Saturday, June 11, 2011

The CBJ Offseason So Far...

SO... the Blue Jackets are talking with the Philadelphia Flyers about Jeff Carter. I'm quite intrigued. The deal supposedly involves the Jackets' first-round draft pick, and (if the Dispatch presumes correctly) Jakub Voracek, a restricted free agent.

Now, the guy does have 11 seasons still remaining on his contract, at $5M-plus per year. That is scary. That contract does not have a no-trade clause (per the Dispatch)... so it's less scary.

Still, he would give the Jackets that thing they have needed since... well, since the beginning of time.

A top-line center.

Dealing that first round pick also takes a little pressure off of the front office, after parting ways with Don Boyd and Bob Strumm, who had led the Jackets' scouting efforts since the NHL came to Columbus. The timing is a little odd, but... well, let's do a little exercise.

Stick your hands out in front of you, and wiggle your fingers and thumbs. Those are the Columbus Blue Jackets' first 10 first round draft picks. Your fingers are Klesla, Leclaire, Nash, Zherdev, Picard, Brule, Brassard, Voracek, Filatov, and Moore. Now bring in your middle two fingers and thumb on each hand, so that it looks like you're an Ozzy concert. Your "horns" represent Nash, Brassard, Voracek and Moore. Those are the first rounders that remain in the Blue Jackets' system.

Yes, I am pretty much writing off Nikita Filatov. Sorry, I tried, but as far as I'm concerned, the kid is trade bait. I would be surprised if the Jackets ever draft another Russian again. Full us once, Nikolai… shame on you. Full us twice, Nikita… shame on us.

Now, that's not to say that Boyd and Strumm didn't do a good job. And four out of 10 first rounders with the organization isn't a horrible proportion, really. It's just that the other six were just so … well, they didn't work out for whatever reason -- injury-prone, lack of work ethic, or a little Russian Diva Syndrome.

So, is parting with the first-round pick worth the risk? Sure, why not?

Overall, the Jackets have drafted well, and cultivated some good players out of it. But are they getting top talent in the first round? Brassard is coming along nicely. John Moore likely has a good future ahead of him with the franchise. And let's not forget that we might see last year's first rounder, Ryan Johansen, come up this year.

Maybe it's just time for change. It's a business decision. Yes, there's a certain loyalty and a soft spot for guys who are (or have been) in the Blue Jackets organization for a long time, but in the end, you have to make a sound business decision.

This isn't hockey friends, it's the hockey business.

Same deal with considering (or rather, not considering) Marc Denis or Ron Tugnutt for goaltending coach this year. As part of the audit of the CBJ's operations, the Jackets parted with Dave Rook and hired a new goaltending coach for Steve Mason. From what I have read on Ian Clark, the hire sounds good. We won't know until we see some good results on the ice, but considering that the Jackets' goaltending (and goaltending coaching) situation has descended somewhat into chaos the last couple years, some stability would be an improvement. Clark spent several years with the Canucks... and you may have heard... they're a pretty good hockey team. Look at Roberto Luongo over the last few years. This guy has to be doing something right, right?

Loved Denis and Tugnutt, but is Luongo part of any line on their resume?

Another example... looking at the fact that Kevin Dineen is now the head coach of the Florida Panthers. Sure, a year ago, even I was thinking -- and apparently the Dispatch's Michael Arace thought so, too -- it would have been a great idea to hire a "Blue Jackets man" like Dineen for the head coaching job here. However, that was a year ago, and I may have been caught up in sentiment again. It happens. I'm a fan.

Besides, I was satisfied with how the Jackets went, with Scott Arniel. Hell, I was excited, although I wasn't sure how it would turn out without many player changes in the offseason. And obviously, we know how well that went.

But, Scott Arniel's our guy.

I'm sure some would even be tempted to think that the Blue Jackets missed out, when Guy Boucher snubbed the Blue Jackets and wound up going to Tampa... then taking the Lightning all the way to the Eastern Conference Final this year. Sure, Boucher certainly looked good this year with the Lightning. And that's fine. But there's no way in hell he could have pulled off in Columbus what he did in Tampa. He and GM Steve Yzerman essentially revived the team that just needed a little direction, with perhaps a little outside help via free agency and trade. Being in the Southeast Division certainly doesn't hurt them, either. It's not the old "South-Least" Division that it used to be before the lockout, but Tampa and Washington are the only big fish in that pond. Boucher could never have pulled off that kind of turnaround in the Central Division.

Guy Boucher didn't take the better NHL head coaching job. He took the easier NHL head coaching job. Being the Southeast Division is a great way to pad the stats.

Maybe the Jackets will get to experience that stat-padding thing soon....

However, the Blue Jackets have to say in the Western Conference for at least another year. Gary Bettman decided to put the speculation to rest last week, when he said they would be no realignment plans before the 2011-12 season, which means the Winnipeg/ Manitoba Whatchamacallits will have a hell of a commute to Southeast Division games next season.

That also means the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators will have to fight in the West another year, before one of them looks to move east in search of a competitive edge. I know Arace believes the Detroit has first dibs, but I say it again: I don't think you could get enough guys on the Board of Governors to go for it. Everyone out east knows their teams wouldn't even sniff the Stanley Cup Final for at least five years if Detroit moved over there.

I still say it's Columbus or Nashville. Expert opinion? Nope. Just common sense… and a strong belief that the Eastern conference will side with self-preservation.

So, it's at least one more year in the west. The Blue Jackets will just have to rise to that challenge as they head into the draft and free agency season. Committing Grant Clitsome this week was a good step forward. The guy worked hard this year.

Getting Jeff Carter in a trade before or during the NHL Draft, that could be the first big, bold, cajones moment of Scott Howson's tenure... a move that -- in combination with some good draft and free agency moves -- could finally take the Blue Jackets to the next level.

And I'm all for that.

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  1. Jeff Carter - Full NTC (2012-13 through 2014-15); modified NTC (2015-16 through 2021-22). Just an FYI

  2. Ah, thanks for the heads up. Guess the Dispatch isn't perfect. Seems like an odd structure for a contract, though, to have an NTC not kick in for a couple years.