As announced earlier today, Marc Methot has re-upped with the Jackets for four years, and according to the Dispatch, the deal breaks down as follows: “$2.25 million this season, $2.75 million in 2012-13, $3.25 million in 2013-14 and $3.75 million in 2014-15″ (source). Methot, aged 26 and a veteran of 229 NHL games, averaged just under twenty minutes of ice a night, including a regular helping of shorthanded time (second to only the departed Rostislav Klesla). In just his third full season, he has elevated himself to the second pairing and can be depended upon to bring a heavy physical presence to the lineup. But did the Jackets make a good deal signing him to a deal with an average cap hit of $3M? Here is how Methot compares to a handful of his defensive cohorts across the league:


Hits BkS GvA TkA Pts Cap Hit
Marc Methot 176 98 27 21 15 $3M
Braydon Coburn 177 133 51 32 16 $3.2M
Cory Sarich 175 109 51 15 17 $3.6M
Greg Zanon 169 212 28 21 7 $1.9M
Jan Hejda 152 158 30 21 20 $3.25M
Mike Weber 158 99 34 14 17 $950K

Highlighted are both Methot and his most comparable from the above list, Mike Weber of the Buffalo Sabres, who comes in with a surprisingly low $950K cap hit. Methot’s hits – all 176 of them – put him in good company with Braydon Coburn and Cory Sarich, though he is much less likely to cough up a turnover (hey, we like that out of our defensemen, right?), but also much less likely to block a shot. His 98 was only good for third among Jackets defenders, behind departed Hejda (listed for comparison) and Kris Russell (fewer hits, fewer giveaways, $1.3M hit). Methot’s giveways/takeaways are similar to Greg Zanon’s, but Zanon held a considerable edge in blocked shots. These comparisons aren’t worth the imaginary electronic paper they are typed on, but if we pretend that they are, Methot’s deal value can really go either way. It could be argued that Coburn and Sarich’s deals are overpays – thus causing an overpay of Methot – when compared to Zanon & Weber, but we’re going to go on a whim and call this a deal for one reason: the graduated structure of Methot’s contract. His salary for this coming season is only $2.25M, climbing yearly up to $3.75M. If he continues to progress the way he has over the last three seasons, by the conclusion of his contract he should be a mainstay on the top pairing along James Wisniewski and almost a steal at that value, and by the time his salary touches three million, the bottom portion of the defense should be filled out by names like John Moore and David Savard, who will likely still be entry level or on sub-million contracts.

The only question left to be asked is, with the commitment to Methot, what and who can they afford to round out the second defense pairing with?

The Newbs:
  1. James Wisniewski: Pretty much an essential, maybe not deserving of the 5.5 per, but worth it. As in, he just gets the PP, and if the Jackets didn’t pony it up, he was going to get it elsewhere and their problems would still be unsolved. Plus he seems pretty stoked about coming to Columbus which is, like, Chicken Soup for the Blue Jackets Fan’s Soul (ya hear, JCarter?). And he is proof that not all things from the State of Michigan have to be nasty. Okay?!
  2. Curtis Sanford: This is one of those times when Scott Howson reads my Twitter feed and listened to me, except that he signed him as a #3. (That’s okay – I can dig it.) Sandman is a little old (relatively speaking, so stop making that face and taking it personally), and has been a pro since 1999 (Steve Mason was, like, 11). He’s played backup in Vancouver to Roberto Luongo, and split duties for a few years in St. Louis. The last two, however, he was a mainstay in the Hamilton Bulldogs crease until an injury ended his year. He won 23 and 22 games the last two years with Hamilton, respectively and led the team to consecutive regular-season division Championships and onto Conference Finals, while mentoring a young Cedrick Desjardins and Robert Mayer.
  3. Mark Dekanich: 25, signed on to be Stevie Mason’s backup goalie. 1 game of NHL experience – OH MY GAWD THE WORLD IS ENDING –  but he has over 100 pretty solid ones in the AHL and from personal experience having seen one of his games in the ECHL – he has quick reflexes. Comes from the Nashville Predators Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Play Goal Good Too and was a back up back up to Pekka Rinne. Obviously this guy’s not going to carry the load, but he should be in prime form to step up to the challenge. Oh, and he’s on Twitter. @dexshow
  4. Some minor league guys: Mostly the rest is depth, nothing even worth making fun of except Aaron Johnson, who had his Best Year Ever in the AHL last year, but had some mediocre years in the NHL. But he’s BFFs with Rick Nash, so he’ll probably be starting on D every night. Just kidding. I hope.
The Departed:
  1. Jan Hejda: $3.25M x 4 years, Colorado Avalanche. Really? asdksjfdsjgdfg… HAHA, WHAT? Rumored he was wanting the big bucks to stay in Columbus, but those big bucks needed to be used for an upgrade. His $2M payday last year seemed fair. If he wanted long-term in Columbus, sticking at $2M would have been cool. But a raise AND lengthy deal? For a guy who is getting progressively worse? Maybe the altitude will be good for him…?
  2. Scottie Upshall: $3.5M x 4 years, Florida Panthers. Hated to see him go, but… he was a little redundant in the Top 6 and too expensive for the Bottom 6. Would have loved to keep him for his old salary of $2.25M, but… yeah. Have fun on the beach.
  3. Mathieu Garon: $1.3M x 2 years, Tampa Bay Lightning. :(
  4. Mike Commodore: $1M x 1 years, Detroit Red Wings. We’re paying him more than they are! Hello, indigestion. Positive this will be a bite-in-the-ass someday when he’s motivated to try playing aggressively and smartly… oh, wait, HAHA. Carry on.

