coach – Berard is a decent talent, especially in the offensive zone. I don’t think he is a long term answer for the Jackets, but I’d keep him for now. There is always a market for a Brian Berard type of player.

Duvie Westcott
– Age – 28
– Status – I’m unsure of contract length, but Westcott is signed for this upcoming season at least. – Pros – The most underrated defenseman on the team, by far. Westcott has good skating ability, puck confidence, excellent defensive skills, a heavy shot, etc. Yeah, I’m pretty high on this guy. A Masterson Trophy finalist this year, I predict that Westcott will be the best defenseman in the Blue Jackets system in less than two years.
– Cons – Westcott seems to be a walking case of bad luck. He’s been hampered in the past few years by freak injuries (which is probably why nobody outside of Franklin County has heard of the guy), and he has an incredibly difficult time finding the back of the net.
– If I were GM/Coach – My desk blotter would have 100 sticky notes reminding me that Westcott is the key to my team making the playoffs. Duvie was born to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Keep him at all costs, it is not possible to overpay him. (Maybe this is why I’m not a GM/Coach???)

Rostislav Klesla
– Age – 24
– Status – Signed through 2010.
– Pros – Columbus’ first pick in the 2000 Entry Draft, Klesla is finally showing glimpses of being a top 4 defenseman. He has become more responsible in his own zone, and is capable of throwing his weight into some big hits.
– Cons – Despite his improved overall play, Rusty still has moments where he looks like a lost little puppy. I’m tempted to write these off as tentative play due to injury recovery, but I can’t be sure yet. He still has a penchant for pinching in a little more often than recommended (though not nearly as much as a few years back).
– If I were GM/Coach – The jury is still out (for me) on Klesla. He’s been in my doghouse for years (much to the chagrin of Mrs. EOB, who thinks he’s a good-lookin’ dude who should get a free pass!), and this year showed some signs of respectability. I think he could be a top 4 very soon (and apparently, so does the real CBJ brass), but I’d like to see him perform over an 80 game season before I pass judgement. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that he’ll be here for four more years.

Ron Hainsey
Age – 25
– Status – Signed through at least this upcoming season.
– Pros – Another puck confidence guy on the CBJ blueline, Hainsey is also very quietly active in his own end. He led the team in plus/minus (at +13) this year, and has the skills to become a top 4 blueliner in no time at all.
– Cons – The one thing I would like to see is Ron take his physical game up a notch. He’s a big guy (6’3″, 215 lbs), and the CBJ could always use more physical bodies to wear down the opposition.
– If I were GM/Coach – I would lock Hainsey up for a few years when his contract is close to expiring. I would make him and Duvie the cornerstone of the Columbus blueline as they turn the corner to respectability.

Radoslav Suchy
– Age – 30
– Status – Unrestricted Free Agent
– Pros – A big, steady defensive defenseman (why does it always feel weird to write that?)
– Cons – Not particularly quick or offensive-minded.
– I were GM/Coach – Suchy is the kind of d-man that every team needs, but nobody wants to pay big bucks for. Unfortunately, the Jackets had a bit of money invested in him, which is why I would let him go. There are enough youngsters in the pipeline that will ably fill his spot.

Aaron Johnson
– Age – 23
– Status – Signed at least through the upcoming season
– Pros – A good skater with a mind towards the offensive end of the ice, Johnson is not afraid to throw his body around.
– Cons – Aaron hasn’t developed the puck confidence yet, but he’s working on it. He’s not a huge guy (barely topping 6′, just a shade under 200) so he’ll have to work for every inch of ice.
– I were GM/Coach – Johnson is still learning his position at the NHL level, so I’ll keep him around because he shows promise. If he’s still at the same point in two or three years, I’m sure that there will be someone to step up and fill his spot.

In a flash
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is a young blueliner who is not afraid to get physical (we saw him in five games this year). He has some things to learn in his own zone, but I think that is typical of most young defenseman. I’ll look forward to seeing this guy on the Nationwide ice soon.

Up next, the goaltenders.

Also, I’ve updated the link list on the sidebar. I’ve added CasonBlog (a good Hurricanes weblog), Jes Golbez’s Hockey Rants (good eye on NHL and international hockey), and Behind the Jersey (a Red Wings fan who has a great Behind the Blog feature interviewing other hockey bloggers).



  1. I think Duvie is a keeper. “Rusty” get’s way too much glow. I wonder about that clubhouse dymanic with Foote and Federov.

  2. Having seen short-time Jacket Francois Bauchemin play so well for the Ducks this season, I will be extremely upset if the vaunted Mr. MacLean lets Duvie get away.

    Rusty is an enigma. As a devotee of the team from the moment the franchise was announced, it’s too easy to get caught up in the hype of him being our first draft pick ever. I tried to preach patience to myself, repeating the oft-heard mantra that defense is the toughest position to learn in the NHL. Still, he’s had quite a few full seasons of play and only a few dozen games where he actually looked good. My hope is that he turns into a top 4 guy, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

  3. […] Fast forward three years.  The blueline is still suspect (did we really re-sign Anders Erickkson???), Duvie is an established blueliner who I think will be the best defenseman in the Jackets’ system within two years, and Walser will be hoping to break into the rotation with the Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes.  Judging from the blurb on Walser over at TSN.ca, I think I made a pretty good assessment (there is a first time for everything).  Hopefully everything will work out for Derrick in Carolina.  Cason, Penalty Killer… your thoughts? […]

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