Saturday, June 30, 2012

Box Full of Letters, Part II: Rick Nash

[An Open Letter to current (at least for now) Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash]

Mr. Nash:

Dude. Seriously. Just leave already.

Don't get me wrong, Rick. I feel for you, somewhat. You're a captain of a team that just hasn't seemed to be able to turn the corner.

I have no doubt it frustrates the holy hell out of you. I understand.

You want out.

I thought of you a few days ago, after the NHL Awards were done, and the Hall of Fame inductees solidified their legends in hockey's grand history.

Joe Sakic was inducted this week. Not only immortalized as one of the greatest players of all time, but arguably one of the greatest captains of all time. The only pushback I get for saying "THE greatest" comes from Red Wings fans, pretty much. And to their credit, Yzerman WAS pretty damn good.

But Joe Sakic was the captain of a pretty bad Quebec Nordiques team as a younger guy like yourself. Did it get him down a little bit? Maybe.

Was he a quiet guy? Sure.

He also got stuff done on the ice. And much more consistently. AND he was a leader. A great leader.

Also doesn't hurt to note that SuperJoe won two Stanley Cups.

So, yeah... I thought of Joe Sakic, and I thought of you.

And how you'll never hold a candle to Joe Sakic.

Rick, you're a hell of a hockey player, when (and if) you set your mind to it. Others may put you on a pedestal, and occasionally there is a damn good reason for it. Your tribute video that plays the first time you return to Nationwide, I think everyone in the hockey world knows, is going to be BITCHEN.

Just one thing, though... you need to go away first.

Sorry, dude. You're a terrific hockey player. But let's face facts: You've become a huge pain in the ass these last few months.

You have fed the CBJ faithful Joe Resnick's carefully scripted line of B.S. about helping the team by being traded.

But then you apparently presented a "list" of teams you'd go to.

First of all... dude, Howson's not going to send you to the Isles or Habs, unless you've REALLY pissed him off. Believe me... NO ONE gets that angry.

Second... stop being so damn picky about where you go. Rick, you can turn just about any team (aside from the aforementioned) in the NHL into a contender, and possibly even a Cup champion. By playing hockey. By playing your game. And I think it will do you some good to go somewhere, where there's a reasonably good hockey team that can rely on your talent, without having to rely on you being a leader. Leadership doesn't suit you. You're the type of guy who needs to shut up and play hockey.

Seriously. After that post-deadline press conference, you really should never speak to the press again. Still one of the most painful TV moments of all time not involving Kathie Lee Gifford.

Honestly, Rick, I wish you well wherever you go... except in the unlikely event that you go somewhere in the Central Division.

I assure you... I and a vast majority of CBJ fans will genuinely miss you.

I just think you need to leave first. Loosen up on your stupid little list and make this happen.

Many thanks,

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6/30/2012: Free Agency Almost Open... Still No Nash Deal
6/16/2012: NashWatch, The Sequel: Happy Birthday... Your Gift's Running Late
3/21/2012: NashWatch: The Incredible Disappearing Captain

3/1/2012: Well... Now That Nash Has Spoken...
2/28/2012: Bad Season... Turned Nightmare...
2/27/2012: Trade Deadline Day: The Beginning Of The End (?)
2/16/2012: Bubble Hockey (Players): Rick Nash

Free Agency Almost Open... Still No Nash Deal

The Columbus Blue Jackets helped solidify their roster in the hope of proving that last year was just a very unfortunate anomaly.

Nikita Nikitin was one of the bright spots of this past year, after the Jackets acquired him for Kris Russell in the early stages of the season. He got off to a quick start despite the Jackets' struggles, and wound up having a career year.

So the Jackets locked him up for another couple years. And now GM Scott Howson's attention turns to figuring out what to do when Free Agency begins on Sunday...

...not to mention how the hell he's going to unload Rick Nash at some point this summer. I can't help but to be a little uneasy about the fact that this Nash situation could have on Free Agency. Sure, it's not like the Jackets can reasonably expect to land one of the big marquee names in the lead free agency… But if Howson cannot unload Nash's $7.8 million cap hit in order to assess what he can afford to pay to lure a decent free agent to this team, he risks doing even more damage to this team than he already has with this whole fiasco.

