directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Where to go from here...

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where to go from here...

The Jackets are off today but are right back at it tomorrow against the Nashville Predators. They are coming off one of the most uninspired lackluster performance of the season.

There are just over two weeks left in the season. They are out of the playoff picture. They have 7 games left. 3 at home and 4 on the road.

So where to go from here?

Quite frankly there are only two ways to go:

1. Easy way - mail it in and tank the remainder of the year

2. Hard way - win or lose, play out the string hard and with pride

If Detroit is any indication of how these final games will go then we all might as well start scheduling tee times.

They have the Preds tomorrow in Nashville. The Jackets have only won twice against them over the past two seasons. That game will give a real good indication of how this team plans to play out the stretch.

There are some story lines for fans to keep an eye on though regardless of the team's performance in the win/loss column:

* Its officially draft watch time. As of today the Jackets would have the 6th overall pick. With 7 games remaining and assuming the Jackets win at least half of those game they should be drafting anywhere from 5th overall to 10th overall.

The draft is said to be about 7 deep in terms of the top tier. Its also said to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. So if your looking for maximum trade value for that pick, as I am, ideally you'd want to be in the top 7 although I think its more important to finish this season on a high note.

* Will Hitch play the kids? Its doubtful b/c if there's one thing we've learned about Hitchcock is that he never gives up. Make no mistake about it, he wants to win every last one of these 7 games which means youngsters like Picard/McKenzie/Russell/Lindstrom/Brule will continue to see limited action.

* Nash. Since the All Star Break Nash has 23 points (12g, 11a) in 24 games. He is also a +5 in that span. Nash has really stepped up his game and has become the clear cut leader of this team. He also has a very good chance to break his single season record of 41 goals. He sits on 38 with 7 games remaining. He also also blown past his previous best point total of 57p with 66 thus far.

* UFAs to be. Ron Hainsey, David Vyborny, Jan Hejda, Michael Peca, Dick Transtrom. This is their last chance to make a case for themselves. I expect one maybe two of those names return and quite frankly I wouldn't be surprised if none were brought back.

It will be interesting to see if Howson signs any of them before the season ends.

* David Vyborny. The only original Blue Jacket. He's had a forgettable season and in all likely hood he will be playing his final games as a Blue Jacket. Hopefully he can stay healthy these final games and get a proper send off.
* Colorado. Remeber the Jackets get their 1st round pick this year if they make the playoffs. If they miss they get next years. Having two 1st round picks this year could really come in handy as trade bait...on the flip side, it sure would be fun seeing the quiter miss this playoffs.

* Trade bait. Vyborny isn't the only one playing his last games as a Jackets. If the rumblings hold true this team is in for a major shakeup and any number of players could be dealt. I would be shocked if this team still had its original first round draft choices this team next year. Nash and Leclaire I would consider to be the only "locks" to be back next season so that would leave Klesla/Zherdev/Picard/Brule/Brassard/Voracek as potential trade bait with Brassard/Voracek the least likely of that group to be moved.

* How high in the points standings can they climb? They've already broken their single season points record of 74. The sit on 77.

* I believe they also have a good chance to break their road record in wins. I'm still in the process of trying to verify this but I believe their most victories on the road was 16. They currently have 14 with 4 left to play. They'd have to win 3 of 4 but I think tying it is a realistic target.

* Start keeping an eye on potential trade targets. Names like Vermette, Marleau, Jokinen, Lombardi, Campbell, Langkow, Liles and Redden have been tossed around quite frequently. Also keep an eye on teams who get eliminated from the playoffs early -- those teams will also look for shakeups and could offer some potential juicy trade targets for the soon to be made-over Jackets.

* Which Jackets players get selected for the World Championships? Nash and Chimera played for Team Canada last year -- do they do it again? Does Leclaire get the nod for Team Canada? What about Hainsey, Boll or Fritsche for the US? Norrena for Finland? Does Hitch coach team Canada?

* Zherdev. Post ASB he's got 5g, 10a for 15p in 24gp. He's a -3 in that span. Clearly 13 has lost his competitive edge since the trade deadline especially over the last 10 or so. Does he finish the year strong or does he continue his lathargic play which will again have the trade rumors swirling?

* Coaching. We know Hitch will be back next year but what about his staff? Could there be a shakeup there? Speaking of Hitch -- can the Jackets afford not to keep this man happy with a big offseason? He's only got one more year on his deal. At some point Howson has to start worrying about the coach bolting if he can't bring in some big pieces to make this team competitive.

This franchise CANNOT afford to lose a Ken Hitchcock.

So plenty of story lines to keep us occupied while we ride out yet another non-playoff year.

Hopefully *fingers fully crossed* this will be the final year we talk about a top 10 draft pick and moves this summer can really re-energize this fan base and we can all look forward, finally, towards a playoff run in 2008-2009.

Lots of work to do before then.
p.s Nash's jersey looks much better with a 'C'



Anonymous said...
the most road wins they have ever had was 15 and that was last season......before that...their best was 10!!


Anonymous said...

Hey thanks BHG! I've been trying to find that everywhere.