Please understand that I am writing this as a former fan of the Hartford Whalers.
The Jeff Carter-to-the-Blue Jackets situation has intrigued me from day 1. You remember that day right? That was the day that Carter pretty much barricaded himself in his home and refused to speak to anyone. Speculation abound that he was not just unhappy he was traded by a Phliadelphia team to which he was signed to a long-term deal (and whose GM told him he wouldn't be traded), but unhappy that he was going to Columbus.
That speculation continues to this day. Some fans will point out what they call "laziness" or "soft" shifts. They wonder if Carter's attitude towards being a member of the woefully inept Columbus Blue Jackets, away from the bright lights of the big city night life, is reflected in his on-ice performance. Coaches, the GM, and players would never say this were the case. Carter himself would never admit this (at least he has not yet). But for me, and some other fans, I have to wonder.
I've seen this situation before. Before the 1995-1996 season, Brendan Shanahan was traded from the St. Louis Blues to the Hartford Whalers for young defenseman Chris Pronger. Whalers fans were ecstatic. Much like Blue Jackets fans were when they heard the news that all star Jeff Carter was on the way to Columbus. This was the all star, goal scoring machine that was going to bring the Whalers to a level of respectability.
The Whalers, just like the current Blue Jackets', did not have the season they expected. They did not make the playoffs. It was yet another year of frustration for those who bled green. Shanahan didn't say much during that losing season. He went about his business, performed his duties as the team captain, scored his goals (44 to be exact), and represented the Whale as an all star that season.
Then the summer came around. Shanahan decided he had had enough. Small market Hartford, with its team of perennial losers, was not for him. It was before the start of the 1996-1997 season that Brendan Shanahan requested a trade.
Shanahan played two more games for the Whale in the 1996-1997 season before his request was granted. He was shipped off to Detroit for Keith Primeau and Paul Coffey. Coffey HATED Hartford and requested a trade too, but that's a different story.
The point is that I can see Carter pulling a Brendan Shanahan. We have no way of knowing if he is truly unhappy as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But there is a lot speculation that he is. So let's just say for discussion's sake that this is true. The Blue Jackets are going nowhere this year. Their season is shot. At this moment, there isn't any reason to bet on a huge turnaround next year. The Blue Jackets don't exactly have a stellar playoff history. Columbus has also yet to establish itself as a hockey hotbed draw for big name free agents (years of losing will cause that).
If he truly is unhappy, what's going to stop him from requesting a trade? His contract is a desirable one (hey, we signed him). He obviously has talent. Carter could very easily, in my opinion, get his wish if he wants out. I would think there'd be plenty of takers. He could move on.
I would have loved to end this blog entry with this sentence: I hope he does not. But I can't do that. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about him as a member of the Blue Jackets. He has talent, there's no doubt about that. His shot is wicked. I'm just not sure about his style and attitude and how those aspects of his game fit into the long term plans of the Jackets. But then again, the Jackets seem to be clueless about their long term plans and identity right now anyway. So who knows.
But I can definitely see the similarities between Brendan Shanahan circa 1995 and Jeff Carter 2011 and the teams/cities for which they play(ed). If Carter does want out, I just hope his return value equals or exceeds what the Jackets paid to get him. Please understand, I am not suggesting he DOES want out of Columbus. I'm just saying if that ends up being the case, I won't be surprised. I've seen it before.