The defense has been called the Blue Jackets' strength as the season begins. But does it measure up with the rest of the NHL?

It has been called the best defense in club history, but what does that really say for a franchise whose search for elite defensemen has been as prolonged as its search for a No.?1 center?

Say this: The Blue Jackets have invested millions and swung a series of significant trades during the past 18 months with an eye toward improving their defense.

"We think it's a very good group of players, the strength of the team, and this club's foundation, absolutely," general manager Scott Howson said. "We've made a commitment to be strong back there, because that's where it starts with every good hockey team.That's where it has to start for us, and we've identified that as an organization."

In Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin, the Blue Jackets think their top two pairs are solid.

In Adrian Aucoin, the Jackets have a veteran of 1,072 NHL games and 20 seasons who can still play on a third pairing, sharing his wily tricks with others.

In John Moore, Tim Erixon, David Savard and Ryan Murray, the Jackets have a cupboard of young talent pushing its way to the NHL. (Murray, the No. 2 overall pick last June, is out for the season after having shoulder surgery.)

"You're talking about a group of guys with a lot of talent and a willingness to work hard and set the tone for the rest of the club," said Johnson, who was acquired last February in a trade with Los Angeles.

"When I came here, I saw it as a great opportunity to maybe take a step forward with my career. And I think the other guys would say the same thing. When you hear coaches say that the defense is the strength of our club, I think we take it to heart. We see it as a responsibility — all of us — to be as good as we can be, every night."