The boys hit it well.
Matt advocates being patient, placing trust in John Davidson to properly build this team.
Andy takes the team to task, demanding the product match the promises.
I agree with both assessments.
The Jackets have played eleven regular season games with John Davidson at the helm. Eleven. With no exhibition games prior to that. The assessment period is still underway, and no doubt will be until the trade deadline. Though the season is condensed, eleven games is a very small sample size, but it is long enough to see some trends.
R.J. Umberger is a shadow of his former self. He finished last season well, but this season has been nothing short of a disaster. Davidson sees this. The coaching staff sees this. Yet, he is logging major minutes, only partially due to the fact he takes his time returning to the bench after a turnover or missed opportunity. Is the coaching staff forcing the issue, throwing him out there with the hope he finally pots one and gets the monkey off his back? If he continues to display the same traits that we've seen thus far, he may be dealt at the deadline to a team looking for an inexpensive boost. If there are no takers, he may be a candidate for buyout. An inglorious end to Umby's tenure, but the results just haven't been there. Don't get me wrong- I'm firmly in Umby's court as a fan. I want him to do well. I want him to be a team leader, both on and off the ice. The problem is, he just doesn't seem like a part of the puzzle right now.
Outside of Umberger, it seems like most players on the roster are in a position to be contributors for the next few seasons. Trading or buying out Umby does not qualify as a seismic move.
Nor does moving Vinny Prospal. If you recall, he has a gentleman's agreement to sign one-year deals until his playing days are over, at which time he'll take a job with the organization off the ice. Colton Gillies is a free agent after this season, and with the reemergence of Matt Calvert will likely mean that Gillies will be allowed to walk. Adrian Aucoin and Steve Mason are free agents after this year. Either trading or waiting for Prospal, Gillies, Aucoin or Mason's contracts to expire is anything but "seismic".
Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, and Derick Brassard have played pretty well so far, and are good players to build the team around. Nick Foligno and Derek Dorsett are role players who definitely bring it every game, and are the glue guys that winning rosters need. Derek MacKenzie is the perfect fourth line center. Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen, though injured and in the minors, respectively, are pieces to the future puzzle. Jared Boll is replaceable, and Mark Letestu may be in for a non-Columbus payday if he continues to play at his current level.
The pairings of Jack Johnson-James Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin-Nikita Nikitin are solid. John Moore is contributing. The trio of Ryan Murray, Tim Erixon and David Savard are the next wave.
It's still too soon to judge Sergei Bobrovsky, but he's shown flashes of being a very good goaltender.
What I'm saying is, the guys who Davidson could and should be building the team around- Anisimov, Dubinsky, Brassard, Foligno, Dorsett, MacKenzie, Atkinson, Johansen, Calvert up front, Tyutin, Nikitin, Johnson, Wisniewski, Moore, Murray, Erixon, Savard on the back end and Bobrovsky in net- are worth waiting for as a group. It's too soon to think that this group can't get it together, and with a boost of talent up front via the draft, could be a contender in a year or two.
Blowing the team up doesn't make sense. It's not like the Jackets are absolutely void of talented and/or hard working players. As far as I'm concerned, given the group I just mentioned, the framework is 80% in place for a contending team.
There needs to be an upgrade in goal. Is Bob the transition goalie until one of Oscar Dansk, Anton Forsberg or Joonas Korpisalo is ready? Will the Jackets make a deal for an NHL goalie like Roberto Luongo? This remains to be seen.
The defense is in very good shape, with a good mix of NHLers, exciting prospects and young players.
Up front, Anisimov may be the closest thing to a top line player that this team has. Atkinson, Johansen, Dubinsky and Brassard are second line players on a good team. Foligno, Dorsett, MacKenzie and Calvert are bottom six guys, but all four leave nothing on the ice, and are each capable of putting up points.
With three first round picks this June, the Jackets have an opportunity to boost the forward ranks almost overnight. They may be able to package one of those picks with some of their defense depth for an NHL forward. Bobby Ryan?
At the end of the day, I don't think a "seismic" move is necessary. There is some fat to trim, that's for damned sure, but there are some very good components in place and with some additions up front and in goal, acquired via smart, non-explosive asset management, the Jackets could be a playoff team in the near future.