Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ethan Moreau joins the Leadership Cavalry

Remember that stuff I wrote about how the draft won't impact the Columbus Blue Jackets this season?  Well, this development will.  Or, at least, it should.

One of the nasty little truths about the 2009-2010 Columbus Blue Jackets is that our young team was pretty much rudderless when the team went south on Ken Hitchcock.  There are plenty of reasons why that could be, but one factor was that Michael Peca wasn't in the room to keep the very young skilled players - the kids - in line.  He smoothed over some of Ken Hitchcock's rougher edges and - despite not having the "C" on his jersey - was credited as a major factor in keeping the locker room focussed through the stretch run.

Despite playing in 71 games in 2008-2009, Peca only had 22 points (4 goals, 18 assists).  He had a -6 rating.  He wasn't a top-six forward.  But his value to the team was cemented in 2009-2010, when the incredible early start to the season evaporated into a morass of poor play and piled up losses.  No one was there in the locker room to crack the whip with the kids.

So general manager Scott Howson traded away Jason Chimera to grab a "Michael Peca-style" (my words) player, Chris Clark.  Clark was the Washington Capitals' captain when the trade took place, and it was his job to help fill the locker room leadership void.  This, of course, is almost impossible to do as a mid-season trade.  You need a training camp at minimum to get to know your teammates, develop chemistry, learn the personalities.  Clark had none of those advantages.  Sure, he put up a whopping 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points in 36 games for the CBJ (7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points overall in 2009-2010).  But that's not why Scott Howson is paying him $2.6 million a season.  Clark's role is to be a veteran leader.

Apparently, Chris Clark is not enough.

Funny, I was annoying the hell out of the CBJ Twitterverse with wistful thoughts about how the just-freed Mike Modano would look in Union Blue yesterday.  I figured that Modano had a year, maybe two, left in the tank.  He could help provide more adult leadership for the kids while the young leaders matured and the Springfield prospects found their major-league game.  Of course, someone told me that Modano wasn't the best leader known to the sport of hockey, which blew a hole in my pretty little narrative.  But the point remained: The Jackets could use a short-term boost in the "wise old guy" side of the ledger.

Wouldn't you know, the Edmonton Oilers decided to have a spring cleaning.  Not too surprising, seeing as that proud franchise is coming off a season that makes the Blue Jackets' look downright positive.  Yesterday, they placed Patrick O'Sullivan, Robert Nillson and team captain Ethan Moreau on waivers.  Few people know that team's roster as well as Scott Howson, so the Jackets were off and running.  They claimed Moreau and, in the process, got a 34-year-old (from a CBJ roster perspective, that's AARP-qualifying) who's been to the Stanley Cup Finals and another veteran leader.  And Moreau's happy to be in Columbus, apparently.  More power.

And, get this, he has only one year left on his contract.  If the Moreau experiment doesn't go well, we all shake hands at the end of the season and promote a kid from Springfield or sign a free agent.

I like this signing a LOT.  I believe that the Columbus Blue Jackets have a lot of innate talent in their young core.  They lacked the intangibles last season (as evidenced by their inability to pick themselves up as they tumbled in the standings), and Howson is starting to fill in those gaps.  But he's not doing so in a way that messes with the long-term potential of the team.  A good, good signing.

Also, that Clark-Pahlsson-Moreau checking line should be a hoot to watch this season.  The CBJ's old goats should have a good time causing havoc out there on the ice!  

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