- Watch David Poile speak about the deal HERE
“I feel bad for Seth Jones. Now he gets to play for THAT moron.”
So, here we are. The trade has happened, and dozens of fans who bait me daily on Facebook are dancing in the streets. WE GOT RID OF GARBAGE AND GOT A NUMBER ONE CENTER!!! They whoop, they holler, and I’m here to say, they are wrong. The Predators “got rid” of a very important defenseman for perhaps the next 15 years. The Blue Jackets “got rid” of a potential “problem child,” who, from numerous accounts, is out of shape, overweight and under-motivated. Now, on the other hand, my good friend in Los Angeles, Tom… he says, (Poile) HAS to make this deal. 6’3, 220, 23 years old, 30+ goal scorer two seasons ago… he HAS to. He’s dealing from a position of strength on the blueline. Sure, I know that when he locked up Ellis and Ekholm on long term deals the writing may have been on the wall.
And, so goes Jones… a guy who reminds me of a story about a Hall-of-Fame defenseman who came to the Los Angeles Kings via the 1980 Entry Draft. Larry Murphy was the fourth overall pick in said draft, and the player chosen directly before him was a swift forward named Denis Savard, who went to the Blackhawks. Paul Coffey went to Edmonton two picks later! Murphy was a revelation for Kings fans. In his rookie year, he had 16 goals, 60 assists, and was the guy who helped The Triple Crown Line (Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer) all amass over 100 points, with Dionne’s 135 leading the charge. Over the course of three seasons with the Kings, Murphy was consistent and prolific. In an era that did not include smartphones, the World Wide Web, and snot-nosed teenagers that thought they knew everything about the sport of hockey, even though they lived in a market where ice was normally only found in one’s cocktail, Murphy began to see his confidence waver on his own side of the blueline. I would joke with regularity to Tom about the Larry Murphy “Escort Service,” where young #5 would escort opposing team’s forwards into the crease and then skate away, leaving them unmolested as they peppered King goaltenders with high probability scoring chances. Murphy had played the first six games of year four with the team, and the team started 0-4-2, including BIG losses to Toronto (6-3), The Islanders (5-2) and the Blues (7-4.) Three assists and a minus two, and a deal was struck. 22 year old Larry Murphy, he of 59 goals and 155 assists in 242 regular season games was sent packing. Off to Washington for defenseman Brian Engblom (28 years old) and forward Ken Houston (29 years old.) Engblom lasted two and a half seasons with the Kings, Houston played just 33 games for them during that 83-84 season and was out of hockey by year’s end. Murphy? Oh, he just added another eighteen seasons to his career, amassing 1216 regular season points, 215 playoff games, FOUR Stanley Cup rings, and a trip to the Hall of Fame in 2004. Los Angeles GM at the time was a drunk named George Maguire. He rarely got value for his players, and with that trade, he may have cemented himself into the “Worst Return” category in Kings history. I was probably a little naive in those days, and did not have the benefit of a smart phone, or the World Wide Web, but I knew enough about hockey to know that Maguire had been fleeced. The GM of that Washington Capitals team? David Poile.
Now, of course, Seth Jones did not put up gaudy numbers in his time in Smashville. He joined the team as a rookie, and at just 18 years old offered a glimpse into his future when Roman Josi got hurt, and he stepped in and played first pairing minutes with Shea Weber. He rarely looked out of place. The fans however, saw every “misstep” and “mistake” as a chance to say that he’d never amount to much, and in the process ignored horrible nights on the ice by guys named Weber, or Ekholm. I always gave Jones the benefit of the doubt because it’s not an easy task to play in the NHL, and specifically in the Central Division, where guys with names like Tarasenko, Toews, Kane, Seguin, Benn and the like undress defensemen on a nightly basis. What I saw was a kid who, when on the move, created some magic. He was one of the few guys on the Predators PP who seemed undeterred when trying to enter the offensive zone with some speed. Did his passes sometimes miss? Sure, this I chalk up to youthful exhuberance, and a desire to move quickly (certainly quicker than he had to in the WHL.) However, when Seth Jones was flat-footed, at a complete stop, it was almost like when my computer goes into “sleep” mode. It seems that was where he was most vulnerable, and occasionally found himself looking like a drunk coming out of a blackout as the cops were applying the cuffs.
No, we did not give up Seth Jones for the rights to Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin. We got Ryan Johansen. Poile did get what the team needs most to address. Size down the middle. He’s only signed for this year and next, so an extension better be in the works (granted, he will still be an RFA, but between arbitration and pesky offer sheets, you want to make sure this guy is in gold for a number of years.) John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen knew something… they knew that they were handcuffed from a budget perspective and would not be able to keep Johansen past next year. If he had a better attitude and a non-maniacal coach, he might actually be putting up numbers that would eclipse current team leader, Scott Hartnell. And, while we are on the subject of Hartnell, there was a rumor that the deal would be “bigger,” with Colin Wilson and Hartnell trading places too. Both signed to four year deals, with Hartnell’s AAV a bit higher than Wilson, but Hartnell has 15G, 15A at press time, while Wilson, who did score the Preds lone goal last night, has 4G, 11A and has seen his face on milk cartons throughout most of the Predators season.
