Defenders of the Future

The future may be here sooner than we might have guessed.

This was going to start off as a quick comment in Matt's thread on yesterday's Nate Guenin trade. Then some more thoughts started bouncing around in my head and now suddenly I have an entire post of my own here. Let me start then by saying that I like the trade of Nate Guenin to the Ducks in exchange for Trevor Smith. Not that I'm anti-Nate Guenin, but this swap appears to make sense for both teams. Follow along after the jump, I'll explain.

Reason #1: Guenin just turned 28 years old, and while he's far from all done, he was a victim of numbers. The Jackets defense corps appears stable (Ed. note: That is until the Commodore story broke while this article was being finished!). Other than a quick call up of Nick Holden early in the season while Mike Commodore was injured, the only other defensive call up this season was in fact Guenin who appeared in three games. Beyond that, trying to crack the defensive lineup of the Jackets has been like trying to break into Fort Knox. The defense in Springfield has had a constant healthy scratch or two. Much of the season, Theo "Teddy" Ruth has been watching from the stands. Lately, David Savard has been the odd man out on a couple of occasions. The defense has been so well stocked in fact, that Coach Riley dressed seven defensemen the last time out. Simply put, Nate didn't fit into Columbus' long term plans.

Reason #2: Trevor Smith makes things happen offensively. Any time you can pry an impact player away from another team, so long as you don't overpay, you're wise to do so. Smith was the leading scorer on the Syracuse Crunch. His impact should be immediate for the Falcons. After he gets situated and used to the way the Jackets do things, one would think that he'd be on the short list for forward call ups. Being an "east" guy, I've seen Smith play a few times for Bridgeport. He was a good fit into a Bridgeport lineup for the past couple of seasons. The 25 year old had signed a one year, free agent deal with Anaheim this past summer.

Reason #3: Management's proactive stance. This is the second deal this season where Blue Jackets management has secured a high powered player from another AHL club. Earlier in the season, the tandem of Howson and McFarland dealt an early season scoring machine in Chad Kolarik to the Rangers in exchange for the Captain of the (at the time) Hartford Wolfpack, Dane Byers. Byers despite coming into a new situation, does not have a letter on his sweater, yet it's obvious from watching him that he remains a leader in Springfield.

Similarly, by obtaining Smith, this shows that the Jackets, despite their current challenges, are aware of potential players that can help the organization. Not just at the NHL level, but also in the "A". Simply put, it appears that if the Jackets management have an opportunity to improve themselves, they take advantage of that opportunity. With the season at the halfway point, it looks like Howson is doing what he can to make both Columbus and Springfield contenders for a playoff push.

By reducing the number of defenders by one, Springfield's defenseive corps now stands at eight. The pairing of Nick Holden and Jonathan Sigalet has been fairly inseparable of late, I can see this pair being split up so that each pair of defenders will have an experienced player matched up with a younger guy. Using this model, Nick Holden, Grant Clitsome and Jonathan Sigalet would be the senior defenders. Blue chippers John Moore, David Savard and Theo "Teddy" Ruth will match up nicely, leaving Cody Goloubef and Brent Regner as the #7 and #8 guys. This is not to short either of those two, but at times this season both have been nursing nagging injuries.

Previously I mentioned that age may have been a factor in the trade of the 28 year old Guenin. Current ages of the remaining Falcons defensemen:

Grant Clitsome 25
Jonathan Sigalet 24
Nick Holden 23
Cody Goloubef 21
Theo Ruth 21
Brent Regner 21
John Moore 20
David Savard 20

Also, this may manifest itself to the remaining Springfield defensemen that the Blue Jackets are confident with their efforts thereby giving them the likelihood of playing a little more confidently. Also, revisiting a recent comment of mine, Clitsome, Sigalet and Holden are all capable of giving the Jackets some quality minutes. From what I've seen of the Jackets defense recently, I would go so far as to say that any or all of this trio might be an improvement over some of what the Jackets have had on defense of late.

While I thought Nate Guenin was steady on the Falcon blueline, in the AHL there is a limited amount of roster space for "experienced" players. Nate's age and the apparent "career minor leaguer" perception forced Howson's hand in this deal. That being said, with the current state of Anaheim's defense corps, he might just get a chance with the Ducks that he wasn't going to get for Columbus.

The Falcons thus far haven't had a lot of problems putting the puck in the net. Their problems at this point have been of basic inconsistency. It's likely that with the addition of Trevor Smith to the lineup that the Falcons will field some additional scoring punch that may be contagious to the rest of the forwards.

I also have to speculate that by adding another forward, somebody could be on the move, either up or down. Also while speculating, I'm inclined to think that this AHL trade isn't the last action that we'll be seeing by Howson. Given the struggles of the Jackets on both offense and defense, I can see a deal or two forthcoming. Probably not of the blockbuster variety, but something really needs to be done to get the team's attention.

I don't know who might be on a short list, but I'm inclined to think that Filatov might be available. Since coming to Springfield, he's kind of settled into the same pattern of play that got him sent here in the first place. I could also see a deal up top that would free up a spot for a hungry Tom Sestito to return to Columbus.

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