Aside from the last place Edmonton Oilers, it’s difficult to say that any Western Conference team is truly out of the playoff picture. After all, the 14th ranked Columbus Blue Jackets (51 points) are only 10 points behind the fourth place Nashville Predators and seven points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for the final playoff spot.
Still, one thing people forget is that there is a big difference between earning a bottom seed and being able to do anything with it.
Sure, there have been plenty of Cinderella teams before; last year’s Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens beat top seeds to meet in the Eastern Conference finals, for instance. In other seasons, the Edmonton Oilers rode Chris Pronger’s brilliance and the Calgary Flames took advantage of the addition of Mikka Kiprusoff to make amazing runs.
But the Blue Jackets have to ask themselves: do they really have the talent to make a deep run? The team was absolutely dominated in their only run to the playoffs in 2009, as the Red Wings swept them with little trouble. Is there any reason to believe this year’s edition of the team can produce better results?
Darren Dreger reports that the team owns some pieces drawing league interest in the trade market. Dreger writes that GM Scott Howson might get some value by moving goalie Steve Mason, defenseman Rostislav Klesla and/or forward Jakub Voracek.
The most interesting possibility would be moving Mason. It wouldn’t exactly be an example of selling high, as league-wide opinions of the would-be franchise goalie cannot be at their peak. Still, the Blue Jackets would be wise to consider moving him.
The team made a gamble when they gave him the good-faith offer of a two-year, $5.8 million extension that will kick in next season, but Mason’s been weak to abysmal since his Calder Trophy-winning 08-09 season. His save percentage keeps dropping (a well below average 89.5 mark this season) while his GAA keeps rising (an ugly 3.30 average in 10-11). If some team is willing to take a silly risk on a pricey goalie in a buyers market, Howson would be wise to shuttle him out much like Pascal Leclaire was pawned to the Ottawa Senators.
Keep in mind these are barely even rumors, but it doesn’t mean that the Blue Jackets aren’t shopping people around. Or they at least should consider shopping them around …