I have no interest in trying to substantiate rumours or 'break' any trades, but I would be hibernating under a rock if I wasn't fully aware of the discussions surrounding the potential of a Rick Nash trade as the deadline, and I suppose the 2012/2013 season edge closer. What I did begin to consider, is how the team would be structured after his departure, or more specifically who would become the Blue Jackets next Captain and what reasons would surround that decision.
Currently, they experience a 'quiet leader' in Rick Nash, who has been suggested to be a solid voice in the locker room and says the right things to the media, but tends to lead more by example on the ice. What intrigues me about that is how this year he's appeared to play at well below the 100% dominant level that made him so loved in Columbus. Should it come as a real surprise that the team behind him has been known to rise and fall during games, rarely generating a sixty minute effort from all the players? This won't be an extension of any Nash bashing, but I do believe the two have some correlation. So which player could make a vocal difference both on and off the ice if our Captain agreed to a trade?
Of the current roster players, a case could be made for Prospal, Umberger, Wisniewski, and Dorsett in my opinion. With those players in mind, I am going to make a case for each, and discuss where I believe they should be ranked relative to one another:
Prospal :: Vinny came into Columbus with a bang. His commitment to the game is unwavering, and his attitude both on and off the ice is refreshing to say the least. He called out the team for poor practicing efforts, and is one of the last players who I would expect to 'pack it in' during a game that isn't going their way. He is also well traveled, playing at the tail end of his career, and believes in the Columbus hockey product enough to commit to the team beyond his playing years.
My Rank on Prospal is number 1. I think with his career expiring, it removes the possibility of another lingering captaincy, and he can offer great tutelage to those chosen for the "A" to take over for him when he hangs up the skates for good. Further, the players all respect him, and he has become a fan favourite in such a short period of time that I believe the fan base would get behind the decision.
Umberger :: RJ appeared to be on the fast track of Columbus leaders, at least until his new contract was signed. It has been disastrous this season, between missing the extra step that we're familiar with, and an inability to consistently find the scoresheet. While I can appreciate the fact that he signed a multi-year deal to play with Columbus, it was far from a 'discount' and at this juncture appears to be a healthy overpayment.
My Rank on Umberger is number 3. While I think his leadership abilities are strong, I have a serious concern with his compete level on the ice. I think for him to increase his leadership value, he needs to change his routine this summer and find his game again. While I want to see Umby in a Columbus uniform, I do not want to see a 4.6 million dollar player relegated to the third line on account of his play.
Dorsett :: I think he's a very interesting case. His on ice capacity has developed substantially over the last season, becoming more of a well rounded player. He has shown the ability to score goals without grit, but has also shown that feistiness will always be a part of his 60 minute game. He is also a player who seems to have a limitless supply of effort while on the ice.
My Rank on Dorsett is number 4. While I believe he can be a vocal leader on the team, I do not think his production, and his role on the team would justify his captaincy. I also think that with the admission that Prospal has been a major impact on his game, I cannot help but feel like he would do well to continue his growth for the time being, and maybe jump into a greater leadership role further down his career.
Wisniewski :: The Wiz was not a name I expected to add to this list when I was originally considering the players who would have the best impact on the team. It wasn't until I had some great conversation with fellow Jackets fans regarding his team buy in that I really realized what his value is and could be. He does not appear to take games off, although has found himself trying to do too much in his new role in Columbus. From everything I have read and heard, he is a very vocal guy in the locker room, but his attitude and personality would likely see him doing that regardless of his stature with the team. He has also made every attempt to be a vocal leader outside the locker room with the Columbus fan base, who seem to have embraced him quickly.
My Rank on Wisniewski is number 2. While I do have some concern about his style of play and the potential for suspension, I have no question that he has and can continue to be a major part of the Blue Jackets community both on and off the ice. I think he is a prime candidate to learn under a veteran like Prospal on how to be a great leader, and where to draw the appropriate lines in the sand.
I believe the Blue Jackets have a solid group of players who can step up in a big way if Nash were to get traded, and in some cases, I think there is a solid argument that it would be an upgrade at Captain. With the exception of Umberger, I see each of these players with solid roster spots for next season, and each would demand effort and accountability each and every day. I am very curious to hear if your depth chart would look a bit different, so don't hesitate to share your top three or four in the comments section!
Carry the Flag!