After another season of disappointment, of missing the playoffs, of declining attendance-the Jackets were due for a makeover. A complete rebuild wasn't necesssary, but changes throughout the organization were required.
This offseason has been the busiest that I can remember, multiple moves both on and off the ice, combined with big-time headlines. In case you missed any of the action join me after the jump for a recap of the action so far:
After just one season as an assistant coach with the Jackets, Boughner stepped down, with his stated intention of putting his focus back on the OHL team he owns and operates- the Windsor Spitfires. This is perfectly understandable from a fan's perspective, it must have been incredibly difficult to juggle both positions. Rumors of Boughner taking an assistant's job in Detroit and Ottawa turned out to be false.
Todd Richards Hired as Assistant Coach
After losing Boughner, a new assistant coach was required to fill out the staff, and the Jackets gave the job to former Minnesota Wild head coach Todd Richards. Richards didn't have a lot of success in Minny, mainly due to what he was given to work with and the fact he was the man behind a massive culture change from a purely defensive strategy under Jacques Lemaire to a more open style of play. In Minny and in San Jose as an assistant, he was in charge of the powerplay and had very good results. This will go a long way to improving the Jackets' powerplay, which has been basically useless in recent seasons.
Don Boyd and Bob Strumm Relieved of Duties
Assistant GM Don Boyd and Director of Pro Scouting Bob Strumm didn't have their contracts renewed, the largest front office shakeup since Doug MacLean was fired as General Manager. A change needed to be made, as the current model wasn't working. With Boyd and Strumm gone, there are very few original staffers in place. Is this a good thing? This blogger says yes. I say this because I believe that a fresh outlook both from an amateur and pro perspective is needed. Not only has the team generally drafted poorly, but more often than not trades at the pro level haven`t worked out as planned.
Goaltending Coaching Change- Dave Rook out, Ian Clark in.
It's no secret that franchise goaltender Steve Mason has struggled since his Calder trophy-winning rookie season. Dave Rook was brought in to replace
the much-maligned Clint Malarchuk (EDIT: Perry Elderbroom) as part-time goaltending coach in 2009. Rook was Mason's goalie coach with the Kitchener of the OHL. This summer, Rook stepped down from the position with Columbus to focus on family. The Jackets hit a home run by hiring Ian Clark to replace him- Clark is the former goalie coach for Roberto Luongo in Florida and Vancouver. He stepped down last season from the Canucks post to deal with a family matter, which has since been resolved, so he's back at ' er with Columbus on a full time basis. This is great news for all of the goaltenders in the Columbus system, including 2011 7th round pick Anton Forsberg, who was personally recommended by Clark after working with him in MODO of the Swedish Elite League.
Jackets Lose Approximately $25 Million This Past Season
It couldn't all be good news right? It doesn't take somebody with massive levels of intelligence to see why the Jackets are losing money- the new car smell of the franchise's early years has long wore off, and with only one playoff appearance (a sweep, no less) the fans are being given less and less reason to go to games. Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch summarizes everything here.
Jackets Hire Derek Dawley as DIrector of Game Ops, replacing Kimberly Kershaw
Remember when Nationwide Arena was named the Top Fan Experience of all the major leagues? Since then, things have become rather cheesy, based on comments I hear from a large portion of the fans who regularly attend games. Of course our namesake the Cannon is a one of a kind bit of awesomeness in the NHL, but things like in-game entertainment needed an upgrade. Terrible music, cringe-worthy jumbotron content, and the faux pas of playing Chicago's goal song after a goal against at home is just ugly. A change was needed, and here's hoping Derek can lead the way.
Atlanta Moves to Winnipeg- Lots of Chatter about Columbus Moving to the Eastern Conference
As everybody and their dog knows, the Winnipeg Jets are back- at the expense of the Atlanta Thrashers. Even at the rumor stage, there was talk of Columbus moving to the Eastern Conference. It only makes sense- Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone, and a quick scan of a map of the U-S-of-A shows that Columbus deserves to be in the East. For this season, due to the schedule already being essentially complete, the Jets will play in the Southeast division. Next year, however, realignment will take place. It remains to be seen if Columbus will move to the East, and if it does I'm hoping for a change so a rivalry with Pittsburgh can be kindled.
