When Dan Boyle officially retired last week, his former coach in Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, called him the “engine” of the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Lightning squad.
Boyle had an outstanding career as an NHL defenseman, putting up 605 points in 1,093 games.
So it’s interesting that Tortorella chose to use the same metaphor in describing his young defense in Columbus.
“That’s our engine,” Tortorella said of Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, and training-camp surprise Markus Nutivaara, per the Columbus Dispatch.
“We can’t wait to work with them through it. There are going to be some struggles with it, but to see the youth and the legs and the puck skills … When you understand the big picture of what we’re going through, it’s exciting.”
The Blue Jackets’ back end was a major weakness last year, to the point they traded their franchise center, Ryan Johansen, to get Jones out of Nashville.
Now, all of a sudden, the future of the defense looks extremely bright. Murray is still only 23; Jones and Nutivaara are 22; Werenski is just 19.
To be sure, the Jackets are still expected to struggle this season. The defense is talented but inexperienced, and the forward group is less than impressive. If there’s any hope for a playoff spot, it’s that Sergei Bobrovsky can stand on his head in goal.
But long term, there’s optimism.
“Within our organization, and some didn’t come to camp, there’s some good speed and skill to get up the ice coming from our back end,” Tortorella said, per the Dispatch, recently. “We have youth in that situation. I don’t think it’s all going to come together right away, but the progression of this is very encouraging.”