Bob Hunter wrote in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch that Howson has finally seen enough.
Finally. As if we haven't been talking about this for months now. Either way, at least he's come to this realization well before the trade deadline. Now any moves he makes can be, at least to an extent, on his terms, and not under the gun or backed in the corner. The Jackets were already backed into a corner - they blew through the wall and kept backing up.
At any rate, he's going to be active. And while he still believes Scott Arniel is the answer behind the bench, I see this next set up of moves being the last real chance for either of them.
Obviously goaltending seems to be the biggest hole - Steve Mason just hasn't proven that he can be the answer. As much as it hurts to let a Calder Trophy winner go, he has had many opportunities to put things together. More than a lot of organizations would have given him.
It's no secret that a better defense would help, either. Any goaltender, under the circumstances, would not have looked great in Columbus this year. But when you look at players like Rusty Klesla and Jan Hejda that are allowed to walk and play solidly for their new teams, you have to wonder, what's the real problem? Is it development? Coaching? All of the above?
How many more failed prospects, bad trades and signings, or poorly evaluated talent must we watch come and go in Columbus before bigger moves are made?
Yet, none of this has been quite as surprising as nearly every forward not named Ryan Johansen having such awfully disappointing seasons, both when looking at stats and level of play.
So, what do you do? Moving the bigger names will obviously net the bigger return, but then you're looking to rebuild your entire core. While the team has been abysmal, I believe the core group could still perform with the proper support and structure of a true NHL team. I'm talking Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, Fedor Tyutin, and James Wisniewski. Those are all players that if you trade them to a good team, you will see them flourish. Why can't that good team be Columbus?
But when the defensemen coming over the boards after Tyutin and Nikitin are Aaron Johnson and John Moore, that has to be draining. I'm sure many of us have been a part of teams or groups where you're the one pulling the heavy load - it's not easy. And when you try to do too much, it's not good for anyone. Just ask Rick Nash. The problems are only made worse when the last line of defense is Steve Mason, doing his best tryout for the Swiss Cheese league.
The team has to start with the back end and work its way out. Trading for a goalie now might not be so easy, but if Howson has his eye on someone now or coming up next year in free agency, he must start now to set up the moves to make that happen. Package Brassard in a deal for another defenseman like Nikitin, whoever that may be, both getting stronger on the back end and clearing out his salary. Give up something of value to get another top level player, like the Voracek for Carter trade. Carter hasn't played great, but I bet if the team gives him the right surroundings, next year will be huge. I still believe he can be better than Rick Nash and that's exactly what this team needs.
Howson shouldn't blow up the team just to look like he's doing something, and I don't think he will. But when you look at a player like John-Michael Liles and see how well he's doing in Toronto, a player we could have had in Columbus, you realize how many good moves this team could be in the position to make.
What would you do?