Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Post: On trading Rick Nash

[The DBJ blog occasionally receives requests from loyal Columbus Blue Jackets fans to offer their unique thoughts on the Blue Jackets issues of the day.  Today is one of those days, as Iowan Jackets fan Dan McCue shares his opinion on the Rick Nash trade.]

Trading Rick Nash makes the Columbus Blue Jackets a better team.

I’m glad we traded Rick Nash.

I’m glad we traded him and if you’re a Jackets fan, you should be, too because Nash’s trade confirms that he was an ill fit for the Blue Jackets identity. At their best, the Jackets have been a team that plays hard for each other and beats the other team with effort first, then talent.

Lest you, dear reader, question my credentials: Columbus native, still own a Columbus Mad Cows T-shirt (too threadbare to wear anymore), own a Rick Nash sweater, and have seen them in person at least once each season. I’ve worn the sweater to road games in California, Minnesota, and St. Louis and gotten the strange looks. When we were Las Vegas Wranglers season ticket holders, I was the “Jackets guy.” I’m also not a Howson apologist. He can be a roster ninja, but mishandles talent (Mason, Hitchcock, and Boomer, to name a few), and seems to have a tin ear for fan relations.

Rick Nash was the face of the franchise but he never fully meshed with the 40+ centers he skated with in Columbus. GMs Doug MacLean and Scott Howson both missed chances to pair him with elite centers (Joe Thorton and Brad Richards, respectively). Being the face, the captain, and the playmaker were too many hats for Nash to wear. Sprinkle in a little dysfunction -- fun fact: Nash had played for all eight head coaches and every captain except Lyle Odelein. Sending away Nash wipes away much of the institutional memory of darker moments in CBJ history.

Howson has heeded the advice of the late Herb Brooks (and, perhaps, senior advisor Craig Patrick?), looking for the right players for the Jackets, not the best ones. Prospal, Umberger, Wisniewski, Johnson, Dorsett, and Tyutin (and now Dubinsky, Aucoin, and Ansimov) form a leadership core focused on hard work, grit and effort.

Oh yeah, they want to play here, too.Wisniewski has unfinished business from a suspension and injury-filled ‘11-’12 campaign. Johnson loves to be in Columbus and wants to be part of the solution. Dorsett is willing to fight anyone. Umberger sees depth and things to prove personally and as a team:

It’s a group that will have to work really hard and earn everything we get. All the players are guys who feel like they really need to prove something.

Working hard and proving something, the proverbial chip on the shoulder: that is the identity of the Blue Jackets. It was an identity forged during the closing months of the first season with a team of misfit cast-offs.

We fans and the players already know who wants this team to flounder. We know we want to win. We have a core of players who want to win here in Columbus, now.

We don’t have the best players, but I believe we have the right ones. Maybe we should just have this kid give pregame speeches for Todd Richards?


  1. I have a question: do you honestly believe that all those articles you link under "already know who wants this team to flounder" actually want Columbus to fail?

    I don't reach that conclusion whatsoever. In fact, I see quite the opposite out of most of them. Calls to fire Scott Howson (something I strongly support) are ones that want the Blue Jackets to succeed. A nearly universal outside opinion (and a fairly loud one even within the fanbase) is that removing the terrible GM will help to improve the team. Articles that insult Howson do not suggest a desire for perpetual Jacket failure, rather they hope for a future where the team is on more even footing with the rest of the NHL.

    You've noted that you like the less-talent more-work version of the roster, and quite frankly that's another area I completely disagree with you on. Teams win in the NHL by generating more shots and scoring more goals. This current version of the Blue Jackets is sorely lacking in that kind of talent (with Johansen and quasi-Atkinson as the only two players with chance at being real first line forwards).

    The problem in the past was not Nash, but the lack of other stars around Nash. And that comes back around to the organization: poor drafting, uninspiring free agent signings, solid-but-unspectacular trades (excepting the Jeff Carter deal... which was nullified by picking up one of the worst d-men in the NHL when Carter was sent to LA).

    Columbus needs talent to succeed, and for as good as the Nash return was (and yes, it really was), the team still isn't much further ahead in the talent department and seems ready to be near the basement yet again. Talent, and the acquisition of talent should be the goal and form the identity of the team. Hopefully this phase (with only 2nd and 3rd line players) is just a stepping stone rather than a long-term answer.

