With the news last week that Nathan Horton resumed skating for the first time since having his shoulder surgically repaired during the off season, the hope that the Jackets will soon have their biggest FA acquisition back in the line up soon is starting to rise. Horton is still a few weeks away from his return (Horton projected that he is still a month to a month and a half away), but will he be returning to the team he thought he would?
By that I mean, when Horton signed his 7 year, $37 million contract, he saw the Jackets as a potential playoff contender and a team that was a little further along in their rebuild. While he likely understood that Columbus was over-performing in March and April, and that some bumps in the road could be expected, did he expect the team to struggle out of the gate as bad as they have?
Columbus has not seen the same Vezina level of play out of Bobrovsky, the offense has been anemic and the defense has been sloppy. We cannot ignore the role that injuries have played in the Jackets struggles, as they are missing Boone Jenner, Matt Calvert, and Horton himself.
While the Jackets have some difficulty with big name free agent signings in the past, I do not believe that Horton is going to pull a Jeff Carter and ask for a trade. However, one does have to ask if this is the situation he expected to find himself in. The Jackets are by no means out of the playoff race, (a weak Metropolitan Division, and the fact that there is close to 3/4 of a season left keeps the hope alive), but they do not look like a playoff contender right now.
Once Horton does make his return, we will see his true character and how he really feels about signing in Columbus. It must be disappointing to have to watch the team struggle out of the gate from the press box, and miss out on facing off against his former team tomorrow night. Fortunately, Horton seems like the type of player who will give it his all to push this team into the playoff bubble and not the type who is going to skip town on us.
What the Jackets need to do is win some games. Show Horton that this team can be a contender and that he did make the correct decision in choosing Columbus for a long term deal.