(My comments in bold. Obviously.)
If the Blue Jackets were not the last-place team in the NHL, Jeff Carter would be a happy, productive member of the team. (I’m sure being in last place has nothing to do with all of the goals he didn’t score while being hurt 375 times.)
That is an interesting premise. Does it hold? (No…)
Failed relationships in sports can be ugly things. (Nikita Filatov says hi.)
I covered Brendan Shanahan when he begged off the Hartford Whalers in 1996 (token Whalers/”I am old reference” to validate his nonsense). It was a punch in the gut for the fans who felt big-timed, but at least Shanahan made his decision public and accepted the wrath he knew was coming. (“At least” he was public in being unclassy.)
I covered Adam Foote (you mean He Who Shall Not Be Named, Michael, get it together) when he bailed on Columbus in the midst of a playoff hunt in 2008. In his last days as Jackets captain, before any trade had been consummated, he waffled publicly while, behind the scenes, his new Colorado Avalanche equipment was ordered and a plane was gassed up and waiting to whisk him away. (Buh bye.)
Now, we have Carter. (Who once, actually, you said “should not be judged on rumors.” http://www.bluejacketsxtra.com/content/stories/2011/07/28/carter-shouldnt-be-judged-on-rumors.html)
Jackets fans celebrated when he was acquired last summer (for Jake Voracek, a first-round draft pick and a third-round pick). I was among those ballyhooing. Carter was to provide something the Jackets had been lacking throughout their history: a top-line center and a first-rate sniper. The fans bought in and filliped season-ticket sales.
Carter, after a month-long absence because of a shoulder injury (a whole month we could have used his goal scoring prowess to, I dunno, win games), re-entered the lineup in Anaheim last night. He had 10 goals and 17 points in 30 games. He was ranked 267th in the league in scoring, one point behind Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin. Although there is a host of Jackets players who have underachieved during this wickedly depressing season, it is fair to say that Carter has played as if he has one skate out the door (really? his points per game ratio is higher than everyone except Rick Nash).
It is convenient to hark back to when Carter was acquired, and to think we should have seen this coming (you told us not to judge him!). The trade shocked him, and the Jackets had to send a weighty contingent of emissaries — general manager Scott Howson, then-coach Scott Arniel and captain Rick Nash — to the New Jersey shore to assuage him (not make a big deal out of a guy needing some time?). It is easy to say, in hindsight, that he never wanted to be in Columbus, but that is a one-sided view (Arace-sided).
As Carter’s agent, Rick Curran, told The Dispatch in September: “The big challenge there is not wondering whether he’ll find comfort there. The question is, can you be in position there to win enough games to have success.” (If he played 20 more games and therefore created chemistry with his linemates and, maybe, scored 10-15 more goals we might have won 10-15 more games = success, but it’s okay, I understand. Jeff Carter is high talent, he deserves to play on a better team, it’s his Constitutional right.)
Put another way: If Carter did not want to be in Columbus, who could blame him? (The guy who paid him $6m to be here? I don’t want to go to work every day but my company expects me to work for that $13/hr, man.)
The same sort of circular logic will apply if the Jackets win the draft lottery and the right to select the consensus No. 1 prospect, Nail Yakupov. (Already paving Yakupov’s road out of town?)
If you are a Jackets fan who has lived through Nikolai Zherdev and Nikita Filatov, you might be saying, “Oh, no, not another Russian.” And if you are Yakupov, you are aware of Zherdev and Filatov and you might be saying, “Oh, no, not Columbus.” (I appreciate you justifying his future poor behavior. Wait, no I don’t.)
It is the worst-kept secret in the NHL that Carter will be traded before the Feb. 27 deadline. (Is it in the same secret pool as Hitch taking over on October 30th?) He has made no public demand (he has said all the right things publicly, FOR SHAME!) and the Jackets have made no proclamation, but their divorce is imminent. (“These people don’t SAY they hate each other, but 50% of marriages end in divorce, so we have a 50/50 chance of being right. Let’s go for it, guys!” – The Dispatch) The only questions now are to whom, and for what?
Failed relationships can be ugly things, but they can be managed. For Shanahan, the Whalers got Keith Primeau from the Detroit Red Wings. Primeau was a soulful player and a born leader. For Foote, the Jackets got a first-round pick they flipped to Philadelphia for R.J. Umberger. Howson won that deal in a rout. (Except now we’re overpaying RJ to underachieve. Dammit, recurring theme.)
The Jackets will extract value from Carter — they will not get back what they paid, but they can get something that fits well into their pending rebuilding project, whatever that might look like. (Why don’t you tell us, oh Knower of All Things?)
Here is a suggestion: Show an eye for young talent, grow the franchise from within and build something for which the players and their city can be proud. You know, like Nashville. (…………but were doing that and it wasn’t enough so he had to buy talent. LET’S TRADE THAT TALENT!!!!!! Also you said that growing of talent was allowed to hate Columbus. Freakin’ self fulfilling prophecies.)
If the Jackets were not the last-place team in the league, would Carter be a happy, productive member of the team? (OSU is only right up the street. And we have beer!)
Maybe he gets going now as he auditions for prospective employers.
Michael Arace is a sports reporter for The Dispatch. (…and how.)