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?
As hockey fans know, Rick Nash was traded yesterday from the Blue Jackets. The trade officially brought the Nash era to an end in Columbus; however, since the original announcement that a trade was asked for in February, we’ve watched the slow removal of Nash from the franchise. It was subtle – no more Nash on the official website, his voice no longer implored us to follow the team during radio advertisements, #61 didn’t loom large over Nationwide Arena or the Columbus Airport. By the time Nash was officially “gone”, it seemed like he’d been gone for a long time. But this was Rick’s way. Quiet, under the radar. It was Rick’s blessing and curse:
After months of anticipation, a Rick Nash trade was finally completed by Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson. What was shaping up to be another standard Monday turned into a guessing frenzy as parts of the deal began to form on social media outlets. As is common on Twitter, frustration mounted as parts of the were shared over the course of the next half hour, thanks mostly to Darren Dreger of TSN (and his inability to convince his Blackberry to type ’4′ instead of ‘s’). While the trade did not generate the ‘crazy high return’ everyone seemed to be expecting, the results of the trade were very much fair market value for Nash. It provided Columbus with the necessary pieces to continue the reshape of the team throughout the roster, along with a highly touted prospect.
The deal was as follows:
To Columbus: Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon, Artem Anisimov, and a 1st round pick (2013)
To New York: Rick Nash, Steven Delisle, and a conditional 3rd round pick (2013)
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
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:
With all due respect to John Davidson, it seems likely that Rick Nash is in his final weeks with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. Over the last few days both Canadan and myself have posted offseason gameplans that included a Nash trade. Dan’s featured Nash heading to Boston for a package featuring David Krejci coming back in return, while mine sent Marc Staal as the main piece coming from the New York Rangers. Both those trades are possible, but are only two of the hundreds of possible combinations that could plausibly be considered fair value for Nash. However, a large portion of those plausible deals should be avoided. Back in February, I wrote about what kind of trades work out when dealing a superstar player. Based on recent history, my opinion is that Nash should be dealt for a package featuring one major piece, a couple of other pieces to make up the value difference, and should not feature a goalie. While a goalie is still a primary concern, they are simply too risky when changing teams to be the major part of the Nash trade. The ideal trade would consist of Nash for a young star player that has not quite broken out yet, along with draft picks/prospects/young depth NHLers to make up the value. With this in mind, I went through the rosters and prospect lists of every NHL team to find the players that I think the Blue Jackets should target. With these players in mind, I then rated the interest that team would have in dealing for Nash, the Blue Jackets interest in such a deal, and Nash’s interest in waiving his no trade clause to go to said team. Without one of the following players returning for Nash, I would consider the trade a failure.
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.
A few weeks ago I posted my breakdown of the Blue Jackets scoring chances at even strength . Since that article has gone up I’ve spent far too much time working through the data for special teams. The results are not exactly what I was expecting and I am not entirely sure what to make of it. The effectiveness of Derek Dorsett and Mark Letestu on the powerplay perplexed me. The ineffectiveness of Jack Johnson, RJ Umberger and James Wisniewski perplexed me more. The differing rates of scoring chances between Jackets powerplays and opponent powerplays put a wrench into comparisons. To combat some of these issues, I took a look at the rate at which scoring chances were converted while these players were on the ice. This painted a better picture of what players contributed to generating chances, as well as what players generated fewer chances but converted more of those chances to goals. Further, this analysis applied to shorthanded scoring chances was similarly illuminating. Again, many thanks to the awesome Matt Wagner at The Cannon for compiling the full breakdown of the Jackets scoring chances. Continue reading Special Teams Scoring Chance Rates
A criticism often extended to the Blue Jackets is the lack of team depth. Whether in reference to scoring or support, it has long been an excuse given to the sympathy of Rick Nash’s ‘plight’ in Ohio. It is argued that he has not been given ample line support or an entire supporting cast to fully reach his potential as a scorer in the National Hockey League.
Fast forward to the 2012 NHL playoffs, and we have been forced to witness Blue Jackets players of the past thrive in their new homes. The “#CBJwest” Phoenix Coyotes feature former Jackets Ray Whitney, Gilbert Brule, Antoine Vermette, Rusty Klesla, and Raffi Torres. They have all been visible this post-season, none more shocking than Vermette, who has found a scoring touch Columbus had not seen since his early days here. Other notables include eliminated Sammy Pahlsson playing in Vancouver, Jakub Voracek recently eliminated in Philadelphia, Anton Stralman in New York, and also recently eliminated Kris Russell playing in St Louis (I’ll go ahead and exclude Jeff Carter for too many reasons to list).
