directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Top 10 offseason priorities

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Top 10 offseason priorities

1. Re-sign Rick Nash.
The org has to make every effort to get Rick Nash under contract as close to that July 1st date as possible. The longer this drags out the bigger distraction it could become. Also this contract will have a domino effect on what Howson does to meet his other offseason goals.

2. Sign a backup goaltender who is capable of 15 to 20 starts.
No offense against Dubie who seemed to embrace his role as well as one could hope but it was obvious the org has no faith in his ability to play goal. They need to bring in a quality guy who can give Mase a rest throughout the 82 game grind. There will be some quality names availabe in guys like Anderson, Weeks, Clemmensen, Gerber, Niittymakim, Biron, Roloson and Fernandez to name a few.

3. PP improvement
Something has got to be done to help improve this PP. Everything about the PP needs to be evaluated and then re-evaluated over the summer. To take the next step the PP must be better. The good news is there is only one way to go and that's up.

I believe that improvement has to start with bringing in a d-man capable of moving the puck and launching quick one-time bombs from the point. Russ and Tyutin will improve but they just don't have the cannons. It's a skill that was seriously lacking all of last season. This doesn't have to be a high dollar high profile move like a Jay Bouwmeester... some UFA names to keep an eye on are Beauchemin, Spacek, Leopold, Aucoin, Zubov, Oduya, Ohlund... This could also be an area where Howson looks to trade for help.

4. Address 3rd and 4th line center holes
With Malhotra/Peca/Williams/Novonty slated to become UFAs the Jackets have zero center depth after Brassard and Vermette. Word around the camp fire is that they would like to sign Malhotra which depending on the salary/term I might be okay with. Bottom line though is Howson will need to address the depth at the center of the ice and they need better production than what they got out of that group last season. There isn't a whole lot out there on the UFA market that fits what Howson is looking for. A guy like John Madden definitely interests me or maybe a guy like Reinprecht.

5. Continued development of young players.
It's absolutely imperative that players like Mason, Brassard, Russell, Voracek, Boll, Dorsett and Filatov continue their development over the summer. For a lot of those guys that means spending a good chunk of the offseason in Columbus getting stronger and faster. For Columbus to take that next step as a real playoff threat a lot of that improvement is going to have to come from within from this group of players.

6. Explore extensions
While Nash is the most important player to get re-signed there are plenty of other Jackets who will also be in the final year of their contracts. Those include Vermette, Klesla, Torres and Modin. Once the Nash re-sign works itself out then I think Howson has to look hard at getting a guy like Vermette locked down next. He may also look at Klesla but my guess is that Howson holds off on the rest until he sees how they perform in-season.

7. Coaching
A decision must be made on the status of Clint Malarchuk in terms of his future as a goaltending coach. Steve Mason and the rest of the Jackets goaltending prospects need a full time goalie coach. Also is it time for Hitch to make some moves to shore up his assistant coaching staff? We've seen some shuffling on the special teams side - more specifically the powerplay - which hasn't been so special.

8. In game presentation
Something has to be done about the in-game presentation. The cannon definitely stays but everything else has gone completely stale to the point of embarrassment. It's time to leave the hokey sideshows in the past and get serious about focusing and promoting what people are paying to see -- the hockey game!

That means out with the kiss cam, karaoke sing-a-longs and Will Ferrel videos and in with lots of replays, highlights and a rockin song catalogue.

9. Draft well
For a market like Columbus it's imperative that the pipeline stays stocked with cheap young quality talent as it will always be needed to augment their lineup. Columbus will most likely draft 16th overall and has picks in every round but the 2nd. I expect them to hang onto that first round selection (although I wouldn't rule out a trade down) and take the best player available which hopefully will be a d-man or center. They've done a much better job recently at mining some quality talent in those later rounds and that must continue.

Keep in mind though that you always must take the BPA (best player available) even if that player's position is an organization strength. This isn't the NFL where players instantly play. Typically it takes prospects, even in the first round, a year or two before they make the show -- at that point who knows what the strengths of your lineup will be. If it remains the same then you use your available assets to make a trade to fill that need -- similar to what Howson did to land Lalande from Calgary.

10. Fix broadcast issues!
The Jackets must get more games on in HD and they must do a better job of simplifying the ability to find them on TV -- not only in Columbus but in markets around the state of Ohio. More often than not folks not living in Columbus were left wondering when or if they would get to watch a playoff game. That is not how you attract new fans and that is not how you grow a fan base.

While I think the Jackets do a nice job at getting the word out in Columbus about the Jackets and their promotions I think there is a whole lot of work to do in the other major Ohio markets. That is the next step in terms of marketing this squad.



