With the lockout still underway, I’ve decided to venture out and meet our neighbors. Starting with our favorite trading partner, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their fine Fansided website is Fire The Cannon. Editor Gary Gribbell and I are exchanging information on our teams and getting to know each other. This is the first part of an ongoing series. My questions to Gary in italics.
1) Vinny Prospal and RJ Umberger are listed as Associate Captains. Do you think Vinny will get the “C” or could a seasoned veteran who wore the “C” with the Blackhawks Adrian Aucoin be named?
The ” odds on” fan favorite would be Jack Johnson. There are 3 main reasons for this, Jack has served as captain for the USA team in the last 2 World Hockey events, so he has a captain experience, with at least some creditability with his peers. But the 2 biggest reasons are that he said exactly the right things when he was traded to Columbus, and has continued saying them ever since. And He has shown leadership in “the room” and with his team mates since he arrived. Johnson, Proposal, Umburger and James Wisniewski have formed an informal core of leadership over the summer.
I and most of the rest of the Blue Jacket fans love Vinny to death. But I do not think he would get the “C” because he is near the end of his career and I think the “C” will go to someone who will carry it long term. The same could be said for Aucoin. RJ Umberger could be Captain. To me he showed more “Captain like” actions then Rick Nash who was Captain for several years. [Granted, showing visibly and being are 2 greatly different things...... A Captain is a leader who also has certain responsibilities and not just a billboard to show the world.]
But having said all that, I am not sure how a Captain will be named. If it is a Coach’s decision or a players, or both I don’t know. The bet is it will be a coaches decision, but with an eye towards credibility from the other players.
2) What is your opinion on why the Blue Jackets and Coyotes have had trades the past three years at or just before the deadline? Columbus has become the favorite trading partner for Coyote General Manager Don Maloney.
We know for sure that it takes 2 to dance, so there is a mutual feeling. For one, the Coyotes are in the Western Division, so players will not come back to haunt you quite so much. I would think the feeling is mutual with Phoenix I’m sure. Also in general, Columbus is not trading what they consider to be their better players, for one reason or another, so the “have: clubs are not too interested. Based on results, Maloney has done his due diligence, as it seems he has come out on top of these trades. I believe some have been for contract concersn ie money, length or something.
This year it was a little different. as far as cause. Around Columbus there has been a perception of a “country club atmosphere around the clubhouse. In fact Vinny Prospal called out his team mates after about 3 weeks of practice, noting that they needed to practice like they meant it. The Jackets hired an acknowledged hockey guru in Craig Patrick Senior Advisor, Hockey Operations. Now there is a lot of conjecture as to what exactly does an adviser affect and effect. Best guess is that some of his affect was to change enough personnel to bring a new face, character and attitude to the Columbus Club. The trades to Phoenix are a part of this. Now I am not saying the players are damaged goods, I am just saying their movement was a part of changing the existing personnel.
I know you want to touch on Rick Nash a little later, but the previous comments and questions lead to the “Nash gap” and the large influx of players as an extra comment or aside. In Columbus, many fans have a concern about the gap or hole the departure of Rick Nash leaves. He was Columbus’ only “star”. He took more shots and made more goals than anyone else. So if he leaves, who fills the gaps? At this point, it appears the gap will be filled by committee. And the committee is mostly the players that were acquired over the summer. If you look very closely at the players that were acquired, they all have a purported high quality character and work ethic. An excellent example of this is Adrian Aucoin, who you mentioned. Every effort has been made to change the character and work ethic of the team. [ You may not know it but Vinny Prospal was signed to a contract and also has a gentleman's agreement to work for the Blue Jackets after he hangs up his skates. Could he be offering insight into the character of potential acquisitions? Who knows, many fans feel it is possible]
3) Your goaltending is going to be the battle to watch with Steve Mason and and newly acquired Sergei Bobrovsky. Is this the year Mason returns to his Calder Memorial Trophy form of 2008-2009 or does “Bob” make the leap to everyday goalie?
You will be hard pressed to find anyone who has any truly high hopes that Steve Mason will return to this Trophy winning form. Fool me once, etc. etc.. The bottom line is he is considered “damaged goods” and has 1 more year on his contract which will pay him $3.2 Million. Thus he is virtually untradeable. On top of that, we are hearing that he really does not report in the best physical condition, and possibly does not work too hard to improve his conditioning. Most fans are tired of him being so inconsistent. With very little on the available goaltender market, we ended up with “Bob”, good potential, but big unknown. His best stats were when he was the Flyers regular goal tender. Most Columbus fans have given the starting job to Bob. Officially the Jackets say the job is up for grabs.