Know Thy Enemy - The Columbus Blue Jackets: Summer of Discontent

Carter and Wisniewski, "Here goes nothin'" (Image courtesy of Getty Images/John Grieshop)

It’s been a busy off-season for the Jackets. Columbus could easily be referred to as the “Bizarro Predators”. With several top ten draft spots, seven head coaches, and three general managers in their 10 year history, patience does not rule the front office of the team. This past year, the fans have began to express their discontent. This past year saw the lowest attendance in team history, averaging 13,658 a game.

But kudos to Scott Howson, the current GM. Knowing the lack of patience shown to others, he knows the clock is ticking. Did he overspend this summer? You bet. Is the team better? Absolutely.

 HOW THEY SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION

  • -Underrated Rostislav Klesla was shipped off at the deadline for UFA Scottie Upshall (who was with the other cool kids that signed in Florida), leaving them without a defensive leader. Is James Wisniewski the answer? He’s about equal with Klesla, but will make a metric ton of cash more than “Rusty”. But you do what you gotta do if you’re Columbus.

 

  • -With Steve Mason’s form being more unpredictable than a Dean Koontz novel, a good backup goalie is needed dearly. In what may be the best kept secret of the entire UFA pool, Mark Dekanich takes his talents to Nationwide Arena. Dekanich is a workhorse, and put up some crazy stats in the AHL for Milwaukee last year. Deemed surplus by the Preds (you must be at least 6’4″ to play goalie in Nashville, and it helps to be Scandinavian), he arguable signed in the best place possible for him to get playing time. To ease the worried minds in Music City, I implore you to check out how former Predator goalies played against Nashville. If Mitch Korn and Barry Trotz can pick out the holes in Tomas Vokoun’s game, rest easy.

 

  • -In a VERY bold move for a franchise bleeding money, acquiring Jeff Carter does finally take some of the pressure off Rick Nash and gives Columbus another scoring threat. Carter is a natural center, and was known for a sick wrister and a good passing skills, which should allow for a career year for Nash. Carter’s game revolves around having space to operate, which should be interesting given the nature of the Central Division as it stands now and their stingy physical defensive pairs. The Jackets passed Philadelphia Jakob Voracek and their first and third round draft picks. If I’m a Columbus fan, this trade is like Christmas. The Blue Jackets haven’t been able to develop their slough of top 10 picks over the past decade with any consistency, or they’ve been rushed to the top too fast and stunted their development. (See- Nikita Filitov) They won’t be able to hold onto Rick Nash forever if their current trend of missing the playoffs continues, it was time to show their captain that the team was committed to winning and staying in the city. Good move. A bit risky, but a good move.

 

As a whole, is this team ready to contend for a playoff spot? If they were in the Eastern Conference, yes. Alas, they reside in the Central Division. While you do sympathize with the fans, ask yourself these questions:

  1. -Is the top six of Nash, Carter, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, Vinny Prospal (another solid signing) and Derek Brassard comparable to that of Chicago or Detroit? Are they THAT much better than St. Louis?
  2. -Are the defensemen as good as those in Detroit, Chicago, or Nashville?
  3. -Can you rely on Steve Mason to carry the load?

 

If you answered “NO” to more than two of those, you most likely won’t be above .500. It’s a lack of depth that holds the team back. And sadly for Columbus, depth either comes from development or spending like Detroit on older players. The Jackets have done neither over the years.

 

Prediction- 4th in the division, missing the playoffs.

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