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.
Continue reading So What Does the Davidson Addition Actually Mean?
The Blue Jackets forwards corps have undergone a massive overhaul this offeason. Gone is Rick Nash, and with him the semblance of having a traditional top line. Much discussion has happened over the summer of how the forwards will look this coming season. The Cannon has been breaking down the battles we should see in training camp, and a lot of the comments have been focused on a “Top Six” versus “Top Nine” approach. There are a number of schools of thought on how to build a forward group. Some people, like Toronto GM Brian Burke, prefer a Top Six-Bottom Six approach (ie. six offensive forwards, six defensive/checking forwards). Vancouver has built a specialized line up consisting of a pure offense 1st line, solid two-way 2nd line, defensive specialist 3rd line, and rugged 4th line. Boston rolls three lines who are capable in both ends of the rink. Last season the Jackets planned to have three lines capable of scoring, with one shutdown group. While that failed for a number of reasons (impatience, coaching, and personnel), I think we are going to see something in between that approach and the Boston approach in 2012-13.
But what exactly does this mean? The potential for an offensive struggle is something I have been batting around in my mind since the Nash trade. The Blue Jackets don’t appear to have any 1st line talents, but a large contingent of 2nd to 3rd liners. It’s difficult to see how this compares to other teams, as so many factors come into play. To quantify these players, I took a very simple approach: points per game. I broke down every forwards who played at least 27 games last season, then split them into approximately the top 90 forwards (ie. three forwards per team), the second 90 forwards, and the third 90 forwards, with any players below being “4th liners”. With this breakdown complete, I was able to look at forwards and teams in a number of ways, from what that means practically, to the availability of each group of players, to how those players fit into their teams for next season.
Continue reading Expectations, Points per Game and the Blue Jackets Forwards
When he became a Blue Jacket last month, Brandon Dubinsky wasted no time in coming to Columbus. Within a week of the Nash trade announcement, “Duby” was C-Bus bound. While his first trip was documented by some in the media with comments regarding his dapper style, clothing choices and appearance, I wanted to delve deeper into the player. I wanted to understand what he could bring to our club which is so desperately seeking the elusive combination of significant talent and tremendous heart.
We have learned to be cautious with new players coming to town. We’ve had brushes with great skill but lack of heart. Current naysayers have said that the Jackets that are still here from last season have all the “desire to win” in the world, but can’t back it up with elite talent. I’ve now spent the weeks since the trade with the Rangers learning more about Dubinsky, and, I also had the chance to meet him at one of the CBJ open houses. I think we just might have our man.
Continue reading Brandon Dubinsky Takes on Columbus
One of the major questions surrounding the Blue Jackets heading into the 2012/2013 season is goaltending. Returning goalie Steve Mason appears to be the secondary option to newly acquired Sergei Bobrovsky. This is assuming the young Russian netminder can find his way back to his rookie season form, which he finished with a save percentage of .915. While I am optimistic that we will see a quality goaltender in Bobrovsky, my limited knowledge of him as a player leaves me waiting for training camp to see what he can really provide Columbus.
Mason on the other hand reads like an open book. An extremely promising rookie season was followed by a number of disappointing years for the young goalie, not unlike the rest of his team. His compete level, his conditioning, and his confidence all seemed questionable, especially when a couple of bad breaks worked against him during games. A common opinion notes the lack of success of Columbus directly relates to their goaltending situation, and with that, Mason.
Continue reading Mason/Bobrovsky Depth Chart Offers Plenty of Intrigue
A lot of digital ink has been spilled over the last six months regarding the Rick Nash trade. It seemed every time a new piece of information became public, many in the media decided to take shots at Scott Howson. When it came out he asked for Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner, he was ridiculed. Nevermind the fact that you never start a negotiation by asking for the expected return, but with the best case scenario. Howson was further mocked when it came out that he was looking for two young NHL roster players and two prospects. This continued again last week when it was leaked that two NHL forwards were the pieces Howson wanted in return. After it was announced that Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and New York’s 2013 1st round pick would be headed to Columbus, the same people who mocked Howson earlier mocked him again. What the hell? Howson ended up with what he was looking for. He got a good young top six forward (Dubinsky), another solid NHL player with upside (Anisimov) and two prospects (well Erixon and a 1st). I honestly don’t understand how any respectable member of the media can mock Howson for asking for “too much”, then when he makes a deal for the EXACT price he was asking for, they mock him for making a bad deal?
Continue reading Rick Nash Trade: How the Pieces Fit
Many of our esteemed blogger colleagues have already ruminated long and poetic on the many complexities of the pending Rick Nash trade. What has been interesting to watch is the changing perspectives on this scenario from the non-CBJ affiliated fans and media. The headlines have long been “Rick Nash Deserves Better than Columbus”, “Trade Rick Nash”, “Rick Nash is Held Back by Everything in Blue Jackets Land”. But, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a new story line… “the price is too high”, “Nash isn’t that good”, “Nash is overpaid”.
