There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Columbus the past two seasons, hopes of change at last years trade deadline in acquiring Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto, hoping for a playoff push that never came, and instead ended in another early summer with plenty of holes to fill and questions to answer. Same old Jackets…..
Scott Howson on the hot seat had to do something, the team needed a change, and in what seemed to be another ho hum free agent season with little activity, turned into one of the most active, and exciting offseasons in franchise history.
In a move that was pretty much denied by multiple beat writers, on June 23rd, The Columbus Blue Jackets traded Jakub Voracek and their 1st round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to The Philadelphia Flyers for Jeff Carter. The position that has eluded The Blue Jackets for 10 years was finally filled, a number 1 center. Carter has, after all, scored 30+ goals and had 60+ points in his last three seasons.
And people have said “Carter and Nash on a line together won’t work” And these people see Carter as a shooter, the same as Nash, and you can almost see their point. However, when you look at it, both him and Nash have a pretty good record of assisting on goals as well as scoring them. And something that has also been mentioned, this move gives Columbus some breathing room offensively on the ice, instead of defenders focusing on Nash, they will have multiple targets to cover.
On June 29th, The Blue Jackets made their 2nd big move, acquiring the negotiating rights to James Wisniewski from The Montreal Canadiens for a conditional 7th round pick. On July 1st, he signed a 6 year, $44 million dollar contract with Columbus. “Wiz” brings his offensive abilities to The Blue Jackets defense in hopes of turning on the scoring for The Blue Jackets powerplay. He will by all definition, be the powerplay quarterback for this team.
Some will say “The Blue Jackets really overpaid for a injury prone defenseman.” While there is some truth in there about the high salary, think about this for a minute, did anyone look at the slim defensive market? And was there anything better than him to add that satisfied the specific team needs? Or anyone remotely as interested as signing here as he was? The answer is no. And yes, he has had some knee surgeries but, with any player you run the risk of injury, it is a gamble for any player in signing a big contract. But if you don’t take that risk, it’s a guarantee you can never reap the potential reward.
And knowing Scott Howson, Columbus fans can always expect that “Who is that?” signing in the offseason, and that award easily goes to the new backup goaltender Mark Dekanich. Signed to a 1 year deal July 1st, Dekanich has only seen 1 NHL game. This signing seems like a sign that it is Steve Mason’s year to rise or fall with real competition on his tail. Dekanich has shined at the AHL level with Milwaukee, going 65-38-11 his last 3 seasons.
“Is going with an inexperienced backup a good idea?” This has to easily be the biggest gamble of the team. But if Dekanich comes into camp with the mindset of “That #1 spot is mine” and he competes hard, that can only mean good things for him, and Mason. Mason will be pushed harder, as will Dekanich, and we will find out who we can really rely on behind the new look team. The goaltending battle in Columbus should be interesting to watch this season, definitely something for any CBJ fan to keep an eye on.
Scott Howson knew this team needed a change, and he went out, knowing what he had to do, and he did it. For the first time since making their first playoff appearance, there is a real buzz about The Columbus Blue Jackets in town, and it is all thanks to him. They have the pieces they have longed for, the puzzle is nearing completion. It is clear The Blue Jackets have sounded their cannons to the rest of the NHL letting them know, this isn’t the same old Jackets.