Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dawn In Columbus...

Good morning.

As you roll/crawl/fall out of bed this morning, eat/drink/shoot your breakfast and walk/skip/stumble outside, you may notice something.

There's this bright, reddish-orange ball in the sky to the east. That is the sun, kids.

Yes. That's right. It rose today.

The Rick Nash Era officially ended in Columbus Monday -- apparently three years to the day after Rick Nash signed an extension that was supposed to maybe cement him as a Blue Jacket for life, according to the Columbus Dispatch's keeper of tighten-the-rope-and-kick-the-chair statistics, Aaron Portzline.

More importantly, the godawful, constant and woeful wait that was NashWatch also -- mercifully -- came to an end. It's not the end a lot of people wanted... I'm sure there are many who still desperately wanted to hold onto Nash long enough to see if GM Scott Howson would screw up somehow and get fired so that we could keep him in Columbus and see if someone else could step into the front office and build a team.

And you may disagree with me now, and that's okay... but this is how it had to be.

Sure, Rick Nash said he'd play hard wherever he was. And that's all well and good. I might have even believed it if he hadn't phoned in much of March before realizing that maybe scoring some goals (and hitting 30 for the fifth consecutive season) might get him out of Columbus more quickly.

I think we all realize he'd be playing just to audition for high trade value. That's not commitment to a team. To hell with wearing the "C." If you're not committed to playing for the team, you don't deserve to wear the sweater.

Nash is off on the horizon somewhere (can't technically say sunset, as New York is east), and the sun rises on three new Blue Jackets players. And a third first-round draft pick.

On paper... the trade isn't thrilling. And I don't think anyone expected it to be. Nasher wanted out of Columbus, and that meant that for the most part, Scott Howson was not going to "win" any trade involving the former captain.

The Jackets get three living, breathing players in the deal -- two of whom have relevant NHL experience and will contribute. Both Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov trended downward in 2011-12 from the year before -- Dubinsky significantly so, with 20 fewer points and fewer than half the goals from '10-'11. Dubinsky is 26, finished with 10 goals and 24 assists and has a $4.2 million cap hit for the next three years. Anisimov is 24, finished with 16-20-36 and will make $1,875,000 this year (thanks, CapGeek). It is worth noting, however, that Anisimov chipped in 3 goals and 10 points in 20 Playoff games this spring.

The Jackets also get Tim Erixon, who contributed a couple of assists in 18 games during a few call-up stints with the big club. The assists came in his last two games.

Are they glamorous on paper? Absolutely not. But this will not be a glamorous team. The new guys are young, and with Nash and Huselius gone (is he still technically here? LOL), those top two lines are waiting to be shaped, and Dubinsky and Anisimov could be in the mix for some interesting battles for top-six spots.

Is this trade exciting for Columbus? No. This is the best Scott Howson could get, and he dragged the organization and its fan base through a lot of unnecessary crap and speculation to get to yesterday's events. And he got just about what the fan base could reasonably expect. But that's the funny thing about new beginnings. Maybe these unglamorous, early- to mid-twentysomethings are just what this team needs. Youth. Competitive fire. A little Playoff experience. Work ethic.

Things Rick Nash had mostly been lacking this past season.

Time will judge Scott Howson in about nine or ten months. Time to see if he gets it done.

But now we can move forward with the confidence that the question-dodging and overall lack of leadership and accountability that tarnished the end of Rick Nash's tenure here is likely over.

I do not rejoice in the loss of Rick Nash. He made his choice, though. He's gone.

The sun rose today. It's a new game. It's a new era. It's a new team.

It's our team.

Welcome aboard, boys.
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7/6/2012: Time To End This No-Win Situation
6/30/2012: Box Full of Letters, Part II: Rick Nash
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

Friday, July 6, 2012

Time to End This No-Win Situation...

Could Columbus Blue Jackets fans really be stuck with Rick Nash for another year?

In any other year, the very utterance of this question would be treated as blasphemy.

