Returning to Bridgestone Arena tomorrow night for the first time this season and the second time since he was traded by the Predators for Ryan Johansen, Seth Jones is no longer playing on Nashville ice as a third pair defenseman, but as a bona fide first pairing All-Star.
Looking back on how restricted Seth Jones was in Nashville, his transition to stardom makes a significant amount of sense. Despite having the talent to be a second-pairing defenseman, both Shea Weber and Ryan Ellis occupied the first two right-handed defensemen positions. In attempts to get Jones more playing time, Head Coach Peter Laviolette would sometimes try and have Seth Jones play left defenseman, forcing him to make plays on his backhand. Once Mattias Ekholm and Ellis became an inseparable pair with wonderful chemistry, Seth Jones was left to pick up the scraps of minutes left behind with Barret Jackman on the third pairing. At 21 years old and into his third season in the NHL, Seth Jones was going nowhere quickly.
January 6th, 2016
Suddenly, the fates and careers of two young NHL players were drastically changed, as David Poile finally acquired the missing first-line center that the Predators had desperately needed for years. Ryan Johansen, who the Columbus media loved to vilify and use as a scapegoat, was added to the Predators roster. The price of such a player would be no less than Seth Jones.
Ryan Johansen ran into Seth Jones at the airport right after they were traded for each other https://t.co/lkgFyrcQTb pic.twitter.com/Cu6FMtOTD2— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 7, 2016
While the Columbus Blue Jackets significantly upgraded their lineup according to the famed handsome/60 statistic, they were importantly receiving a player with the potential to be a true first pairing defenseman. Throughout their history, the Blue Jackets had failed to produce such a player. The most recent example of a failed attempt would be Ryan Murray, whose injury-plagued seasons had significantly deterred his development. This season, although injury free, has not shown that Murray can take the next step. As such, Seth Jones was just the kind of player that the Blue Jackets wanted.
Immediately jumping from Nashville’s third pairing into the Columbus first pair, there were certainly growing pains. Sometimes the Columbus media would describe him as being inconsistent, but what else should one expect of a 21-year-old suddenly playing on the first pair? Instead of playing 12 minutes per night, Seth Jones saw his average time on ice spike to over 24 minutes.
Since March 26th, 2016
On Saturday March 26th, 2016, Seth Jones took the ice in Nashville wearing the logo of another team for the first time in his career. While his Blue Jackets were floundering near the basement of the NHL, they actually had a nice stretch of play near the end of the season that pulled them out of the basement and provided some foreshadowing of what would later come. Meanwhile, the Predators were gearing up for the playoffs with a wild card spot nearly wrapped up. While Seth watched the playoffs from a TV, Ryan Johansen helped the Predators pull past the Anaheim Ducks until eventually falling to the San Jose Sharks.
However, since the current season began, Seth Jones and the Blue Jackets have taken off. Although they had been utterly inept at developing their own first pairing defensemen, the Blue Jackets discovered that they hit a home run with the left handed Zach Werenski. In having the 19-year-old Werenski and now 22-year-old Jones as their first pairing, not only do the Blue Jackets have the youngest top pairing on defense in the league, but one of the most talented. These two defensemen could easily be Team USA’s top defensive pair in a matter of years, and they’re developing their chemistry under Team USA’s head coach in John Tortorella. The potential that Seth Jones and Zach Werenski have as a duo is immeasurable.
Seth Jones briefly fought through a broken foot in November, but has otherwise been stellar this season. With 22 points in 42 games, Seth is making his impact known on the ice, which he really should be doing considering he is averaging 23:20 in ice time this season. In three of his last four games, Seth has logged over 25 minutes. He is doing everything that could be asked of a defenseman: powerplay, penalty kill, playing in the overtime. Seth Jones is really doing everything and, more importantly, doing everything well. Accordingly, he was recently recognized for his play and was nominated to the All-Star game coming up in Los Angeles.
Even when the Blue Jackets have been losing, Seth has maintained his composure. One of his best games all season was a recent 2-0 loss last Thursday at home to the Ottawa Senators. The game spiraled out of control in the third period with Dion Phaneuf being every bit of a Corey Perry impersonation and igniting brawl after brawl between the two teams. While most of the Blue Jackets looked fazed and suffered from a lack of concentration, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski kept their composure. Normally one doesn’t associate young NHL defensemen with stoicism, but they kept their cool and continued driving their team forward. In the waining minutes, Seth Jones ripped a shot from the point that came within millimeters of entering the net. Although they lost, Seth played like a composed 27-year-old veteran instead of the 22-year-old he is.
January 26th, 2017
In returning to Nashville tomorrow night, fans will be welcoming back a player who really was not given the tools to succeed but always held himself in a composed and noble manner. Give a loud ovation for #3, Seth Jones.