So Howson frees up a couple of million this year, some fans go nuts, and some fans are cautiously optimistic.
I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m sure the Jackets could not have done much better with regards to Fedorov. With the possibility of him bolting this summer, at least they got something out of it now.
Same with Foote. To me, the way his situation worked out seemed more like “shades of MacLean” than anything else. Still, it was clear that Howson saw the writing on the wall here and thought now was as good a time as ever.
The surprising thing to me, though, was that it stopped there. Peca, Vyborny, et. al made it through yesterday without having to change PO boxes. I can’t tell if this was a wise, ‘surgical’ approach to making the team more competitive, or a rather poorly-executed attempt at cleaning house.
One thing is clear: come summertime, the Jackets will be at least $20-25 million under the salary cap. Whatever Howson’s plans for the summer were, at least now he’ll have a little more breathing room.
Nash’s take on the trades:
“I just don’t know what the thought process is. I feel like we have been building for a few years now to get to the point that we’re at. It’s tough to see these guys leave, but if they don’t feel like this is our year and they want to free up some money and get some young players I guess.”
I like this quote. There’s so much here for us to read-between-the-lines. Rick expresses his puzzlement, and wonders where this fits into the moves the team has made over the past few years. Then he wonders aloud if the trades mean the brass is surrendering on this season. (Ruh-roh, Astro.) Rick wraps up with a final shot about them wanting to “get some more young players in here.”
It says a lot.
His thoughts on possibly wearing the ‘C’:
“I’m still a guy who’s 23 years old. It’s kind of tough telling a guy who’s 30 years old to pick up his game and things like that, they might not listen, but I’m ready to take that jump, starting trying those things and I’m sure a lot of guys will be behind me.”
After having some more time to think about it, I’m fairly certain that Nash will be the captain next year. When Hitch came to the team last season, he told a Columbus radio station that the reason he immediately put Nash on the PK was because Nash played his best when he was forced to work outside of his comfort zone. Paraphrasing, he said, ‘Nash is a great shooter with great talent, it’ll be up to me and the veterans to make him a good, well-rounded hockey player.’
And I wonder if that’s how we’ll define Fedorov’s CBJ legacy — if nothing else, as a mentor to the younger players like Rick, Nik, Zhil-Bayre, etc. Sergei didn’t come in here and challenge any scoring records, that’s for sure, but he played hard and did anything asked of him. First line center? Okay. PK? Youbetcha. Oh, want me on the blue line for a couple of weeks? No problem. That attitude had to be contagiously beneficial to the others alongside him in the dressing room.
But back to the trades. No matter what, the first reasonable expectation of playoff-level performance should come next year. Hitch and Howson have set themselves up for a rather critical evaluation next season. We’ll be watching with higher expectations, for sure.