Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bad Season... Turned Nightmare...

After hours of (take your pick(s) from the following) sitting, waiting, watching a live and mostly unexciting feed of SportsNet's NHL Trade Deadline coverage, stalking Twitter and deflecting the various rumors from New York Rangers fans who insist it's a done deal...

...finally, 3 p.m. arrived on Monday. Shortly after, the CBJ Twitterati received word from the media that General Manager Scott Howson had confirmed Rick Nash was not going anywhere at the Deadline.

Ah... victory.

[Again... horrible overdubs provided by yours truly...]

Ah... there's that old, familiar buzzkill.

In the press conference that followed, Howson revealed that it was actually Rick Nash who approached the team about a trade, provided the list of teams he would go to, and so forth.

Ah... betrayal.

The last couple of times I approached the topic of Rick Nash, it started with unyielding confidence. Surely Scott Howson would see that trading away the team's best player would seriously set the team back, and hinder the team's ability to achieve a short-term turnaround. The fans expect a contender, and would not have the patience for yet another attempt at "rebuilding."

But as Nash went on the block, and rumors began to swirl to the point where they were almost intolerable, and Nash's agent Joe Resnick opened his trap... and the process just continued to drag on... that confidence waned.

Still, jerking Nash around like this for a week or more... would you want to stay on a team that was dangling you over a proverbial pit of vipers like that? I'm not trying to garner sympathy for him, mind you... believe me, fans have 7.8 million reasons a year not to feel sorry for Rick Nash.

But... apparently Rick Nash wants out of Columbus. He has apparently been feeding CBJ fans a line of B.S. for the past two weeks since the trade search went public. He signed a lucrative, long-term deal, but the losing got to be too much for him to take. And that's understandable... it can wear on anyone. But he wants out, and told the management as much. Screw him, right?

Well, what if he felt forced? Suppose the stuff that's floating around out there is true... about Nash going over Howson's head and asking the ownership about changing management, and then requesting a trade after he says no?

I've been looking... nothing is out there to substantiate it so far. But something here doesn't add up in this. Has Nash been BSing his teammates as well, while they're telling me media how he "bleeds Blue Jackets" and so forth?

A tad optimistic, maybe. Perhaps even crazy. Sure, it's only speculation. But no one has had a chance to ask Nash, and he hasn't spoken about it yet. I don't think he can avoid it for long, though.

There is plenty of blame to go around. First and foremost, sure... Nash hasn't been forthright about this process.

Second... I'm sorry, we can't avoid the proverbial elephant on the ice. This team has played like hell. Back-to-back wins in regulation... what are those, anyway? Steve Mason has a hard enough time getting confidence to stop pucks by himself, without the guys in front of him playing like the Future Jackets we see at intermission.

Last... Howson has handled this team terribly. He cruised into last season without making moves, operating under the assertion that the team's subpar performance was an anomaly. That failed.

The organization did a top-to-bottom look within itself last summer, Howson was assertive before the NHL Entry Draft. He got Jeff Carter. He got James Wisniewski. He got Mark Dekanich, Radek Martinek and so forth. Surely, this was it. All the pieces were in place. Yes, there were injuries. True, it wasn't all Scott Arniel's fault. But Howson took too long to take action. That failed.

He pursued a good return for Nash. He didn't let the team get short-changed, he didn't let Brian Burke or Glen Sather underpay. That, Howson did right. I'm sure some other GM's don't look on him very kindly... but that's hardly a concern here.

Plus, plenty of people were saying Nash would likely get a better return in the offseason, so not getting the deal done on Monday wasn't going to make or break anything... aside from the expected tension between Nash and Howson, maybe.

Then he undid it all in ten words: "He approached us, and asked us to consider trading him."

A Nash trade was the only trade during this deadline in which Howson was guaranteed that he'd be able to call all the shots. And those ten words probably screwed up all of that for June. Now that potential trade partners know Nash apparently initiated the trade request, the chances of Howson getting all he wants for Nash down the line just got tougher.

But Howson has made one thing clear: He expects to be here next year. He is in control. It's his game, and they're his marbles. Cross him at your own peril.

For the record. I don't think we've heard all there is to hear about this. But will Nash address it?

Howson's revelation is the proverbial "shot across the bow" to Nash. Apparently, he's not afraid to burn a bridge. Not exactly a mark of great leadership.

So, where do the Jackets go from here? Will Nash address the media Tuesday? Will he take the high road?

And what of the fans? There are certainly quite a few who have turned on Nash at this point. Plenty are calling for Howson's head, as well. That kind of divided mentality is certainly not the best way to go into a game... never mind that the damned Red Wings are in town tonight.

Hell, it's hard enough to tell who scores in Nationwide. How would we know who's being booed?

I'm somewhat kidding there. My point is, fans should resereve their judgment on Nash, until he has a chance to explain. He's still wearing the sweater. Debate his worthiness to wear the "C" if you lie, but he's still wearing the same sweater the rest of us are.

However, for the time being, we have two entities who are apparently at odds... and whatever happens between Scott Howson and Rick Nash, the fans are stuck in the middle. That's the last thing this team and its fans need. Or deserve.

Defenseman Grant Clitsome is headed to Winnipeg, after the Jets claimed him off waivers. The Jackets trim another couple million off the books. Meanwhile, Winnipeg gets a decent stretch-run defenseman on the cheap.

Columbus trimmed another $2.65 million (per CapGeek) by sending Samuel Pahlsson to Vancouver for a couple mid-round draft picks... I think there was a prospect thrown in later (you'll forgive me if I was a little distracted). Vancouver adds some experience at center in the hope that they will manage another deep Playoff run this year.

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