Something that has been circulating over the interwebs recently is the notion that the Jackets could be receiving calls from other clubs about the availability of Derick Brassard in a trade.
Teams are always looking to improve, and Brassard is a young, talented playmaker who could contribute to any squad in the NHL. It's hard to nail down his value in a trade, however, but I'm here to state a case that his value to Columbus is worth more than what the Jackets could receive in a trade, and a potential solution to the Jackets scoring woes.
The former first round pick has steadily improved his production over the past few seasons, but after camp this year he was somewhat lost in the shuffle. He started the season on the fourth line until an injury to Jeff Carter and the demotion of Cam Atkinson led to his return to the top six. In his first game as the center for Rick Nash, he scored a goal. Fellow linemate R.J. Umberger took most of the draws, however.
I'm thinking that when Carter returns to the lineup, Brassard should stay with Nash. Umberger, however, should be replaced by Vinny Prospal, who was the only Columbus forward producing regularly, but was moved to the second line with Antoine Vermette and Alexandre Giroux. What I propose is that with a healthy Carter in the lineup, the lines should undergo a major shuffling:
Brassard on the top line with Nash and Prospal.
Carter centering the second line with Umberger (the two played together with the Flyers) and Antoine Vermette moves to the wing. Vermy played wing in Ottawa, and could slide over to take an important faceoff, if required. Vermette and Umberger have shown chemistry in the past as well.
The third line, which is the checking unit, sees Derek MacKenzie, one of the team's top forecheckers, join defensive stalwart Samuel Pahlsson and energy winger Derek Dorsett. These three players are 3/4 of the teams top two penalty killing units.
That would leave a fourth line of Ryan Johansen up the middle, with Alexandre Giroux and Maksim Mayorov on his wings. Mayorov seems wasted on a checking line, so the chance to play with offensive players like Johansen and Giroux could lead to more goals, with the opposition's top checkers facing the Nash and Carter lines.
Cody Bass would be the thirteenth forward, entering the lineup against teams that require the extra physicality. When Jared Boll returns from injury, he takes this role, with Bass heading back to Springfield.
These lines are more defined, and with the team currently scoring only two goals per game, a change is necessary. The "all the eggs in one basket" scenario, with Nash and Carter together, hasn't worked. These lines also allow young wingers Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert to get plenty of icetime in the AHL, and later in the season one or both of these players can add a dose of offense to the Jackets. That, or replace Giroux if he falters.
Back to Brassard. He has shown chemistry with Nash in the past. It's a simple formula- Brass likes to pass, and Nasher likes to shoot. Prospal has shown the great ability to clean up the trash as the third man on the line. The Jackets would benefit from being able to throw the Carter line out after a shift from Brassard's line.
This takes us back to the faceoff issue. With Umberger taking Brassard's draws, the question remains- could Prospal take the faceoffs for my proposed top line? I think the easier thing to do is for Brass to work with the other centermen on his own faceoff ability in practice. If he can do that, he has the other skills necessary to produce on the big line, feeding Nasher as many pucks as he can handle.
This is all speculative of course, and can't be implemented until Carter returns. We don't know as of yet when that will be. Regardless, the coaching staff needs to make changes. There are other issues as to why the Jackets have struggled to score, one such example is the frustrating transition from the defense to the forwards. More often than not, the blueliners haven't been able to get the puck cleanly to the forwards, or if the guys up front have the puck, they have struggled to maintain it once entering the offensive zone.
That said, I think a line shakeup would be the easiest, and most immediate method of increasing the scoring. If the Jackets can maintain the effort level they showed Tuesday night against the Stars, my proposed lines should be enough to see an up-tick in scoring. A good team doesn't have a career AHLer in the top six, and the top talent is spread out.We'll have to wait and see if the coaching staff is thinking the same thing.
Bottom line- for the Jackets to succeed, they need to hang on to their offensive weapons, not trade them. They need to spread the wealth throughout the lineup, and as much as Arniel likes to keep units together on special teams, he can load up the top powerplay unit by reuniting Nash and Carter.
I'm eager to see what happens when Carter returns. Something's got to give.