Blue Jackets News & Notes for March 2012

  • There has been plenty of  scuttlebutt in the Canadian press regarding the Blue Jackets 1st round draft pick in the upcoming 2012 NHL draft. Marc Antoine Godin of La Presse reported that not only are the Blue Jackets considering trading the pick, but that they are likely going to trade it. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun weighed in with his belief that general manager Scott Howson will keep the pick, but bypass consensus #1 talent RW Nail Yakupov to draft Swedish LW Filip Forsberg. I have no issues with Howson shopping the pick, as another general manager could make him an insane offer for the pick. General managers can fall in love with players and overpay to get them, and it’s easy to fall in love with a player like Yakupov. As for Forsberg I don’t see Howson drafting him unless he sees something in Forsberg that others don’t. He’s young for his draft year, more than a year younger than Yakupov, and he’s playing in the Swedish version of the AHL and holding his own against grown men. Howson could see shades of Gabriel Landeskog in Forsberg and be intrigued by his potential. If Howson has indeed decided that Forsberg is the guy, he would be remiss to not at least attempt to trade down as Forsberg isn’t expected to go in the top three.
  • There haven’t been many bright spots this season, but the biggest drop-off in play is that of R.J. Umberger. After posting back-to-back seasons of 20+ goals and 50+ points Umberger is on pace to have his worst season as a Blue Jacket and has yet to crack the 30 point barrier. Indicative of his poor play, he sports a 6.7% shooting percentage (tied for 409th in the league). Umberger has never been known for his shooting ability, getting by more on grit, determination and his work around the net, but going into this season he sported a very respectable career 10.9% shooting percentage. Umberger’s precipitous drop in production is especially troubling considering he’s playing top line minutes. Next season Umberger’s new contract extension kicks-in which pays him $4.6 million until 2016-17. The Blue Jackets are hoping Umberger’s shooting percentage and overall play improves to go with his new salary.
  • In a recent report by Columbus Dispatch beat writer Shawn Mitchell it was revealed that goaltender Steve Mason only recently
    Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason (Dave Gainer/THW)

    found out he was allowed to wear larger pads than he was using. Goaltending coach Ian Clark helped Mason re-design his gear and the difference since has been staggering. After looking lost and possibly headed for a buyout Mason has been positively stellar since the change. His record since is 8-4-1 including victories over potential playoff teams Colorado, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix, and Calgary. Certainly some of the improvement could be mental, but Mason’s body language has changed as well. He appears more confident, and as a result it appears his teammates appear to have more confidence in him. Before the stretch of good play I would have put Mason’s chances of being on the Blue Jackets roster next year at 50/50 at best. If his play continues to the end of the year I think his return is guaranteed, possibly even in a backup role.