Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What next?

It's been almost 48 hours since the Rick Nash trade went down.  I've had time to digest and read a plethora (forever grateful to The Three Amigos for that word) of blogs, articles, and twitter comments.  I originally started writing this entry with the intention of giving my opinions about the trade.  I found myself stumbling over words, struggling to find the right way to say what I wanted to say, and simply re-stating what countless other bloggers, columnists, and twitter users have already said.

My entry began to focus more on what the Blue Jackets should do next.  So I deleted a whole bunch of stuff and here we are.  What should be next for the Jackets?

Scott Howson has stated that no other moves are imminent.  This is the same man who fired his coach 2-3 weeks after stating the problem with his team was not the coach.  Plus, there would be no real benefit to announcing "yes, we have several trade possibilities and free agent signings lined up."  My point is that there is no way to know what Howson and the Blue Jackets are thinking.  Are they content with going into the 2012-2013 season with the roster as is?  Or are they "always looking for ways to improve their team" and open to the idea of tweaking a thing or two?

I for one hope that the Jackets are not done yet.  I think the roster, as is, is better than last year's roster, even without Nash.  They remind me of the teams fielded (iced?) by the Jackets during their first few years of existence.  Hard working, blue collar, scrappy, never quit, solid players.  If the 2012-2013 season starts (preferably on time) and the Jackets have not made any other moves, I won't complain too much.  But if they are truly always looking for ways to improve their team, I know what I would do in Howson's position.

1. Bernier.  Get him.  If the price is right of course.  I noticed quite a few people on Twitter and various message boards wondering aloud why some of us Jackets fans are enamored with him.  To that I can say these four words: he's not Steve Mason.  The Nash trade signifies a major culture shift (or at least an attempt at one).  I see Mason as the final piece of '"the old" that needs to go to make room for "the new." See what it takes to get Bernier.  If the price is right, get him.  And before you jump on me, let me say that I understand that there are many difficult hurdles to overcome in order to make it happen.  For example, who would the Kings have as their backup?  Would they take York or McE?  Would the Jackets have to part with another of their goaltending prospects?   Would they take Mason and his unnecessarily expensive contract?  

If not, here's the part that may differ from many other CBJ fans' opinion, send Mason to the AHL.  Put him through waivers and see if anyone bites.  If someone takes him, oh well.  If not, I say hold onto Mason if you can.  Let him be humbled a bit in the minors.  Let him try to rediscover his Calder form.  Mason is still young.  You never know, he could find his game again and either be a future star for the Jackets or become a huge trade asset.  I just think of how Mike Smith was tossed around from Dallas to Tampa to Phoenix and suddenly he's awesome.  Goaltenders can be late bloomers sometimes.  Maybe Mason is just that.  If so, I'd kind of like to have him in the organization to be either a star goaltender for Columbus or as a piece of a trade for other team needs.  

But back to Bernier... I just really like the idea of having two goaltenders with #1 potential battle it out for #1 duties with the Jackets.  Maybe it won't work out, but that's a risk I'd prefer to seeing another year of Steve Mason in between the pipes.  

2. Ryan.  Get him.  If you can.  I think, should Bobby Ryan truly be available through a trade, there is going to be a lot of competition now for his services with Nash off the table.  However, it cannot be overlooked that the Jackets now have a great deal of assets that they might be willing to part with.  If they don't use any of these assets in a trade, great!  More assets for the future!  But if they do, I would love to see them acquire a scorer like Ryan.  I'm not all that familiar with his style of play or attitude, but I do know that his stats are similar to those of one Rick Nash.  There were a lot of line up scenarios posted by fans following the Nash trade.  None of them really blew me away.  I kept thinking how awesome it would be to plug Ryan in to one of those lines.  

Reality has taught me not to do this on many other occasions involving the Blue Jackets, but I can't help but think it's a possibility.  We HAVE assets.  The Ducks COULD use what we have to offer.  Why not us?  Why not the Blue Jackets?  This is not a situation where Ryan is demanding to go to a particular team.  This is a situation where an organization (the Ducks) is considering trading a player.  The organization will want to get the best return for their player.  I honestly think the Jackets may be able to give them the return they are looking for.  

As with the Bernier situation, I am well aware of the complications and hurdles that would hinder such a trade.  It's never as easy as it seems.  But man, it sure makes a whole lot of sense to me.  

