Monday, July 23, 2012

Moving Past the Nash Era

GM Scott Howson was asking for a king's ransom for Rick Nash, tossing around names like Jeff Skinner, Chris Kreider, David Krejci, Sean Couturier and Logan Couture.  He deemed established players with tremendous upside as equal value for an elite NHL power forward that also happens to be the face of their franchise.

Much to the chagrin of Columbus, that was never going to happen.

Because of the very public nature of Nash's trade demand request, the Columbus Blue Jackets were dealing at a disadvantageous position.  Every team knew that Nash was on his way out of town, and it would be just a matter of time before he could be had for (at best) 75 cents on the dollar.

Howson revealed that his asking price required at least two NHL ready players to go along with the regular mixed bag of prospects and picks.  The Rangers offered up a package that fit the bill.

The Blue Jackets ended up receiving Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick for Nash, minor league defenseman Steve Delisle and a third round pick.

Brandon Dubinsky is a solid two-way center that could possibly slide into the first line role, but would make an ideal second line center.  Anisimov can contribute somewhere in the top six.  Both players are still young with potential to grow even more.  Tim Erixon has the least NHL experience of the traded trio, but possibly bears the most upside. 

Analysts, experts and fans alike are all in agreement that Columbus lost the trade.  None of those guys are going to increase season tickets sales.  None of them scream "franchise savior."

None of them are Rick Nash.

Why is that such a bad thing?

In the decade that was the Nash era, he led Columbus to one playoff appearance, and that's about all they did that year.  They appeared, then disappeared almost as quickly.  That's what Columbus fans are "mourning."  

It's nothing like Nashville's situation, where a constant playoff team and rising contender just lost one superstar for nothing, and could be on the verge of losing the better of the two for four draft picks that will most likely be after 20th overall. 

Howson didn't just trade the Rocket Richard winning Nash of 2003.  That guy doesn't exist anymore, at least not for Columbus.  Maybe Nash will become that guy again for New York, where he believes in his new team's chances for success.

The desire to play for the Rangers came alive today.  The desire to play for the Blue Jackets died in the middle of last season.

I don't believe Rick Nash would have held out next season if he wasn't traded.  He seems like a true professional that would have shown up to all of the practices and games like he's supposed to.

Just imagine how thrilled his teammates would have been to see him.

Trading Rick Nash became a necessity the moment he voiced his desire to play elsewhere.  He was a man that had grown tired of losing.  He no longer had the will to turn Columbus into a winner.  It was time to move on.

Do you think Howson settled for too little?  The offers were going to get worse before they got better.  If Nash managed to linger around for the start of the season, even rumors of a splintered locker room would have sent his already-diminished trade value to new depths.

In 2001, the Flyers traded Eric Lindros to those same Rangers for Jan Hlavac, Pavel Brendl, Kim Johnsson and a third round pick.  Johnsson turned out to be a solid defenseman for the Flyers for several years, winning the Barry Ashbee award for the team's best defenseman twice.  But Hlavac turned into Donald Brashear after 31 games, and Pavel Brendl never turned into anything.

Think about that - the Flyers traded Eric Lindros for essentially Kim Johnsson.  Hlavac put up 64 points in the previous year for the Rangers, and Brendl was killing it juniors to the tune of  320 points in 178 games.  Neither of them did anything in Philadelphia.  The third round pick was used on Stefan Ruzicka, who now plays in the KHL.

Howson could have gotten worse.

Maybe the same thing happens in Columbus, and players just don't pan out.  But that's why Howson insisted on at least two NHL players instead of just prospects with upside.  Anisimov hasn't lit the world on fire, but he's had three years of experience and could be poised to top 20 goals and 50 points with a greater role.  Dubinsky's a six-year vet with some toughness in his game to go with some scoring.

You know you're getting something from those two.  Erixon is still a gamble and could hit or miss, but he was the Rangers top defensive prospect so let's say he pans out (for the Blue Jackets' sake).  That's more than what Philadelphia received for a better player.

Rick Nash is capable of scoring 45 goals and 80 points receiving silky smooth passes from Brad Richards in Madison Square Garden.  He'll most likely surpass his career high of four playoff games next season, and he fulfills the Rangers' need for goal scoring. 

He was never going to do any of that in Columbus.  The Rangers may have won the trade based on talent exchanged.  But they still had to give up some NHL talent, a prized prospect and a first round pick.

Blue Jackets fans won't suffer a fall from grace;  they were already at the bottom of the standings.  Rick Nash didn't want to try to help them climb to the top.  They weren't going to get his best anymore.

That's why Howson's going to sleep easy tonight.  He managed to get Dubinsky, Anisimov, Erixon, and a first rounder for a $7.8 million star that's already moved on.


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