Rick Nash Is Gone, Who Gets the “C” Next?


Despite what some media types may say, it as been an exciting off season for the Blue Jackets. They acquired enough pieces for the Jackets to claim they have one of the strongest rosters the team has ever seen. The duo of Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski is probably the best top pairing that Columbus has ever seen. Quite frankly, their second pairing is about on par with their usual top pairing and that gives the Jackets something they’ve never had before—a relatively competent blue line. Pair that with the relatively competent goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Jackets have a defense and goalie structure that doesn’t make one want to cringe when they look at it.

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

While most believed that Howson should’ve gotten more for Rick Nash, the fact that they got a couple of quality forwards who are willing and wanting to be a part of the Columbus reconstruction project is more than anyone could have realistically hoped for. Both forwards involved in the deal have the capacity for 50+ points a season and help fill out a rather weak top 6. Considering Nash did, at best, 70-80 points in a season, that actually gives the Jackets a little bit of an offensive boost and forces the defense of other teams to play against the whole team.

Now that the drama and nonsense is out of the way, the Blue Jackets are lined up to have one of their most successful seasons in franchise history. Stanley Cup champions? Let’s not push it, but they could very well make the playoffs. After all, if Steve Mason can take Columbus to the playoffs, anyone can. While the talk of the media is the big changes that Columbus has made in terms of personnel, the biggest change that hasn’t gotten a lot of talk is complete change of the image of the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is no longer referred to as Rick Nash featuring the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is now simply the Columbus Blue Jackets. When talking about success, most would rather look at numbers, stats, and such things. However, there is a lot of intangible improvements in Columbus. There are fresh, new players who actually want to be in Columbus. The attitudes of the players are much more positive compared to last season and that can translate to success just as easily as signing a point-per-game player.

Of course with a new team comes a new leader and while the Jackets have their new coach firmly in place, there’s a big hole at the top where the Captain belongs. The big question is, where does that C belong? Believe it or not, the Jackets actually have a few decent candidates. Some are new additions and some are old Jackets warriors, but all of them more or less equally qualified to be the next leader of the Jackets.

So who are they? We’ve narrowed the best choices down to a top five along with a list of pros and cons for each.

 

RJ Umberger

Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE

According to most, Umberger is the natural choice in terms of succession to the proverbial throne in Columbus. He’s been a member of the Jackets since 2008-09 season and was there for the Jackets’ first—and only—playoff appearance.

Pros

  1. Top 6 forward who is capable of putting up 50-60 points in a season.
  2. Plays on the power play and shorthanded units and thus can lead during all parts of the game.
  3. Has been a member of the team for a few years and knows the fans and team members.
  4. He’s a Buckeye, that’s as close as you’ll get to a hometown hero as a hockey player in Columbus.
  5. In the words of my friend and fellow blogger John Evans, he’s an Good American Boy.
  6. He back checks, plays defense, and grinds it out. A really hard worker could encourage others to be hard workers.

Cons

  1. Despite being in Columbus for their only playoff run, and calling it a playoff run is generous, Umberger doesn’t have the experience that comes with going deep in the playoffs.

 

Jared Boll

Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-US PRESSWIRE

Yes, it is a little absurd that we mention Jared Boll as a candidate for the Captaincy. However, he has been with the team longer than any other Blue Jacket. Through the bad and the good, Jared Boll has been there since his first day in the NHL and very well might be there til his last day if Scott Howson lets him.

Pros

  1. He’s a loyal Blue Jacket and considering the attitude of some players the Jackets have hired over the last half a decade, loyalty is something the Jackets could base a team around.
  2. With the exit of Rick Nash, he’s now the longest running Blue Jacket on the roster.
  3. He will stand up to anyone, tall or short, weak or strong to defend a teammate. Just ask the Buffalo Sabres how important that is.

Cons

  1. He spends way too much time in the penalty box.
  2. Despite being a part of the team for so long, he’s never been a member of the Blue Jackets leadership.
  3. Playing 3rd or 4th line means Boll would be doing most of his leading from the bench.

 

Brandon Dubinsky

Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

If you’ll recall when Jeff Carter came to Columbus, he spouted off about wanting to win. However, the way he phrased it was, and this is paraphrasing, “I hope I can be a part of a winning team.” Doesn’t lend a lot of confidence that Carter actually wanted to win and that was confirmed when he left Columbus several days weeks months later. When Brandon Dubinsky came to Columbus, he was quoted as saying – and once again we’re paraphrasing, “The mood around the locker room is play to get to the playoffs. You don’t play to get to the playoffs, you play to win the Stanley Cup.” Whether it was my overactive imagination or a mild hallucination brought on by dehydration I can never be sure, but I saw the C materialize on his shirt right then and there.

Pros

  1. He’s here to win, based on the statement above. It’s one thing to try hard and do the best you can, it’s another entirely to say that you don’t want to try, you want to win. That’s a mindset the Blue Jackets haven’t ever had.
  2. He’s a multi-position forward who can put up 50-60 points in a season.
  3. He can play on the power play or shorthanded.
  4. He’s already acquainted with many of the newer Jackets, including Artem Anisimov and Vinny Prospal.
  5. Dubinsky has been on a team that’s gone deep into the playoffs and knows the drill. Not only in just playing the games, but sticking it out til the win, like that ridiculous triple OT game against the Washington Capitals.
  6. He’s a heavy hitter who’s not afraid to get in a player’s face.