Jackets Trade Jakub Voracek, 1st Round Pick, and a 3rd Round Pick to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter
Since his hiring, General Manager Scott Howson has been fairly conservative with his transactions. I'm sure this isn't for lack of trying, but the fact remains a swing-for-the-fences move hasn't occured. That was until the week before the Entry Draft, when he flipped Jake Voracek, the Jackets' first and their third rounder to Philly for Jeff Carter. Voracek was Howson's first draft pick, and could still develop into a future star. The first round pick was used on Sean Couturier, and the third on Nick Cousins. Getting an established star like Carter is huge for the Jackets. It gives them a much needed dose of credibility, and of course that elusive number-one center for the first time.
Jackets Make Six Selections in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
With their first rounder traded to Philly in the Carter deal, the Jackets were quiet on the first night of the draft. On day two, they made six selections, one each in rounds two through seven. With their second round pick, the Jackets drafted center Boone Jenner from the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. Many see this as a steal, as Jenner was pegged as a first round pick. One knock is his skating, but that is one thing that can be improved. He's a coach's dream- a "do the little things right" sort of player, with offense in his game. In the third round, the Jackets chose CCHA rookie of the year T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame. He's an undersized centerman, but he can certainly put up the points. In the fourth round the Jackets tabbed Mike Reilly, a pint-sized defender who's committed to the University of Minnesota this fall. He's 150 pounds soaking wet, so he'll need to put on some weight, but in the meantime he's a great offensive blueliner. In the fifth round, the Jackets got another potential steal in drafting Seth Ambroz. He slipped hard at the draft, but some had him as high as a first rounder. He is also committed to the Gophers this fall, so the Jackets will have some time to see him develop. In round six, the Jackets went to Europe. With prospect Tomas Kubalik looking like a home run with Springfield last year, they took another Czech power forward, this time going with Lukas Sedlak. Like Kubalik, Sedlak is making the jump to the QMJHL. He will play for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens next season. In the final round, the Jackets drafted MODO goaltender Anton Forsberg on the recommendation of goalie coach Ian Clark. Forsberg will pair with former NHLer Mikael Tellqvist in MODO next season.
Nikita Filatov Traded to Ottawa for Third Round Pick
On the second day of the draft, young winger Nikita Filatov was traded to the Ottawa Senators for a third round pick, which was used to draft Tynan. Filatov showed nothing in Columbus last season, and very little in Springfield after being sent down early into the season. The fact that the Jackets got anything for this potential bust of a prospect is a good thing.
Jackets Re-Sign Marc Methot, Grant Clitsome, and Nick Holden
The Jackets had plenty of free agents, of both the restricted and unrestricted variety. Only three were brought back- blueliners Marc Methot, Grant Clitsome and Nick Holden. Methot and Clitsome are virtual locks to make the Jackets, while Holden was given a one-year deal with a shot at being the seventh defenseman in Columbus. Prior to training camp, I have him pegged as my favorite for this role. Methot really blossomed into a top-four shutdown defender this past season-he's a great skater to go along with his steady play, making him a prototypical new-NHL (ugghh) shutdown blueliner. Clitsome was a shot in the arm to the powerplay, and was steady five-on-five. He and his slapper will be a great second option after Wisniewski.
Handful of Players Depart via Free Agency
Twenty-one players of note are no longer with the organization. Some have signed with other clubs, while the rest remain free agents. In terms of Columbus regulars last season, Jan Hejda signed with Colorado, Mathieu Garon signed with Tampa, while Scottie Upshall hooked up with the Panthers. Anton Stralman, Sami Lepisto, Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark, Craig Rivet and Andrew Murray remain on the market. Also leaving the organization are Gustaf Wesslau, David LeNeveu, Trevor Frischmon, Ben Guite, Kyle Wilson, Jonathan Sigalet, Trevor Smith, Tomas Kana, Greg Moore, Petr Kalus, Mike Ratchuk, and Kyle Neuber.
