Shuffle Up and Split

Is letting Jeff Carter work on his own the answer to the Jackets' offensive issues? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Regardless of how you feel about Scott Arniel still being behind the bench for the Jackets, his latest move is one worth discussing. Taking the lines from the St. Louis game and refining them, he's made a move that several fans called for, but few expected: Splitting up Jeff Carter and Rick Nash.

The hoped for chemistry between Nash and Carter was slow to develop, but seemed to finally start flowing over the last few weeks, with both Carter and Nash ripping off some brief scoring streaks. It seems an ill timed move to split them up now, but I think there's a method in the madness.

Nash and Carter have both been "streaky" players, but a look at scoring chances shows that both players have been steadily improving since early December - particularly Carter, who finally seems to be coming back into the early promise he showed before re-injuring his foot.

The problem is that the rest of the team has still struggled to find the back of the net, even when drawing some excellent opportunities, and the style of play that seems to work for this team demands some secondary scoring support. As was pointed out, almost every Jacket is currently having an anti-career year. It's time to try and spark the team, and we've seen a similar shuffle (aided by the addition of Nikita Nikitn) have a generally positive affect on the defense. With the NHL's holiday roster freeze, there's no option to add (or remove) players, but perhaps breaking guys out of the habits and familiar patterns they've settled into over the last three months might be enough to kickstart some offense, while forcing teams to defend against the threats of Nash and Carter in more than one game situation.

Will it work? Hard to say with only one game in the books, but the results against St. Louis seemed generally positive, particularly for the combination of Carter with Vinny Prospal and Mark Letestu. It will be worth watching how the team responds tomorrow night against Nashville and next week against Chicago and Calgary. If the goals start flowing, it may not be enough to save a team already past the point of no return, but it would at least mean a lot more entertaining hockey for the fans who continue to support their team.

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