NHL

Blue Jackets Notebook Commodore out of lineup

FOX Sports Tom Reed, The Columbus Dispatch, The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
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One thing is becoming evident about Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel: He is choosing lineups based on player competition, not compensation.

Arniel scratched Mike Commodore, the franchise's highest-paid defenseman, for the home opener last night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As training camp opened, the new coach vowed the players deemed most worthy of ice time would get to play. Arniel benched veteran winger Chris Clark -- he's earning $2.5 million this season -- for the first two games and sat out Commodore against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Commodore, 30, is making $3.8 million this season.

The coach said Commodore's status is not the result of poor conditioning, an issue that dogged him last season. He arrived at camp in better shape, but his mobility remains an issue, especially in a system that encourages defensemen to jump into the rush.

"(Commodore) did lots of good things (in training camp), but I felt some other people were a little bit better," Arniel said. "Against this Chicago team, I wanted some people who could move a little quicker. ... Sometimes, it's the matchup of the team you are playing against, and I felt we want to use some people with a little more mobility."

Marc Methot, a strong skater who entered camp as the seventh defenseman, seems to have moved at least temporarily ahead of Commodore on the depth chart.

Methot, 25, played well in both games against San Jose in Sweden. In his third full season with the Jackets, Arniel sees a big-bodied defender growing more comfortable in his role.

"To me, it looks like he has great confidence in himself and his abilities," Arniel said. "He is showing a willingness to lug the puck end to end, and I have never seen him do that before. He has a physical presence and a real good stick. Right now, he's running with confidence."

Commodore, normally one of the league's most quotable players, did not want to discuss the matter.

"If you are going to ask, don't bother because I have nothing to say," he said.

Arniel informed Commodore of his decision Thursday. Commodore played in both games against the Sharks and had a tough night Saturday in the 3-2 overtime win.

It's believed Commodore would have been scratched on opening night had defenseman Kris Russell been healthy enough to play. Arniel had seven defensemen in uniform for the second game with Russell returning from a knee sprain.

Commodore watched from the press box several times last season, but it was mostly for fitness and health issues. Nobody can recall the Blue Jackets benching a player of his salary.

How would Commodore, part of the club's top defensive pairing two seasons ago, handle being the odd man out if everyone is healthy?

"In our meeting yesterday, I told him it's a long year, things happen and it could be as quick as tomorrow going back into the lineup." Arniel said. "He is like any player, he's upset that he's not playing. In the home opener, I'm certain he would like to be in the lineup. But he's a veteran guy, he will handle it all right."

Slap shots

Clark returned to the lineup in place of an injured Jared Boll (lower back). ... The Blackhawks were without star winger Patrick Kane because of illness.

treed@dispatch.com

Tagged: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Mike Commodore

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