Scott Howson - vindicated, or deserving of his reputation?
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04-02-2013, 11:22 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Part 7A: Trades, or "you mean that there were OTHER moves besides Nash and Carter that were made?"
Now that we're up into Part 7 of Scott Howson's tenure as GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I hope that it's become clear that there was little in the system that would ever amount to a team. The poor drafting, the poor signings, and the poor trading of the MacLean era left a dire situation. It would be like telling a master chef, "You are going to cater this wedding event for a celebrity couple. Your kitchen consists of 25 packs of ramen noodles, four cases of dog food, a single beef tenderloin, and some vegetables that are starting to brown and liquefy. If you get the guests nice and drunk, they won't notice; with that in mind, we have provided you with flat Zima and Champale. Good luck!"
For the sake of brevity, I'm not going to go through every single trade here. Ones involving only draft picks, or low-level players in conjunction with picks, don't need analyzed. No one gives a damn about trading Geoff Platt and Bruno St. Jacques to Anaheim for Aaron Rome and Clay Wilson.
Curtis Glencross to Edmonton for Dick Tarnstrom
. The only thing I should need to say is this. Edmonton got Curtis Glencross, and loved his game so much that they didn't qualify him and let him walk to Calgary as a free agent. What he's done in Calgary is something that no one in the world saw coming.
Adam Foote to Colorado for 2008 1st- and 4th-rounder; 1st-rounder to Philadelphia for RJ Umberger
. When these were made, Foote was not only past his prime, but washed up as well. In the second round of the playoffs that year, he was on the ice for nearly every goal against that was scored by Detroit. The 4th-rounder was used on David Savard, and the secondary trade for Umberger placed a valuable presence on the second line. Not bad for a defenseman who basically demanded his way out of town on deadline day.
Gilbert Brule to Edmonton for Raffi Torres
. Brule was looking more like a kid who'd never emerge, and Torres could do a multitude of things. Most important, he didn't cheap-shot anyone during his nearly two years in Columbus, which is itself a minor miracle.
Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche to NY Rangers for Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman
. Zherdev and Fritsche were the 1st- and 2nd-round picks in 2003. Nashville got Weber and Suter, Philly got Carter and Richards, Anaheim got Getzlaf and Perry...Columbus got Zherdev and Fritsche. There was minimal depth and NHL talent on the back end, and Tyutin stepped in immediately and played a solid all-around game. Poor Backman became a whipping boy pretty quicky.
Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd-round pick to Ottawa for Antoine Vermette
. Vermette was stuck on Ottawa's third line, and immediately blossomed in Columbus. His best years were spent here. Ottawa salvaged something too, by picking Robin Lehner with that 2nd-rounder.
Jason Chimera to Washington for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina
. This was a simple case of addition by subtraction. The previous six parts of this series make my feelings on Chimera pretty obvious.
Rostislav Klesla and Dane Byers to Phoenix for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto
. Klesla was obviously the major component here. He's a second-pairing defenseman who can bring a little bit of everything, but the problem is that he never seems to stay healthy. He suffers as many bizarre injuries as Sami Salo and Pascal Leclaire have. Upshall in Columbus was exactly what he's always been: a fast-moving disappointment who seems to be everywhere and yet does nothing. Here's a weird question. Why is Upshall more highly-regarded than Torres? Torres outproduces Upshall by a substanial margin, but Upshall is always more touted. Torres' reputation for dirty play didn't start until he arrived in Vancouver, but the Upshall/Torres thing predates that.
5th-round pick to Montreal for James Wisniewski
. This was actually a 7th-rounder for Wisniewski's rights, with a bump to a 5th if he was signed. Any time you can acquire a guy like Wisniewski for a 5th, it's a good day.
4th-rounder to Pittsburgh for Mark Letestu
. Another deal that no one thought too much of, but Letestu has excelled in all areas in Columbus. He's the opposite of Upshall; he plays an understated game, and is never noticed until he gets the puck into the net.
Kris Russell for Nikita Nikitin
. I guess Howson was tired of waiting for Russell to finally emerge, and traded him for the press box denizen Nikitin. Paired with Fedor Tyutin, Nikitin looked tremendous the entire season with Columbus, producing at a 50-point pace. It was revealed after the season that he'd played the last three months with a splint on his thumb.
Antoine Vermette to Phoenix for 2012 2nd-rounder, 2013 4th-rounder, and Curtis McElhinney
. Vermette's play had tailed off badly since 2009-10, to the point where he no longer looked like an every-night player. The draft picks would come in handy later, while McElhinney would rebound from injury to guide the AHL's Springfield Falcons to what looks like a tremendous 2012-13 season.
Sammy Pahlsson to Vancouver for Taylor Ellington and two 4th-round picks
. Only important for what was to come.
2012 2nd- and 4th-rounder, 2013 4th-rounder to Philadelphia for Sergei Bobrovsky
. Using the return for Vermette and part of the return on Pahlsson, Bobrovsky arrived on the scene. This story is still being written, but at the end of the day it amounts to this.
Columbus gives up Robin Lehner, an oft-injured goalie (Leclaire), and a guy who was signed as a free agent (Pahlsson) and gets Bobrovsky, Josh Anderson (drafted with the other 4th-rounder), Curtis McElhinney, and...the best years of Antoine Vermette's career
, which included being a major part of the final push that got Columbus into the playoffs for the only time.
