Two seasons ago it seemed like a corner was being turned in Columbus. The team was playing hard, they were involved in every game, Steve Mason was stunning opposing scorers while Rick Nash was tearing apart their defenses. The Blue Jackets had arrived on the scene and were in the playoffs.
Ever since being swept out in the first round by their hated rivals from Detroit, things have taken a turn for the worse in Ohio. The Jackets fired Ken Hitchcock and now have Scott Arniel in charge. Last season, the Blue Jackets weren’t very competitive all year long and found themselves on the wrong side of blowouts a bit too often.
This year, the Jackets showed some hope early on but have fallen back on old habits. Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon are getting lit up in goal, the offense is having a hard time scoring, and the defense is lacking quite a bit. Even defensive stalwart Mike Commodore isn’t welcome any more and wants out of town. In short, it’s ugly in Columbus and it’s looking like the roster needs a drastic shakeup. Is it time to break things up in Columbus? Tom Reed of The Columbus Dispatch ponders the thought.
It’s believed Howson is desperately trying to make trades. This time it can’t be for a Chris Clark. The Jackets need significant changes and that means breaking up the club’s core.
The general manager should not hesitate.
Howson is going to have to move a Brassard or Voracek or Vermette or Russell or a top prospect to get anything of value. It might require a combination. The general manager should at least listen to offers for his captain and four-time All Star. I could not have imagined typing that sentence a year ago. Trading Nash would not be my first option — he’s far and away the organization’s best player — but right now everything has to be considered.
Ominously, Reed throws out Rick Nash’s name. If Rick Nash is out there and available at all, and I seriously doubt the Blue Jackets would be looking to deal their only star and marketable player, the interest from around the NHL would likely be staggering as picking up a #1 left wing who can fill the net at will would be attractive to anyone. Unless the trade offer was so overwhelming it’d be crazy to say, “No,” to there’s no way Nash will go. On a team without other stars, however, he’s always going to be the most attractive player to lust for your roster.
That said, giving up a guy like Derick Brassard or Jakub Voracek would certainly make the ears of opposing GMs perk up around the league. Brassard is a bit small but has shown the knack to be a solid, second line playmaker (hello Washington!) while Voracek is a big-bodied forward that can score a little bit. In new situations, either of these guys could be breakout candidates.
Vermette could bring interest from teams looking for solid center depth and a guy to anchor the third line. Kris Russell would be a nice offensive defenseman for a team looking to add something to their back line. They’re not game breakers, but they’d be useful cogs in other teams looking to get deeper for their eventual playoff run.
As for the depth in Columbus’ system, it’s severely lacking. 2010 first round pick forward Ryan Johansen is the shining star. Nikita Filatov has had a tumultuous time since being picked in the first round in 2008 and 2009 first rounder defenseman John Moore is getting his feet wet in the AHL this season.
Cam Atkinson is making a name for himself in college hockey as is goalie prospect Allen York but they’re a ways away. With Filatov teetering close to being labeled a bust, the pressure is on Johansen and Moore to blossom and give Columbus something to hope for. In short, things are a mess in Columbus and breaking up this current band of NHLers that isn’t working might be their lone salvation.