Cons

  1. He hasn’t played a single game in a Blue Jackets jersey.
  2. Dubinsky has always had the benefit of playing with superstar players whereas with the Jackets, he is one of the superstar players.
  3. He’s right up there with Jared Boll in penalty minutes.

 

Jack Johnson

Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

Jack Johnson is one of the greatest acquisitions the Columbus Blue Jackets have ever made. He’s an all-star quality defenseman who can contribute offensively. More than that, he’s probably the biggest ray of sunshine in the Blue Jackets locker room. Watch any (and I mean any) Jack Johnson interview since he’s joined the Blue Jackets. The guy smiles so much I suspect his cheeks are stapled to his temples and you know what, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. When Johnson arrived in Columbus, the whole locker room—and let’s face it, half the fan base—was one Depeche Mode song away from wearing eye liner and cutting themselves. Ever since, the whole team seems to have caught Johnson’s great attitude. The most important thing to note: since Jack Johnson came to Columbus (counting overtime losses as full losses), Columbus has gone 11-9. That’s a winning record, folks.

Pros

  1. He’s been a captain before. For Team USA during the 2010 IIHF World Champtionship. He was selected to be captain again for Team USA in 2012.
  2. He wrote that awesome song Banana Pancakes.
  3. He was involved in the fight of the century vs James J Jeffries for the World Heavyweight Title
  4. Johnson has playoff experience, although not as much as his former teammates do now.
  5. He is capable of putting up All-Star numbers and is more than capable of a Norris Trophy nomination.
  6. His positive attitude brought Jackets players and fans out of a season-long funk after his trade. Like Dubinsky’s winning attitude, a positive attitude is also something the Jackets team don’t get very often.
  7. He will at least be on one of the power play lines.

Cons

  1. Like Dubinsky, Johnson hasn’t been in Columbus for very long. Only about 25% of a season.

 

Vinny Prospal

Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Vinny Prospal is an anomaly in Columbus. He’s the old dude on a team of younger guys, yet he was just 4 points shy of tying Rick Nash for most on the Jackets this last season. With only a year on his contract, Prospal may not seem like the best choice for captaincy for the Jackets. However, with anywhere from one to a few years left under his belt, he could be a very great mentor-type captain to help the rookies grow. Again, that’s something the Blue Jackets haven’t really had before.

Pros

  1. He’s got the most experience of anyone on the Blue Jackets bench. He’s played in three different decades for six different teams. He’s been there and done that and that gives him a level-headed quality that is valuable to rookies.
  2. Dubinsky and Anisimov have already proclaimed Prospal to be one of their mentors as rookies in New York. Considering that he’s spent a full year in Columbus, that means he has a rapport with pretty much everyone.
  3. Despite his age, he’s capable of anywhere from 50-70 points in a season.
  4. He’ll likely at least be on the power play.
  5. He was really the first of the new wave of players in Columbus to come in and be excited to play in Columbus. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by that whole Jeff Carter thing.

Cons

  1. He’s pretty old and only on a one year contract. If he gets the C, it might only be for a single season.
  2. He has a propensity for shattering limbs. He broke his arm in 1997 and then his leg in 1998. Granted, he doesn’t have the dry-noodle bone structure of Rick DiPietro, but the risk for long term injury is there.
  3. It might make more sense for the Jackets to put Prospal in a mentor role rather than a leadership role given his relationship to players on the team.

 
There’s a lot of other variables to consider but when you break it down, these choices are definitely among the top picks for the next leader of the Blue Jackets. We were going to mention Curtis Sanford, but the big con for him is that he no longer plays on this continent. Additionally, as the Vancouver Canucks can tell you, giving the goalie a C can distract him from that thing he’s supposed to do. You know, making sure the puck doesn’t go in the net and all that jazz.

This is by no means a final list or even a complete list. Things could change drastically in the near future as lockout rumors are starting to fall through the cracks. In the event that there is no 2012-13 season, that could mean a lot more changes to the Blue Jackets roster and this list could have five brand new candidates. Whether or not the lockout will happen is uncertain, but at the very least, we wish all the worst luck to Ryan Lambert’s favorite team. Of course, your opinion is always welcome. Who do you think should be captain of the Jackets?

*Insert obligatory Ric Flair reference. Wooooooo!*

  • pete goegan

    Nice breakdown, love the “Depeche Mode” line for the Johnson arrival!

  • http://nwcs.com/~jvc/ Viqsi

    Attempting to target Lambert’s fanhood doesn’t work; his favorite team is whichever one is whining at him the most and thus giving him more attention. Somehow that ends up being Detroit most of the time (that’s why “What We Learned” always lists the Red Wings as ‘presented by Amway’ about half a year after it got old for the rest of the Central Division).

    • JosephHindy

      I know, it wasn’t really supposed to be a bash at him (since he is, in a sense, un-bashable) but more like a “Dear Ryan, we got the message, signed, Columbus.”