The season was 2019-2020. A disproportionate number of Columbus Blue Jackets were dropping like flies with injuries. The Cleveland Monsters were riding the I-71 express to fully ice our NHL team. New faces and expectations were both unfamiliar and uncertain. Yet, the Blue Jackets kept winning. And winning. That was, until Seth Jones fractured his foot while crashing the net during the first period against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb 11, 2020. Sure, Jones would continue to play for a game total of 23 minutes and score the team’s only goal in the second period with a broken foot, but he would not return to the line-up for the final 14 games of the season. Soon after that fateful game, the Blue Jackets began to lose. Sportscasters called Jones’ injury “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” but I disagree. The camel would have collapsed much earlier had Jones been injured because he’s that good and that important to the success of our team. While the Monsters no doubt rose to the occasion, Jones was the steady finger on the leak that prevented the whole team from flooding.
There’s a reason Minnesota Wild’s Coach Bruce Boudreau threw a tantrum when Jones did not sit a game after being selected but ultimately missed the 2018 NHL All-Star Game. Jones is very skilled. Tough. Positionally sound. Scores. BIG. Unlike a few other Blue Jackets I’ve had the luck seeing out in the community, I once passed Jones in a grocery parking lot and his 6’4”, 209 lb frame commands a large physical presence. Ever since arriving to Columbus in 2016 in exchange for a disgruntled Ryan Johansen, his presence on the ice has been a game changer. His pairing with our other defensive star, Zack Werenski, gives our defense a national reputation. Unlike other star Blue Jackets that ride the pine, Jones gets to play a lot. He consistently ranks in the top 10 NHL defensemen for ice time, averaging 25:17 minutes per contest in 2019-2020 and 25:14 minutes in 2020-2021. He holds the NHL record for most TOI in a single game: 65 minutes and 6 seconds on August 11, 2020 versus the Tampa Bay Lightning (during the 4th longest game ever played in NHL history). When games become harried, my family shouts for Jones to get back on the ice. Kudos to John Tortorella and the staff for his development.
All professional hockey players are good skaters, but Jones is an exceptional skater. He’s also fast. When Patrick Kane was asked about his fastest teammate on Team North America for 2016’s World Cup of Hockey, he answered Seth Jones. Sergei Bobrovsky no doubt had an eye-opener of a season when Jones was no longer in front of him. The fact that he hasn’t won or even been a finalist for the Norris Trophy is just plain wrong.
Seth Jones 2021 Stats
Games Played: 56
5v5 CF%: 48.4
5v5 FF%: 48.0
Just like the team overall, there’s currently quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding Jones. Unfortunately, he will be an unrestricted free agent in 14 months. Seth Jones could sign an extension with the Blue Jackets starting July 1. If he fails to sign an extension, some suggest the team forego the same lame duck status of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky and move him rather than (PTSD alert) lose him for nothing. The return should be significant. The new coaching hire will likely play a key role in Jones’ decision; meeting your new boss is always a good idea before signing a contract. Rumor has it that negotiations include elevating Jones from alternate captain to captain status, and I say go for it. Management 101: promotion is a key driver of employee retention. Jarmo Kekalainen needs to try a new tactic and incentivize our star players. His most recent remarks indicate he’s learned this valuable lesson. Either way, the decisions and management’s demeanor surrounding Jones’ contract negotiations likely will impact the success of this team for years to come.
CBJ franchise game winning goals by a defensemen: 1st place with 12
CBJ franchise defenseman goals: 2nd place with 50 (Werenski is 1st with 65)
CBJ franchise average TOI per contest: 1st place at 24:46
CBJ franchise career point total: 5th place at 286
NHL most overtime goals: 50th place (Connor McDavid is 46th, for perspective)
Anytime he puts Tom Wilson in his place
Stats aside, he genuinely seems like a nice, unassuming individual. Wouldn’t it be nice if the most honored colleague at your place of work was humble? Unheard-of. He’s tough, but not dirty or malicious, and uses his strength judiciously. He can carry the puck into the neutral zone. He’s one of the few Blue Jackets to be chosen for national marketing campaigns, and he should already be a local media phenom. I’ve never heard him bad mouth another player, the team, or the city. He cooks for his teammates. He even wrote a note to his mom telling her he’d never leave her, even if he made the NHL. I just can’t stand it! He also proves you don’t need to grow up in the north to make the big time (Jones grew up in Colorado and Texas), which helps inspire overall growth and direction of youth hockey in the US. It’s no wonder he was chosen to help the NHL and NHLPA unveil their Declaration of Principles in 2017, which guides the development of youth and grassroots hockey. If I had to choose a professional hockey player for my own son to emulate, it would be Seth Jones.
Despite the aforementioned time away for foot surgery, many might say the low point has been this year with his worst +/- since his 2013/2014 rookie season. His stats were down compared to the 2019-2020 regular season, during which he tallied 6 goals, 24 assists, 30 points, and a +/- of 10 in the same amount of games. Using the eye test, this season he seemed less powerful, more hesitant on the ice. Having his defensive partner Zach Werenski playing throughout the season with an injury and ultimately being placed on reserve for hernia surgery in early April likely did not help. He also often partnered with Michael del Zotto, which is a new pairing for Jones, and coordination and chemistry take time.
While I too have missed his signature overtime scoring, the real low point would be if Seth Jones did not renew his contract with the Blue Jackets and decided on free agency after the 2021-2022 season. Either way, it’s been a privilege watching him play for the Blue Jackets and I wish him much success regardless of his decision.