Chris said...

Not a bad list LTL. I would probably bumped fix the PP up to #1. If fixing the PP means not re-signing Nash and trading him before training camp, than so be it. I do not want to see Nash go, as he can be a game changer at times, but if we would have had at the very least a top-15 PP we would have challenged Chicago for fourth probably and I think we would have finished 5th in the conference at worst.

Wundurra said...

Just a thought about the center situation. It does seem that the team wants to bring Malholtra back and I have no problem with that, short term. As for the 4th center, if nothing else works out, why not bring Williams back for a year? I know he has his weaknesses, but he could be like Peca was, someone to plug the hole and eat up minutes until a better player can be acquired.
And Chris, can you honestly say the jackets would have been in the play offs without Nash? I honestly don't think they would have been.

Hitch Rules said...

LTL: As always, GREAT analysis! Tough call on the no. 1 priority, between re-signing Nash and the PP maladies. I really think watching the SC Playoffs makes it REALLY stand out how pathetic ours is.

Great list of potential puck-movers, although I do wonder if Beauchamin would be interested in coming back here, after how Doofy Mac just let him go - plus, so long as the Ducks keep advancing, I would think he'd gravitate towards the hometown discount. Again, I just hope he's open-minded, and has moved past the prior regimes massive screw up.

BTW, I would love to see Oduya, here, or Ohlund. As for Spacek, I thought he was the one who was mortified over the laisse faire locker room reaction over a nasty loss, but I could be wrong. If it was him, again, just hope he realizes there's a new regime.

Again, lights out analysis!

rocket said...


While I do agree with you that w/o a solid PP the Jackets will get nowhere, without Nasher we will get even further nowhere.

However, I do wanna disagree with you wholeheartedly, I really do, but I think you actually bring up a good point. In this case though, we need to have both. No way we can lose Nash and make the playoffs... even if we get someone for him who scores more points, that will jsut crush the morale of the team and the city. And no way can we get anywhere with a pathetic PP that we currently have. Nash re-signing and the PP really need to both be #1. (how can you argue with that?)

Danny Gare said...

LTL: you complain about the way the broadcast thing was handled, but in fact, it was Portzline who made it public and fueled the stink about it along with the typically snarky HF msg bd. Otherwise, it was handled professionally and quickly by the Jackets mgmt.

And the fact that SOME people don't like the changes doesn't mean they were bad or handled inproperly or should serve as a "wake up call." The Jackets held all the cards, did EXACTLY what they wanted to do and nothing less, and try to improve the broadcast EVERY year.

Rick said...

Concerning the Broadcasters, this from Puck Rakers:

"Not sure what their contract terms are, but I've heard that at least one of the two -- Davidge or Matthews -- only got a one-year contract."

For me, listening to Matthews was a joy; his passion and enthusiasm definately come through. As quirky as he was, Gare will be missed.

Max said...

@Danny Gare:
I wouldn't say quickly. Do you think your namesake will be able to find a job for next season?

@Hitch Rules:
After the absolute pounding Francois Beauchaman gave Kopetski, I'm absoluteley sold on the guy. MacLean must have been high to get rid of him. I say we toss some money at him. The Ducks traded for defense at the deadline, I think they could do without the big man.

LTL said...

@Danny Gare.

Thanks for the comment.

So you don't think the broadcast team had problems with the way this was drawn or out how they were told to handle certain sitautions?


*Not being allowed to reference the Adam Foote fiasco.

*Not being allowed to reference the 8 year struggle to reach the playoffs.

*Not beign allowed to reference the late owner who is responsible for the NHL even being in this city.

I find that very hard to believe.

As far as Portzline he is doing his job reporting on a story that clearly intersests a lot of fans out there.

I would venture to say by fan reaction to his story that Portzline probably saved a couple of their jobs.

If the brass didn't want it to become a story or distraction then they should have planned out their strategy better. It was no secret to them that a decision had to be made on all 4 as their contracts were set to expire.

They were not quick to make decisions thus it became a story to the "snarky" crowd as you term them.

That's fine... they are in charge and they have up until July 1st to make their decisions. Just don't expect it not to become a story. The same thing will occur if Rick Nash doesn't sign on the dotted line July 1st. Will Portzline and the HF community be "snarky" when they comment on that story as well?

FTR - I choose to refer to the them as the die hards who actually care about this team and it's direction on and off the ice. They aren't always right and they aren't always wrong -- welcome to being a fan. However, they are the ones who talk up the sport in this market, spend money and buy mechandise. We need more not less of those folks. They are a luxury not a hinderance.

Then again maybe you prefer them to be apathetic.