A CBJ post inspired by Rudyard Kipling (or quite possibly Dennis Hopper)
Remember the CBJ "if" for all those years? If only the CBJs had a top line center for Rick Nash. If only they had a puck moving defenceman. That's all they needed and they were THERE. That's all they needed, for years. It's the hope the fans clung to. IF... Fans overlooked two things. The CBJ had a compliment of 3rd and 4th lines that worked hard that stole us a couple games a year. We overlooked the fact that our goaltending situation was much like having a butt ugly younger sister. You wonder why none of your friends asked about her, but none of your friends had the heart to tell you how ugly she really was.
Rick Nash was the man in Buckeyeville. All 500 or 600 hundred hockey players under the age of 8 in Columbus wanted to be number 61. There were stories of Rick Nash crashing random pond hockey games in Columbus. His charm in interviews was a combination of Bill Clinton and Bobby Orr. He was banging the receptionist. He had THE GOAL. He and Joe Thornton would sand bag just a little bit playing for Davos forcing the other to wear that dumb yellow helmet. Fun stuff that fans and hockey players liked and adored. Life without Nash, unthinkable. He was the constant star while all around him the organization did little else if anything right.
Then sometime in 2011, ownership decided to open up the pocketbook and stop operating on a budget. The problem was Scott Howson was the man in charge of writing the checks. Reward is not without its risk, but measures of consideration are to be used when spending 64 milllion dollars of your boss's money. Fans finally got what they were told the needed, Nash got his sword and shield, but the fans lost sight of what was gone and what was really missing. First, what did CBJ fans get?
Every Pee Wee in Charlestown knows its a bad sign when a cup contending team wants to dump it's young, high scoring center (drafted AFTER Zherdev) months into an 11 year, 90+ million dollar contract - Carter. Was it his metal detecting foot? Was it his Laviolette angering lack of commitment? Was it his spot on Steven Wright impersonation? We don't know, but none of those things stopped Howson from sending Chelsea Clinton and a used puck bag to Philly for a contract that had Commodore x10 written all over it. I imagine Howson's visit to Carter's beach house was not unlike that scene in Donnie Bracoe when Johnny Depp needed keys to that Porsche..... badly.
Every Pee Wee in Charlestown wondered why Wiesniewski had been with 4 NHL teams in the first six years of his career. Wiesniewski's only highlight reel moment thus far in his career was the reenactment of a bachelor partly novelty resulting in a 2 game suspension. Oh and he had one good season, Contract year timing at its best. With the addition of Jack Johnson, I wince a bit more when I here Wiesniewski's "5th highest paid Defenseman in the NHL" moniker mentioned. Oh, and Jack Johnson will be the latest in the #CBJ long line of Scott Howson's favorite game of "You're really a solid second line guy, but will make you a top line guy here, and then everyone will get upset that you don't play like a top line guy." We'll have to think of a better name for that...
For the record, I thought adding Carter was a bad move. I was ridiculed for thinking this in dressing rooms, on the ice, and on the Air. I liked what Wiesniewki had to offer, I was glad the CBJ got him, but didn't like the contract.
Secondly, What the CBJ didn't have. When I coach my youth teams, I tell the kids, "We'll get better throughout the season, but so will the other teams. We have to work hard all year, that will make the difference." Forget the actual act of scoring goals in the NHL because it's a by product of two things: Hard work and good passing. Look at the other teams in the central division and see how hard they work for the puck. That's how you keep goals out of your own net and put them behind the other goalie. After years of minor league management, the hard working players left the team. Sure there's Umberger, but where's Torres, Malholtra, Chimera? What about Goalies? All of the sudden we open our yearbooks and realized how ugly our goalies were. Oh, and Duvie Wescott was still on the payroll.
I was talking about Rick Nash, wasn't I? Well, even until about 6 weeks ago, many thought the CBJ were about to turn the corner. Without talking to him, I can imagine one person who knew better was Nash. In the lottery of life, he lucked out that he didn't go to Florida (people, don't give me the Florida is a divsion leader this season crap. Florida is 3 pts from being OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS as I type this) or Atlantipeg. But in those first years, Nash had hope. He worked hard. He was the darling second son to a town obsessed with football. As the years went by, maybe he too was waiting for the mail man. Maybe he bought into 'if' signing his most recent contract. He owed it to the team and fans to try it again. After 8 years, it's quite possible Rick Nash was tired of 'if' tired of waiting. Tired of seeing coaches come and go. Tired of no good coming of anything. Tired of hearing 'next year.'
So with the dignity we hope a professional athlete could give a perennial loser, which he was a part of, he told the front office he would like to be traded. Fans were offended once Scotty Howson shared this nugget with the media. The fans have a right to be upset to hear after the fact that Nash asked to be traded. But Fans - He didn't whine about the team in the media before hand. He didn't go TO or Carmelo Anthony on us. Sure fans wanted to hear him say something in disgust about the team's performance this season, and he didn't. But how is this season different than any other? Did he sign Carter, Nikitin, and countless russian teenagers with bad skin? Did he promise a change in an email blast to CBJ fans that he didn't deliver on? No. Nash is not the Ray Lewis type captain. He is not a Steve Yzerman captain. But, he's better than Lyle Odelein.
I, for one, would like nothing more than to see Nash stay in Columbus. I can understand why after 8 seasons of the same old tired thing the thought entered his mind that a trade would be good for him and the team. But this team's tiny thread of local identity is tied to Rick Nash, what would the CBJ be without Rick Nash? What happens to the team if he is traded? Can you hear Jeff Rimmer's used car commerical voice over "Come see Jack Johnson, Derrick Dorsett, and Nitika Nikitin take on Pavel Datsyuk, Henrick Zetterberg, and Nick Lindstrom..." All Nash was trying to do was be a professional, who wanted to improve his personal situation and that of his employer's, and let the team know he wanted to be traded to one of 10 teams if the offter was right for the CBJ. Now, fans are selfish and mad. How dare their hero want something better for himself and the franchise other than losing.
And now I leave Rick Nash with the words of Kipling: "If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you."