But this isn't any other year.

But, for whatever reason, Rick Nash wants out of Columbus, and he gave Scott Howson a short list of teams to work with to make it happen.

Given... it is only July 5. A lot can happen between now and training camp. However, I would say It's highly unlikely that anything is going to happen the way Howson wants, when it comes to Rick Nash.

And he has only himself to blame. He could have kept it all behind closed doors. No one had to know that Nash asked for a trade. For whatever reason, however, Nash wants out, and I think it's safe to say that the analysis by many at the trade deadline has proven painfully true: Howson shot himself in the foot.

And the bullet has managed to ricochet off his foot back up through the leg and sever an artery.

Now, the NashWatch situation is hemorrhaging, and there's no end in sight, because Howson refuses to budge.

Nash wants out of Columbus, and everyone in the league knows it.

So, could Nash be stuck in Columbus? Sure. Could Columbus be stuck with Nash? Absolutely.

If Scott Howson wanted to put Rick Nash into a no-win situation, one could say this is most certainly it. Nash could tank, and bring the whole damn team down with him. Sure, Howson would more than likely get fired. But there is also another year that Rick Nash is not earning his $7.8 million, and another year without winning.

Or, Nash could check into the game on a consistent basis for the first time in a couple years, find some of that talent that's in the tank and contribute to his team, make the playoffs, and so forth. The drawback, of course, is that Howson actually looks like a passable GM then, and Nash won't be rid of him. Then you have to keep working together.

Except there's the fallacy, though: There is no no-win situation for Rick. He is under contract. He gets his average $7.8 million anyway.

Sure, you can put Nash out on the ice. But why? Whether he was just trying to get Howson fired, or he simply wants out... the fact remains that he wants out.

And if he wants out... how is he even worthy of wearing the sweater?

Scott Howson needs to face the fact that he's not going to get what he wants for Nash, and that is his own fault. He screwed up. On top of it, he is on borrowed time. Sure, he has made a couple decent moves so far this offseason. But his hands are tied because of the mistakes he has made with Nash.

The way Rick Nash played last year, he's not going to go to a team he wants, unless Howson drops his price. Who could blame them? Nash's performance last season was closer to Alexandre Daigle than Alexander Semin.

No one is winning in this situation. But the only people who are losing in this constant, ridiculous stalemate are the fans.

And those are the most important people in this situation. We are the ones who buy the tickets. We are the ones who buy the merchandise.

This team needs to move forward. It can't be done like this. This long, drawn-out PR fustercluck needs to stop. Now. On both sides. The cost to this team and its fanbase is too great for this to continue.

It comes down to four words... and honestly, the same message applies to both sides.

Mr. Howson: Stop being a jackass.

Rick: Stop being a jackass.

There. Costly problem... solved.

For free.

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6/30/2012: Box Full of Letters, Part II: Rick Nash
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

Monday, July 2, 2012

Box Full of Letters, Part III: Who's Trolling Whom?

[An Open Letter to Mike Harrington, Sabres beat writer for the Buffalo News]

Mr. Harrington:

Sooooo, I'm sure you have some other trolling to do with some other team's fan base, so I'll keep this brief.

I saw this yesterday, and couldn't help but be amused at the irony.

Now, obviously, Mr. Harrington, I don't know a thing about you personally, and all I have to go on with you professionally is what I'm sure is fine work that you do for the Buffalo News.

Oh. AND the stuff you put on Twitter under your @BNHarrington account, in which you clearly identify yourself as the SABRES BEAT WRITER for the Buffalo News.

The comment itself about the Columbus fan base isn't what offends me. We certainly get it a lot. Yeah, the Jackets are very much second fiddle to football around here... and between the University of Buffalo and the Bills, I think we can all agree the Sabres do not have that obstacle to contend with in Buffalo.

So yes, "all 17" of us hear it a lot. Quite frankly, we've learned to expect it. From random fans and the occasional blogger, anyway.

