Interesting take from well respected Columbus Blue Jackets coverage specialist Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. Portzline tweeted this yesterday in a series of Q&As.
Many believe the blueline is the #1 priority, especially with Ryan Murray resembling more Samuel L Jackson than Bruce Willis on the Unbreakable scale, so it’s bit of a shocker (not that shocker you child) to hear him imply they may not go for a defender in free agency. It’s especially puzzling when you look at who may be available including Cody Franson (27 years old), Jeff Petry (27), Mike Green (29), Christian Ehrhoff (32), Johnny Oduya (33), Paul Martin (34), and Francois Beauchemin (35) just to name a few. There’s definitely some guys that could improve the lack of quality of defense the Jackets currently trot out. Whether you’re looking at offensive minded (Franson, Green) or hard nosed blueliners (Oduya). He goes on to say.
Here Portzline makes a great philosophical point, don’t add just to add, make sure it’s improving the quality of the team and staying mostly true to the vision of the team. What it really boils down to is a few things.
1.) Do any of these players make sense or add a dimension to the team that needs improved? Some would argue that a few of those do. I wouldn’t totally disagree, especially the younger guys like Green and Franson.
2.) Do they come at the right price? That can’t be answered yet because we don’t know what the price will be.
Lastly 3.) What is the talent make-up of your current team in regards to how far they can realistically expect to advance in the Cup push? 1st Round exit? Probably not spending a lot on a player over 30. Looking for more guys who will be part of your core. A serious contender? Then you’re more likely to take a flyer on some of these, even as one or two year rentals to make sure you have that extra edge in the playoffs where every advantage is that much more valuable. Even though the Jackets didn’t make the playoffs this year, with the way they ripped through the end of the season they can’t be ruled out as contenders…how serious is the question. That is going to be the big question in this off-season and the way the organization handles itself will indicate their view on their roster and it’s trajectory for this upcoming season. Whether it attacks free agency like a lion or goes in like a lamb will say a lot about it’s intentions. But let’s not rule out a few more options…the draft and trade.
The draft is tough to play out. Unless you have a top 3 pick, and even then it’s asking a lot, it’s hard to count on these true rookies to make an immediate impact during the season and more importantly during the post-season. We’ve been looking into mocks a lot with the general consensus looking like D Ivan Provorov from Brandon being the 8th pick in the draft and on his way to Cbus. Provorov is considered to be close to NHL ready but again…that’s asking a lot from an 18 year old. And again that’s only addressing one defensemen. There’s more work to be needed done.
A trade is a highly likely situation considering the overflow of offensive talent we’ve accrued over the past few drafts. We’ve discussed it here and here. Essentially the Blue Jackets have gone with the best available player, a smart move in the draft, and are now in the position to start turning those assets into a well shaped hockey team. That is if the front office plays their cards correctly. We’ll see. The main drawback as opposed to free agency is the core principle of it…you have to give up something of value in order to gain value. No one really likes to give up anything of theirs, not when they can get it without having to (free agency). The benefit is simple. If free agency is a fast food chain, trades are the Chinese Buffet, full of everything you could ever dream of, on a hungover Sunday. There’s better fits that you’re free to go acquire opposed to this is what’s available, adapt or pass.
So even if the Jackets don’t jump out in free agency, there still could be relief on the way…but it’s going to cost them. We’ll explore the draft, trade and free agency possibilities later as we get closer to the dates but as of now…what pathway do you expect the Jackets to use to add to the blueline? Which would you prefer?