directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: The best moves

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

The best moves

So ESPN just ran an article about the 10 best moves of the offseason thus far and what do ya know Columbus has one in there:

10. Peca signs with Columbus

You could hear the groans in the press box last season when Michael Peca suffered a broken leg in a collision with Chicago's Jim Vandermeer. It was widely thought that Peca's career could be over. But just days before training camps were set to open, the unrestricted free agent signed a contract with Columbus.

The move has paid instant dividends for first-year GM Scott Howson. Peca, who is one of the game's premiere defensive forwards and faceoff specialists, has the Blue Jackets leading the league in penalty killing. Last season, Columbus was in the bottom third of the league while short-handed. The former captain and two-time Selke Trophy winner has already become a team leader and fan favorite as the Jackets look to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

The specsPeca signed a one-year, $1.915 million deal with the Blue Jackets.

Yep.. I think its safe to say Peca has been a solid value signing thus far with the Jackets although I don't think this writer gave Alexander Svitov's departure enough credit for the Jackets going out and landing Peca.

In all actuality all of Howson's moves have paid off nicely thus far this season. Now as we all know the new GM didn't have a whole lot to work with in terms of salary so he had to make the money he did have available count and that was only about 4 million and some change - lets take a look:

Jan Hejda
He's only making slightly over 1 mil a year and is playing a huge roll on defense paired with Adam Foote as the shut down defensive unit for the Jackets. Hejda is tied with Ron Haisney for the team lead in +/- with Ron Hainsey, leads the team in hits, is fourth in ice time with over 19 min played and has 3 assists. I would argue his signing has been dollar for dollar a better signing
than Peca.

Jiri Novotny
Novotny has cooled off of late but for an 800k player he has certainly had an impact. With 8 points in 13 games and considering how much he is moved around the lineup on a night to night basis I'd say this player has been a nice addition. He was brought into the team to as a player with untapped potention with the thought that Hitch could get everything he could out of him while also creating more competition on the roster. Jiri has been a key penalty killer and solid in all 3 zones.

Sheldon Brookbank
Another player that was brough in to add quality NHL depth to the organization. Unfortunately for the Jackest Brookbank played so well that when they were forced to send him to the minors he was picked up by the New Jersey Devils and made the team out of camp. Again though it just goes to show this was another quality low risk high reweard move by the GM and that showed when he was plucked off the waiver wire by an oganization like the Devils although it was dissapointed to lose him.

Derick Brassard, Kris Russell & Jarred Boll
You may be asking why include these three rookies - they weren't signed as UFAs? -- b/c these are three shining examples of how Howson belief system on how intends to manage and build this team. One example is that he has said since the moment he got here that "the players will decide who make this team". Jarred Boll came out of nowhere in camp to grab his spot/role in the lineup. Kris Russell was the best defensemen at times in camp and earned his position....and then there is Derrick Brassard who may have led all centers in points at camp but did not play the type of game Howson/Hitch desired thus he was sent down to the minors to improve it. The three moves represent a solid changing of guard for this organization in terms of player management -- no longer will 1st round draft picks be given roster spots and no longer will prospects be mis-developed and played in roles they aren't ready or capable of at the highest level.

It will be interesting to see what moves, if any, Howson makes as the season continues.....especially at the deadline regardless of if this team is still in the thick of the hunt - which I think it will be. What's even more interesting will be to see what he does with all the freed up money from Foote and Fedorov's contacts and if he resigns UFAs to be like Chimera, Vyborny, Hainsey and/or Shelley.

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