The Big Four
Rostislav Klesla is now 25, and the former No. 4 overall draft pick has emerged as the anchor of this unit. He scored 13 points in 75 games last season and was minus-13. Adam Foote is the captain and he’s tired of losing in Columbus, but he appeared in only 59 games last season in which the generally responsible defender was a minus-17. Ron Hainsey is also a big body at 6-foot-3 and has developed into a solid NHL defender after the Jackets picked him off waivers two years ago. Rounding out the top four defenseman will probably be 29-year-old Duvie Westcott who missed the last 40 games because of concussion problems.
When healthy, this is a reliable defense corps. Problem is, they haven’t been able to stay out of the trainer’s room.
Get the point
Hainsey led all Jackets defensemen with seven power-play goals last season, and he’ll be on the point again. Klesla and Foote are known more for their hitting and play in their own zone than for their offense, but each scored twice on the power play.
In the Wings
Sheldon Brookbank-- He’s more of an enforcer than anything else, but Brookbank is also a steady, responsible defenseman who played in three games with the Jackets last season. The 26-year-old brings an edge to the blue line, and after scoring 15 goals and 38 points last season with Milwaukee, he’ll get a shot at an NHL job. He was signed as a free agent this summer after being named the AHL’s outstanding defenseman in 2006-07.
Marc Methot -- This sixth-round pick in 2003 has developed into a guy who has a shot to see some action with Columbus this season. The 22-year-old Ottawa native is a 6-foot-3 stay-at-home type who got to play in 20 games with the big club last season; he had four assists and was a plus-5 — no mean achievement on a team where most defensemen were in the red. In 59 games with AHL Syracuse, he had a goal and 16 points and was plus-13.
Kris Russell -- A third-round pick from 2005, this 20-year-old has a lot of offensive skill and plays with confidence beyond his years. He was voted CHL Defenseman of the Year last season after scoring 32 goals and 69 points in 59 games with Medicine Hat. He was also plus-14. The Blue Jackets recently returned Russell to his junior team for more seasoning.
Adam Foote -- The 36-year-old, a two-time Cup winner in Colorado, says he’s on a mission to dramatically change the atmosphere in Columbus. But in order to make that kind of impact, the captain is going to have to stay healthy. The Jackets have a lot of young guys coming up and will rely on veterans like Foote to help them along. Columbus defensemen as a group have underachieved in recent seasons, and Foote’s absence from the lineup for 23 games last season didn’t help.