    1. Zekebud - good point about goals and goaltending. CBJ has to score more than the other team. The Jackets have tried hope as a strategy...we know how that turned out.

      I would like to see more proven talent in the lineup (especially between the pipes), but it must fit with the emerging identity of team play, effort, and grit.

  2. Zekebud: My man, when you're 'bang on', you're 'bang on' - well done!

    With Nash, where did they finish? 30th

    Without Nash, where will they finish? Uh, can there be a 35th place even though there are 30 teams?

    And cut the crap with any reference of Howson as a ninja! He is the WORST GM in the league, bar none! Trust me, as I cover the league, the running joke among personnel types in the NHL is how this simpleton is still able to keep his job - he deserves ZERO credit, for anything - well, anything good unless you want to give him credit for taking a playoff team into the abyss, with NO exit strategy.

    Zekebud is absolutely correct - it's all about talent AND effort. This GM gets "excited" at the mere mention of scrappy 3rd and 4th line guys, which explains his EIGHT acquisitions of former Oil players.

    To that end, how did the Oil (as they're called in Edmonton - I meant to spell it, that way) when this GM was an Asst GM? One playoff appearance in 6 years and that was as an 8th seed. How have they done since? Well, they've secured the top spot in the draft lottery.

    So, spare me the reverence to this weasel who orchestrated the ouster of the current Jack Adams award recipient - yeah, Hitch is about as out-of-touch with today's NHL as Lady Gaga is with pop culture and last I checked, she was pretty tuned in.

    Did the Kings win the SC with scrappy players? No, with elite talent and elite goaltending - memo to the GM who keeps hauling SM out there! Did the Bruins win the SC with scrap and verve - a little, but they also had elite talent and great goaltending.

    Like his next great move, the next time this GM realizes that great goaltending can steal you a game or 12, steal you a SC playoff series and possibly win you a SC will be the first time.

    Guts can only get you so far, you need talent and this GM wouldn't know it if it beat him over his dopey head.

    1. Hitch Rules - I agree, Howson has made more than his share of errors. Your comparison to the Kings is curious. Dean Lombardi looks like a genius this year, but the Kings have not cast shadows in the standings under his tenure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Los_Angeles_Kings_seasons.

      Jonathan Quick took a big step forward as a goaltender this year and the team peaked at the right time. Prior to acquiring Carter, Dustin Brown was on the hot seat/trading block. The offseason and midseason acquisitions Lombardi made coalesced the Kings into a championship team.

      Perhaps trading Nash and Carter to acquire Johnson, Dubinsky, and Ansimov may be steps toward creating needed team chemistry for CBJ.

  3. I will voice an objecting opinion here. I will also refrain from name calling and personal attacks. Some things to consider, while the Kings deserve every ounce of credit for their championship, arguably there are other teams that had more "elite talent" - VAN (league points leader), PIT and NYR that didn't have the chemistry work together all at the same time and get to the final round. The Kings also had fewer goals than the CBJ last season - they just made up for that in fewest GAA.

    I will miss Nash and I will never question his inherent talent, but I think some things have been revealed to us in terms of how this organization handled him and also how he handled the role as Captain. Aaron Portzline pointed out in his 61 points piece that Nash set standards of not defending teammates as physically as perhaps a young team needed. And that his quiet demeanor was a bit of a drawback to a group seeking to find a way to go. Nash was also part of the reasoning for Hitch to go - he tuned him out. Arguably, there are some positives that a different attitude and set of intangibles can bring. Also, this organization built around Nash for almost all of his career. We now need to build around an ORGANIZATION not our one and only all-star.

    I agree with Zeke 100% that the path to winning is lined with goals and that our Goalie situation is tenable this year; however, there's still a bit more to it all. If there wasn't, we wouldn't need to play the games - we could throw some stats on a piece of paper and predict the winner every time.

    I appreciate what the team has in front of them - and I hope that we can start to build a foundation of a team that can succeed long term rather than revolve around one player. We are where we are - we need to focus on where we can go from here.

    1. Thanks, Alison - well said, especially Nash's leadership qualities being an ill fit for what the team needs.

  4. Zeke and Hitch Rules hit it on the nose. The problem with this team is still running around pretending to be a GM. He tried to be a coach of his kids summer hockey team too, but the rest of the parents were smart enough after the first game to end that. No seriously....


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