3. Semin.  The backup plan.  If the Jackets are unable to acquire Ryan, I say go for Semin IF and only if the contract term is short.  I have no information to back this up and I'm solely basing this on heresay, but I have heard that there are some attitude issues with Semin.  So keep the contract short.  See what you get.  If it doesn't work out, he's gone in a year to two.  In the meantime, you get some much needed offense.  

Just a backup plan.  If the Jackets tried for Bernier and Ryan, failed, and then decided not to go after Semin, I think I'd be okay with that too.  

The good news is that things seem to FINALLY be moving in a positive direction for the CBJ.  At first I was saddened by Rick Nash's trade.  But here I sit and you know how I feel?  Meh.  I'll miss Rick Nash, but I'm excited to see what this reincarnation of the first Jackets will do.  I keep thinking of teams like St. Louis and Florida who had very successful seasons without a true super star.  It's possible!  And I have hope!  But I hope the Jackets consider making the moves I have discussed here too.  Should they happen, I would be 10 times more excited about the upcoming season.  

Go Jackets!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Nash vs. Howson: Who is to blame for this mess?

We Blue Jackets fans are following the Rick Nash saga very closely and a lot of blame is being thrown around.  I was just reading some of the "arguments" on Twitter and hockey message boards.  Some are blaming Rick Nash for this mess.  Others are blaming Scott Howson.  Here's my take...

There is no need for all these senseless arguments.  It is quite clear that both Nash and Howson deserve blame.

Why I blame Nash:

1. He is the captain and leader of the Blue Jackets.  He is giving up on his team. He signed a long term commitment to the Jackets.  He even balked at the Jackets' first offer, demanding more money.  He got his money.  He needs to honor his contract.
2. If he wants out that badly, then he should not be so strict with his list of teams to which he'd accept a trade.  I can understand a list (his no movement clause in his contract grants him that).  I just think his list should be a little more extensive.  Perhaps 10 teams instead of the rumored 5.  *Note: please understand that I am basing my opinions on the current (assumed correct) information floating around the web about this infamous list.  I understand and admit that the information we think is correct may be flawed.

Why I blame Howson:

1. He could not build a winning team.  Had he done so, Nash would not be in this position in the first place. He is 28 and wants to play for a winner.  Can't argue that logic.  Howson has not built a winner and doesn't seem any closer today than he did when he first became GM.  
2. I do not agree with the way he handled the situation.  I don't see how announcing to the media that Rick Nash requested a trade gained him leverage in the trade market.  Other GM's did not need to know that.  I think return value would have been higher if other GM's thought they had to PRY Rick Nash away from the Jackets.

So there you have it.  I just don't get all the arguing.  It's seems pretty crystal clear that there is blame to share on both sides.  Now granted, one can argue that either Nash or Howson deserves MORE blame than the other.  That's completely understandable.  I have my opinion but I won't go into that here.  Okay, I will, it's Howson.  But I also have to say that management must share blame too.  Ownership should have stepped in and fired Howson (and perhaps Priest too) a long time ago.  He has not been able to build a winner and now he is inexplicably being trusted to deal with the biggest name and best player in franchise history.

I am just not confident that this will work out for the Jackets but I hope I am dead wrong.  Prove me wrong, Scott!


Monday, January 16, 2012

If I Were in Charge...

The Blue Jackets are in a state of turmoil.  Nobody knows what the next few weeks or months will bring in terms of personnel changes.  One thing is certain...if I was in charge I would have this ship righted in no time.

Here are the players I would trade (or at least try to) before the deadline:

1. Pahlsson - No brainer.  UFA at season's end. I have been unimpressed with him since day 1. Easily replaceable in my opinion.
2. Vermette - Yes, he's having a down year but maybe we could get something halfway decent for him if other teams recognize his faceoff prowess (and perhaps the idea that he would be a better player on a better team).
3. Prospal - Love the guy, but other teams will too.  Get something for him and then, if he fits into our longterm plan as a veteran, sign him back in the offseason.
4. Tyutin - Decent defenseman, but not irreplaceable.  If we can unload his contract, we could sign someone of equal ability this summer for a lower price.
5. Clitsome - I like Clitsome.  But he has not progressed the way we had hoped.  Get something for him.
6. Boll - I would take a lot of heat for this one.  However, we have similar players who could step in to his role.    If we are truly looking at a major shakeup, some major players (including fan favorites) need to go to alter the chemistry.
7. Carter - Sorry, but it just hasn't worked.  Granted he has been injured, but I was not impressed with his style of play, chemistry with Nash, or his work ethic/attitude.  He might bring a very nice return.  In fact, for what we gave up, he better.
8. Huselius - Forgot he was on this team.  Get what you can for him.  Waste of cap space right now.
9. Martinek - Same as Huselius.

