Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The CBJ-Johansen Marriage of Inconvenience

So now that we've all had a chance to cool off a little... things are supposedly "civil," as talks have resumed between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt.

Training Camp got underway in Columbus and across the NHL nearly two weeks ago, and as expected, Ryan Johansen was not among the guys on the ice.

Two weeks ago, it wasn't such a big deal. If Kurt Overcharge eventually caved, or Johansen eventually decided he's sick of Overcharge being a dick (and subsequently making him look like one)... then a deal gets done, maybe the team doesn't hurt too bad from it, and we move on.

However, the Jackets are sadly much more in a position of necessity than they were two weeks ago.

Nathan Horton is out indefinitely with degenerative back issues. Boone Jenner is out until at least mid-November with a broken hand.

Thus, we have the perfect storm that forces the Jackets back to the table with a dumb-yet-talented kid and an unscrupulous-yet-claiming-the-high-road agent.

I would have been content just letting him rot, trading him, or letting him slum it in the KHL (albeit, tax-free).

Disagree if you like, but the longer Johansen sits this out, the less he deserves to be a part of this club. That won't change even if/when these two sides make nice and walk down the aisle.

Yep... here comes the "shotgun wedding" metaphor -- Jarmo and our  blushing bride RyJo, with Overcharge and a steaming, red-faced John Davidson holding the shotguns (trained on each other). Classic double-barrel ceremony.

[Note: If there's an illustrator who can make this particular vision happen, let's talk... there might be some beers involved.]

Johansen freely made a decision to not be part of this team.

Directly? Perhaps not. But having one good season, and then sitting and pouting like a spoiled brat because the team doesn't think it's enough to make a 22-year-old kid the highest-paid player on the team?

It's not that dissimilar a message.

But now we're here. They'll probably find something agreeable in the middle before camp starts.

My two cents: Go no higher than $8.5 million over two years, let him get to form, prove himself and gather trade value... trade him at the deadline next year for a similar player with some class and a brain in his head, and who doesn't have Overhardt as his agent.

But if this holdout cuts into the season, pull everything off the table and let him sit... preferably trade him if the price is right.

Yes, Johansen's absence hurts the roster. But the team is better off without him and his attitude.

It sucks that injuries make these talks necessary now.

It's infuriating... a couple bad bounces, and boom... instant marriage of inconvenience.

Get your rice ready....

You'll understand if it takes some restraint on my part to not chuck a rock.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VOTE: Who's The Next CBJ App Poster-Guy...?

Well, this whole Ryan Johansen thing isn't looking like it's going to go well.

First, Jarmo Kekalainen drew a line in the sand.

Now, John Davidson sounds like he's ready to shoot anyone who crosses it on sight.

As I opined a couple days ago, a guy who's willing to hold out on his team should not be the face of the team under any circumstances.

So... yeah. I feel pretty safe in posting this poll... so let's hear from you: Who do you think should be the first guy you see when you open the Columbus Blue Jackets app...?

Let's go with the foursome of Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski as our candidates. If you have a write-in, leave it in a comment below. Or just comment anyway. I won't judge.

Cheers,
Martini

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Don't Be That Guy, Ryan...

[An open letter to Ryan Johansen]

Ryan.

Buddy.

Great season, man. Seriously... 33 goals... 63 points... a huge year-over-year increase, and a great bounce back from some moderately less-than-impressive appearances over the previous couple years, questions about conditioning, work ethic, that sort of thing.

Now you're a top-line center on an NHL team that is clearly on the rise. A team that is finally building a winning culture in Columbus, after more than a dozen years of futility, lack of leadership and poor team management.

Man, you are going to be great for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Oh, wait, thaaaaat's right... you're not signed yet.

Damn.

Well... time to pull up a chair and just be quiet for a few minutes. It's time for the grown-ups to talk, buddy.

A tad condescending? Perhaps.

A little venomous? Could be.

Maybe a little unfair? Absolutely not... I'm actually taking it easy here.

See above: You are a top-line center on an NHL team on the rise.

You're also a 22-year-old kid who doesn't know $#!+ about $#!+, who seems on the verge of separating a shoulder from patting himself on the back so much.

