In the aftermath of the Rick Nash trade yesterday, I Tweeted the following quote from Seymour Cray, father of the supercomputer:
“If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use: two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?”
As yesterday’s trade indicates, the Blue Jackets are going with 1024 chickens, while the Rangers will have (come December, when Marian Gaborik is healthy) two strong oxen. Though the consensus seems to be that Columbus (and GM Scott Howson in particular) got the short end of the stick in this deal, closer examination indicates otherwise. Below is a brief look at what to expect from both teams in the 2012-13 campaign.
Columbus: Though the Blue Jackets now lack a true sniper, they’ve added considerable depth to their forward corps. Scoring must come by committee in the upcoming season, which means the pressure is now on Brandon Dubinsky (that’s “Dubi” to all you Columbus fans) to bounce back from a frustrating 2011-12 season, which saw his shooting percentage fall to 7.1% (from 11.9% the previous season) and goals drop to 10 (from 24). Artem Anisimov, on the other hand, simply needs to shoot more: last season, he scored 16 goals on just 132 shots, for a shooting percentage of 12.1%. At that clip, 200 shots = 24 goals. Keep in mind the fact that Anisimov is only 24 years old, and has by no means reached his ceiling – as a 20-year-old in the AHL, he put up 37-44-81 in 80 games.
Potentially, the ‘Jackets forward lines could look like this in October:
Realistically, those four lines should be good for about 180 goals. Last season, Columbus blueliners contributed an additional 38 goals. The good news is that the blueline has been significantly improved since last season. Even if the defensive upgrades don’t translate to more than 38 goals, though, 180+38=218 goals in 2012-13, which would be 16 more than the Blue Jackets scored last season. More significantly, the pairings of Johnson-Wisniewski, Tyutin-Nikitin and Erixon-Aucoin (with Ryan Murray, John Moore and David Savard waiting in the wings) should reduce the ‘Jackets Goals Against from last season’s conference-worst 262.
The only area of significant concern is in the Columbus crease. Is Sergei Bobrovsky the answer? Don’t be surprised to see Tyutin, Moore or Savard shipped to LA for goalie Jonathan Bernier.
New York: In acquiring Rick Nash, the Rangers sacrificed forward depth for goal scoring. The former face of the Columbus franchise will have an immediate impact on Broadway, however. With Marian Gaborik out until (most likely) December, Nash will keep the Rangers from falling behind early in the standings. Once Gaborik returns, it’ll be Katie-bar-the-door in the Eastern Conference. The Blueshirts forward lines should look something like this:
Even with Gaborik out for the first two months of the season, that lineup should be good for about 215 goals. Rangers d-men contributed 30 goals last campaign. With the blueline corps essentially unchanged, another 30 goals is realistic. 215+30=245 goals in 2012-13, a net change of +19 over last season. Assuming Henrik Lundqvist stays healthy and the Rangers’ committment to defense doesn’t waver, team Goals Against shouldn’t increase much over the 187 allowed in 2011-12.
Conclusion: All things considered, I’d call this trade a win-win. With two healthy 40-goal scorers on two different lines, the Rangers will be extremely difficult to stop. The keyword, of course, is “healthy”. Just a couple of injuries to New York forwards will result in significant ice time for not-ready-for-primetime players such as J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas and Chad Kolarik. With decent goaltending, Columbus could challenge for a playoff spot. Sound crazy? Consider this: The Blue Jackets are the only team in the Central Division to have improved thus far this summer.