Here are the players I would definitely keep as part of our rebuilding (I hate that word) project:

1. Nash - He is our franchise, like it or not.  No one can honestly say they wouldn't want a Rick Nash on their team.  I'm convinced he's part of the solution.  We just need to surround him with better parts.
2. Brassard - I'm just not ready to give up on this guy.  He has shown flashes of brilliance.  If we trade him, he'd become an all star for another team and we'd regret moving him.
3. Dorsett - Never thought I'd say this.  Before this season, he was my least favorite Jacket (congrats Pahlsson, that's now you!).  But his work ethic, heart, and toughness are invaluable.
4. MacKenzie - The dude brings it every night.  I think he is a perfect 4th line player.
5. Wiz - He'll be all right once he's recovered and we upgrade our blueline with a more defensive defenseman.
6. Moore - I like this kid's potential.  He's played well.
7. Johan - Hopefully this kid will be as scary good as I think he could be.
8. Nikitin - I like him.  I think he's solid.  Let's see if he continues to improve and impress.  But change his first name to simply Nik.
8. Prospects like Atkinson, Kubalik, Savard, Calvert.  Let's see how they develop.

Here are the players I wouldn't mind keeping but if the right deal came along, I'd send him away.

1. Methot.  Solid d-man.  Wouldn't mind keeping him, but there are plenty of defensemen in the world who could step into his shoes as a #5 or #6 blueliner.
2. Umberger.  Thought he was the heart and soul of the team.  Haven't seen it this year.  Would like to keep him and hope he regains his old form...but if there was an offer I couldn't refuse, so be it.
3. Mason - Let's give him another year or two.  If there's any way to get him to the minors, do it.  But if at all possible, keep him in the organization.  I'm afraid if we lose him, in a few years it will come back to bite us.
4. Johnson - Decent spare part as a #7 defenseman.  Makes a lot of mistakes but so do a lot of #7 defensemen.
5. Letestu - Has shown that he is serviceable.  But we have had way too many "serviceable" types.  If we can package him for something, do it.

Other things I'd do:

Fire Howson.  He's had his shot.  Time for someone else, with more experience, to take over.  Make Patrick the interim GM.  If he wants to stay on as permanent GM, so be it.  If not, allow him to actively guide management's decision for a replacement.  I would do this soon so Howson would not be in control at the trade deadline.

Allow Richards to finish the year as interim coach then have the new GM, be it Patrick or someone else, hire his choice for a replacement.  I would try to make sure Dave King got an interview.

Hire a team of researchers to visit other NHL arenas and attend their home games.  I'd find a model that I like and use it to change our game operations.  I'm not saying our game operations is flat out bad, but if we're trying to change the culture, we might as well change the atmosphere of Nationwide Arena.

As for Priest...I'm not sure.  Gun to my head, had to make a decision, I'd say let him go and find a replacement.  I'm really unsure about the the amount of blame that falls on him for the disaster that is the Columbus Blue Jackets (I'd say it is more GM than president), but if we're trying to make sweeping changes, he should go too.

Bring back a former Jacket.  Let's pay a little homage to some of the first Jackets' teams when there was so much hope and enthusiasm.  Let's return a little piece from the good ol' days.  How about Jody Shelley?  If not as a player, how about as an assistant coach, TV analyst, or scout?  As I mentioned earlier, how about King as coach?  What about Jan Hrdina as senior director of scouting?  Kidding about that one.  But in all seriousness, one of the things that made the early years of the Blue Jackets existence so awesome was the connection the fans felt with the players.  I can't describe it.  It's hard to put it into words, but it was there.  I would bring back a small part of that.

Fire Rimer.  I'm sorry, but he makes the games so darn hard to watch on TV.  He's way past his prime.  Davidge has one choice: move back to the radio booth or be gone.

I would also sit down with Natalie Taylor and get a feel...for whether or not she should stay or go.