Seriously folks. I know I seem to come across like the biggest Dalton Prout hater that ever lived, but I swear this has nothing to do with anything I’ve previously said on the man (or kid). I’ve usually had good things to say about Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray (and think Murray is legit), but those three guys have a much bigger hill to climb than you probably expect. Continue reading CBJ Fans, Prepare Yourself for a Different Defense Than You Expect
Less than an hour into this year’s unrestricted free agency word came in that the Columbus Blue Jackets had landed one of the biggest fishes in free agency (both literally and figuratively). Nathan Horton is officially a Columbus Blue Jacket. That feels nice to say. I have long been a huge fan of Horton, and he is the perfect fit for the Blue Jackets. A big skilled right-winger, Horton has no qualms about crashing and banging, brings it every night, and isn’t afraid to go to the net. Most importantly, he brings size to the Blue Jackets but in the right way to add size. Bringing in a 4th line masher who happens to be big is pointless, but adding a former 30 goal scorer who tops the scales at 230lbs while standing 6’3″ is how you need to do it. Continue reading Nathan Horton – Officially a Columbus Blue Jacket
This free agency preview is going to be a little different than I had planned on. I started out with the intention of putting together a lineup of the currently signed Blue Jackets players, where they fit in the lineup, and where holes still remained. The problem is that the Blue Jackets have such a versatile lineup, and enough prospects on the cusp of the NHL, that you can very easily put together a very solid looking lineup without adding a single player via UFA or trade. For example:
Nick Foligno – Artem Anisimov – Marian Gaborik
RJ Umberger – Ryan Johansen – Brandon Dubinsky
Matt Calvert – Boone Jenner – Cam Atkinson
Blake Comeau – Mark Letestu – Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin – Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray – James Wisniewski
Tim Erixon – Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky – Curtis McElhinney
Not too shabby, eh? I think that is roster that has the potential to compete for a playoff spot in the newly designed Eastern Conference Division D (really hoping they come up with a better name than that). But that lineup does a few things I don’t think JD and Jarmo really want to do. It puts Murray and Jenner right into the NHL, something JD has only done once in St. Louis (David Perron). Usually he signs depth veterans, uses the youngsters as call-ups and makes them force their way onto the team (then flips the vets for picks later). It also has a number of players playing at a spot in their lineup that is probably above their heads. Continue reading Blue Jackets Free Agency Preview
The curtain rose on Draft Day 2013 with more subplots than your average bodice-ripper from the Blue Jackets’s perspective. Would Bobrovsky be signed? If not, would it be likely enough to avoid a big deal for a net minder? If not likely, how would the club fill the void? What deals could be done for scoring help? What caliber of prospects would be around for the Columbus picks? Who shot J.R.? Oops, sorry, got carried away there . . . (If you don’t get it, Google it, kids.)
Scene I — The Bobrovsky Reversals
The saga surrounding the re-signing of Sergei Bobrovsky had all the elements of a Cold War spy epic — Russian intrigue, a mysterious, little-known agent, conflicting messages and predictions of dire consequences if a negotiated peace could not be found.
As Sunday progressed, the pace of the drama escalated, waned, changed directions entirely — twice — and was then followed by a long and uneasy quiet. While the climax did not come until earlier today, by the time the draft wound down at 10:30 PM last night, the outcome seemed clear. The Coach was on top of it all the way, as documented in his Draft Day Live Blog. Continue reading The Post-Season Show: Drama in Act One . . .Action in Act Two?
While draft day left most looking ahead to the potential assets being acquired by Columbus, there was a story that slowly built throughout the day regarding restricted free agent and Vezina winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Words like “optimistic” and “close” were used frequently, leading the masses to believe that a contract wasn’t a question of if, but when. A nice change from the conversations suggesting the KHL was calling and offering big money.
Monday did not disappoint, with the news slowing starting to trickle in from various media sources claiming a two year deal was made. The explanations, ranging from three million per season to six million per season, were confirmed shortly thereafter at two years, with an average cap hit of $5.625 million.
There are a lot of positives to take out of this deal, with plenty of questions left unanswered.
Exciting news out of the Blue Jackets front office in the middle of our week as restricted free agent Artem Anisimov has signed a three year contract extension. This deal will lock him in until the end of the 2015/2016 season, at which point he will become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 28.
His most recent contract, a two year, 1.875m average cap hit, saw him play to very solid depth potential. Being utilized in a scoring role as well as a defensive role, Anisimov proved that he is a multi faceted asset worth a decent raise. He also managed to impress the fan base quickly, showing that he could be a great asset to the team both on and off the ice.
Earlier this morning, news out of twitter suggested that the tenacious young forward Matt Calvert received a two year contract. He was scheduled to be an RFA this summer, and while his efforts in a Blue Jackets uniform over the last couple seasons can be easily compared to a roller coaster ride, his play of late justified a solid pay day. Here’s the first I saw of it, and a kudos to Rob Kunz over at 10TV for the retweet:
@Rob10TVSports: RT @RenLavoieRDS: Matt Calvert signed a contract extension with Blue Jackets. 2 years / $1 975 000 total. One way contract. #RDS #CBJ Continue reading Matt Calvert Re-Signed for Two Years
A lot of people have written a lot of things so far on the Blue Jackets’ hiring of John Davidson to be President of Hockey Operations. I’ll leave it to others to discuss how this impacts the fans, what is means to the city, etc. What I can talk about regarding this hire, is how it will impact the team directly.
