NHL Trade Deadline 2013 - What do the Blue Jackets do?
After the month of March in which the Blue Jackets went 10-2-4, they are firmly in the playoff discussion and new GM Jarmo Kekalainen has some interesting things to consider.
Two months ago, the Blue Jackets were evaluating who exactly would be left after the trade deadline and what holes needed filled around them. Cam Atkinson was dealing with a nagging injury that limited him from being the player we knew he could be. Matt Calvert wasn't the exciting player that he was in his rookie year, with his game-changing energy similar to former Blue Jacket Raffi Torres. James Wisniewski got injured and was going to miss more playing time.
Those are the headlines Blue Jackets fans are used to, and based on that small sample size, you wouldn't be surprised if I said they were 13-20-3 and in 14th place in the Western Conference.
But then they played the games.
Artem Anisimov continued to work hard every night and show flashes of being a truly skilled top 6 player. (Thanks, New York.) Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Ryan Johansen were flying, showing that, hey, maybe this team does have a bright future before us. Vinny Propsal, Adrian Aucoin, and Jack Johnson led the team on and off the ice and never let them stop believing. (Thanks, Scott Howson.) Derick Brassard... oh my, Derick Brassard. For someone who probably heard more groans than anyone not named Steve Mason over the last few years, he has finally awoken to show some dangerous ability with the puck just in time for a playoff push or to increase his trade value. (Thank you, Derick Brassard.) Mark Letestu: Pay the man. (Thanks, Pittsburgh.)
And it was all on the back of one man: Sergei Bobrovsky. The NHL's third star of the month. There's nothing I can say that hasn't been already said, so if you need a recap on who is currently the NHL's best and hottest goaltender, check out what Aaron Portzline has to say. (Thanks, Philly.)
After all that, the Blue Jackets are 15-14-7, good for 8th in the Western Conference and in legitimate discussion for making the playoffs.
So, what happens to those trade scenarios? Although both Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson are playing things quietly right now, and rightfully so, as much as they want to build a team for the future, they know a playoff berth would be a huge boost for the organization, its fans, and themselves. Look at the long leash Scott Howson had after a single playoff run in 2009 which resulted in being swept by the Red Wings.
That's not to say that they are going to mortgage the future, they absolutely will not, and they shouldn't. But pieces could be had for Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger, Adrian Aucoin, and perhaps even Steve Mason without subtracting too much from the roster. Toss in a draft pick, as reported by Darren Dreger, even a first rounder, and get some real scoring help up front.
My biggest frustration with the Jackets is that earlier this year people were pointing to signs that they were "almost a .500 team" and "showing positive signs." While that may have led to this playoff push we are seeing today, it also doesn't change the fact that with a few more goals, this team would be in 6th in the West and not clinging onto 8th. That's not to take anything away from the amazing month of March, because what more can you ask for? But the fact remains that playoff talk is real and the team can't let it slip away because they are only able to reliably score 2 goals a night.
They need someone who is more than a rental, that can slot in on a line next to Johansen and give this team a young but quickly maturing top 6 of Johansen, Anisimov, Atkinson, Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky (when healthy), and the new guy. I can get behind that. And as long as it's not throwing the pick away for a rental, as long as it's not Jeff Carter 2.0, if it is someone who can truly be a part of this team going forward and for at least the next few seasons, isn't that what draft picks are for?