"There is no proof of anything except that THIS GUY is a
sensational athlete (and a potentially huge pain in the @$$)."
--Jerry Maguire
As I understand from the media, you and the Jackets are approximately $3 million apart, with Jarmo shooting for $3.5 million per year on a two year bridge deal, and your bloodsuc--

...oop, sorry, agent is gunning for $6.5 million.

That was a slip, really. I'm sure Kurt Overhardt is a swell guy who values you as a person, and cares just as much about you as he does his other commissions.

However, he is a sports agent. I'm sure he has a thick enough skin for people to use the word "bloodsucker" in reference to him. I'm a really passionate hockey fan -- and sometimes a snarky, black-hearted jerk -- with filtering issues and a blog. We all have our vices... it is what it is.

You invest yourself in some workouts last season, go out and have one good season, and your one takeaway is that you're suddenly worth $6.5M a year at 22 years old?

I won a county spelling bee once on a Friday evening when I was in seventh grade. At the celebratory dinner, I began lobbying for town car service to school. Negotiations broke down... something about small Catholic schools and budgets or something.

But I was back in school the following Monday. I figured I had some skills that would translate to something useful down the road, so I should probably let it go. I didn't need an agent for that.

Get a freakin' clue.

You have an opportunity to be a part of something great here in Columbus. You're not in Calgary, you're not on Long Island and you're not in Sunrise, Florida.

You're also not dealing with the well-meaning ineptitude of Scott Howson, or the prideful idiocy of Doug MacLean. You're dealing with a front office that has seen and learned from the mistakes of those guys, and knows better than to fall into a trap with "flash in the pan" players.

Do I think you're one of those? Of course not. You could very well be a far-less-obnoxious Disney Crosby-type player here. And you have the bonus of being able to score in the Playoffs.

You could also be a far-more-obnoxious version of Alexandre Daigle.

That's one hell of a range. You don't gamble the kind of money you're asking for, based on one good year.

The Blue Jackets hold the big advantages:
  • You have no arbitration rights.
  • Any team that would even think of risking the draft picks and invest the time to come up with an offer sheet knows the CBJ would match, thus rendering such an endeavor a waste of time.
    • By the way, if anyone was going to try an offer sheet, they probably would have done it by now. Again, people have seen the CBJ's previous mistakes.
  • As I mentioned before, you're an as-yet-unproven 22-year-old kid.
Now, let's go back to that whole going-to-the-media thing with the Jackets' offer being a "slap in the face." While I would definitely think that you are foolish and immature enough to come up with that by yourself, I'm sure Overhardt came up with it and, worse, didn't stop you from running with it.

He probably even encouraged you to do so.

Overhardt's history with holdouts and his statement that your not joining camp will shift the pressure to the CBJ isn't doing you any favors, either.

The problem with that, aside from being incredibly unprofessional, is that it doesn't score you any points with fans. You're either all aboard with Overhardt's attitude, or you're content to not think for yourself and let the Puppetmaster make you look like a jerk.

[Insert guy who's not holding out here]
I've talked with a lot people this offseason. Not one that I spoke with believes you are in the right.

Again, this is Columbus. We've seen stupid crap like this before. Nikolai Zherdev. Nikita Filatov. The guys who made the mistakes around those guys don't have jobs here anymore.

Enter Jarmo Kekalainen. Jarmo is a smart guy. The Jackets actually have a front office of hockey people now.

He's also apparently very patient, in waiting for you to grow up a little and take your place in the future of this team.

You know the first thing I did the day after your little "slap in the face" comment was all over the press?

I went to the CBJ app on my phone, fully expecting someone else to be on that front wallpaper.

Because if I was in Jarmo's shoes, that's what I would have done. The Blue Jackets are a team, and a guy who refuses to commit to that team sure as hell should not be the face of it.

Be very, very thankful that Jarmo is who he is.

Because if it was me, Overhardt would currently be pitching your scoring, talent and attitude problem to Calgary, or Long Island or Florida.

Be thankful for the opportunity you have here in Columbus. I see no reason for the CBJ camp to not work on getting you to about $4.5 million a season.

I think that's perfectly reasonable,and you should take it, avoid cleaning out your stall and not risk the consequences of missing even a minute of training camp. Match or exceed last year's output over the next two years, and then send the bloodsucker back to the front office with a proposal to bloat your cap hit in 2016.

Camp starts Thursday, and your teammates hit the ice Friday. You should be there.

Tick tock. 

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