Most in that group made a significant impact to their team this spring. Here is a list of players and their points this post season:
|Player Name||Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
As you can see, they are definitely providing strong depth scoring, and in some cases have become one of the top scorers on their respective teams. With this in mind, I can’t help but begin to destroy the silly argument suggesting a complete lack of a supporting cast around “All Star captain Rick Nash.” But for as much as I wanted this commentary to circle around that argument, I think a more pressing issue is evident here.
Two days ago I wrote a pretty scathing piece upon hearing that it was Rick Nash, not the Columbus Blue Jackets management who decided that it was time for him to be traded. It was received with very mixed emotions and I had anticipated that, but I do want to clarify a number of things that brought me to my opinion and why I was as bothered as I was.
To begin, I have followed Nash for over a decade. To say I have been a Rick Nash fan is a pretty heavy understatement. I have watched him in juniors, playing for Team Canada in a number of different age groups as well as an Olympic team, and I have watched the better part of his career with the Blue Jackets. I have watched him play some absolutely incredible hockey, and I have watched him play some pretty terrible hockey. What I believe we have been watching this year, is something right in the middle, and to find out that he has even considered the idea of leaving Columbus in some form or another truly rocked me to my core.
I signed on for Nash’s contract extension just like everyone else did. I wanted him here making brilliant plays and leading this team back to the playoffs, and two days ago, I went from thinking the club was simply doing everything they could to better position themselves, to realizing that it was generated by Nash himself. Now, I get the argument that Nash didn’t ‘demand’ a trade (he offered it), but when something like this happens, there is no going back. You can’t dangle a player of Nash’s caliber on the trade market and then shrug it off if a deal isn’t made. The moment his availability became public was the moment I knew his time in Columbus had an expiry date.
- He believes the assets he could provide would benefit the Jackets more than he would. Therein, he thinks he isn’t good enough to be the Blue Jackets franchise player. He costs the team 7.8 million dollars every year on the cap, and has not been able to play to that level of quality. In his Richard year scoring 41 goals, and the 08/09 season he and Mason put the team on their shoulders, however he has not come close to matching that output nor has he been even remotely as dominant with the puck
- He doesn’t feel like going through another rebuild/reshape. Feel free to add my name to that list as well, but Nash has decided he doesn’t want to have to work in Columbus to create a long term winner anymore.
- He wants to play for contending team. A better team. He no longer wants to be the cornerstone of a franchise and wants to be a second tier player on a team already primed to make the playoffs and compete for a cup.
I really can’t fathom any other excuses for him, not to suggest that these are ‘good’ ones. This is a guy who is basically never held accountable for a questionable leadership group, nor his poor performances of late. He is a guy who is idolized in the city, not just for his efforts as a Blue Jacket, but as a member of the community. He has truly been given everything, yet he doesn’t want to honour his deal and help Columbus become a winning hockey team. The commitment he made only a couple of years ago.
These are the reasons why it cut into me so deep. We have all as fans committed to him as the franchise cornerstone for eight years, and he doesn’t believe that he can deliver. I don’t sympathize for him after his comments yesterday, and while I would never consider booing him, I am not going to attack the fans who feel strongly enough to do so. I will also not feel sorry for him, because he has had every chance to win here, and considering has hasn’t played up to his own potential throughout, I have to think he’s only been a part of the enormous on ice problem for this team.
I’d like to share some interesting perspectives on the whole situation:
Rick Nash painted as the villain in Blue Jackets saga
– Traikos at The National Post
Traikos notes that Nash’s perception could change, and suggests there is some correlation between the situations of Dany Heatley and Lebron James.. And I am not so sure the puzzle pieces don’t miss by much
Jackets, Nash Continue to say all the Wrong Things
– Arace at the Columbus Dispatch
This was a pretty rough shot at the handling of the entire situation, but it’s a perfectly fair argument.. This comment was most profound: “The fans are the only people who are ticked off, and they will tell you why. They know a lack of leadership when it pats them, patronizingly, on the back.” Sounds like Arace doesn’t buy the words of encouragement coming out of Nash.
Standing Behind Scott Howson (And not to Kick Him in the Butt)
- Ross of NHL Home Ice
Ross discusses the logic behind Howson’s honesty, and I agree with most of what he is saying. There is a lot of great info in this so I won’t take an individual comment out – It’s worth the read.
Safe to say I am not calling Nash “Heatley” or “James,” and I won’t be chasing him out of town with a broom, but I do feel a disconnect to him now. I wish he remained committed to the team, but he has made his decision to move on, and I’ll be doing the same. The assets that will be brought in for him in trade will be substantial, and they will work to quickly reshape this team into the playoff team the fans deserve. Now all I need Nash to do is expand his list so Columbus can get the best return possible. At that point, my high opinion of him may very well return.
Carry the Flag.