On Saturday January 28 a group of angered Blue Jackets fans plan on holding a protest in the plaza outside Nationwide Arena. Hours later the NHL is reportedly set to announce Columbus as the 2013 host of the All-star game and festivities. The protest started as an idea on the popular HF Boards forum and spread rapidly from there. It has been a featured story on local news and radio stations and has been reported by ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Team owner John P. McConnell decided to respond to the planned protest with a public letter. The protest has sharply divided Blue Jackets fans. There are some who believe the protest to be an ill-timed and ultimately pointless move, one that could bring even more embarrassment to the struggling franchise. Management is aware of the failures of the team, they will make moves to correct their mistakes, they will learn and move on. Others believe the outpouring of angry and disenchanted fans will cause management to see that they will not take the repeated lost seasons with no repercussions. Fans pay good money to attend games and to see the same people continue running hockey operations for this organization is simply too much. They believe the roster needs to be overhauled, though not by the very people that created the mess the team is in. McConnell’s letter only served to add more fuel to the fire for those on the side of change, as he announced no intention of firing general manager Scott Howson or team president Mike Priest.
Better news for Blue Jackets fans leaked out Friday night when multiple sources announced Columbus as the host of the 2013 All-star game. The organization has applied for the game previously only to be turned down due to a lack of high-end hotel rooms in the arena district area and the financial instability of the team. The recent deal approved by Columbus City Council to purchase Nationwide Arena using casino money assures the team will stay in Columbus until 2039. That combined with the nearby Hilton hotel currently under construction appear to have met the necessary requirements of the NHL. Another probable factor in their favor is the lack of a precipitous drop in attendance despite the team’s woes. With the team mired in last place by a considerable margin the organization has somehow managed to increase attendance over last season. They are averaging over 14,000 fans per game, impressive considering how long the team has struggled.
On a recent podcast TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that Jeff Carter is “100% available.” While it really shouldn’t come as a huge shocker that just about any player on the Blue Jackets is available, it was still somewhat troubling to hear that the team is actively trying to shop a player they spent considerable resources acquiring this offseason. With his middling performance and injuries the value of Carter can only have diminished. For the Blue Jackets to turn around and trade him now means that either Carter is unhappy and has requested out, or the team is ready to do a major overhaul on the roster. There are the obvious pieces that will be moved before the deadline: Vinny Prospal, Sammy Pahlsson, and depending on his health Kristian Huselius. Moving pieces like Carter, R.J. Umberger, Derick Brassard, or possibly even Rick Nash would be much more surprising, but possibly necessary. While a lack of significant moves by the organization would be a stunning failure, it’s even more important for them to not make the situation any worse. They need to get maximum value for any players on the roster. It may be hard to do with some of the contracts Howson handed out, but there will be desperate teams at the deadline.