Back to Johansen. He moves Ribeiro to 2C, Fisher to 3C, and Jarnkrok to a wing, with Gaustad remaining at 4C until such time he is either traded, or walks, as his contract is up at the end of this season. This could be a very good move up front for the Preds. What might it look like? Forsberg and Neal with Johanson? Smith and Wilson with Ribeiro? Arvidsson and Jarnkrok with Fisher? and some permutation of Gaustad centering Nystrom, Bourque, Watson or Salomaki. (When Bourque comes back expect to see Salomaki slide back to Milwaukee.) or… Cody Hodgson? Well, at this point in time it feels a little Derek Roy-ish in the room, as there’s been roughly 500,000 of a million dollars spent, and eight points to show for it. Roy was let go at 10 points. After a half season in Edmonton, he finds himself in the Swiss league playing for Bern, and has 22 points in 22 games. Hodgson might investigate European lodging as his number in the NHL may be up sooner than expected.
The paradox is: Marc Nathan said it would be a bad idea to trade Seth Jones. Marc Nathan said David Poile would be a fool to part with a cornerstone (a cornerstone that is about to be thrust into a top pairing situation in Columbus.) Marc Nathan now thinks Poile did a good job getting equal value and addressing the team’s need. So, Marc Nathan… what’s it gonna be? Good trade? Bad trade? Trade that we won’t know the results of for a good five years? I will say this: If Ryan Johanson is in shape, If Ryan Johanson makes Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher better players by pushing them down on the depth chart, I’m all for Ryan Johanson. When the Kings acquired Columbus’ last mal-content, Jeff Carter, they gave up a young defenseman named Jack Johnson. Devoted Kings fans called Johnson “JMFJ” (One or two guys even got JMFJ 3 jerseys.) I hated that guy. To Kings fans he did little wrong, and was Jack Mother F….ng Johnson… I was good with the acronym, though. He was, and will always be Jack Minus Forty Johnson to me, and now he gets paired with Seth Jones (presumably)… the great promise that was never realized in Nashville will be thrust into major minutes in Columbus. If he can tune out Torts, he may have a shot at greatness. If he can keep his feet moving, he will have a shot at greatness. If Johansen can put the puck in the net, Preds fans will love this trade. If Johansen becomes James Neal and his fabulous disappearing act for 59 minutes a game, it could get uglier before it gets better in Smashville.
As for Jones minutes-eating, will Anthony Bitetto fill the bill? Will Petter Granberg make anyone forget Seth Jones? Will Victor Bartley resurface after what appears to be some fairly lackluster play in Milwaukee? Will Johan Alm or Kristian Nakyva get a cup of joe? I’ll say this. I would NOT be surprised if Poile is actually looking for another defenseman. The Kings grabbed Luke Schenn, who at just 26 years old has eight years of sucking with both Toronto and Philly, yet mad reasoning would make even the biggest skeptic believe Darryl Sutter’s incoherent mumbo-jumbo might make him an effective third pairing guy on a team that strong. Dion Phaneuf is probably available, as are any number of blueliners on Toronto. Don’t they owe us one for the stench that was Santorelli and Franson? I’m not sold on Nashville’s depth at D. Look at those names above and add Conor Allen, Jimmy Oligny, Trevor Murphy, Garrett Noonan, and Taylor Aronson to the mix. (It’s at this point that some snotnosed kid with a smart phone and the Web is going to say that I haven’t mentioned Jonathan-Behemoth Diaby, and I’ll point out that there’s a reason for that.) The kid’s got nothing. Nada. He can barely keep a roster spot in Cincinnati, although he’s back in Milwaukee again for at least a minute, to add to his five pointless games. He’s only 20, but he’s long been moved from prospect to suspect in my book. I’m actually very interested to see Granberg get a few games in (and I suspect as soon as Bitetto has played a few games, we will see that happen) as it was an odd waiver acquisition and an odd happenstance that Toronto tried to sneak him through, all the while protecting Frank Corrado, who had been acquired on waivers via Vancouver, and was clearly not in Coach Babcock‘s plans. Corrado has since found his way into the Leafs lineup, and has played 3 of the club’s first 37 games with an assist.
Big day in Smashville. Let’s see what happens next. Friday two former Blue Jackets will face each other for the first time. Johansen will suit up for Nashville, and Andrew Bodnarchuk, claimed on waivers yesterday, will be in the Avs defensive corps. Yes, it has come to this!