Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Changes In the Right Places?

So what does that mean..?  Last night the Dispatch "shocked" the twitterverse, claiming a quote from majority owner John P McConnell that will 'rock' the very fabric of the Columbus franchise, from the hockey operations department all the way to the skyline chili kiosks.  Today, in a post that can be found here, Aaron Portzline provides a few soundbites and a lot of opinion on what could, should, and might be done to change the landscape of our favourite hockey team.

But what does it mean?

How many times have we read in the rumours section of *insert website/twitter handle here* that so and so will be moved, or Johnny 3rd liner is going to be getting dealt for a 2nd round pick and futures?  At what point does the speculation outweigh that in which will actually happen?  No doubt the current Columbus structure is in perfect alignment for major change, with the scouting department on the final year of their contract, Rook in the final year of his goaltending coach contract, and the better half of the NHL roster set to become UFAs or RFAs with none of them actually entertaining contract offers from the Jackets brass at this point.

Here are what I deem to be facts;

1 - You cannot stand idly by as an owner of an unsuccessful business and watch it falter without the threat of change.  Anyone who does that is either too dense to own a business, or too stupid to realize that their efforts have not been good enough.  These comments were inevitable

2 - Making comments like this are what fans arguably want to hear (read: Your team WILL be better) and what people in the organization have been expecting.  It's common sense, and once again, when you look at it from a business standpoint, any time there is an obvious lack of success, change becomes water cooler talk.

3 - People who do not deserve to lose their place with the organization will lose it.  It is one of those things where someone needs to take the fall, and likely in this case, many will become the scapegoat for a number of unsuccessful years.

Getting passed all that, here is my problem with the statements being made.  Portzline takes the opportunity to put the scouting department front and center in this mess because they (conveniently) have contracts expiring at the end of this year, I believe just after the draft concludes.  What he is either ignoring or not saying, is that the scouting department really has not done a bad job at all.  Columbus has been doomed to finishing not bad enough ever since they drafted Rick Nash.  Look at their last couple years of first round draft pick places.  4th, 21st, 6th, 7th, 6th, 6th.... You want cold hard facts?  How did Pittsburgh land two of the best players in the game?  Crosby (1st), Malkin (2nd - after Ovechkin), Staal (3rd).  It is not a matter of good drafting in their departments, it is a simple matter of finishing bad enough to get an elite player.  I would be happy to argue that any team finishing bad enough to have Crosby or Malkin's name come up as an option would not think twice about drafting them.

Sometimes I simply wonder if they have been bad enough.  I have little doubt that Johansen will be an impact player in the NHL, but I recognize the timing it takes for a mid-range top 10 pick to become viable.  Would they have done better getting Taylor Hall with the first pick?  Of course they would.  How do you fault a scouting department for taking the best possible talent at the picks they are given?  How do you not credit them for generating what appears to be an excellent group of prospects currently developing in the minor leagues, all of whom could become impact players within the next 2-3 years?  How do you fault a group of people paid to build the future of the team for the team not winning NOW?

I want to look at the guys like Clark and Moreau to find fault.  Almost five million dollars paid out by the organization this year for basically nothing.  A big body who is clumsy on the puck, two veteran captains who are bandaids if not paving the way for players like Calvert to step in and take charge.  The Jackets need an overhaul in the depths of their roster, as well as the defense, but to fault an organization for something like that, to me, is a bit much.  How much can they possibly do when players like Huselius suck up almost five million dollars of potential cap space?  I just provided 9.5 million dollars of wasted cap space.  Who is to blame for that 9.5 million?  Is it the scouts?

If I had summarize my thoughts into a paragraph, it would revolve solely on the active roster.  The time for taking chances and overpaying for players is over.  The time for acquiring aging veterans to fill out a roster is well past over with players like Kubalik, Wilson, Calvert, and soon to be Johansen waiting in the wing.  The time for accepting mediocrity from their lineup has run its' course.  I simply cannot support it anymore.  No one has to look far to see what is wrong with this team.  The core players (short of maybe a first line center and a top tier defensemen or two) are in place and have room to grow.  It is time to build on that properly with players like Upshall over players like Moreau, and stop trying to filter the blame elsewhere in the organization.

Carry the Flag!

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