Mike Commodore Bought Out
Mike Commodore was bought out. He signed with Detroit. Next.
Jackets Sign James Wisniewski to 6 Year Contract
After acquiring his rights a few days before, the Jackets signed Wiz to a six year pact. Wizniewski finished fifth in defensemen scoring in the NHL last season with 10 goals, 41 assists for 51 points. He plays with an edge, and can be the shooter on a powerplay. He's the PP QB the Jackets have never had. While some think that he is being paid for one good year, others (including myself) believe that last year was his breakout season. He's a stud.
Jackets Sign Mark Dekanich
The way Nashville pumps out goalies, I'm cool with Howson and Co. taking a gamble on Dekanich, who played for Milwaukee of the AHL last season. He'll have some competition in camp, but he comes highly rated. I'm excited to see what he can do.
Jackets Sign Radek Martinek
With Jan Hejda going to the Avs, a defense-first blueliner was required. Martinek, while a bit injury prone, is a solid addition. He's a shot-blocking machine, and is a fearless, clear-the-crease style d-man. He'll play on the PK, and I envision him paired with either Kris Russell or Grant Clitsome.
Jackets Sign Aaron Johnson
Sunshine is back! Aaron Johnson, from my home province of Nova Scotia and best buds with Rick Nash, was signed to provide defensive depth to the organization. He'll fight for the seventh defenseman spot in Columbus, and if he doesn't get the job he'll be a veteran voice in the Springfield locker room. I wonder how much say Nasher had in this move, if any?
Mike Blunden traded to Montreal for Ryan Russell
Sedin twins they aren`t, but the Russell twins- Kris and Ryan-have been reunited. Mike Blunden, aka Hitch`s boy, was dealt to the Habbies for Ryan Russell. Both players are pegged for their respective clubs` farm teams next season, and both needed a change of scenery. The added benefit for Columbus is that Ryan will have the drive to make the Jackets as the 13th forward to play with his brother Kris, a lock for a spot on the Columbus blueline.
Dalton Prout Signed to Entry-Level Contract
Prospect Dalton Prout was given his standard ELC, and he will fight for a job on the crowded Springfield blueline. If he doesn`t make the Falcons, he wil be sent to the as-yet undecided ECHL or CHL affiliate. Thus far, he`s the only draft pick to get an ELC this summer.
Jackets Stock The Farm
Winning at any level is a boost for an organization. Columbus` AHL affiliates by and large have been equally as disappointing as the big club, but it`s clear that the organization is looking to take the Springfield Falcons to the next level. Some serious AHL-level talent has been signed this summer, and I`d be shocked if it didn`t make the Falcons a contender. To go along with the talented young defense prospects like John Moore and David Savard to name just two, rookie goalie Allen York, and talented forwards Tomas Kubalik and Maksim Mayorov- the Jackets signed forwards Alexandre Giroux, Martin St.Pierre, Andrew Joudrey (another Nova Scotia-whoop!) and Nick Drazenovic. Veteran goaltender Curtis Sanford was also given a contract. Giroux was second in AHL scoring last season, while St.Pierre is a former AHL all-star who will likey be the top line center. Joudrey and Drazenovic are proven AHLers, while Sanford wll split time with York to form a solid 1-2 combo for the Falcons.
Prospect Development Camp
The Jackets held their prospect development camp last week, where the top Columbus prospects and a handful of invites strutted their stuff, and were introduced to the way the Blue Jackets operate. Cannon writer Dan P gives his thoughts here, and reader Flagger X gave us his impressions.
Now you`re up to date. There may be some more moves to occur, but as of today this has been the Jackets` offseason. It has been busy, but fruitful. These are truly exciting times to be a Jackets fan, and all signs point to improvement next season. We`ll have to wait and see if the Jackets are a contender next year, but in the meantime enjoy the buzz surrounding the team!