Scott Howson should perform his due diligence by listening to offers for his No 8 pick in the NHL Draft tomorrow. He told Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline, "I've had a few surprise calls, players who might be available." While nothing is imminent at this point, there have been enough rumors heading into Friday to keep Blue Jackets fans on pins and needles.
He's heard the offers, and knows who is in play.
Now he should turn off his phone until he heads to the podium to announce his No. 8 pick.
While a shiny new addition like Jeff Carter or Jason Spezza (pick your favorite rumor—it makes no difference to me) would put some butts in the seats for a while and aid Rick Nash in putting some more rubber in the back of the net, the answer doesn't reside with them.
Rarely does a blockbuster trade or booming free agent signing immediately reverse fortunes. For every Brendan Shanahan to Detroit in '96 there is a Marian Gaborik or Scott Gomez. If Howson was looking for a supplemental piece to put them over the top to win a Cup I'd say swing for the fences.
But he's currently trying to will his team to eight more wins a season in the ultra competitive West.
Carter or whoever could do that too. They could ease the impending doom feeling that is swirling around the Blue Jackets players and their front offices and help the team make the playoffs. If the team could make any noise is another issue all together.
But long term (really long term in Carter's case), making a sexy trade now may be a step in the wrong direction.
Columbus has been desperately seeking a franchise center since their inception. Rick Nash has been an outstanding winger who is more or less playing down to his teammates, which is no knock on the half-dozen or so guys they've tried in that slot.
It's just that nothing has really worked.
Derick Brassard looks like the guy from time to time, but seems to get injured or fall off the wagon right when things are looking good. You could do much worse for a second- or third-line center. Brassard is a talented player, has good vision and could really bring the best out of the middle-of-the-pack forwards for Columbus.
Ryan Johansen should be the real deal. They surprised some pundits by passing on Cam Fowler at the draft last year, instead picking the supremely talented center who was going to need more time in Juniors. He's one of the best players not in the league right now, and a very highly thought of prospect.
He should make an impact up the middle for Columbus soon.
Blue Jackets fans may very well be sick of words like young, promising, and rebuild, but outside of a few picks this is a team that has been plagued by awful drafting. They even managed to blow it in 2003, which few teams can claim to have done. As such, they need to continue to build through better drafting, not taking on another team's salary dump.
With the selection of Johansen last season and another top-10 pick now, Columbus has the chance to reverse their terrible draft fortunes.
They have a chance to pick Sean Couturier.
In playoffs past we have seen that strength at the center position goes a long way towards securing a Cup, or at least a run. Picking Couturier suddenly makes an organizational weakness a strength. Then they have a glut of young players at center, and while none of them are selling jerseys yet some of the better teams in the League are built this way.
And it also gives them an NHL ready player that had been ranked much higher in the pre-draft rankings at the beginning of the year—first overall pick high. While some players fall down the rankings because of an injury or a slip in play, Couturier has suffered neither.
Expectations were high for the center because he was a bit older than the guys he was playing against. All he did was win the most valuable player award in the QMJHL as he played in every conceivable situation for the DrummondvilleVoltigeurs.
Couturier has already developed the ability to be a two-way player, can do time on the penalty kill, run the power play and win important faceoffs.
It may be just me, but this doesn't sound like a player you trade away. Instead, Couturier sounds like the kind of player you begin to build around—a guy who can inspire faith from a mildly irritated fan base and players alike.
Losing him to a sudden "win now" attitude would be another draft day balk for Howson.
Couturier could very well be off the board by No. 8, but players like Ryan Strome and MikaZibanejad would be available in turn. Both are high end skilled players, and the latter brings a lot of punch to the table along with being ready to hit the NHL ice in October.
And if the Jackets still feel that they are in need of a puck moving blueliner as they have been for a few years now (read: always) there are a handful of guys to be had early who fit the bill and could jump right into the league.
These players wouldn't have the immediate impact of a Carter. And you couldn't print their faces on tickets and billboards. But Blue Jackets fans could take some solace looking at the roster, knowing that their team is committed to turning things around at the draft, via the draft, and has landed another stellar pick.
Make a run at one of the several free agent netminders available, add a top-four defenseman and suddenly things could change in a hurry for the Jackets and their faithful. Regardless of what Howson ends up doing tomorrow I feel it is imperative that he hold onto, and use, his No. 8 selection.
Champions are built through the draft, and supplemented through free agency and trades. Rarely is it the other way around.
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