For part two, we’re analyzing 2010-11 output [only] for all of the defensemen who played a measurable amount of time in a Blue Jackets jersey. It is no secret the defensemen were terrible, but let us illustrate, anyway.

Among the things that stand out:

Plus Minus: Only three guys maintained a plus-rating in their tenure. One being Rusty Klesla, whose numbers are diminished by the fact that he was traded at the deadline and was not around for the final damning slide. Two others who maintained a plus are Grant Clitsome and Marc Methot, who easily were the team’s best defensemen. Plus/minus, of course, is an oft-argued, hard to defend (pun intended) stat, but it can often be so telling. Fedor Tyutin being even at home, but -12 on the road? Kris Russell being +1 on the road but -10 at home? Hejda clearly much worse at home than on the road? These guys could use a dose of consistency.

Blocked Shots: Apparently this is something that Jan Hejda and Kris Russell have learned to do, but not many guys are following suit. Surprising for Methot to have only blocked 98, given his strength and size, same for Tyutin. These guys have to get over whatever fear they have of laying down in front of a puck. As defensemen, you know, it’s their job. The more shots they block, the less Mason/Garon/Goaltender-to-be-named-Later have to turn aside. Novel idea, yes? Let’s work on this, boys.

Anton Stralman, you heartbreaker: For the guy acquired to be the offensive touch and PP QB and who argued his case damn near into arbitration and to an overpriced deal, who has been given chances upon chances when he probably didn’t deserve them, Anton Stralman had 1 goal (on the powerplay, hooray!), and 17 assists (I’ll take those). A minus rating both on the road and at home. The team scored only 45 goals while he was on the ice. He only had 39 hits, 46 blocked shots, 15 takeaways – are we sure this guy is suited to be a defenseman?

Grant Clitsome just makes everybody better: Grant Clitsome played 31 games and had 19 points. Two power play goals (more than anybody else), a shooting percentage of 8, was out for FORTY goals-for (remember, in less than half as many games played), only 27 goals against (Tyutin, Hejda 90 and 89, respectively), and while he did spend time on the PK unit, only 4 PPG against. Grant Clitsome, welcome to the NHL. If the Jackets don’t re-sign him…

Next Year: Only Tyutin and Russell are under contract for next season, along with a handful of AHL rookies who will be fighting to make the jump in camp. The Jackets should undoubtedly reward the matured play of Methot and Clitsome with contracts. The verdict is out on Hejda, who supposedly is looking for a multi-year deal. It’s hard to jive with that when his effectiveness has declined with each year. Stralman just needs to go. His good play was so shortlived it’s hard to believe it even happened.

