Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Time to Turn the Page in Columbus

At some point, after the bitter pill of another loss is swallowed, the patience deteriorates into extreme dissatisfaction.  For me, last night was simply that kind of night.  It was right around the point when the first period finished, with the Jackets surrendering twelve shots to the Predators in the first period while only mustering three of their own.  walking into the dressing room without a pulse, without a goal, and me without patience.

This has been written before.  The Jackets lost, and they never really had the on ice presentation of threatening to win at any point in the game. Sure, Nash made a tremendous play to tie the game at one apiece, but there would never be another scenario where I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation of a goal.  They lack confidence.  They lack resolve.  They lack a lot of things.

I'd call this a recap but there really isn't much point in recapping something that has been repeated over, and over, and over again this year.  Instead, I am going to offer this: I'm ready for the purge.

Steve Mason

It is time for him to find a new home.  Not because I am in the percentage of Jackets fans who want to throw a large portion of the Jackets failures on his shoulders.  I want him gone because this team doesn't have a backbone when he's in net.  I ran these numbers on twitter last night, but I will go ahead and share them again here.

In the Last Six Starts by Mason
- Team has averaged 1.0 goals for
- Team has averaged 32.66 shots on the opposing net (196 total)
- Team has allowed an average of 27.5 shots on net (165 total)

In the Last Six Starts by Sanford
- Team has averaged 2.33 goals for
- Team has averaged 25.67 shots on the opposing net (154 total)
- Team has allowed an average of 29.0 shots on net (174 total)

For reference, the worst team in the league in goals for is Los Angeles who average 2.1 goals per game.  What I see above is a team who can't execute with the puck, yet are more offensively inclined when Mason is in the net.  I don't have an impressive chart to show the quality of goals being scored by the opposition, but that's not exactly my point.  I am NOT here saying Mason is playing to the level of a top tier NHL goaltender.  I am simply contesting two things.  First, even if he was, he would still only be around 1-5 over his last six starts, and second, this team flat out doesn't have the ability to give him room to build the necessary confidence.

With all that in mind, I hope they deal him to a team who can properly groom him into a top tier player, because I think that ability is 100% within him.  I see this as a benefit for Mason as a person, and I see it as a benefit for this insanely fragile roster who can't seem to play quality hockey in front of him.  Get rid of the excuse they think they have for playing poorly, and finally, the blame will rest entirely on their own shoulders.

Vinny Prospal

I am neither a Prospal lover or a Prospal hater, but he has more than served his purpose in Columbus.  While his early season determination and style benefited the Jackets, his compete level has dropped significantly since the beginning of the season and teams will get less and less interested in him (in my opinion) the longer the season goes on.  He is no longer a quality factor on the opposite wing of Rick Nash, and is often trailing in the play rather than being on the far side as a passing option.

I recognize this opinion won't be a popular one and I am fine with that, but just as I called out Nash earlier on in the year (he's playing very well of late), I am fully prepared to call out Vinny and simply ask this: When was the last time he did something to merit the high praise he gets? -- It's time to allow him the ability to move on, and provide the Jackets with a mid to high end pick or prospect from a team in need of depth scoring for a long playoff run.

Vermette - Pahlsson - Huselius - Clitsome - Etc

These are all players (well, maybe not Clitsome at this point) who may benefit the Jackets more in their return than what they are producing on the ice.  Vermette is a tremendous faceoff winner who could be highly sought after by a team struggling on the draw.  He is also capable of playing a top six role with a great deal of penalty killing experience.  Pahlsson is a shutdown specialist who serves a large purpose for any team trying to be more proficient defensively against the top teams in the league, and Huselius (when not injured) provides and excellent injection of scoring when given a couple players to feed him the puck.

These are all players who should provide ample return.  Huselius is an interesting example because of his injuries, and because I wouldn't hate seeing him return, but he's an aging forward who would probably enjoy a cup run.  For the others, it is simply making room for off-season additions this summer.

I don't expect Howson to start making the trades I have hoped for all year.  It is not the time for that, and it is something I'll address again in the off-season.  What I am interested in, is a roster depleted by 'deadline' deals in a sellers market.  As much as I am sick of the losing, for some strange reason, I would feel better if it were because they dealt away their depth talent for futures.  There is no point in watching games like I had to endure last night with a 'full' (give or take 20 million in injury players) roster.

I have almost completely moved on from this season.  My 'fandom' isn't being questioned or anything, I just have no emotion for the losing anymore.  I look at teams like Chicago, Edmonton (still) and more notably Pittsburgh, and I see cities that were absolutely terrible for years, only to receive high end picks and acquire franchise player after franchise player:

2003 :: Pittsburgh :: Fleury (1st)
2004 :: Pittsburgh :: Malkin (2nd)
2005 :: Pittsburgh :: Crosby (1st)
2006 :: Pittsburgh :: Staal (2nd)
2006 :: Chicago :: Toews (3rd)
2007 :: Chicago :: Kane (1st)
2010 :: Edmonton :: Hall (1st)
2011 :: Edmonton :: Nugent-Hopkins (1st)

As you can see, these three teams benefited enormously by drafting in the top spots.  I listed eight players and every single one of them, aside from maybe Staal, are top tier franchise level players (or have the appearance of such).  It is a painful process to suck as hard as a team like Pittsburgh did for four years, but their turnaround is nothing short of phenomenal.  A franchise goalie, two franchise centers, and a top six center.  Talk about being given their future without any real drafting/development/trading/signing.

I bring that up simply to say, be patient.  Don't watch to lose, but don't get upset when the Jackets do lose.  It can only bring good things in a season that is beyond repair.  In the meantime, it is time to watch this team as it is dismantled, and hope that the experiences by the younger players like Savard, Moore, Kubalik, Atkinson, Calvert, and Johansen benefit them in the future. It's time to stop playing Nash with the likes of Vermette and Prospal, and start playing him with up-tempo players like Brassard who will help Nash to play at the speed that suits him best.

Carry the Flag.


  1. Why keep Nash? Why not deal him, if trading him could fix the glaring hole that is our top two d lines? Pair him with Juice and the return might include a couple prospects and a goalie.

    Gut the fish - it's rotting anyway - and build for the future.

    And start the whole process off by getting a new front office. One that has a vision for a true identity for this team. A President who knows enough about hockey to be able to call bull***t when the GM is out to lunch, or just is wandering away from the vision.
    We need to focus with laser-like intensity. CBJ do not have any wiggle room for any more mistakes. Bring in professionals, not a promising assistant looking to break into the big-boy league for the first time.

    1. Some great points there. In clarity we have pondered trading Nash or Carter (http://carrytheflag-cbj.blogspot.com/2012/01/carter-or-nash.html) and will be running another piece soon on Nash, so stay tuned!!

      I think Patrick definitely puts an interesting spin on the currently group atop the organization, so I wouldn't be too upset seeing that play out for a year. With that said, I would have no issue with a few new faces.

      I worry more about the players on the ice, and how they will go about replacing many of them with people who MUST win hockey games. More Dorsett-like players, but with high end talent.