From Matt's post, Hockey Seismology:
Tell me again where this team isn't what we expected?
I don't disagree with what you said, Matt, but here are some of my thoughts.
You mention the worst thing that could've happened to Scott Howson is making the playoffs too early, not getting a high draft pick, and having too high of expectations as a result. Look at who Scott Howson has drafted in the first round that's making any impact. John Moore is the only one that has played well enough to earn a seat at the big table. Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov: Gone. Ryan Johansen: Demoted. Ryan Murray: Injured. Moore was picked 21st overall, while the rest were in the top 7.
This team could easily be .500 with a little more effort. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? In a lot of ways it should be a good thing, but I truly believe it's not. All the talk about changing the culture, yet, as Aaron Portzline points out, Johansen gets demoted while R.J. Umberger leads the forwards in ice time. Umberger has been a complete joke. Then you wonder why players like Matt Calvert and Johansen go through slumps. Umberger has been a non-factor since 2010-11.
I guess my point is this: What are they doing to change being "almost a .500 team"? Does slotting in Nathan MacKinnon on the first line suddenly make the team playoff worthy?
But I think what Portzline means when he uses a word like seismic is this: Stop waiting until guys have no more value to dump them. We saw it with Gilbert Brule, Rusty Klesla, and now Umberger. It's been like a slow-motion car crash with Derick Brassard the last few seasons.
Quit playing good enough to never be truly bad and bad enough to never make the playoffs.
You can say you want to play hard and outwork opponents all day long, but it is really just a PR stunt at this point. You're not going to be Nashville or Phoenix just by saying you want to be Nashville or Phoenix. If they truly mean it, then bench players that aren't performing. Don't pick a scapegoat in Johansen and try to make a point or make it seem like you're trying to win. If this team was trying to win, they wouldn't continue putting Steve Mason out there.
Evgeni Nabokov played for a team last year that had 5 more wins than the Blue Jackets. Yet he had reasonably respectable numbers with a 2.55 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Mason's stat line included a 3.39 goals against average, with a save percentage of .894.
Go one way or the other and stick with it. If you're icing a team to outwork the other team, bench Umberger. If you want to change the culture, trade under performers before they have no value. But don't straddle this line that leads to no improvement over the last six years. Seismic is trading Umberger, Brassard, Mason, and anyone else that isn't up to snuff in one swift motion. Unfortunately the huge contracts Howson awarded to all three make that easier said than done.
This team seems to have trouble making decisions. Hopefully John Davidson should correct that. While I agree with the approach to not name a captain yet -- make someone earn it -- to have it rotating between 8 different players on the 29th place team is absolutely preposterous. There is no way you can tell me there are that many players on this team deserving of wearing an "A." Yet I've seen it worn by Derek Dorsett, R.J. Umberger, Vinny Prospal, Adrian Aucoin, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, and Brandon Dubinsky. I heard that I may get to wear the "A" this weekend.
For a team that apparently oozes that much leadership, I can't fathom how they play hard 30 minutes a night and expect to win.
Give the room to the players that do fight hard each and every night. Get rid of the rest. Guess what? The team can't get any worse.