Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 8th pick

Interesting times around the Columbus Blue Jackets world right now.  At least from a public relations perspective, the laissez-faire personnel approach of the last couple seasons has been replaced by a fresh attitude of activity this time around.  Whether that attitude is genuine or not is something I can't judge right now - the proof is in the pudding, as they say.  If the CBJ emerge from July 15 -after the draft and two weeks after the opening of free agency - with a meaningfully different roster than which we see right now, then perhaps the feeling is indeed legit.  (And none of this "It takes two to tango" excuse-making, folks...when there are 30 teams in the league, with half not qualifying for the playoffs and all but two not making the Stanley Cup Finals, there are plenty of suitors.)

Nothing more perfectly symbolizes the "make it happen now" philopsophy than the virtual neon sign at Nationwide Arena suggesting that the 8th overall pick in Friday's NHL entry draft is open for bidding.  That's right, NHL, if you want a solid second-tier draft position, pick up the phone and call Mr. Howson.  He'll listen.

But I think that there's more at play here.  Scott Howson isn't stupid.  If he is looking for a top 6 center, or a top 4 defenseman, in exchange for his pick, I can't think that a draftee who likely wouldn't be projected to start on an NHL roster in 2011-12 could grab a GM's attention to the point that they'd be willing to give up the type of player that Howson desires (unless the other team is blowing up their roster, jettisoning salary and starting over with a young movement of their own - that's a totally different story). The 8th pick certainly is not a junk pick, but it's nothing close to a guaranteed future all-star.  Ask Pascal Leclaire or Alexandre Picard, both of whom were taken in the 8th slot by the Blue Jackets in years past.

So here's my take: The 8th pick is less of a prize in and of itself than a throw-in.  It's a deal-sweetener.  What Howson is really doing by promoting his willingness to deal at the draft is advertising that his entire roster is available to be picked over at the Great NHL Garage Sale.  (Well, everyone except Rick Nash.)  If you're ready to give up your Jeff Carter (as many suggest the Philadelphia Flyers are) or some comparable near-all star talent, let the CBJ know who you want in exchange.  If the Columbus player is not quite enough to seal the deal, they always can throw in the 8th pick.  But don't give my team your tired, worn-out, huddled masses.  Howson wants needs talent on this roster, and he's willing to give a little of his own to get a lot more from you in return.

If it takes the 8th pick, fine.  More and more, I get the sense that the pick just isn't that important.  The CBJ plan isn't about building for the future any more.  It's about winning.  NOW.

1 comment:

  1. DBJ -
    I guess this is why I am not that concerned if we end up taking the pick. Part of our problem is that in spite of the fact that we are 10 years old, we are still a comparatively young franchise. In those terms there is nothing wrong with stocking the talent pool at the AHL and letting things develop. This is a draft that is not full of 'NHL' ready 18 year olds. The future will show an ample crop of these guys having significant careers in the NHL. Tim Thomas is my poster child of 'draft busts'. While an exception, winning two Vezina's (gonna happen) and a Conn Smythe later in his career, there are players who develop later. And players have long careers. That's why the Quebec Nordiques, a defunct team, appear to be better at drafting than us. They have the whole of players careers to reflect their drafting. We don't really have that yet, and won't until after Nash retires. We are still a young franchise with ample growing pains. That's why it is not a bad thing if we make this pick, which I slightly favor. I don't want to trade this pick if it will not yield something signifiant (e.g. Carter).

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