directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Reflecting on today

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reflecting on today

Today was a great reflection on what has been and up and down season for the Jackets.

For many fans, today was the same rollercoaster ride.

From the high of possibly getting that #1 center in his prime this team has desperately needed since existence to the low of not realizing that acquisition.

Of course it didn't stop there as the team dealt away Sergei Fedorov and its captain Adam Foote for prospect and picks.

So lets take a step back, catch our breath and try to review the moves (or non-moves) on the day:

Failure to get Brad Richards
Recap - This one stung - in fact I feel like Stinger just bit me in the ass. The Jackets were in this one right to the end offering a combination of packages must notably being Brule, Fritsche and Tollefsen. In fact many thought the Jackets were the leader. A glove wouldn't have fit as good as Richards would have in this lineup - he was EXACTLY what the Jackets needed. In the end the Jackets just didn't have the goaltender to offer to close the deal and that was the deal breaker.

What would I have done differently? - I certainly wouldn't have parted with Leclaire or Mason. What good is a scoring line center if you can't stop the puck? The New Jersey Devils have been as good as they are for one reason and that's consistent goaltending. The Lightning have been on a free fall b/c of how bad theirs have been. I may have considered including a 1st or a guy like Brassard but I doubt it would have made much of a difference b/c Tampa wanted the goaltender.

Now that the dust has cleared - I think Howson did all he could here. I'm glad he was in the mix and if nothing else it showed he is willing to spend the cash to bring in the right player to address the big needs on this team which he himself was center and defense.

What's next - Howson will have to wait (I know Jacket fans - more patience) til the offseason to go after a #1 center whether it be via trade or UFA. Look for him to fill this via trade and package picks/prospects to get it.

Adam Foote dealt to Colorado for 1st round pick
Recap - After the Richards domino fell many thought that Foote or Fedorov would be the next to go and they were right. As we know Foote was dealt to Colorado for a conditional 1st round pick in '08 or '09 and a 4th if he's resigned. I went over this whole mess in an earlier post but in short I really believe Foote left Howson with no choice and when things didn't go exactly his way he bolted on this team.

Now that the dust has cleared - again I look at this situation and I'm not sure I would have done much differently. Foote would only waive his NTC to go to Colorado which limited Howson's ability to negotiate a greater return....Howson did well to get a 1st round pick out of it.

Here's the part that really baffles me -- after they could not agree to contract terms and Foote was dealt - he was asked if he would have played out the season and then tried to re-sign this summer -- he said ""Honestly, that would have been tough for me, not knowing where my future lies."" --- oh really, so going to Colorado as a rental is a more certain future? News flash - no way Colorado resigns Foote for the 4 mil he wanted here so I think his future is even more murky - Foote overplayed his hand plain and simple.

What's next - Hitch is left to pick up the pieces. Losing Foote is definitely a short term hit and a very hard sell to the team who wanted help not to lose their captain. No longer will Hitch have his best defensive shutdown defensemen and the team's leader in the room. As a friend of mine put it - who is going to play against Joe Thornton tomorrow? Good point. Rusty Klesla is going to have to up his game. Pascal Leclaire is going to have to be even more sharp. The team will have to fill his leadership role....or they could just pack it in.

Obviously the defense will need addressed in the offseason in a major way and from the sounds of it Howson is fully aware of this.

Sergei Fedorov dealt to the Washington Capitals for Ted Ruth
Recap - This domino fell right after Foote was traded. The return in prospect Ted Ruth surprised me a bit. I really thought Howson would get more and that it would be a center. Ted Ruth was a 2nd round pick (#46 overall) in last year's draft and was apparently a target of the Jackets but he was gone by the time they used their second 2nd round selection (#53 overall) for Will Weber.

Now that the dust has cleared - There was no doubt in my mind Fedorov would move so that did not come as surprise. The return did though but I've come around a bit on the Ted Ruth return although I really think it would have been in Howson's best interests to get some kind of return that could help this team now. Perhaps that just wasn't available for a 38 year old center who has battled a number of injuries all season long. The Jackets essentially got a 2nd round pick back for Feds and its a player, by all accounts, they really wanted in the draft last year. He also adds to a prospect pool that was not strong with defensive prospects.

What's next - Vyborny, Peca, Novotny, Malhotra, Fritsche will have to do what they can to hold down the center of the ice for the rest of the year. Its obviously still a glaring need and will absolutely need to be addressed in some form, via trade or UFA, this offseason.

I really don't think moving Feds hurts this team much in the short term unless the players let it mentally.

Moves that weren't made
Recap - I'll be honest, once Howson went into sell mode I thought at the very least Vyborny would move and maybe Peca. If there is anything I want to criticize him on is why just stop with Foote and Feds? Was there no offers for rest? Also again I would have liked to have seen some kind of roster player returned from either Foote or Fedorov that could help now.

Now that the dust has cleared - I still would have liked a couple of players now but I'm starting to see why Peca/Hainsey/Vyborny weren't dealt. If they were who would the CBJ play? They still have a distant shot at this thing. Howson couldn't completely strip dry this roster. In fact the only player he was going to trade regardless was Fedorov. When the Foote negotiation when south Howson had to make a decision and he chose to collect assets.

All that said I still would have dealt Vyborny.

What's next - There were lots of CBJ names thrown around this trade deadline - probably more than at any other time in their short history. Somehow, someway this team must regain its focus and stop worrying about who didn't get dealt, what help they didn't get and worry about the Sharks tomorrow night. They can do it, if they play like they did in Montreal, Ottawa and Detroit they can beat anyone - they just have to continue to believe in themselves.

Blue Jackets ownership absolutely must...and I mean MUST open up the checkbook this summer and let Howson bring in whatever he deems necessary. Its obvious he chooses his players carefully so they need to trust him and let him make some much needed acquisitions. This team will need some big splashes to get season ticket holders to renew as no doubt they took a heavy hit in the PR department today.

I also think its imperative this organization lock down Hitch -- he is just as an important piece as any player is on this team.

Finally, get Leclaire extended to a multi-year contract asap.

The fact is the Jackets have no one but themselves to blame for them becoming sellers at the deadline -- they have gone 4-6-3 since the All Star break which really hurt their chances.

They aren't out of it though. There are 18 games left in this season. Last year it took 96 points to get in, the Jackets currently have 67. For the Jackets to reach that mark they would have to go 14-4. That ain't happening *but* with the parity this season it may take less than 90 points to get in -- if that is the case the Jackets could go 12-6 -- still quite the order but more reasonable.

As they say just take it day by day, game by game. Win and everything takes care of itself.


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