Friday, February 24, 2012

How I'd rebuild the Blue Jackets

Note: this is 100 PERCENT stream of consciousness. If there are fact errors, spelling mistakes, weird leaps of logic, well ... sorry but I'm not sorry. I'd love to hear feedback on the ideas though.

I wasn't too hard on Scott Howson in my initial assessment of the Jeff Carter-Jack Johnson trade for the simple reason that Jeff Carter's sad panda routine backed Howson into a pretty bad corner.

Since this is CLS and not PHT, I'm not going to go into agonizing detail to recap everything, but Howson turned Antoine Vermette and Carter into a solid set of picks. It got me thinking about the future of this franchise and how fun it would be to rebuild it.

I use the word fun because a) it engages my inner team-building nerd and b) the franchise is so horrific that you'd be playing with house money.

Most people would identify Steve Mason's disastrous situation as the biggest problem, but some Twitter convos spawned this horrifying realization that the Blue Jackets have this set of poor-to-flawed defensemen wrapped up for WAY too long.

The Blue Jackets defensive core: James Wisniewski ($5.5M til 2016-17), Jack Johnson ($4.3M; 17-18), Methot ($3M; 14-15) and Tyutin ($4.5; 17-18).

So that's just under $18 million for two gambling offensive defensemen and two mainly nondescript guys.

Let's start with the trade deadline, then.

Rick Nash trade

Instead of focusing on what the Blue Jackets should get for Nash, Howson should focus on cleaning up his massacre on defense. Granted, it's pretty tough to imagine a team taking on more than 12 million for Nash + Tyutin, but that's what I would want.

As much as I hate Wisniewski's deal, Tyutin's contract is borderline unconscionable.

With that in mind, it might be more likely to make such a move in the off-season, especially if the CBA doesn't blow up and the salary cap rises again.

Interesting idea: work out a deal with Philly that sends, say, JVR, Chris Pronger's scrambled eggs/dead contract space, Braydon Coburn and perhaps a pick for Nash and Tyutin.

Coburn would likely be the best semi-sorta-jeez-I-guess responsible defenseman on the team, Pronger could help the Blue Jackets get to the cap floor and JVR would help to soothe some of that Nash grief, even if he's pretty damn inconsistent.

(Damn, that almost sounds kinda reasonable right? I'd say getting Pronger off Philly's hands would be enticing and Tyutin could at least be a warm body.)


After that, I would:

1. Fire the bejesus out of Scott Howson.

2. Hire Rick Dudley.

Dudley's firing was pure horse shit. He actually made some interesting moves for the Atlanta Thrashers and seems to have a keen eye on drafting talent.

3. Hire a capologist

That being said, hockey teams need to Moneyball it. Dudley doesn't get to add a contract unless it makes sense (not saying Dudley wastes money, just saying that EVERYONE does).

4. Hire Craig Ramsay

Make fun all you want, but Ramsay got a piss-poor Thrashers team fairly close to a playoff run.

Oh yeah, and remember how many people snickered when they opted to move Dustin Byfuglien to defense again? Yeah, he's a two time All-Star, suckers.

That's not the only reason I'd hire Ramsay, either. If you look at the Jets/Thrashers, the biggest strengths they had were in attacking defense. I don't care if you bring back Jacques Lemaire, you won't teach Wisniewski and Johnson to be great in their end. So why not let them loose with a guy who made the most of a similar situation?

5. Pay Lemaire a lot of money as a consultant

Hell, why not overpay him to teach them as much as he can/give yourself a fallback plan if Ramsay's terrible, then? Again, Columbus' greatest assets are in defense right now - and that will only become more true if they trade Nash.

6. Keep Steve Mason - so you can lose.

6b. If he plays well, trade him.

He has another year on his deal anyway, so let him get shellacked behind a horribly irresponsible defense.

Of course, it's a contract year, so maybe he'd actually play well. Don't be fooled by that horse shit, though. If he plays out of his mind, trade him for assets. You know why?

7. Because it's time to tank.

The Blue Jackets are primed for a lottery pick, if not the No. 1 pick. They also will get a first round pick from Los Angeles in 2012 or 2013 - not to mention maybe another goodie for Nash and some other pieces from Vermette.

So why not just really, really suck next season too and embrace the Capitals/Blackhawks/Penguins plan?

Proactive rebuttal

Now, I know you'll quibble about two things:

A) Finances

Tanking will only make things worse at the box office, no doubt. Let's not ignore reality, though: the Blue Jackets are going to be bad again, so why take a half measure when you can set yourself up for a bright future?

(Even if that bright future isn't in Ohio.)

Besides, a cheaper team will at least mean less money spent, and maybe the NHL's next CBA will be easier on poor franchises cap floor-wise.

B) Draft history

"But the Blue Jackets have had high draft picks forever and they still sucked"

Yeah, but that's because of incompetent management. Like I said, Rick Dudley's a proven entity at identifying talent, so they'd have a MUCH better chance of striking gold.

I don't know about the 2013 draft, but I've heard the 2012 one is great. The sad truth is that getting the right pick in the right year can often mean everything. (I like John Tavares and Taylor Hall, but their franchises didn't get a Stamkos or Crosby - sometimes you have to get lucky.)


OK, so my plan might not be fool-proof and it's literally off the top of my head. So tell me what you think.