1) I wonder what's going to happen with Kristian Huselius? Last season can be categorized as a pure nightmare for the Swede,missing almost the entire season due to various injuries. The worst part was it was a contract year, and here's hoping he can land on his feet and sign a deal, whether it's in the NHL or back home in Sweden, If he's still available late in the summer, I would be on board with re-signing him to a one year deal if he's healthy-and that's a big if.
2) Not since the early years of the franchise has the team possessed such an experienced coaching staff. The current group, with Todd Richards at the helm, Craig Hartsburg as his right hand man, and Keith Acton and Dan Hinote rounding out the quartet brings a little bit of everything to the table. I can't wait to see how the staff deploys the players this fall.
3) I feel for the Springfield Falcons. Last season, they missed the playoffs again. Their playoff funk extends long before the Jackets came aboard, but last season (much like the Jackets') began with a ton of hope and hype. The Jackets invested a lot of money in the Falcons, bringing aboard AHL studs Alexandre Giroux and Martin St.Pierre, not to mention goaltender Curtis Sanford was supposed to be the man between the pipes. Like the Jackets, and maybe because of what was happening with Columbus, the Falcons struggled as well. This season, a few key players returned to Springfield, namely Nick Drazenovic and Cody Bass, but the stars have moved on, to be replaced by rookies like Michael Chaput, Boone Jenner and Jake Hansen.Goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who last season was sent to the Jackets in the Vermette deal, was recently signed to pair with Allen York between the pipes. It may be another long season in Springfield, but with some roster stability, strong goaltending, and some strong rookie performances, the Birds may get their first crack at the AHL playoffs in a long time.
4) Put me in the group that's still waiting patiently for a resolution to the John Davidson saga. I have always been of the opinion that it's best to surround yourself with knowledgeable people, the more minds you have coming to a decision, the better the result. While you can eventually have too many cooks in the kitchen, there is a point where a handful of talented and experienced individuals leads to better quality overall. A team of Howson, Craig Patrick, JD, Chris MacFarland, and Tyler Wright would be one of the best in the business. If Davidson is hired by the Jackets, rather than signing on with another team or returning to television, it would be a huge add for the Jackets. Either way, I think the team needs to add another veteran to the management team. What's Pat Quinn up to these days?
5) Really like the hiring of Chris Clark as development coach. He's a leader, there's no denying that, and he left it all out there on the ice as a player. He's the perfect guy to instill these values on the young prospects in the system.
6) #JTB. Love the new slogan, Join the Battle is the perfect blend of "It's going to be a tough go, but we're in this together", the civil war theme, and the physical, combat-like competition that is NHL hockey.
7) The Jackets have a new ECHL affiliate- the Evansville Icemen. Evansville is a few hours down the road from Columbus, via Cincy, so it makes sense geographically. In recent years the Jackets have used their ECHL team as an overflow for young prospects, I would expect the same next season. A forward or two may be on the ECHL/AHL bus, depending on performance at the AHL level. Once the young goalies start going pro, you'll see one or more of them developing in the ECHL.
8) I am really looking forward to seeing Sergei Bobrovsky in a Jackets sweater. Last season sucked for him, stuck behind Cookoo Bananas Bryzgalov, but if he plays like he did in his rookie season (where have we heard that before?) the Jackets should have a good team plus/minus, giving the improved defense in front of him. I still have concerns about Steve Mason though, I think it's imperative for both he and the franchise that he changes scenery. Send him to Long Island, he can do well there.
9) As Andy pointed out yesterday, one thing you can't say about Howson is that he has a bad trade record. In fact, I'd say he's nailed just about every deal he's been involved in. The results are yet to be determined, but on paper the Marc Methot for Nick Foligno deal looks great. Methot was made expendable when Columbus drafted NHL-ready blueliner Ryan Murray second overall last month. Foligno is a two-way guy, who reminds me of a more physical, less offensive R.J. Umberger. Scoring will still be at a premium, but Foligno will certainly help, and is on the cusp of the prime of his career.
10) Finally, a thought on Rick Nash. I applaud Howson for sticking to his guns. He can't seem desperate, even though everybody and their dog knows that Nash shouldn't be in the Columbus lineup opening night. Why wouldn't he be asking for Couture, Skinner et al? It's his job to maximize return when dealing his own players. Eventually, a rival GM will overpay for Nash, and the Jackets will be better for it. I'm hopeful that when the deal goes down, Columbus comes away with a good forward, a top prospect and mid to high draft pick.
BONUS) Oscar Dansk is going to be a fan favorite. He's already a player who I am really looking forward to watching develop. Selfishly, I hope it's in the CHL.