Flag Carriers, Night Igniters, and Stingers unite; We all have only one thing to hope for this summer. Out of the many early first round picks the Blue Jackets have made, we may have finally found our savior.
Just take a look at the image above. These are the top draft picks that the Blue Jackets made prior to selecting Ryan Johansen in 2010.
Rusty Klesla has moved back home to ply his defensive prowess in the Euro waters... errr Ice. Pascal Lecalire's injuries cut short what once looked like a promising career. Our favorite son, Rick Nash, is now doing his thing on Broadway and actually had the chance to play for The Cup this past season.
Nikolay Zherdev showed flashes of promise, but Alexandre Picard and Gilbert Brule never did much of anything. Then we had some bright lights with Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek. Both performed admirably, but were later shipped off to other clubs where their play improved.
Nikita Filatov and John Moore were then supposed to be our future. As fans, we were ecstatic to see Filatov's fancy goals and Moore's proficient protection melding in. Instead we were treated to Nikita's diva antics and Moore's eventual trade to join Nash and Brassard in the Big Apple.
In 2010, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Ryan Johansen with the fourth overall pick. Given his junior statistics, it seemed like a great pick, as most do. And so the question came up. Would Johansen live up to his draft position?
Hockey's not like football or basketball, where teams are almost solely drafting from one pool of players; the NCAA. The NHL drafts from the NCAA, junior leagues, and foreign leagues. Every one of those leagues plays a different sort of game. Picking the right player is not so easy.
After watching Johansen this past season, I feel comfortable saying that number 19 is the second best first round pick in club history. Without having to worry about falling under Nash's shadow, Johansen excelled in Todd Richards' system.
He hustled into the corners without fear. He camped in front of the net with authority. He pushed in front of their net, and boxed out in front of his own. Ryan Johansen did everything that you want a center to do. And, he did it as a leader. The Blue Jackets are a young team, and Ryan Johansen is the leader that they need.
Don't get me wrong, the true leader of this team wears the number 7 on his back. The "all alternate" system needs to be put away. Jack Johnson is perfectly suited to lead this team due to his experience and team-first attitude. But the Blue Jackets will only succeed if Johansen can continue to grow and lead them offensively.
Now, I totally understand the hang-ups with re-signing the stud. He wants more years, and the club wants fewer. This negotiation has nothing to do with money. The Blue Jackets are more than willing to match and / or beat any financial offer thrown at #19. It all comes down to the amount of years and the CBA.
The organization would love to sign him to a 3-year deal because he would still be an RFA at the end, which would give them the upper hand and the choice to match in any negotiation.
Johansen would like a deal of four years or more. That allows him a bit more stability, and a chance to truly test the market and make even more dough at the end. Who doesn't want more money and stability?
It's a very difficult situation. As a CBJ fan, I don't want to lose this guy. I know that you don't either. How bad did it hurt when we lost Nasher? There has to be a middle ground that will allow Jackets fans to confidently buy #19 jerseys and know that they'll be relevant for years to come. And I think I have it.
So, Mr. Kekäläinen, here is what you need to do:
Offer Ryan Johansen a 5-year deal, with money in the top 25% of first line centers. Give him a handsome bonus and housing allowance in the Columbus metro area. He is guaranteed the cutout over the main entrance to Nationwide Arena, right next to Bobs, for the next three years. Ryan Johansen bobblehead night is a yearly promotion.
Does that work? Maybe. Just let the guy know that you need him. This franchise owes very much to a three-headed monster of skill and leadership. Let the skill (Bobrovsky, Johansen) bask in the limelight, while the leadership (Johnson) silently does its job.
Bottom line: Lock down Ryan Johansen. The Blue Jackets need offense, and #19 is their best chance at twicking the twine.