Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Power is taken, never given

(also known as "The post wherein I have a sampling of crow")

It takes talent and skill to get to play on NHL ice...and even more
to stay there.  That the Columbus Blue Jackets have four rookies
on their opening night roster is astounding.
The title of this post is attributed to many a politician, but the sentiment can be used to describe roster spots in a professional sports training camp as well as an election.

You just don't see veterans say, "Y'know, kid.  You're trying so hard, here.  Take my spot in the roster."  It doesn't work that way.

Professional sports, from the player perspective, is a cut-throat business.  You work like mad to get on top and then spend the balance of your career fending off those who have designs on your place on the ladder.  There's always someone younger or newer coming your way - there will always be more supply of players than available roster spots, which forces players to play through injuries, fight when they don't want to and take on other uncomfortable roles simply to keep their spot (and their big-league paycheck flowing in).

Which brings me to that plate of crow sitting in front of me.

Ryan Johansen has shown himself
to not be out of place in Columbus
In the second installment of "The Johansen Quandary," I essentially said that I don't trust the Blue Jackets talent development system any farther than I can throw it.  I then went on to discuss how their ten-plus year track record in identifying, drafting and developing talent can only charitably be called bad. So looking at that history and much more, I suggested that it most likely was in Johansen's best interest to go back to juniors and be a destroyer of worlds.

Cam Atkinson simply has not let
up in his assault on making the
Columbus Blue Jackets roster.
While I left myself an opening for Johansen suggesting that he deserved a roster shot if he really outplayed the other centers, I didn't think he would.  And lo and behold, The Johan played well enough.  Go figure. (And the Dark Blue Toddler surely is pleased.)

I also never saw Maxsim Mayorov coming.  Nor did I think that Cam Atkinson was ready for the big leagues after - what, five? - AHL games.  (But I will admit that I had heard enough positive press on David Savard to think that he had a fighting shot at the seventh blue liner slot.)

But here we are, talking about the biggest story of the preseason in Blue Jackets Nation.  It's not about Carter, Wiz (well, Wiz's suspension excepted), Prospal or Martinek.  It's not about Dekanich and his awesome dog.  It's not about Ian Clark and how he will be relied upon to keep Steve Mason out of his own head, or about Todd Richards and fixing a woeful power play.

It didn't take a crystal ball
to see David Savard coming.
Nope, it's about the kids and how they stole the show.

  • Mayorov is the project, a 2007 draft pick who probably was on his last legs in the Columbus system.  He's only made eyes turn all training camp long.  
  • Atkinson is the collegian who took the Blue Jackets camp by storm.  The kid is electricity personified, and he can score, too!  How could you deny him a spot?  (And now he's in the top six?  Amazing!)
  • Savard is sure and steady, a 2009 fourth-rounder who has consistently performed in juniors and in Springfield.  He was supposed to be second banana to first rounder John Moore but ended up passing Moore, and the rest of the AHL competition, on his way to a spot on the NHL roster.
  • Johansen is the thoroughbred on an all (NHL)-or-nothing (back to juniors) nine-game final proving period before his ticket is officially punched in Columbus.  The fact that he's made it thus far, however, suggests that the team doesn't think him out of place in the NHL at the tender age of 19.
Mayorov rounded out his game
and became NHL-ready.
Together, they've wreaked havoc on the lineup - pushing Derick Brassard down to fourth-line winger, for instance (Mull THAT over!) - but noone said that incorporating kids would be pretty.  Because power is taken, never given.  Same for roster spots when you're coming from the ranks of prospects up to the big leagues.  

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some more crow to munch on.  Who woulda thunk that the Columbus Blue Jackets could identify and develop young talent - and do it in such diverse ways?

[This concludes The Grand Army preview series.  Enjoy the 2011-2012 Columbus Blue Jackets season, everyone!]


  1. Now the question becomes: How many healthy scratches does he get between game 1 and game 9?

    (From LeBrun's latest blog)
    "It's a week-by-week situation," Howson said. "He's here to start the season, and we'll see where it goes. We have to do what's right for the team and what's right for him. Right now, we think it's better for him to stay here. He's on the fourth line right now. There might be some games where he doesn't play. We'll take it week by week."

  2. Reality a couple of these guys will fade. Hopefully, it will not be a season long fade, and Calvert, Brassard, can step up as they have shown in the past. Competition is good for the entire team.


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