But from someone who likely calls himself a journalist? Wow. That's just ignorance.

Take one of our guys, for instance. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. Beat writer, good researcher and keeper of seemingly limitless Debbie Downer-esque CBJ statistics. He puts out a lot of stuff on Twitter, perhaps even more critical of the home team than he should be, and occasionally even cracks a joke or two.

Porty says many things on Twitter. However, one thing I've never seem him do is disparage any team's fan base.

Now, he doesn't take criticism very well and thus does not interact with some of the diehards here because of it. In his defense, some people are pretty tough on him.

However, because he identifies himself as the Jackets beat writer with his employer, he is a consummate professional about what he puts out there on social media.

Now, it would be all too easy to dismiss you as just some D-bag from Buffalo. However, first of all, there are a lot of cool Buffalo fans, some of whom have even made the trip here for games, and have been terrific company at (and after) games.

Second... well, I don't know you. All I really know about you is that -- in one brief moment in time -- you showed a definite lapse in professionalism.

You also showed that you don't know $#!+ about Columbus or its fans.

My only hope for you is that, barring actual Free Agency news in Buffalo, that you find a better use for your time this offseason.

Or hey, maybe you'll be in town for the All Star Star Game in January, and see what a great fan base this is, and we'll compare notes over a pint.

There's a great bar just down the way. And I'm sure "all 17" of us can squeeze you in.


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Free Agency 2012, Day 1: A Mixed Bag

So, it has certainly been an interesting 24-36 hours in Columbus, as the NHL opened Free Agency today. In a market where moves can alternate from blockbusters to flat-out head scratchers, this was a day that seemed to go mostly in the right direction.

I have to say, it was mildly amusing that a couple days ago a tweet had been circulating that said after Rick Nash gets traded, the longest-tenured Blue Jackets player would be Mark Methot. Apparently, he will not hold said distinction, because the Jackets sent him to Ottawa for forward Nick Foligno.

I think one of my friends tweeted shortly after that the longest-tenured Blue Jacket will now be Jared Boll, once Nasher leaves town.

Boll will apparently hold that distinction as well, as the club has signed him for another two years. An odd move, to be sure. Boll is not coming off a great year by any means, and one would think with Derek Dorsett developing a scoring touch now, Boller might be expendable. Guess we have our answer for now.

The Methot move sends some good experience to the Senators' blueline, and gets the Blue Jackets what fans will hope be some offensive firepower. Last year, Foligno put up 47 points, and tacked on four more in the Playoffs. Offense is a good thing.

The other mostly positive move of the day was the signing of veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin to a one-year deal. Yes, to be honest, the dude's a little old at 38. But you know, a little veteran leadership never hurt anyone, and Aucoin's a pretty respectable guy around the NHL. And the Blue Jackets can certainly use leadership whenever and wherever they can get it.

The head scratcher of the day was the signing of Curtis McElhinney. I have to ask why. Yes, the Blue Jackets need some depth at goaltender, so it wasn't completely unexpected that they would go after somebody in free agency.

But McElhinney? That one snuck up on me.

The last thing I heard that name, he was the barely-warm body that was thrown in, on the deal that sent Antoine Vermette to Phoenix.

The big question mark for me was… well, what about Mark Dekanich? Sure, he essentially missed the entire season after getting hurt in a preseason game, but… I don't know, I figured maybe as long as you're deciding between two guys that virtually no one saw because of injuries, maybe go with the guy who at least suited up in Union Blue. It's neither here nor there, really. It's a depth move and nothing more. Kinda wanted to see Dex play, is all, I guess.

Did the Jackets win on the day? Some forward help and a veteran presence on the blueline would certainly be considered helpful, so one would say it looks pretty good on paper.

Then again, so did the Jeff Carter trade.

But, at least I can say two out of three of these look like solid moves.

Now if we could just resolve this whole Nash fiasco... so this team and its fans can move forward with this next chapter.

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