Brandon Dubinsky signed a 6 year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The details of the contract are largely irrelevant, at least in this space, whereas his desire to remain in Columbus for an extended period of time is hugely important. The core of this team has been formed, and will remain in place so long as they continue to find success. The nature of the core of players for the Columbus Blue Jackets is simple. They badly want to win. They think they can. They know the road to winning is paved with hard work.
Contrast this with the core of the future team that was in place following the franchises initial playoff appearance. Going into 2009-10, the core of the franchise was Rick Nash, Derrick Brassard, RJ Umberger, and Steve Mason. Before he was fired later that year, during the awful December swoon following a fast start, Ken Hitchcock opined that 'these guys had to learn to hate losing more than anything' before they would return to the playoffs. That didn't happen with that group, and ultimately, Craig Patrick was brought in to help Scott Howson with the transition during the 2011-12 debacle. As a reminder, Patrick enunciated his value system during a season ticket holder meet and greet, when he said that he valued character over talent. Craig Patrick has since moved on because John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen live and breath the same value system. Patrick was the driver in the Nash trade where we traded a 30-40 goal scorer for a 15-20 goal scorer (along with Arty Anisimov, another 15-20 goal guy, Tim Erixon and Kerby Rychal). Talent went one way, character came back this way, and now is the core of the Blue Jackets team. Scott Howson deserves ultimate credit for listening to Patrick. Jarmo and JD deserve credit for recognizing what they have, and locking it up.
So the core of this team is now Dubinsky, Horton, Foligno, Hartnell, Wiz, Jack Johnson, and Bobrovsky. Forming the stiff spine that supports all the character is of course Fedor Tyutin, the remaining player from the first playoff run (I know Jared Boll is in there too, but Tyutin is logging first or second pair defensive minutes). Behind that core is a cadre of young talent, lead primarily by Ryan Johansen. Hopefully Joey will not do something dumb like hold out, as that will set him back enough to compromise future earnings. I think something will get done. He will certainly get the large raise he deserves. But he is also surrounded by players of high character, who will demand his best. And for all the young talent gathering below this core, they will demand the same level of commitment and serve as an example of what it means to be a professional.
The rest of the Eastern Conference has been making moves to try to get better. The CBJ have largely stood pat, with the exception of the Hartnell for Umberger trade. It is time for consistency and stability for the franchise, as the last few years have seen lots of change. Part of the slow starts in the lockout year and last year are players getting familiar with each other. Their burden to do that is much less this year, and I think will show at the start of the season.
The CBJ finished in the middle of the pack in the NHL last year. A little movement either way has a big impact on whether they will be in the playoffs or not. So I don't view the playoffs as a given at all. They are a distinct possibility, but not a given. The hedge against slippage is the character factor that Craig Patrick imported to the talent evaluation process in this franchise. Kudos to JD and Jarmo for quietly getting this team locked up and ready for next year (well except for Joey, but that will get worked out).
It looks like it is going to be a fun year. I am really looking forward to it. But first, the doldrums of summer. So get out and play kids!! It will be winter soon enough! Thank the lord for Cannonfest though, I'm not sure I'd make it without it.