BlueJackets.com has a new interview up (video and transcript) with the man behind the curtain Scott Howson. He discusses the draft, free agency and more.
Davidge: What's it going to take for the Blue Jackets to get past ther first round and maybe sneak into the finals?
Howson: There's going to have to be some improvement, our young players are going to have to mature and get better. That's really when we will become good; Brassard, Mason (had a great year) , Russell, Voracek, Filatov coming in; when they become really good NHL players we will be able to compete with these teams. Generally, we'd still like to improve our defense and our puck moving ability from our back end.
Davidge: How do you approach the Entry Draft?
Howson: It's always a game day decision. We're not tied to anything, but there is certainly more uncertainty having the 16th pick as oppose to having the sixth, seventh or eighth pick. It is a deep draft and I can tell you right now that if we do walk to the podium at 16, we're going to be excited about the player were getting. We think it's an important pick for us. We think this is another young hockey player that could be part of our core group over the next five or six years when we can be Stanley Cup contenders.
Davidge: Approach to free agency at this point?
Howson: We've been negotiating with Manny and that's been ongoing. I'm not sure where it's going to go... we've talked quite a bit and we're taking a little break for the draft and then after we can talk again. So, he's our first priority right now. After that, we are going to get to July 1 and then we need a back up goalie, probably need another defenseman, and if Manny doesn't come back, then a center. We have more specific needs (this year) and probably not on as large a scale as last year.
Be sure to follow the link to what the entire video on Blue Jackets TV.
Just not gettin that warm and fuzzy on Manny. If it gets done I think it will be after July 1st when Manny's camp can test the waters and see how much money they are leaving on the table (if any).
I also don't think there is any "probably" about it when it comes to a defensemen. That is a must and that player must be able to help out the PP.
The #1 priority come July 1st of course is getting Captain Columbus extended. Michael Arace throws out some of his thoughts in the Dispatch today - check it out here.
The Hockey Writers have a draft preview up. You can check it out here. Thanks for the heads up Rick.
Hockeysfuture also has their Jackets draft preview posted. They had a couple of interesting points:
Also, despite the lack of an IIHF transfer agreement in place and despite previous trouble with Zherdev, the Blue Jackets have not been afraid to take Russians high in the draft. There is a risk in selecting Russians but the Jackets have clearly taken calculated risks and have succeeded in bringing their Russian selections to North America.
There is a clear affection for the NCAA as well. Exactly half of Howson’s selections the past two seasons have been players either already playing college hockey or about to enter it. Goloubef and Will Weber, both playing NCAA hockey, are good examples. In both of Howson’s drafts he has selected a solid all-around defenseman with his second-round selection.
Howson has also shown an affinity for vertically gifted players. Only three of his 16 selections stand under six feet tall. He’s selected guys like 6’6 Steven Delisle and 6’4 Weber. Does this mean the team is due for a smaller crop?
Hockey's Future staff mock draft result: Ryan Ellis, D
It's going to be real hard for the Jackets to pass on Ellis should he still be available at 16. As I've said before though with undersized d-men in Russell and Reghner already in the system I would not be at all surprised if they go in a different direction.
This draft is a good when looking at the Jackets prospects needs as there are an abundance of centers and d-men and there should be a couple available when 16 pops up.
Bottom line though is you always draft the best player available and then make trades to fills the holes (see Lalande).
I've said it before and will say it again, don't rule out a trade down for the union blue.
A very good read here from the Islanders web site with TSN analyst, Foote apologist (had to sneak that in there) and draft expert Bob MacKenzie here. Key points courtesy of HFBoards:
* He interviewed 12 scouts, and all had Tavares at first overall.
* A clear top five had emerged, which maps exactly onto what Brian Burke was saying. The big three, followed by Kane and Schenn. Also said that some scouts didn't see a big dropoff from Duchene to Schenn.
* Still thinks Isles have serious interest in Hedman, although appears to believe Tavares will go first nonetheless.
* As many here have suggest, thinks Bolts will listen to trade offers if Isles nab Hedman.
Don't forget to set your DVRs for the NHL Awards event tomorrow night! It kicks off at 7 p.m. EST on Versus.
There are no sure things in life but Mase for the Calder is about as close as you can get. Should he win (and he will), it will be a great honor for both he and the Jackets franchise.