Life in Columbus After Rick Nash
If I ask you to name a good solid franchise in the NHL with excellent management and a good up and coming pool of talent, what are the few teams that would spring to mind? I bet Columbus Blue Jackets are not on that list, are they?
The Blue Jackets have been around since 2000 expansion and made the playoffs once, while managing to place higher than 11th spot in the West only once. This saddens me. I like this franchise, and feel sorry for the fan base and the players.
Unlike the fans of Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus fans are not located in the Mecca of hockey. While Leaf fans have a team with Uncle Scrooge money, the Blue jackets are more of a Launchpad McQuack. According to Forbes.com, though we may not have the most recent numbers, the team showed deep loses for the past 6 years. The skinny is that the team simply is not making money and that’s bad mmmkay. Lack of winning has certainly led to hard times for this darling of a franchise (not helping is the tough division they play in). It is hard to build a strong fan base when you are constantly losing. It takes a toll on everyone, even the players, who naturally play to win the game. Sadly the worst of times is just around the corner, as the team Captain and team leader in every offensive category, Rick Nash, has demanded a trade.
I have always dreamed about being a GM of a hockey franchise. The endless hours of watching hockey is something I do already anyway, so I figured it would be fun to get paid for it (for this writing gig, I get paid in vodka). I spent thousands of hours playing the GM Mode in EA Sports NHL series, so how hard would the real world be? Clearly I’m ready. Well, as of right now there is one job I would not want - Scott Howson’s job. This man has been the GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets since June 15, 2007, and he is about to face his toughest challenge yet.
Most hockey fans associate two things with the Columbus Blue Jackets – losing and Rick Nash. He has been the lone superstar that has played for the home squad at Nationwide Arena. Since 07-08 season, no one has had more of a successful season than Rick Nash on Columbus – few can even be mentioned in the same breath. He is their captain and leading scorer, their best draft pick of all time and he wants out. It is all very sad isn’t it?
Scott Howson and his team of scouts have failed to surround Nash with any young talent, despite having favorable draft positions over the years, and it seems he has had enough. To give you a perspective of the poor drafting, (Vanek, Suter, Phaneuf, Carter, Brown, Seabrook, Bernier, Parise, and Getzlaf are all names that went in the year Columbus picked Zherdev), last season Columbus had 8 forwards play for their team that were their own draftees – that’s it. Cam Atrkinson (14 points), Ryan Johansen (21 points), Matt Calvert (3 points), Maksim Mayorov (2 points), Jared Boll (3 points), Derek Dorsett (20 points), and Tomas Kubalik (2 points), and the lone other person to have any relevant point production was Derick Brassard (41 points). Not exactly a fantasy-laced squad, is it?
What is even worse is that we all remember how happy Jeff Carter was when he was traded to Columbus. The free agents simply do not want to sign here. When was the last time you heard a big name on the free agent list and “Blue Jackets” in the same headline? The Parise/Suter sweepstakes this offseason is a good example – a shame, but a reality. Money does not always talk, especially with NHL players who seem to choose what is more comfortable over the big pay. Not that the Blue Jackets were big spenders, anyhow.
Nash will undoubtedly be gone and Columbus will not be better after he goes. Howson has a big job ahead of him and he needs to shape-up; quickly. Ryan Johansen and Cam Atrkinson could become interesting players down the road, but neither look like the franchise-type. Drafting a proper center would be a good start. Nash has not had a solid, true number-one center in his entire career it seems. The signing of Vinny Prospal was a decent one; he is talented, but at 37-years old, how much is left in the tank? Ryan Murray was picked this year with number-two overall pick. As solid a choice as there could be, but he is not a center.
There have been worse teams in the West since Columbus’ inception, and they have all used the draft as a way to build themselves back up. In the 03-04 season Chicago was last in the West. In 05-06 St.Louis, followed by Phoenix, LA Kings, and the Edmonton Oilers – not bad company, agree? So, what is the difference between those teams and Columbus? Chicago and LA won the Stanley Cup, St.Louis and Phoenix were 2nd and 3rd seeds, and the Oilers have one of the best young cores of forwards in the NHL.
Some will blame goaltending, Mason has been a huge let down since his rookie year, while others say it is bad luck with the draftees. I say it is the oval office, the suits, the guys that give out the million-dollar checks. Time to shape up, Mr.Howson. When you are bad for this long it is only a reflection of you and not the players.
…and that is the last word.
EDIT: Changed the Logo as per Columbus Blue Jackets fans request.