Many Blue Jackets fans – even those who have long demanded Nash’s ouster – have seen this as a rallying cry. How dare we consider Nash to be less than the All-Star we’ve long heard him to be. However, battered as we are by last season, doubt has started to creep in and now, people are considering the possibility that Nash stays in Columbus. Maybe he just wasn’t that good after all, maybe we can’t get anything of value back.
So let’s strip the fandom, and the record, of our team away for a second and consider this situation. And let’s be careful to consider what has been shared as fact versus conjecture. What do we know?
- Rick Nash has approached CBJ leadership about being traded for the purpose of “bettering the team”
- Rick Nash has an NTC/NMC in his current contract and has submitted a list of teams for which he would waive said clause
- Offers have been made & teams have expressed interest
- Scott Howson will stand by his pre-determined standard for what is acceptable return for Rick Nash
- The Blue Jackets organization has an almost historic reputation for being tight-lipped about any movements and has often been known to zig when everyone is expecting the zag
Continue reading Thoughts on Rick Nash…and the Trade that Isn’t (Yet)
The build up is rarely worth the wait. Every June I get ready for free agency, with dozens of players on my ‘want’ list, and probably just as many on my ‘stay away’ list. The options are endless and I would be foolish to suggest that I am on target with too many of my suggestions, but it’s in my nature to constantly consider the possibilities.
The biggest fear I had was the level of success on acquiring players. I still have plenty of confidence in Scott Howson, but I question the players looking at Columbus as a quality place for playing hockey. They are in the early stages of a rebuild that includes a new identity, and many guys seem to be focused on finding a competitive team, along with their payday.
The clock strikes noon, and all is quiet. With heads turned towards Parise and Suter, I sat patiently on the patio refreshing my phone, hoping for something. It took a couple of hours, but finally, after months of preparation, the first chip fell;
Continue reading Strong Start to Free Agency
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:
Continue reading Blue Jackets Free Agency Primer
With the signing of Josh Harding today, and the subsequent walk off the deep end by many Blue Jackets fans, I thought I would put together a quick list of the goalies that are either available as unrestricted free agents and trade, as well as goalies who might be available by trade, and those goalies that are currently unsigned restricted free agents (of those with 10+ NHL GP last year). This list is currently sorted by even strength save percentage, which is the best statistic for goaltenders that is readily available (removes the randomness/team factors of shorthanded and powerplay goals). Also included are the standard save percentage and goals against average (and the chart is sortable). Curtis Sanford, Allen York and Steve Mason are also in there for perspective. So dig in and let us know in the comments what goalies you want to see in Union Blue next season!
Continue reading The Goalie Carousel
I can’t say too much about the goaltending situation in Columbus that hasn’t already been said. We know change is coming. The Blue Jackets had seven different goaltenders under their control last season, and it seems likely that up to six of them could be gone before next season. Draft pick Mathieu Corbeil was not signed and will re-enter the draft. College free agent Matt Hunwick will not be re-signed. Curtis McElhinney was nothing more than a contract in the Antoine Vermette trade, but he will not be back in Columbus. Curtis Sanford has already signed in the KHL. Mark Dekanich is an unrestricted free agent and basically missed all of last season with injuries. That leaves only Allen York and the much maligned Steve Mason. Both could be back with the Blue Jackets, but not in the same spot as last year. The team finally appears ready to move on from the Mason as starter experiment. Whether this means he’ll be a back-up, traded elsewhere, waived, or playing in the AHL remains to be seen. York played everywhere last season, from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL. Considering all his movement, he fared fairly well. I would hope to see York paired with a capable goaltender in the AHL to further aid his development.
When assessing goaltenders, statistics are very difficult. Wins and goals against average are commonly used by some, but are far too team dependent. Even save percentage can fluctuate wildly. Fortunately, people out there have done the research for me. What they have found is that a goaltenders even strength save percentage is the best indicator of individual goaltender skill. It removes the team element of shorthanded play, as well as the randomness of the powerplay. Looking at the Blue Jackets last year, they were led by Curtis Sanford and his .923 ESSV%, followed by Allen York at .917, and then Steve Mason with a .911 ESSV%. This would probably follow along with the perception of those who watched these goaltenders over the course of the season. With these numbers in mind, I took a look at the goaltending situation of every team in the NHL. Unlike most positions, there are very limited goaltending jobs available in the NHL. It creates a “musical chairs” of sorts every offseason, as players jockey for starting and back-up jobs around the league. Fortunately for the Blue Jackets this offseason, there do not appear to be many suitors for starting goaltenders. Unfortunately, only Josh Harding appears to be the only unrestricted free agent with the skill to be a solid starting goalie. Back-up goaltenders will be in demand this offseason, but there is a lengthy list of solid back-ups on the UFA market. This list includes Scott Clemmensen, Dan Ellis, Johan Hedberg, Martin Biron, Jonas Gustavsson and Al Montoya, among several others. To get an idea of how the goaltender carousel may shake out, let’s take a look around the league:
Continue reading Goalies, Goalies, Goalies