The Columbus Blue Jackets spent the summer of 2012 trading the face of their franchise, Rick Nash, to the New York Rangers and sending three picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2013 Venzina winner Sergei Brobrovsky. Lumbus became a bit a fan favorite around these parts and finished just one point shy of making the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Fast forward to today where the Jackets have been shipped to the Eastern Conference with the Detroit Red Wings and are now part of the brand new Metropolitan Division. I think the only person in the Western Conference that is sad to see the BJ's move east is Viktor Stalberg. I know that I am very happy Columbus will be a pain in the ass out east and not in Central Division. The Blue Jackets are in good hands under the direction of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen and should far well in the newly realigned Eastern Conference.
Mike MacLean from The Cannon was kind enough to answer some questions to give us a better look at what expect from our former division rival.
Lumbus became a bit of fan favorite with their push to the playoffs that fell just short last season. How excited is the city of Columbus for upcoming season?
The excitement level couldn't be higher. With the strong finish last season, combined with three first round picks in June, the Nathan Horton signing and move to the Eastern Conference, there is a high level of optimism among the fan base. Look no further than the recent Cannonfest, a fan-driven event in the middle of the summer where fans of the Jackets packed a restaurant to show support for the team.
Do you think moving the Eastern Conference will help or hinder the Jacket’s playoff chances this season and why?
The move to the Eastern Conference should help the team. The former Central Division was the toughest in hockey, and while the Metropolitan Division features a handful of strong teams, the Jackets are well-positioned to excel against teams like New Jersey, Carolina and Philadelphia. The lighter travel schedule will be beneficial for the players as well.
Chicago hockey fans are not happy with the realignment because we lose our rivalry with the Wings and we lose out on getting fat on the Jackets. Not being a jerk, but the Hawks have won the last 11 meeting between the two teams. Are you guys happy with the move and what will you miss most about the Central Division?
We love the move, hands down, for the reasons I mentioned above. As fans, that means fewer late starts, greater potential for geographic rivals (though losing Detroit as a rival sucks) and there are teams who the Jackets can potentially "get fat on" in the Metro division. The thing we'll miss the most about the Central Division? It's certainly not Patrick Kane, that's for sure.
The Jackets hit the jackpot last season with the Sergei Bobrovsky acquisition. Do you think Bobrovsky can repeat his Veizina winning level of play for an 82 game schedule?
We don't know if he'll be Vezina-level again this year, but by all accounts he's got the right work ethic, drive and talent to be a consistently elite goaltender. The team was smart in only signing him to a two-year deal this summer, it will be motivation for him to earn a big long-term deal in the summer of 2015.
Columbus made a splash in the free agency market by giving Nathan Horton a 7 year/$37 million contract. Do you think this was a good deal or are you worried that the Jackets just spent a lot of money for a guy to spend more time in the press box than on the ice?
The injury concerns are there, but the fact remains that the Jackets arguably reeled in the biggest fish in free agency. Aside from the huge impact he'll have on the forward group as the second option behind Gaborik, he brings Cup-winning experience and his signing was an indicator to the rest of the league that the Jackets are an organization on the rise, finally doing things right with excellent hockey ops people and top coaches.
From a Hawks fan standpoint, I think the Jackets are moving East at the right time. They are going to be one of those pain in the ass teams from years to come. John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen seem to have the Jackets on the right track. How confident is the fan base that their team is in the right hands?
For the first time in the team's history, the fans can truly feel like their team is in good hands. The experience that Davidson, Kekalainen and Craig Patrick bring to the team, not to mention how well-regarded these men are among NHL circles, gives the fanbase a sense of comfort knowing that hockey ops will take the right approach and make the best decisions for the team.
Be honest with us, what to Jackets fans really think of Rick Nash?
Nash will always be the team's first superstar. He has done so much for the city off the ice, and was the team ambassador for so many years. The last few months prior to his trade to New York was not a fun time for the team or its fans, and for a lot of the fanbase the fact that it was revealed that Nash requested a trade soured their opinion of him. It was an ugly divorce, but the players and picks received from New York have helped to re-shape the culture and core of the team. I'm still unsure how myself or other fans will feel when he returns to Columbus as a division foe this season. He may get some recognition prior to the game, but after that he'll be the enemy.
Thanks again to Mike from the Cannon! I got a feeling that many readers of this site will be cheering for the Jackets as their EC team....