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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Put your pitchforks away...for now


I'm sure many of you out there are a little bummed about today's haul. Quite frankly I was hoping to at least land an offensive defensemen but the Jackets have come up short for now.

Lets have some perspective though.

No free agent is going to step into this lineup and turn us into Cup contenders. Hitch has said many times that he doesn't need saviors - he just needs competent competitive NHLers - and Howson game him two of those today in Torres and Commodore. Two guys in their mid to late twenties who are proven competitive players.

Game changers? Naw.

Reliable, competitive and night in night out contributors? You betchya.

Despite what some think today wasn't like the days of old. Howson and Hitch aren't expecting Commodore to QB the PP. They aren't expecting Torres to instantly transform into a 30 goal scorer. These two players will play where they belong in our lineup.

Torres a two time 20 goal scorer will slide somewhere in the top 9. He's not going to drop the gloves very often (only 2 fights last year) but he's got sandpaper in his game and should contribute 15 to 20 goals and anywhere from 35 - 40 points. The biggest question mark with Torres is his ACL injury. He is a Hitch type player that can play either wing.

Commodore adds massive size to the backend and is an extremely competitive player. In addition to a willingness to initiate contact he also had 8 fights last season and 5 the year before. Boll won't have to do all the dirty work this year. He's adds a significant physical presence that makes the Jackets harder to play against and perhaps adds a little more room for the younger skilled guys to work their magic. Lets also not forget Commodore scored 29 points two seasons ago -- that's just 3 behind what our offensive defensemen Hainsey gave us this year. Although it isn't his biggest strength Commodore can contribute to the offensive side of the game.

No these two are not the flashy headline grabbers we'd all like but our team did get better today. Yes we overpaid for Commodore but when you have the worst average record in this NHL over your 7 year on-ice existence that is going to happen until you finally get over that playoff hump.

Would I have like Redden? Hell yes. I think this organization did everything within their power to get him. You can't force the guy to come here in the UFA game but I really think we made one helluva a pitch. We lost out to an original 6 franchise that has a lot of history and recent playoff performances behind it. It sucks but no time to pout about it -- time to move.

...and move on Howson will do.

Howson isn't done. Far from it. He knows the holes a whole lot better than we do. The guys he added today are pieces of the puzzle where as I mentioned earlier, will play where they should in our lineup. He himself has said he's got a couple of trades on the back burner -- that translates into I'll see what happens in free agency and then get back to you.

Here is how I see the lineup after today:

Nash XXX Modin
Zherdev Umberger Torres
Chimera Brassard Voracek
Boll Malhotra Murray

Extra: Novotny/Dorsett/Sestito

XXX Hejda
Klesla Commodore
Russell/Rome/Methot/Tollefsen/Sigalet

Leclaire
Norrena

I don't care what anyone says -- that lineup is already vastly upgraded from what we had last season and its not even close to complete yet. Remember that same lineup last year that Hitch had just 5 points out of a playoff spot at the deadline.

What will he be able to do with this plus a couple of more additions I full expect to come?

This lineup already has more scoring punch and competitiveness up front with Umberger and Torres. Commodore replaces an aging Foote and brings a much bigger physical presence and a badly needed right handed shot.

All new additions are 28 or younger so they should only get better.

Gone are Shelley, Vyborny, Foote, Fedorov, Westcott and Brule who - sans perhaps Shelley - all under performed given their age, roles, paychecks and expectations.

Its certainly far from perfect and needs more work but you can see how its starting to shape up and the style of team we are going to have next season.

Whats even more interesting is that with the additions of Torres and Commodore and the parting of ways with Brule Howson only added 5.3 million to his payroll.

Going forward I would expect Howson to absolutely address the vacant center position (Morrison, Straka, trade?) and to add at a minimum one offensive defensemen - its looking more and more like that add will have to come via a trade (Kubina, Boyle?). Heck he could even move a guy like Klesla for an offensive guy now that Commodore is in the fold to give us two offensive guys in the top 4 - lots of options.

Lets also not forget the offer sheet direction although I see that as a last resort.

So before jumping off bridges, lighting your torches and sharpening pitchforks lets see what else Howson can do here. He still has a good 10 to 12 million to address those vacancies in addition to the 8 million or so he'll have to get Leclaire and Umberger under contract.

-LTL

8 comments:

Brandon said...

You know what I'm sick of hearing... THESE ARE PIECES. We have pieces we need a diamond. Also was wondering what your thoughts are on Clay Wilson being signed to a 2 way deal and maybe competing for a spot.

LTL said...

I didn't hear that about Clay Wilson Brandon - thanks for the heads up. I certainly like it and based on his play last year I don't see why he couldn't compete for a bottom pairing spot.

There were really only two diamonds today in Hossa and Campbell and we just can't compete yet for those guys. Redden was a guy I know they pushed as hard as you can to get him but if a player doesn't want to come here, even when you overpay, what else can you do?

We do need some more skill though, especially on the backend and center and I think we'll get it via trades.

We have to or this team isn't yet good enough for the playoffs unless guys like Voracek/Brassard/Russell really step up -- and we know where counting on young guys has gotten us in the past.

-LTL

Sean said...

What are the chances Russell comes screaming out of camp to become our "skill" defenseman? ;-)

No where in your post above do you mention the signing of Hainsey or even Michael Peca. Is anyone trying to pick up Peca and what's up with Hainsey not signing today? He may end up being the most overpaid UFA this season if people start to feel really desperate. What kind of package would move Klesla outta here?

at the least I was hoping that today would reduce the amount of questions I have. Instead, it seems like there are more!

Sean said...

Oh, and another thought, What's the short list of available RFAs?

Anonymous said...

Two solid, and much needed additions. No Brandon, we didn't have adequate pieces, but we do now. Yes, we need that offensive d man and a center, but we were far from one 'diamond' away from being a good solid team.

Hainsey could very well end up back in our mix simply because we missed out on everyone else--ugh. How friggin' brutal would that be? Don't re-sign him when we had him under contract and then wait until he gets his price jacked up and then give him 4 million anyway. Jeezus--seriously? I would rather give Clay Wilson that spot than see Hainsey fire it in off of shin pads and 'not see' the open guy on the weak side for another 4 years.

Redden is very close with assistant Perry Pern (sp?) in NY. He was the guy who worked with the d men in Ottawa for 7 years when Redden had all those good years. That is ultimately what was the deciding factor.

It REALLY sucks to see Campbell right next door with a contract that was MORE than affordable for us. We really missed the boat on that one.......totally.

Anonymous said...

I think people are really going to like Commodore. No, he isn't a points producing guy, but he is a hard hitter, and takes pride in being a solid stay at home, hard hitting, competitive defender.

We better come out of today with either Straka or Morrison and at least one puck moving defenseman, that ISN'T Hainsey!

dan said...

Thanks LTL. Just the pep talk I was looking for this morning. Yesterday was disappointing, but not a disaster. The options have narrowed, which starts to make me sweat, but some of the potential guys out there, for trade especially (Kubina, Boyle, Vermette, Meszaros, etc.) give me hope. Heck if the Rangers get crazy with their checkbook again today, maybe they find themselves needing to part with Gomez or Drury. And we're waiting here open-armed with cap space, picks and young talent. A fan can dream....

Scott Howson (or JF) said...

Good post LTL.
Howson has two more months to continue to improve this team.

And while we all hope for an impact player, when you look back at the games we LOST last year, guys like Torres and Commodore (not quitters) would have made a big difference.