Players and fans in Columbus have spent the summer eagerly anticipating the new: a new season, a new mindset, a new standard of excellence for Blue Jackets hockey.
For those that are sentimentalists and struggle with change, take solace in one of the few inevitable truths in life -- Fedor Tyutin will be patrolling the blue line at Nationwide Arena this season.
Tyutin has been a Blue Jackets staple since his arrival in Columbus in the summer of 2008, a consistent presence for a Blue Jackets defense that has undergone a number of changes during his time here. Tyutin has always fit into those plans for management.
He’s the second-longest tenured player on the Jackets current roster, arriving one season after Jared Boll broke into the NHL. During that time, the Jackets’ defense has faced almost two complete overhauls. In total, the Jackets have dressed 33 different defensemen since the start of the 2008 season, but Tyutin has been the constant presence.
“Good defensemen are hard to find. And for most teams, once they find good defensemen, they hang on to them,” said teammate Jack Johnson. “He’s a great player.”
That’s meant a lot of different defense partners for Tyutin, but a steady performance nonetheless.
“I think in the league these days, it’s part of the game. Not too many defense pairings stay together for a long time,” said Tyutin. “I don’t think it’s a big deal who you play with. If the guy has made it to this point, he’s a good player.”
Tyutin prefers not to talk about himself, instead going about his business and leading by example. With a quiet persona, he has quietly put together a solid career resume that, by the end, could make him one of the steadiest and most consistent players in Blue Jackets history.
He ranks fifth all-time in games played for the organization with 425, and he should surpass RJ Umberger for fourth on that list by late November. He ranks third all-time in assists (132) and seventh in points (167).
And it has been a roller coaster at times for Tyutin. In his first season in Columbus, the Jackets made their first-ever playoff appearance. The Jackets followed that year with one of their more disappointing seasons, finishing 14th in the Western Conference in 2010 and failing to take the next step towards postseason success.
Now the Jackets are back in the playoff mix once more, and Tyutin understands how difficult it is to climb that mountain to winning hockey once again.
“I think it’s harder when you have a good season to have another good season,” Tyutin said. “Other teams are playing harder against you when you’re coming off a good season. There have been tough times here, but fortunately the team is on the right path now and we’ve got to keep working.
“You can sense in the city that people are excited about the new season. Everyone can’t wait until the season starts. It’s going to be great.”
The Jackets open their home schedule against the Rangers on Oct. 11, a team that has become one of the Jackets’ biggest rivals thanks in part to a move to the Metropolitan Division last season and also the trade activity between the two teams in recent years, most notably the deal that sent ex-captain Rick Nash to New York.
It’s easy to forget that the first Jackets-Rangers deal was also significant. The Rangers sent Tyutin to Columbus as a young, steady, and promising defender. The Blue Jackets parted ways with Nikolay Zherdev, gifted offensively but displaying inconsistency defensively.
It’s normal for any player to have a grudge against the team that sent him away, and the growing rivalry between Columbus and New York suits Tyutin just fine.
“You have a little extra when you play against them," Tyutin said. "It’s no secret that you feel a little bit like they didn’t want you when you get traded. I think that’s good though. It’s good for the fans, good for the game, and it’s a natural thing I think.”
Hockey is a game of constant change, and as the adage goes, “If you stay the same, you’ve gotten worse.”
Tyutin has played for four different coaches in Columbus, and now two different general managers. And no matter who was looking to put together a winning puzzle, Tyutin was considered an important piece.