Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Adam Clendening's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: Oct. 26, 1992
Height/Weight: 6-0, 196
Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 4 GP, 0-0-0, 0.1 PS
Contract: Signed through 2020-21 season
The Blue Jackets' season ended before the franchise wanted it to, but one thing could very well live on from the playoff run that included a trip to the second round.
As injuries mounted on the defensive end, the Columbus brain trust found out a lot about its depth on the blue line. Dean Kukan, Scott Harrington and Adam Clendening all looked good in the postseason, when the lights were the brightest, as the Blue Jackets were without three key defensemen.
It wasn't a huge surprise for Harrington, who played in a career high 73 games, or Kukan, who debuted in 2015-16 with Columbus and was with the squad most of the season. But the play of Clendening was eye-catching if only because he spent most of the year with AHL Cleveland.
After a journeyman career for the second rounder since his NHL debut in 2014-15, Clendening stepped into the playoffs and was impressive. His play was rewarded with a two-year contract this offseason, which will be a two-way deal this upcoming campaign before becoming a one-way contract in 2020-21.
Entering the season: Clendening was an under-the-radar signing as he was brought in last July to add depth to the Blue Jackets' blue line. With plenty of experience under his belt, he was to be looked to as someone who could step right into the mix if need be while also providing veteran leadership and good skill at the AHL level.
What happened: The Boston University product spent most of the year at the AHL level and put up impressive stats with Cleveland, scoring four goals and adding 33 assists for 37 points in just 45 games. Clendening also was key depth for the Blue Jackets early in the year when injuries racked up, as he played four games with Columbus in October without a point while posting a plus-1 rating.
But his real contribution came in the postseason. The Blue Jackets needed defensive help down the stretch when Adam McQuaid and Ryan Murray went down, so Clendening split time with Columbus and Cleveland as the postseason began before stepping into the lineup in Game 3 of the Tampa Bay series when Markus Nutivaara was injured late in Game 2.
If it was an out of the frying pan, into the fire type of situation, Clendening never looked panicked and was a key part of closing out the Tampa Bay series. He ended up playing in seven postseason games, notching an assist, nine shots on goal and a plus-1 rating. Clendening was on the ice for just one goal allowed in those seven games.
"Adam Clendening was very good for the limited role that he played in, but there was no fear in his play," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He plays with great confidence with the puck and made some great plays and was very dependable for a guy that was a little bit down on our depth chart and played most of the year in Cleveland.
"I thought he had a great season in Cleveland. I had a couple of conversations with him during the year, 'Stay with it, stay with it,' because he was playing so well in the minors. Every game that I saw there, he kind of stuck out. He was at a level above the regular American League defenseman. You could tell he had the potential to play on a high level in pretty much every game I watched in Cleveland this year. Finally he got a chance in the most fun part of the year and he did great."
Clendening's impact on the Tampa Bay series was largely from his smart play, including a simple understanding of what to do in the offensive zone -- get the puck on net. A number of his shots from the point created havoc, and his lone point in the series was a brilliant pass early in the Game 4 clincher. With the Jackets already up 1-0 early, he got the puck at the right point and spotted Oliver Bjorkstrand cutting open to the net. Clendening's picture-perfect pass was one-timed just wide, but it came off the boards hot and Pierre-Luc Dubois tucked the rebound home to make it 2-0 and set off the CBJ on the victory.
Video: TBL@CBJ, Gm4: Dubois backhands puck past Vasilevskiy
By the Numbers
6: Clendening had played 86 NHL games with six teams before signing with Columbus -- Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Arizona and the New York Rangers.
11: Over 90 career NHL games, Clendening is plus-11.
9: Clendening's 33 assists placed ninth in the AHL during the regular season despite the fact he played just 45 games, lowest among the top 10 assist earners in the league.