The first place where Davidson will have a major impact is the culture of the organization. This is something that has been in flux for a while now, and with Rick Nash gone, Davidson can step into the void. He is a proven winner, a respected voice, and has a cult of personality that can dominate the spotlight without making it look like he is trying to dominate the spotlight. This allows the players to play, Howson to manage, and Richards to coach, without having to be in the public eye as much. When it comes to culture, Davidson’s Blues teams have always been workmanlike teams with a strong veteran presence. That should carry over to Columbus. He will not allow the ‘country club’ culture that has been persistent in the Jackets history to continue.
Davidson will also help greatly with the perception of Columbus around the league. Look at Sergei Kostitsyn’s comments the other day, Marc Crawford’s comments a few months ago, among many other quotes from people in the game of hockey regarding Columbus. It is incredibly tough to break out of that perception. But it can be done. No one in their right mind would argue that Columbus is a “gloomier” city to live in than Detroit. But Detroit has a reputation around the league as a first class organization and a winner, which trumps the depression that is actually living in Detroit. This is in spite of the fact that Detroit had a fifteen year stretch as the laughingstock of the league, picking up almost as many insulting nicknames (“Dead Wings”) as playoff appearances (two). They brought in respected veteran front office guy Jimmy Devellano from the New York Islanders dynasty, drafted Steve Yzerman (amongst others), and the rest is history. The hire of John Davidson is on par with the Wings hire of Devellano, and with some luck, Ryan Murray could be our Steve Yzerman (not in play, but in personality and impact to the organization). In any case, John Davidson is the first step towards changing the perception of Columbus as the “Island of Misfit Toys”.
In a more direct way, the Blue Jackets will benefit from the additional veteran voice in the decision making process. Columbus has long had one of the smaller front offices in the NHL, and one of the greenest. I have long liked their approach, but more experienced voices have been needed since Don Boyd and Bob Strum were let go last offseason. A veteran like Davidson has seen the ups and downs of many players over the course of his career, and that benefit of that experience is damn near incalculable when trying to properly assess player value. Along with Craig Patrick, Davidson provides the Blue Jackets front office with as much, or more, of this experience than most other franchises currently possess.
The Blue Jackets did not make this post easy on me. As we head into the beginning of free agency July 1, and look at the Jackets’ needs, we still have to consider the pending trade of Rick Nash which will almost certainly bring back at least one NHL roster player. Who will that player be? What position will he play? Will there be multiple NHL players? A couple of top six forwards coming back really changes the Blue Jackets goals heading into free agency. So for the purposes of this post, I will be considering the NHL roster as-is, minus Rick Nash.
As I currently see it, the team needs at least one top six forward, at least one bottom six forward, a depth defenseman, and an NHL goaltender. Preferably, they would add two top six forwards and one bottom six forward. On offense, this would push Vinny Prospal, Ryan Johansen, and/or Cam Atkinson into the bottom six, who could then form a third scoring line with Mark Letestu and either Derek Dorsett or a trade/free agent pick-up. The versatility of Ryan Johansen and Mark Letestu really helps with the flexibility, as does having Johansen, Atkinson and Ryan Russell on two-way contracts. Johansen and Letestu can shift to the wing, and Johansen, Atkinson and Russell could all be sent to Springfield if better options are added.
On defense, the selection of Ryan Murray solidifies the Blue Jackets top six for next season. Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin and Marc Methot should be locks for five of the spots. The last spot will come down to Ryan Murray, John Moore or possibly David Savard. I would expect to see Murray get a nine game regular season tryout before the winner of that spot is selected. Only one of those three should be on the NHL roster, while the other two play big minutes in the AHL/WHL. This would require a seventh defenseman for the NHL roster, one who would likely only play in emergency situations, or if the blueline is struck by multiple injuries. In net, a better option than Steve Mason is necessary. Whether or not that player will be better than Sergei Bobrovsky is up in the air, but someone needs to be brought in. For a better handle on their needs, let’s take a look at the Blue Jackets roster:
Rick Nash. The second overall pick. Goaltending. Defensive defenseman. Top six forwards. What do all of these have in common? I have talked about them ad nauseam over the last couple months. They all represent something that will change from the current incarnation of the Blue Jackets, to the team who takes the ice opening night. I’ve probably discussed hundreds of versions of the Nash trade; I’ve written two mock drafts; talked endlessly about Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko, et al; I’ve reviewed every UFA goaltenders statistics dozens of times; and spent far too many hours playing with the CapGeek.com Cap Calculator. So I thought I would take all that time and make it useful. I put together the moves I would make if I was running the Blue Jackets, including the Nash trade, who I would take in the draft, what free agents I would sign, and one more surprise trade that I like and I imagine every other Jackets fan will hate.