Again, I’m late to the party thanks to a bizarre/busy week. But here are a few thoughts on the Gaborik move. Be sure to check out the links in the article to see some of the great and timely work looking at the trade.
As you’re all aware by now, Columbus was the headline act on NHL Trade Deadline Day (although Pittsburgh and Ray Shero were arguably the biggest movers when considering pre-deadline action). Instead of merely sitting still, Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson moved to acquire Marian Gaborik. Others have already covered the trade with more timeliness and detail than I could. Greg Wyshynski covered the Gaborik move at Puck Daddy, Mike MacLean broke it down at The Cannon, and Morgan considered the angles at The Dark Blue Jacket. Instead of breaking down the overall logistics involved, here are a few remaining thoughts I had following the move.
1. The Blue Jackets are No Longer The Nashville Predators and That’s a Good Thing. Adding Marian Gaborik represents a move away from the “everyone is equal” thoughts that held reign over the Blue Jackets in the wake of the Nash trade. This is probably the least popular view on the trade, but I think it’s the most important. No longer is this a team full of secondary scoring; they have a primary threat again.
Of course, this brings them back to the Nash years in a way (and it’s worth noting that Gaborik’s Usage Chart and Nash’s are quite similar). They’ve got one offensive star and everybody else, right? It’s true, but support may be on the way. Ryan Johansen is growing into a top six role, Atkinson and Calvert are Corsi monsters this year, Anisimov and Dubinsky are very strong as secondary threats.
The problem is that the team overall is still somewhat weak: the defensemen are bad on the whole and the just enough of the 3rd/4th liners are abysmal to help drag things down. But for now, the foundation is in place for this club to be a threat next year. There’s almost no way their team shot differential is so low next season.
This team, without Gaborik, was a less effective clone of the Nashville Predators (of course, it’s worth noting that Nashville’s model featured two elite defensemen to help drive play, so they ultimately were good many years).
Columbus had mediocre-to-bad possession stats paired with a goalie doing all the work. That’s an awful model for building long-term success unless you can be certain that you’re getting super-Rinne every year (and you can’t). Instead, Jarmo has shoved the team back toward skill, finally bringing the Blue Jackets back closer to the 2010-2011 season (arguably the most successful in team history, if not for an abysmal netminder).
Somebody needs to do the scoring, needs to help drive possession, and star goal scorers are market-valued to do what others can’t (generate shots, have higher-than-average shooting %). Ideally, you have stars, plural, on a team. But this is a starting point back to the Nash + Voracek days (now Gaborik + Atkinson/Calvert with Johansen on the way).
I’m sure the new scorer will get the ire of Jacket fans who dislike his large salary or perceive him as not gritty enough, but players like Gaborik (or Kane or Kessel or Vanek or Marleau) are exceptionally useful contributors to NHL teams. I’m happy to see elite skill return to the club, even if he’s a bit older than the skill that was on the team prior to the many Carter fiascoes.
2. The Net Transaction Between NY and Columbus Looks Good. This has been covered elsewhere, but consider the overall trade between NY and Columbus including the Nash deal:
Columbus gets: Gaborik, Dubinsky, Anisimov, Erixon, 1st round pick
New York gets: Nash, Brassard, Dorsett, Moore, 6th round pick
Gaborik-for-Nash is a wash. Brassard could develop, but either Dubinsky or Anisimov are more valuable possession-drivers… and instead of one, the Jackets got both. Dorsett is entirely replaceable. Moore is currently better than Erixon, but Erixon is purported to have a higher ceiling, and Columbus’ defensive depth is still strong. A first round pick is more valuable than a 6th.
I’ve covered the good and the bad of the Nash trade. One of the good elements was that three high-possession caliber NHL players returned for Nash. By getting Gaborik and only giving up one with consistent positive play (Moore), both trades are easy wins in separate context and look even better when taken as a whole. Remember that oft-praised depth on the Rangers last year? All those good players are in Columbus now.
3. Keeping All Three First Round Picks is Impressive. To put this in context, consider the Iginla trade in Pittsburgh. The thinking was that the price would be too high and that the Penguins wouldn’t want in. How could Calgary not demand a first rounder and multiple elite prospects? We all know how that actually went, and the same logic applies with the Jackets.
For Columbus to upgrade their scoring without a rental player, wouldn’t it cost one of the three first rounders and some of that defensive depth? Instead, it only cost John Moore. By not surrendering any of their picks, Columbus now has greater flexibility at the draft. Kekalainen can choose to trade, keep, package, or use any combination of the three. And with competent management at the helm, I like that these options are all available.