Lots of finger-pointing going on in Columbus these days, after a string of events that portends a very sulky conclusion to Rick Nash’s lengthy tenure with the team that drafted him.

Can’t really blame anyone over it either.

For the Blue Jackets organization, they’ve got to feel jilted. This is your star player, the only one worth talking about in the entire history of the franchise, the one you thought you’d build around forever. And he comes to you and demands a trade? That’s gotta suck. But if you’re Rick Nash, this was clearly a build to something that didn’t work and one which would require you to miss the playoffs for another however many years. Then add in the fact that your GM just told your fans you asked out? That can’t be pleasant either.

So while it’s certainly hard to feel sorry for either party, anyone looking to assign blame — for either the current circumstances or the ones that led everyone there — is on a fool’s errand. There’s no bad guy here.

People were appalled that Scott Howson went out yesterday and candidly told the media that Rick Nash asked for a trade. It was characterized in a lot of places as him trying to throw Nash under the bus so that he wouldn’t look quite so bad for actively entertaining offers for the only reason to go see a Blue Jackets game these days. I’m not so sure it was spite that drove him to that revelation. If it was, why say so now? It’s not like he’s not going to trade Nash in the summer, and it’s not like there won’t be a lot of very, very good offers for him that will make the Columbus Blue Jackets better at some point in the future. And, in all likelihood, he’ll still be GM anyway, even if he shouldn’t be (no, he shouldn’t be). It wasn’t face-saving and it wasn’t meant to make Nash look bad. It just was.

What made Howson look bad was being in this position at all, one of having to trade what should have been the team’s two best forwards for (relatively) nothing and the prospect of starting all over. He grossly misjudged his team’s ability to be even remotely competitive in the NHL, especially by pushing all-in with Steve Mason as his No. 1 netminder. It is certainly his fault that the Blue Jackets are dead last in the NHL this year.

But that doesn’t make him the bad guy in this situation. He was earnest in his attempts to improve his team, misguided though he may have been; no one calls a bad GM a jerk just for being disconcertingly poor at their job. And he was honest in saying what happened: Nash asked for a trade, and the team also resolved to trade him. This was two parties arriving at the same conclusion for roughly the same reasons. Nash didn’t want to be around when the team restocked the shelves in an effort to get better, and what better way to restock the shelves than by getting a ransom for Nash?

I’m not sure why the media reacted like Howson had just unveiled King Kong on Broadway when he said Nash asked for a trade. Any reasonable person would have at least guessed as much.

And on the flip side, Nash simply isn’t a villain, though he’s almost certain to be treated like one by the few thousand fans who make their way to the rink for the last 10 or so home dates of the year. After all, they’re going to feel they’ve been lied to. This was always framed as “the team wants to trade Rick Nash and he’s accommodating them.” But now it turns out that your captain wants to leave? Yeah that sucks. He faced a smattering of boos last night against Detroit, but mostly cheers. Because you have to think even fans get it at this point. He, too, has done nothing wrong.

Some have speculated that Howson sat on the information that Nash asked out as a means of preserving his trade value, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. After all, he’s still got to trade the guy in the offseason, right? So by saying “Oh yeah Nash asked for a trade too, funny thing, eh,” now, does that somehow magically not affect his value? You’re always going to get a boatload for a guy like Rick Nash — maybe not as much as you want, if the Rangers’ leaked offer is to be believed, at least — irrespective of whether he’d like you to move him.

Saying that either party is in the wrong is likely just a function of needing to assign blame. As with divorces in a lot of states, someone has to be considered “at fault,” even if it’s just in the court of public opinion. But this is the reason some states have no-fault divorce.

Sometimes, you just grow apart.

Comments (4)

  1. I really don’t understand all the hating on the Jackets that this site has run recently. Even though attendance isn’t great, we’ve still averaged 81% capacity for the year. Nearly 15,000 fans a game. And having attended last nights game, Nash actually got larger cheers then ever from the home crowd when he was introduced and after his goal. The boos last night were from DETROIT FANS who were in town for the game. Rick Nash is in no way being treated like the villain by this city.