  • Friday, vs. Chicago: The Jackets got off to a slow start (sound familiar?) and allowed Chicago to jump to a 2-0 lead in the first, but goals by Maksim Mayorov (the first of his NHL career) and Derick Brassard (his 16th) had the game tied at 2 after two periods. Samuel Pahlsson gave them the go-ahead goal, but wouldn’t you know – a minute and a half later, Bryan Bickell tied it back at three. The game would go to a shootout and in true Columbus Blue Jackets fashion, they would go 0/3. Viktor Stalberg beat Garon to seal the victory. Money quote, by head coach Scott Arniel (source): “We’ve made a decision as a league that we’re going to entertain at the end of the night and we’re not going to go home with a tie game. We’ll work on the shootout part… but we don’t back off in overtime. These guys learn how to play in pressure packed situations. It’s unfortunate we’ve lost so many shootout games, but we’ve done a great job of learning how to play under pressure.” Are you sure about that, Coach? I’m a supporter of Arniel for the most part, but I don’t think he knows his team any better than we do.
  • Friday, part two: With Steve Mason sidelined with some sort of undisclosed injury (bruised ego? mono? the clap? softgoalsandnodefenseitis?), David LeNeveu was brought up from Springfield (the Falcons, not the Indians, because this is not 1994). In 41GP with SPR, LeNeveu was 16-20-2 with a 2.97/0.896. His prior NHL experience, with Phoenix, is limited to 21 games. We won’t share those stats, because you don’t want to know.
  • Also on Friday, forward Derek MacKenzie was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He was the Blue Jackets’ nominee for the award. The Masterton Trophy is awarded, “under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.” MacKenzie is a veteran of 124 NHL games – half of which have come this season in his first full NHL campaign – and 550 games at the AHL level, where he spent parts of nine seasons before going full-time. MacKenzie is a small, defensive forward without a whole lot of talent, but what he lacks there he compensates for in his grit. He’s contributed 9 goals this season playing in a variety of situations.
  • Jan Hejda was suspended two games for an elbow to the head of Blackhawks’ Marcus Kruger. It was clearly unintentional but deserved, a consequence of the league’s wanting to cut back on careless hits to the head. Hejda is the first Blue Jacket suspended since Jared Boll was assessed a one-gamer in October of 2008 for a late instigator penalty.
  • Blue Sunday: Apparently the Blue Jackets were not privy to their own schedule and forgot to show up to Sunday’s matchup with St. Louis. They were a listless, sloppy, passive bunch in a 6-1 loss. RJ Umberger, playing in his 243rd consecutive game as a Blue Jacket, got the only goal (a power play one, at that). He set a new career high in points (56) and is one off his previous record of 26 goals. Jaroslav Halak turned away the other 23 shots he faced – most of which really were not great ones. Garon was replaced by LeNeveu in the third period with the score already 4-1. Stralman, Upshall, and Russell were each -3, and the only highlights of the night were a long battle between Derek Dorsett and the much-heavier Ryan Reaves, and a not-so-spirited battle of the under-six-feet club between Kris Russell and Vladimir Sobotka. It’s okay to laugh, really.

Photo by Bridget Samuels

If you, at any point in this game, had any confidence in the outcome of the game, you’re lying. It started interestingly enough, as Rick Nash got off the schneid with his thirtieth goal of the season, assisted by Derek Dorsett and Sammy Pahlsson. Pahlsson chipped the puck to Dorsett along the boards, who flipped it over to Nash who was steaming into the zone full speed. Confidence level at this point: 6! But, of course, that wouldn’t last long as just under two minutes later Minnesota got a goal of their own off the stick of Brad Staubitz, his first of the year. Confidence level: shrinking.

In the second, everybody’s favorite name to laugh at, Cal Clutterbuck knocked the go-ahead goal past Mathieu Garon. Suddenly the Jackets were in full-on defenseless mode, battling with the Wild both competitively and physically. It got chippy — Grant Clitsome was injured on an uncalled knee-on-knee hit — and then Dorsett danced with Staubitz (embarrassingly) after a hit on Sami Lepisto. Dorsett got the worst of the fight and a misconduct and instigator to go along with it, but the team absolutely had a subsequent spike in energy. With under a minute left in the second, a whiff by Nash was redirected by Lepisto to the blue line to Kris Russell who fired it past Backstrom to tie it at two.

Going into the third, after a goal by Jan Hejda and another by the Captain to make it 4-2, things were looking good. But no, this is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Things can’t be that easy, right? A two-goal lead more than halfway into the third… no, no it can’t be that easy. Antti Miettinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard had something to say about that. Garon gave them too much net to work with and the capitalized.

Off to overtime. Interestingly enough, the NHL.com Event Summary sheet had the score as 5-4 Columbus at the end of regulation, with a phantom goal awarded to Antoine Vermette. Apparently, the NHL has ESP, as Antoine Vermette took a shot right into a flurry of  flustered Wild players in the crease and won the game for the Jackets with 0:34 to go in OT.

Some notes, courtesy of CBJ PR guy Ryan Holtmann:
– Their 17th road victory of the season surpasses the franchise record of 16 previously set in 2008-09.
– Sami Lepisto had three assists for the first time in his career, also setting the single-game assists record for CBJ defensemen.
– Jan Hejda now has a career high in goals with 5.
– Rick Nash & Jarome Iginla are the only two players to currently have four consecutive 30-goal seasons.