This is why I would be content to let Nash go for less than what Howson has been asking. Well, that and just plain common sense.

Look at it this way: Would you give Scott Howson a couple good players and the couple good prospects (or some other combination of 3-4 players), for a guy who barely kept his streak of 30 goal seasons alive? At a $7.8 million cap hit?

Hell, even Brian Burke would walk away from that deal. And Burke is arguably the most deluded GM in the National Hockey League, although I have seen a few others get a respectable number of votes in that category.

The point is, Scott Howson needs to make a move, and build this roster, or at least figure out what he has and what he can afford in the near future. This is not a copious free agent market this year. Forget about the top guys... there's no way in hell Howson can lure them to Columbus, even with a tax-free contract.

I firmly believe Howson did more harm than good by revealing that Rick Nash asked for the trade --  both to his own reputation and to the franchise. He will have trouble finding another job in the NHL after Columbus gets around to firing him. And it will happen.

To the rest of the NHL right now, Columbus probably looks like a chaotic mess. The captain continues blathering the same tired script about how the Columbus fan base is so great (which is true) that deserves to have a winning team (which is true).

So, of course... he wants out.

He just doesn't have the courtesy to come out and say it.

Rick Nash would rather regurgitate that agent-coached line of BS that he approached management and said "I think I can help this team by being traded for the pieces that it needs."

Give me a break.

Say what you will about LeBron James bailing on Cleveland... and believe me, I detest the man as much as anyone in Cleveland does.

However, at least he was honest about it.

Rick Nash needs to stop bull$#!+ting the CBJ faithful and actually open up that short-list.

If Nash (with or without Resnick  pulling the strings) would stop putting up roadblocks for this trade, I might feel little better about him.

But he's not, so screw him.

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6/16/2012: NashWatch, The Sequel: Happy Birthday... Your Gift's Running Late
3/21/2012: NashWatch: The Incredible Disappearing Captain

3/1/2012: Well... Now That Nash Has Spoken...
2/28/2012: Bad Season... Turned Nightmare...
2/27/2012: Trade Deadline Day: The Beginning Of The End (?)
2/16/2012: Bubble Hockey (Players): Rick Nash

Friday, June 22, 2012

Box Full of Letters, Part I: Scott Howson

[An Open Letter to Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson]

Mr. Howson:

Have you lost your ******* MIND?!?!?Seemingly in the same breath as when you tell the Columbus Dispatch that you figure there are two NHL-ready players in this year's Entry Draft... share the little tidbit that you have no intent of trading up from #2, but scenarios exist in which you might be willing to trade DOWN?!?!?

Now, I may be an armchair GM here, and I certainly don't get that kind of salary, but... if there are two NHL-ready players in an Entry Draft, and you have one of the top two picks...

... and ESPECIALLY after Blue Jackets fans suffered through not only the worst season in history, saw said suffering mean absolutely nothing as the team lost the Draft Lottery, THEN watched the team's most despised quitter go to Los Angeles and raise the Stanley Cup...


Yet you even DARE to raise the prospect that you won't use the pick the team failed so hard to acquire, to get one of two NHL-ready players? You'd think of taking some kid that you're just going to send down for development? Mr. Howson... the CBJ's reputation for developing its players is... ummmmm... well, it's not listed by many as one of the organization's "pros."

In short, that "we might just trade down" $#!+ is NOT funny, sir. Don't even kid about that.

Come to think of it... don't be serious about it, either. I think it's a safe bet that a vast majority of the CBJ fanbase is pissed enough at you.

I would say take a survey, but I really do think we all know what the consensus is.

Sadly, as much as I have tried to keep my composure on the issue of your continued employment... said composure is eroding with each passing day of NashWatch.

Drop one component of the "want list" already. Get a deal done with someone outside of the Central Division. At this point, I don't care if Nash does become a Ranger or a Flyer. Or a Leaf... hell, LET Brian Burke continue derailing Nash's career. Go for it. Sharks? Why not?

Just do something.

I've stopped caring. Just get Nash out of Columbus. He wants out. Nash's continued involvement with this team is a distraction and nothing more.

