Columbus Blue Jackets: Could They Continue Playoff Push Without Being a Buyer?
After another stellar weekend for the Jackets, Columbus is still very much alive in the playoff race. They find themselves only four games behind eighth-place Minnesota with an important matchup Wednesday night against the Kings, who are currently ranked ninth.
The word around all of Columbus and the rest of the NHL is this: in order for the Blue Jackets to cap off their impressive run with a playoff berth, general manager Scott Howson must bring in someone who will make an immediate impact.
Howson has been in the market this season for an aggressive defenseman and a well-known center who could help the struggling Derick Brassard.
However, over the course of the Jackets' current hot streak, several players have stepped up their game to the point where Howson's heated trade conversations have cooled for now. Could Columbus continue their postseason push without making a trade? Throughout this season, I have boldly said the Jackets need to be buyers this season; but if it isn't broke, why fix it?
It is clear with the Jackets' impressive 8-3-2 stretch that they are finally meshing as a team and buying into coach Scott Arniel's system. They are aggressive on the blue line, they finish their checks and they play hard for 60 minutes night in and night out.
Goalie Steve Mason is coming into his own, and it could not come at a more crucial point in the season. He is starting to get more of the work load, and he is showing that he can return to the form that won him Rookie of the Year two seasons ago.
Howson was in the market for an aggressive defenseman when, during their stretch, Scott Arniel may have found that piece without spending a dime in Grant Clitsome. Clitsome has done anything but disappoint since being called up from Springfield in January. In 13 games, the 25-year-old has tallied three goals and six assists.
Clitsome is aggressive at the point and continually fires the puck on net, a rare occurrence before he showed up.
Arniel bringing up Clitsome also led way to different defensive starters being healthy scratches. Jan Hejda and Anton Stralman have found themselves in the press box on more than one occasion this year, and it forced them to take their games up a notch.
When fellow defenseman Rostislav Klesla went down with a knee injury, Hejda got his chance at redemption. He has shown the coaching staff why he not only deserves to stay in the lineup, but he deserves to stay in Columbus.
Anton Stralman was a healthy scratch when youngster John Moore was recalled on Feb. 5. However, in the few games that Moore has played, he has not impressed as much as hoped for. Consequently, Stralman got another chance to suit up. In Stralman's return, the Swede has put together a three-game stretch that may be one of the best of his career.
In those three games, Stralman has registered three assists and is a plus-six. Against Dallas yesterday afternoon, Stralman recorded his first multi-point game since Feb. 6, 2010. Bringing up the young Moore has helped Stalman realize that no one is safe in Columbus, and he has stepped up his game because of it.
With better play from point, several other players have started to have more success as well. Antoine Vermette has registered points in three of the last five games, while Derick Brassard has four points in as many games.
Refusing to let current rumors get to him, Jakub Voracek and Rick Nash have become quite the tandem. Against Pittsburgh, Nash made a beautiful lob pass that Voracek was able to chase down and flip past Marc-Andre Fleury to all but guarantee a Blue Jacket victory.
Then Friday against Colorado, Voracek returned the favor with a nice cross-ice pass to Nash who put a wrist shot past Peter Budaj and helped spoil Peter Forsberg's return to the NHL.
Players that were the reason Howson began his search for the missing link have picked it up and have kept the Blue Jackets relevant in the Western Conference.
So with the trade deadline only 14 days away, you have to wonder: if the Blue Jackets continue their impressive play, will Howson break up the chemistry that has been built by bringing in someone new?
This article is in no way saying that he should not or that bringing in someone will doom the team. However, if the young core that Howson fought so hard to keep in Columbus keeps up their winning ways, why would you need to?
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