It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, and until now, I haven't had a chance to have any sort of CBJ-related discussion, either on or offline. The Jackets have been in the news for a handful of reasons, and I'd like to give my (in some cases belated) thoughts.
1) Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch tweeted this gem, which states that Scott Howson declined a trade offer from the Hurricanes which would have sent Tomas Kaberle and a second round pick to the Jackets for Derick Brassard. I say good on Howson, as Kaberle hasn't been an impact player in almost three years. His albatross contract makes him nearly untradeable, unless of course his play takes off between now and the deadline. If it does, for some reason I can see the Blackhawks showing interest.
As for Brassard, when he was first sent to the pressbox I was all for it. I saw it as a way to light a fire under Brass, who has improved significantly since his rookie year, but struggled mightily to start this season. Now that Brass has barely played in the last month, I see now that benching him has less to do with motivation and more to do with the fact that the coaching staff has lost faith in him. A trade makes the most sense if that's the case, as Brassard still has value. He's young, he has proven playmaking ability, but his contract is on the hefty side. I still see a fit for him with a team like Carolina, but not for Kaberle. Carolina is in trouble themselves, so getting a pick (or a package of picks) from the 'Canes is out of the question. Perhaps a straight up deal that sees Brass head to Raleigh, with Zac Dalpe going to Columbus. The former Buckeye has split this season and last between the NHL and AHL, but has offensive upside. I don't know where he fits in the Hurricanes future, but Brassard is a proven NHLer, and the Jackets would save some dough, adding another young, talented forward to the organization.
2) Kristian Huselius is back! At least he was, until last night. I was more than excited when Juice returned to the lineup two games ago-I figured he would be a shot in the arm to both the powerplay and top six. The Jackets don't posses a dangler with his playmaking ability when he's not in the lineup. Last night doesn't come as much of a shock, however, as it's reportedly a groin injury that caused him to leave last night's game. Groin injuries always seem to be related to extended periods off the ice, caused when a player pushes himself too hard, too soon after returning to game action. Hopefully he won't be out long, as his offense is a requirement.
3) Realignment. The Jackets had two things on their Christmas wishlist- the first being a move to the Eastern Conference, and the second being an alternative-reduced travel out West. While Santaman didn't come through on the first item, he did slide the number two gift under the tree, by putting the Jackets in the new "B" Conference (or Midwest Conference, Central Conference, Norris Conference....whatever it ends up being). This is good from a travel perspective, but I'm still hoping that in due time Columbus makes the move to the East, giving 15 Western teams and 15 Eastern squads. Why? It's simple- I get more enjoyment out of watching Eastern Conference hockey. I'd rather see the Jackets play teams like Pittsburgh, Philly, Washington, Toronto or Montreal on a regular basis than Anaheim, St.Louis, Minny or Dallas. I live in the Atlantic timezone, so more 8:00 starts would be a treat.
4) The World Junior Championship, which takes place every year around the holidays, is by far my favorite time to be a hockey fan. (That is, until Columbus becomes a regular playoff contender). This year, the Jackets should be well represented. Boone Jenner, Columbus' top pick in this year's draft, was invited to Team Canada's preliminary camp. He stands a good chance at winning the checking center spot, given his solid two-way play and leadership. T.J. Tynan, another 2011 draft pick, was invited to Team USA's camp. Tynan has been near on on top of NCAA Division 1 scoring all season. Anton Forsberg, the team's lone European-based prospect, will be one of Sweden's goaltenders at the tourny. The two Quebec Czechs in the Jackets system, Petr Straka and Lukas Sedlak, will both suit up for their home country. It will certainly be an exciting event this year!