Drop the price a little and just get it over with. It's time to find a guy who has the drive (and the leadership ability) to be a leader, and get Nash somewhere where he doesn't have the pressure of the "C" on his chest that he can't handle.

Do it today. Please. Just turn the page. You have a hockey team to run. He had a crappy year. Take it for what it is.

Don't you dare trade down in this Draft. Your future in Columbus is dubious (at best) beyond this year.

The recent past is a mess. The present... well, you've seen it. Don't even think of taking this franchise's future down with you.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Join The Battle"? I'm In.

Damn you, Blue Jackets.

New slogan denoting a new direction... or at least a new attitude. Dare I say it... a Call To Arms or sorts?

Sorry... couldn't resist.

But still... "Join The Battle." Simple, to the point, and yet... inspiring.

Yes, there has been a little snark among some of the local Twitterati, and that's understandable. We all saw the 2011-12 season, along with the stuff that happened before, and the disaster that happened afterward. The wounds are fresh. I totally get it.

But I like it. It's good stuff. It makes me want to hit the Arena tomorrow and watch some hockey, yell my head off, tell Jeff Carter where he can put his Sun-In, and so forth.

Problem is... it's only June.


Still, it works. It gets me excited for the upcoming season, regardless of how far away Opening Night may be. It builds some excitement as we prepare for the Draft this weekend. Sure, we fans are somewhat weary, after a campaign that would test even the biggest die-hards in Columbus. And there is still some unpleasant business to take care of in the next few days... but it's time to start fresh.

"Join The Battle"

It's a page turned. A statement of what lies ahead. A battle, indeed. Eighty-two battles, in fact... in a six-month war. A reshaped team taking on the NHL with a LOT to prove. And under new leadership, no less, after the imminent departure of Rick Nash.

This team will need a hell of a lot of fight to get through this. But man, I am ready. Pumped for a new season to get started, kick back, have a beer and watch some hocke-- wait....


Still June.

There's still beer at the Draft, right?

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

NashWatch, The Sequel: Happy Birthday... Your Gift's Running Late

So... today is Rick Nash's birthday.

At first glance, it certainly seemed appropos. It reminded me of the last sight Cleveland had of LeBron James. You remember the one... when he did that whole "screw this town" tearing off of his Cleveland jersey, after he quit on the Cavs for the last time against the Celtics. (Not that I feel Nash doesn't like it here, but he has been the face of this franchise for a decade.)

Then I looked at the picture more closely and saw the glass. Nasher's actually getting ready to take the ice in this shot.

I will say that as the Stanley Cup has been awarded and NashWatch II is officially underway, this is a nice shot with a lot of nice memories attached to it, that we'll be able to enjoy for years to come.

Or, as some may prefer, try to forget entirely.

We're less than a week from the NHL Entry Draft, and Nash is on the block. Scott Howson is hearing from several teams, and as many as 10 or 11, according to the Dispatch.

How we got here, everybody pretty much knows. Nash either went to JPM and expressed concern over how Howson was running things, and asked for a trade when ownership balked at ousting him... or he selflessly approached the team and volunteered to be traded, saying (paraphrasing here) "I'll do whatever it takes to help the team, and... you know, my career."

The former is from the story of someone on the inside who wouldn't go public with it for fear of his job. The latter is from an obviously agent-crafted, spin-filled (and poorly delivered) load of crap from Nash himself.

We'll probably never know for sure... and it could very well be something somewhere in the middle.

This week, we can expect a bit of sparring, and teams whining about how GM Scott Howson is asking too much. There will certainly be some hesitation and jumping the gun on reporting and such as well. But I think we can expect an answer soon. Nash will be high-fiving fans in someone else's tunnel come October. We just don't know where.

However, for the sake of the NHL Entry Draft, Columbus' own Draft Class, and this "reshaping" Howson has in mind... the sooner the better. It's time to end the distraction and get down to the business of winning without Rick Nash.

Happy birthday, though, dude. See ya.

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3/21/2012: NashWatch: The Incredible Disappearing Captain
3/1/2012: Well... Now That Nash Has Spoken...
2/28/2012: Bad Season... Turned Nightmare...
2/27/2012: Trade Deadline Day: The Beginning Of The End (?)
2/16/2012: Bubble Hockey (Players): Rick Nash

Playing Catch-Up With the CBJ Offseason...