    • “Even though attendance isn’t great, we’ve *still* averaged 81% capacity for the year. Nearly 15,000 fans a game.”

      Nearly 15,000 eh? 81%? Not bad?

      Oh wait, yes it is. Nearly 15k means they’re 26th in the NHL for overall attendance. By percentage, 81 puts them 27th. Not bad.

      Of course, when we say attendance of nearly 15k, that’s not the number of people who show up is it?
      Nor, for that matter, is it the number of people who pay the full price – a full price that, based on my brief look at the websites, is about 75% of the price in Detroit and about 50% of the price in Montreal, depending on the seat of course
      (for example, the best seats in the arena, 100 level near centre, are not that far off. Cbs ~200$, Mtl ~250$. But the 200s at centre in Cbs go for ~60$, while in Montreal they’re ~200$)

      Obviously Detroit has a good team, while Montreal is Montreal, the fans will always be there. Columbus has a shit team, so their fans are bound to skip out on a few games. But 81% is reflective of the preformance on the ice – shit.

  2. Wow, a bit of positivity from Lambert. This is a strange time we live in.

    Just kidding Lambert, I love your work, which is why I always love listening to the GLAMBOURNE PROJECT. For the uninformed, the project is a podcast that happens irregularly because the availability of someone who lives in Arizona and looks like Riley from National Treasure. Interestingly enough his name is Justin too.

    I watched Clerks II the other day and came to the realization that Lambert and Gentile are very much like Randall and Dante respectively.

    I think there is more to this story than we will see for now: it is all circumstantial though. I believe Howson was never allowed to pull the trigger on the trade. Rumours had the Rangers offering a pretty decent bounty for Nash. However, as the deadline approached, I think Howson was told to ask for more to see if he could get a king’s ransom for Nash.

    My guess: Howson will not be the GM on May 1st of this year. My next guess: The new GM will be in place before the draft. My third guess: this new GM will deal Nash before the draft…and that’s the smartest thing to do.

    GM’s will know that Nash will be on the trade block this summer. The summer is the better time for Columbus to move him anyways. Columbus has more leverage in the summer when GM’s are trying to avoid buyouts of players (How does a 16 year buyout of $3.28 million per year sound, Flyers fans?).

    In the summer, Columbus has 8 forwards (Nash included) and 5 defencemen signed with approximately $19.3 million in cap space. Nash’s cap hit is $7.8 million. Most teams that are in a position to compete will not have that much cap space available, so they will have to try and dump contracts to acquire Nash.

    This is where a SMART GM would start being clever. Obviously, the trade for Nash will require picks, prospects, and players. For every “bad” contract Columbus takes on should also result in a corresponding pick/prospect.

    Let’s say the new GM, or Howson, decides that Philadelphia has an interesting deal on the table, but they need to throw in Bryzgalov to avoid losing a bunch of pieces that makes them effective . Regardless of how poorly he’s played in the spotlight, Bryzgalov would probably be pretty good on a team that is not expected to do well and is rebuilding. He also gives them some security for the future. But that contract is awful. How about the GM says to Holmgren: “Fine, I will take Bryz off your hands but I need compensation for your horrible signing. Give me a 1st rounder in this year’s draft (somewhere between the 18th-30th pick in a shallow draft) and throw me Wayne Simmonds – this gives Columbus a good young player with speed and who is an RFA so if he doesn’t like playing in Columbus, an offer sheet would fetch picks for him.

    So the deal might look like this:

    To: PHI – Nash and S. Mason – $10.8 million cap hit (Mason only for 1 year, but he can still be a good goaltender)
    To: CLB – Simmonds, Couturier, Bryzgalov, 1st Rd 2012, 1st Rd 2013. $8.78 million cap hit.

    This is one of many trades that could occur but if you are the CLB GM, you have to take this phone call.

  3. Yeah that’s the message to send out to future prospects and the free agency market. If I were a player I would sign with a team that throws the franchise player under the bus for the media. If I’m the owner of the jackets I get a new GM too.

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