If I Were The Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager…

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If you were in charge of running the Columbus Blue Jackets, this year’s 30th ranked team, what would you do? What moves would you make in the offseason?

As for myself… no, I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep every night. No, I wouldn’t resign due to fatigue from crying myself to sleep every night. No, I wouldn’t build a bad team on purpose to make the franchise lose money, so that it would have to be relocated out of Columbus, Ohio, bringing my General Manager’s office with it. In fact, I’ve never even been to Columbus, and for all I know it’s a wonderful place to live.

No, I wouldn’t do any of those things. What would I do? Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson is probably asking himself the same question. And even if he does not have one comedic bone in his body, I imagine he’s probably having an easier time coming up with humorous examples of things he wouldn’t do than answering that question. Most people would, and when I look at Scott Howson’s track record as GM, while it’s not as bad as some believe, he seems to have more in common with the majority of hockey executives, as opposed to the brilliant few.

But here’s my take on what the Blue Jackets should do, starting with Rick Nash. Putting aside the possible friction between Nash and Scott Howson over Nash asking for at trade, the fact remains that Nash is a great player on the ice, by far the best on the team. As an organization trying to rebuild, the Blue Jackets need building blocks as much as anyone, and you’re not going to find many better out there than Nash. Nash is not the problem; he should be part of the solution. That’s why I think Scott Howson should have done everything in his power to keep Nash happy and satisfied in Columbus. Instead, he has now asked for a trade. In a perfect world, if I were GM, I would go back in time and start with negotiating a more cap-friendly contract with Nash, and then, like I said, do everything I could to keep him happy in Columbus.

As things stand now, with Nash making a sizable 7.8M per year against the cap, well, the Blue Jackets probably still should not trade him if they still have any say in the matter. But then again, I’ve always been philosophically opposed to the idea of long rebuilds to start with. While it always helps to load up on #1 overall draft picks, I believe a good, creative GM can turn a franchise around in a year or two without “rebuilding” or stockpiling high draft picks over a 5-10 year period.

So if I was the Blue Jackets’ GM, I would be looking at Rick Nash as one of the few building blocks I had to work with, and a huge positive. Instead of trading my one great player, I would look to surround him with more quality talent, and to bring the best out of him.

For example, to start with, it’s been rumored for years now that the Dallas Stars want to unload Mike Ribeiro’s contract. There’s your elite playmaker right there. And if I had been the GM three seasons ago, there was a certain player named Alex Tanguay every other GM seemed to have forgotten about available in unrestricted free agency available for about 2M per year. Just like that, in my first few days of being GM, for $7M combined against the cap, less than I’m paying Nash, I’ve brought in two of the truly elite passers in the game, including a top-line center (which previous Blue Jackets GM couldn’t find one of to bring in for like 10 years). Then my coach could either play both of them with Nash to see him to his best goal-scoring season to date, or he could break them up. And of course, I wouldn’t stop there.

For example, the Phoenix Coyotes’ current leading-scorer Ray Whitney was a UFA two seasons ago. He ended up signing with Phoenix for 2 years at 6M, a bargain contract. Perhaps he would have signed with Columbus for a slightly better deal, maybe with a third year added on the deal. Regardless, Whitney is just one of many undervalued players who become available every year. The players are always out there, it’s a shrewd GM with the ability to spot them that has been missing in Columbus (and many other cities).

So as it pertains to Rick Nash, I believe a great GM looks to build on his weak areas and improve them, not tear down his strengths. A great GM would look at even the last-place Blue Jackets roster and see potential. Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Ryan Johansen, Mark Methot, there are some good pieces on this team. Huselius, Wisniewski, and Tyutin, too, although they are overpaid (and Tyutin is soon to be). Prospal is a good complimentary player, too, and I like Mark Letestu as a new-age depth center who can move up and down the lineup as needed.

A good GM would see there are pieces to work with on this Blue Jackets roster, and he would not need to enter a full “rebuild.” However, with Rick Nash asking for a trade, maybe it’s reached the point of no return now in Columbus. If you’re going to lose your only remaining true top-line forward, maybe you are better off getting some high draft picks so you can replace him and fill the other sizable roster holes, as it will be hard to replace so many otherwise.

I can see both sides of the coin. All I can say for sure is that I feel bad for Columbus Blue Jackets fans. This disastrous season and the ensuing fire sale all could have been avoided with better management.

Written by Shark Circle