Time is a funny thing. This came to mind when I looked at my site and realized I haven't written squat about the CBJ (except to bash Jeff Carter) in about six weeks.

I figured it'd only be a couple, really. Boston was out of the Playoffs, and I figured I'd give Mrs. Martini time off from the sport.Then I had a ton of stuff to grade, then a couple interviews, then a new job (a very good thing, because now I have to pay off All Star Game tickets and a new Tyler Seguin sweater).

Time got away from me, though. But... enough excuses. Time for some catch-up on what has happened so far this summer before we get completely snowed by Rick Nash trade speculation.

The offseason thus far has been fairly quiet, but relevant. The Blue Jackets hired a head coach, for one. Sure, Todd Richards was not by any means the "sexy "choice, but was he a good choice? I think so.

Certainly, there are some viewpoints that oppose mine. Most of them work for the Columbus Dispatch.

But what it comes down to is the fact that... let's face it, I'm not sure there's any available head coach that's really interested in being a part of this team's rebuilding, reshaping, whatever you want to call it. Not after what they saw this past season.

However, I fully believe Todd Richards deserves a shot. Yes, I certainly raised a few questions when he was brought on to the coaching staff in the first place... "why are we picking up a recently-fired coach from the Minnesota Wild for our coaching staff," and so forth. But let's look at what Richards has done with the team, after Scott Arniel was fired too late to save the season.

Todd Richards went 18-21-2 as interim head coach. True, that's still thre games below 500, but lest we forget... the guy before him started the year 11-25-5. Todd Richards more or less stopped the bleeding. The Blue Jackets needed new leadership, and they seemed to get it. Hell, they even seemed to listen to him.

The Jackets got even better when they traded Jeff Carter for a guy who wouldn't quit on them, and they won seven of their final 11 games.

No more "coach by default." Todd Richards is the guy.

It has also been a good offseason for guys named Derek, as Derek MacKenzie and team MVP Derek Dorsett got new deals. Apparently, this is Mac's first one-way deal, and as far as Dorsett's deal, the season he speaks for itself. I defy anyone to tell me another player in 2011-12 who brought it the way he did, night in and night out.

Meanwhile, the Jackets may have a succession plan in place, if they can snag John Davidson from St. Louis. Where he fits in... well, Davidson obviously would bring a lot of hockey experience to a very underexperienced executive staff. My guess would be to replace Mike Priest, since the ownership seems to think Howson's still the man for the GM job.

For now, anyway.

I see the ownership's vote of confidence as little more than a one-year reprieve for Howson. Craig Patrick was only the first step in hedging the team's bet. Snagging Davidson would pretty much clinch it.

A lot of time will pass before the season begins, but I think it's safe to say if a spot in the Playoffs is not in the Jackets' future, a spot in the unemployment line will be in Howson's.

Speaking of time and other things that are imminent... today is Rick Nash's birthday... read on.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Final Nail

This is going to hurt like hell. However, after this is all over and Jeff Carter has raised the Stanley Cup (probably tonight) with his beloved Los Angeles Kings... we can move on. It's gonna suck like those first Brussels sprouts you tried as a kid... but it is what it is. Fact is, the Kings played one hell of a postseason.  They are 15-2 the Playoffs, and can be the first 16-2 team in 24 years when they (probably) hoist  the Cup tonight. They're unbeaten on the road, too. No matter how much you hate Jeff Carter in Columbus (and you probably do), there is a lot to admire about how this Kings team has played over the past two months. Really, the only awful thing about this situation is the timing. The only reason to feel bitter or resentful is the fact that Jeff Carter will (probably) raise the Stanley Cup tonight, 11 months after having to be pried by the CBJ out of the fetal position in his home, and a mere three months and change after Scott Howson got rid of him after he showed nothing but quit this season. That's a tough pill, for sure. But no matter how badly you (probably) think Scott Howson has botched the management of this team in the past year or so... his role in this final nail in the 2011-12 coffin is limited. There's no way in hell Howson could've no seen this coming. Simply put, this is just the last dose of $#!+ luck for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nothing less. Nothing more. And at least we'll (probably) be able to get it over with, and move on.