Seth Jones Got Better As the Season Went on and Remains Crucial to the Future of the Franchise

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Seth Jones Got Better As the Season Went on and Remains Crucial to the Future of the Franchise

Chicago Blackhawks

After the Blackhawks traded Adam Boqvist and a package of draft picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones (and then extended him on an eight-year, $76 million deal), many fans expected the world of Jones this season. Understandably so. The Blackhawks traded a haul for Jones (it doesn’t help that Boqvist scored 11 goals for the Blue Jackets this season) and then backed up the Brinks truck to keep him around.

Throw in the pre-season expectations (however misguided), and you’ve set the scene for what would become the Seth Jones bashing tour on social media this season.

The Blackhawks struggled mightily out of the gates, the season went to crap quickly, and Seth Jones did not look good early on. Personally, I attribute many of Jones’ struggles to simply trying to do too much. Jones sold out often as he tried to help save the Blackhawks’ rapidly sinking season in the early going. Still, he’d be the first person to tell you that he had a rough go of it this year. He isn’t the excuse-making type, even after being made a martyr for the Blackhawks’ defensive struggles.

While the angst for Jones and his extension persisted throughout the season, his struggles did not. Jones finished the year with 51 points, his second highest point total overall and highest since the 2017-18 season (57). The majority of Jones’ scoring came via a career-best 46 assists, which ranked 9th among all defensemen.

If I could pick one thing that I wish Jones did better this season, it would be actually to shoot the puck. We’ll get back to that, though. This season 19 of Jones’ 51 points came on the power play, where he spent much of the year in the quarterback role on the top power play line. Jones’ 19 points on the man-advantage rank 19th among NHL defensemen.

This is important because Kyle Davidson sees Jones not only as their top defenseman moving forward, he sees him as a vital piece of a power-play attack that has plenty of room to grow after ranking 21st in the NHL this season.

However, Davidson (and Jones) agree that Jones needs to shoot the puck more moving forward.

“Yeah, definitely, he’s going to be in that role. He’s gonna be that defenseman on the power play, he’s our number one defenseman, he’s our number one defenseman moving forward, and part of that, in my opinion, is playing the power play. I think that it’s something that we talk about, and he agrees; we want him to shoot the puck more and be more of a threat. That’s something that we’ll work on. Again, that’s coaching. That’s philosophy as well. I think that’s something we definitely want from him and something he want’s for himself too, so we’re very aligned in that.”

Whether you like Jones’ contract or you think he’s worth the deal, Jones is here to stay, and he’s going to be a big part of the Blackhawks’ rebuild if Kyle Davidson has his way.

“My discussion with Seth has been much like with Jonathan [Toews] and Patrick [Kane]; very open, very transparent with what we’re doing, and he’s committed. So, we’re committed to him, and he’s committed to us, and you know, he did take on a bigger leadership role this year, which was great to see. Look, he’s an unbelievable player, he’s going to be here for a long time, and we’re really lucky to have him and have him grow in some of the areas as we grow as a team too, and that includes the leadership department.”

Jones stepped into a leadership role when the team was in a free-fall early in the season after a historically bad start and then the release of the Jenner & Block report. Still, for as many good things as Jones did this season, he’s not happy with the way the 2021-22 season played out, and he’s looking forward to cleansing the bad taste left in his mouth.

“It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth overall,” Jones said after the Blackhawks season finale in Buffalo. “I think the competitive nature and myself and all of us is to be ready for next year. Come back with a chip on our shoulder. All the guys in the locker room will stick together, but it goes from there. This summer it starts with training, it starts with camp. We can’t wait for the season to come like we did this year.”

One thing that will be of particular importance for Kyle Davidson in his search for a new head coach this summer will be simplicity within the system, particularly the defensive zone coverage. Jeremy Colliton’s system was, uh, unique. Blackhawks legend Duncan Keith indirectly summed it up as paralysis by analysis when he compared Joel Quenneville’s system versus Colliton’s on a 2019 episode of the Spittin’ Chicklets Podcast.

Davidson was asked on Tuesday what type of system he would prefer, and Davidson smartly deferred the x’s and o’s to the head coach, whomever that may be in the end. Davidson did, however, state that simplicity is something he values, so that will likely be a consideration in his impending interviews with candidates for the Blackhawks’ permanent head coaching gig.

“It’s a good question, and it’s something that I’ve given a lot of thought to. In general, I don’t have a specific system that I would prefer they play because, in the end, that’s a coaching decision. It will be a discussion with the front office as well, but as a general comment, I think simplicity is sometimes better. If you know what exactly you’re in charge of and you’re not maybe having to move around the zone more than you have to, it’s just easier on everyone if things are simplified, and there’s less thinking out there and a little more reacting.

“I think that’s a lot easier on the players. We play some really great teams and some really great players, and when you’re having to think at a high speed against some of the best players in the world, it’s not going to go well for you. And that goes for any team. And so I think there’s some things we can do to make life easier on our players in the defensive zone, and I think that’s something we’ll look to make changes on as we head into next season.”

Playing in a simplistic system from the jump will help Seth Jones and the rest of the blueliners play a more natural and free version of hockey compared to the one they started the 2021-22 season with, and that will surely pay dividends in seeing some of the early season communication and missed assignment issues be corrected.

You don’t need to tell Seth Jones that he didn’t live up to the hype this season; he’ll be the first to tell you that. But, Jones was drastically better than some would lead you to believe, and he’ll continue to grow as he embraces his leadership role and gets a new system to play in. He might never live up to the contract that Stan Bowman gave him, but that’s done and over with now. As it stands today, the new front office is high on Jones, and Jones is committed to helping the Blackhawks for as long as he’s in town.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.