Giroux Up, Atkinson Down: No Big Deal
Now be honest here. Let's turn back the hands of time about 11 months. Raise your hands if you thought the Jackets were playoff bound based on the first month's results. OK, thank you.
Much is being made in the hockey universe over the "Jackets worst start...EVER!"
I am not of the mindset that this team, or any other, that gets off to a slow start is automatically destined for a bad season. There have been comments everywhere from "get rid of Steve Mason" to "fire Scott Arniel", and predictably lots of tweeners.
Don't misunderstand, this is not a free pass for what has obviously been a soft start from a team of which much is expected.
Enter the Springfield Falcons.
Longtime AHL observers watched with excitement this summer as Scott Howson inked one star after another, presumably for the Falcons.
With the deeper analysis of the game, much is made out of "Top 6" forwards. At this point, I think it's pretty safe to say that Cam Atkinson will be a "Top 6" NHL forward.
Alexandre Giroux has put up numbers at the AHL level that will certainly qualify him for the AHL Hall of Fame.
Those are both in the future. The Jackets need to win.
Skating with Columbus, Atkinson needed to learn several things. Personally, I can't imagine having to learn the nuances of the pro game, while playing against the best players on the planet. Granted, Cam's skill set certainly qualifies him to play at that level. But what if there's a rough spot or two along the way? Why have him beat himself up over it? Would it make much sense to move him down the bench and end up on a third line? A fourth line?
By going to the Falcons, Atkinson will be able to be that "Top 6" forward. The pace is a little slower, and because of other players in the world's top development league, he'll learn the pro game among his peer group.
All in all, if his head is on right, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, this should be a good move for Cam Atkinson.
You may be familiar with Giroux's stat sheet. Over 700 AHL games, yet only 39 in The Show.
An adjective that is usually attached to Giroux's scoring prowess in the AHL is "prolific".
But why only 39 NHL games?
When he was signed in July, it had become an afterthought that he would automatically be assigned to Springfield, further stacking a roster that on paper, should be the one that breaks an eight season playoff drought.
Alex had a good camp for Columbus. He was the last player cut to the Falcons. Not too shabby, all things considered.
His maturity and knowledge of the game will lend itself to a Blue Jackets squad that has languished over the first four games of the season. Giroux won't be learning the game, he already knows it.
Comparing the two players skill sets, to an extent compares apples to oranges. From the obvious physical difference of Giroux's 6'3" frame, to Cam's 5'7", these two players each bring their own individual talents to their team.
My expectation from this swap is for Atkinson to take Giroux's spot in the Falcons lineup. This will set him up on the first, possibly the second line.
I can see Giroux playing on a fourth line for the Jackets, until he finds the pace he needs. If Coach Arniel gets comfortable with Alex's level of play, he would be able to move up to a third line. Arny doesn't change lines at the frenetic pace of a John Tortorella, so it might take some time for him to find a successful match
The Falcons return to action tonight in Wilkes-Barre, PA when they take on the Penguins. According to the Falcons website, Atkinson has joined the club there and is expected to play in Friday night's game.