Marc Methot to Ottawa for Nick Foligno
. Columbus had a glut of upcoming young defensemen, and Methot was stagnant on the third pairing. A win-win for both teams.
Now, you've probably noticed that I haven't touched on "the big three". This is both sides of the Jeff Carter deal, and the Rick Nash trade. There's a lot of bad information, illogical thought, and outright fabrication that exists out there. I hope to be able to clear it up to the greatest extent possible, which is admittedly limited. I have attempted to summon someone who knows more about this than anyone else here, but I have no idea if I'll hear back.
So, without further ado...
Jakub Voracek, 2011 8th overall pick (Sean Couturier) and 68th overall pick (Nick Cousins) to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter
. When this deal was made, Columbus was finishing its 10th season, and had gone that entire time with exactly two legitimate goal scorers. The first was Geoff Sanderson, idiotically traded to Phoenix by a certain guy whose name rhymes with "Rug McBain". The second was Rick Nash.
For years, it had been said that if you shut down Nash, you shut down Columbus. The forwards were mostly playmakers and bangers, but no real snipers. It was Nash, hoping to finish what someone else started. Jeff Carter would change that. Voracek was Howson's first draft pick as GM and looked ready to break through, but hadn't quite done it yet. The third-rounder is a third-rounder. And the 8th overall pick projected to be one of Mark Scheifele, Dougie Hamilton, Mika Zibanejad, or Ryan Murphy. Winnipeg and Ottawa screwed that up, so the unexpected fall of Sean Couturier to 8th happened.
Now, I must emphasize this next part. The idea of having Rick Nash and Jeff Carter on the same line was
not a thought on the part of the front office. Yes, it would be difficult to defend. But the hope was likely that, with a playmaking center on a line with Nash and a playmaking winger on a line with Carter, it would finally allow two very good scoring lines to exist.
The problems began right from the beginning. Carter went into hiding, and had to be extracted four days later by a contingent from Columbus that included Nash, Howson, and a couple of others. This reaction on the part of a traded player is not actually that uncommon; I've documented this well. What is uncommon, and dare I say unprecedented, was the pathetically lackadaisical way in which Carter played in Columbus. We've seen Filatov, we've seen Zherdev, we've seen Berard. We know what floating and lazy play looks like, and this was it. We saw a guy in Philly who would play excellent defense, and suddenly in Columbus he treated his own blueline like it was mined. We'd seen someone who could play the body, and he wouldn't do that. And his actual copious offensive talents were barely being used either. It was clear that a change would have to be made sooner rather than later; 39 games of this version of Jeff Carter was 39 games too many.
Jeff Carter to Los Angeles for Jack Johnson and a 2013 1st-round pick
. This could have been a 2012 1st-rounder, but Los Angeles had to go on a tear and win the entire damn thing. Typical luck for Ohio sports...trade the pouter who doesn't want to be there, then watch him suddenly flip a switch and win what we've all gone our entire lives without seeing. Anyone under age 49 in Ohio who's not a Reds fan not only has never seen a championship, but has also seen multiple teams come tantalizingly close only to fall short in crushing fashion. It's like watching Sisyphus finally reach the top of the mountain, only to suffer a muscle cramp on the last step and see the boulder come crashing down.
What Jack Johnson brought to the table were a multitude of things. First, it's a night-and-day comparison in his own zone from Los Angeles to Columbus. Yeah, we've all seen the advanced stats. We've also seen bad defense. Johnson is substantially better than he was in Los Angeles. But more important than that was a drastic change in what had been dubbed "the country club". He came in pissed off, played pissed off, and would publicly challenge anyone who would question the team. He's the ultimate rink rat, the guy who spends his off days working out and watching tape, and is first on the ice and last off. He and free agent signing Vinny Prospal made a huge difference in the culture shift. Anyway, the first-rounder is deferred to 2013; no one knows who that will end up being or where it will be sent to.
The common thread through all of these deals is generally pretty basic. Generally speaking, not a hell of a lot was given up, but more came back. This isn't "Crazy Scott" making trades all over the place just because he can; everything was building toward some type of an end game. I'd be willing to bet that the only two deals that actually hurt to make were Vermette to Phoenix (because of what had become of Vermette's career, going from 65 points to 47 to 27) and the first leg of the Carter deal. We all saw the signs of Voracek emerging; 38 points as a 19-year-old, then 50, then 46. We all knew he was on the verge of a breakout, and I'm sure the front office saw it and knew it too. But a chance to get someone like Carter doesn't come along very often. And I can guarantee that if Carter played in Columbus anywhere
to what he did in Philly or has in Los Angeles, no one would be saying that Howson made a bad deal. It ended up this way because Carter floated for 80% of his time in Columbus. Period.
The other part is that Jack Johnson acquired this reputation as a horrid defensive player. And I can say with a straight face and absolute certainty that the way that he's played in Columbus is nothing like what he did in Los Angeles. He's not exactly Scott Stevens in his prime, but the idea that Phil Housley is a shutdown defenseman next to Johnson is crazy. Maybe it was true with the Kings, it sure as hell isn't true here. Voracek and Couturier for Johnson and what's basically a deferred 1st-rounder is not a bad deal at all. Yes, we'd all love Voracek's offense. But having someone like Jack Johnson around, both for his on-ice play and his off-ice demeanor, has gone a long way toward establishing a different type of mentality.
Next up: Part 7B - Trading Rick Nash
May your own reputation become unfairly tarred if you quote this whole post for the purpose of replying to it.
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