Columbus Blue Jackets | Lessons from Justin Danforth

(Columbus) Trick question: who has been the hottest Columbus Blue Jackets forward in the club’s last six games?

Posted at 1:37 p.m.

Simon Olivier Lorange

Simon Olivier Lorange
The Press

Patrick Laine? Oh no. Oliver Bjorkstrand? Not even close. With four goals in the interval, it was Justin Danforth who led the blue jackets.

Unless you diligently follow the activities of the Jackets, this name does not resonate very strongly in the four corners of the league. The Canadiens’ fans have never seen him in action before, because a knee injury deprived him of two duels against the Montrealers.

If we look at his case, it is mainly because of a long and glowing response provided by head coach Brad Larsen after a question about … Josh Anderson.

A little background here: Last Monday, Martin St-Louis elaborated on the individual work he was doing with Anderson.

We know the attacks of the striker, renowned for his physical strength and speed. However, the big winger has been resolutely shy since the beginning of March, with a harvest of only three goals and four points in 17 games. After occupying the right wing of the first line for a few weeks, his coach transferred him to different places in the formation. St-Louis said he wanted Anderson to control his speed better and “study” the game more, even if it meant taking a small step back offensively. A process that requires patience, he added.

Back at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the game between the Canadian and the Blue Jackets. Brad Larsen knows Josh Anderson perfectly well. He was an assistant coach with the Blue Jackets for the Ontarian’s four full seasons at Columbus. “I loved the coach,” he said straight away, praising his human qualities as well as his attributes as a hockey player.

Asked about the profile-changing abilities of a 27-year-old like Anderson, Larsen said that “the minute you stop wanting to improve, another guy is going to pass you.”

And to launch into a long monologue on the famous Justin Danforth.

Tenacity

At 29, the Oshawa native is now finishing his first full season in the NHL. Never drafted, he cut his teeth in the NCAA after four years in Ontario Junior A. After two professional seasons shared between the ECHL and the American League, he crossed the Atlantic, where two campaigns in Finland and another in Russia awaited him. His 55 points in 58 games with Vityaz in Podolsk made him the sixth KHL scorer in 2020-21, which earned him his first-ever NHL contract, in Columbus.

“He had a decent training camp, but I sent him back to the American League,” Brad Larsen said. I wanted him to change things, especially in terms of tenacity. He played in the center, but I saw him more on the wing. He had to find a use for himself, because he wasn’t going to crack our top-6. »

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound small forward took note of the remarks made to him and headed to Cleveland, home of the Monsters, the Blue Jackets’ farm club. In mid-November, he was recalled to the NHL. And although two injuries slowed him down, he was able to prove himself as a must.

“He fought to come back,” Larsen said. He is more energetic, more physical, which he could not show consistently during the first part of his career. It’s hard, even very hard, to change at this age. But with will and determination, it is possible. »

Danforth has also just signed a two-year contract extension, a sign that his transition has been successful. He now gets ice time on the power play, and he has 11 points, including 9 goals, in 36 games this season. Oh, and he’s now playing center.

“Anyone can improve their game, just don’t be stubborn,” concluded his coach.

If Justin Danforth got there, it’s hard to believe that the adjustments requested by Martin St-Louis are not within Josh Anderson’s reach.

In short

David Savard and Josh Anderson, who played 587 and 267 games respectively in Columbus, will both return to Nationwide Arena for the first time in new uniforms. Savard joined the Habs as a free agent last summer, but Anderson was traded in October 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadiens had still not set foot in Columbus. Judging by the reception recently received by Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson, we can believe that Savard and Anderson will also be entitled to a fine tribute.

Martin St-Louis will make two minor roster changes for Wednesday night’s game. Forward Tyler Pitlick will replace Jesse Ylönen, who was traded to the Laval Rocket, while defenseman Chris Wideman will replace Corey Schueneman, left out. Forwards Laurent Dauphin, Michael Pezzetta and Mathieu Perreault, as well as defenders Kale Clague and William Lagesson, will watch the game in street clothes. Samuel Montembeault will be in net. His opponent will be Elvis Merzlikins.

At least one Columbus Blue Jackets player will play his first NHL game. Defenseman Nick Blankenburg, 23, just finished his college career at Michigan and signed a free agent contract a few days ago. His ex-Michigan teammate, Kent Johnson, the Blue Jackets’ first-round pick in 2021 (5and in total), is also ready to take this next step, but a work visa problem could prevent this Canadian from playing Wednesday night. We will only know during the warm-up period if the center player will live his baptism or not.

Leave a Comment