Last week, John Tortorella told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline that he hopes the Max Domi trade can help the Blue Jackets open up their offense.
Tortorella believes Domi trade could open up Blue Jackets’ offense
During that interview with Portzline (sub required), Tortorella hoped that Blue Jackets team that “worked so hard to score a goal” in 2019-20 might enjoy a few more of those “Bang! It’s in the net”-type plays.
(That’s only slightly paraphrased from Torts.)
“ … This is the next step for this team, and I think having Domi there in our top six and on the power play can really help us,” Tortorella said to Portzline. We believe in our goalies now. We’ve got four top defensemen. We know how to play defense, with our forwards and defensemen. Now we have to open ourselves up more and try to make something more happen offensively, and we can do that.”
Via Portzline, Tortorella envisions Domi with Gustav Nyquist or Nick Foligno on a second line with Cam Atkinson. Meanwhile, a first line could be something like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexandre Texier, and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Naturally, such lines can change from day to day in training camp, let alone during the rigors of a season. But it’s still interesting to learn how Tortorella at least pictures things. (On a similar note … Nyquist – Domi – Atkinson sort of sounds more like a top line than the other one, am I right? Maybe? I guess it’s semantics, mostly.)
Why that might be true, and why this might not work
At worst, Tortorella is saying all the right things about how Domi might change the Blue Jackets for the better.
Where Josh Anderson could give the Canadiens the size and snarl they believe they lack on offense, Domi could inject speed and creativity into Columbus’ mix. It’s fun to picture Domi and Nyquist picking apart defenders with their precision passing. Although, maybe such skills might be best spread throughout the Blue Jackets’ offense?
One of the reasons why I loved the Nyquist signing for the Jackets last year. Doesn't matter who his linemate was. pic.twitter.com/IMIJJ5VE1e
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) October 14, 2020
Ideally, the Blue Jackets could maintain much of their stingy defense, while becoming more dangerous offensively.
After all, as much as the Lightning dominated the puck during their series during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, every Columbus loss was by a single goal. That included two overtime losses, highlighted by that historic five-OT Game 1. Would a little bit of offense nudged Columbus over the finish line at key times?
But, of course, it’s rare for things to go exactly as planned once you get on the ice.
While Tortorella praised Domi’s attitude to Portzline, the speedy playmaker also is the type of player who can drive coaches crazy. Even the less … fiery ones than Torts.
Simply put, Domi’s career so far indicates that you must take the good with the bad (and plenty of both). This multiseason Evolving Hockey RAPM chart is one way to see how Domi is a double-edged sword of dynamic offense and sometimes-dismal defense:
Come on, doesn’t that chart scream “Player who will make Tortorella mad enough to get fined during a press conference?”
Will Domi fit, or will Torts throw fits? (Maybe both?)
In the past, Tortorella hasn’t been shy to clash with a player like, say, Anthony Duclair.
Perhaps that’s part of the fun, though. If you’re not a Blue Jackets fan, maybe you grab your popcorn and just wait for Domi and Torts to have tensions blow over?
A lot can change for the Blue Jackets even beyond Domi fitting in nicely or being stuck in Tortorella’s doghouse. Their goaltending could collapse a year later than people wondered. Yet things could also all come together; at minimum, it’s easy to imagine Domi helping Columbus improve on a power play that only scored at 16.4-percent success rate.
Either way, it should be interesting to watch, whether it’s during a Domi rush or a Tortorella tantrum.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.