Blue Jackets Offseason Stumbles Started with Saad

The Columbus Blue Jackets should not have traded for Brandon Saad.

There, I said it. Nobody can accuse me of burying the lead.

This is in no way a criticism of Saad, he was just simply not what the Blue Jackets needed to compliment their strengths, or address their weaknesses in the offseason.

Columbus finished last season on a strong note led by their young, emerging offensive stars. There were some positives among their defense such as the play of David Savard and the promise that Ryan Murray would return healthy next year. But despite the bright spots, the blueline was the unquestioned blemish on the face of the team. In fact it was statistically the worst in the league. This needed to be addressed, along with the team’s forward depth. Needless to say, it was not.

We will rejoin the Saad discussion in a bit, as there are a couple of other offseason issues to address. Ok, so I’m kind of burying the lead.

Mistakes Aplenty

Mark Letestu was not one of those young offensive stars, but he was an important part of this team. The decision to let him walk in free agency, and then the signing of Gregory Campbell was just bad business.

Rumors from strong sources connected Columbus to Christian Ehrhoff and, to a lesser extent, Cody Franson. It was thought that Ehrhoff was offered a lowball contract that was never very serious. Both of these defenders would have been considerable upgrades.

Now Back to the Saad Deal

As previously mentioned bringing in Saad, and signing him to a big contract, all but eliminated the possibility of bringing in a top defenseman. It forced the team to continue to be dependant on a top-pairing of Jack Johnson and David Savard, and that just isn’t good enough.

Blue Jackets fans have been admirable defenders of Johnson, but the statistics do not lie. He is in many ways a defensive liability. So far in 2015 he has a plus/minus rating of -16, which makes him one of four Blue Jackets players to be negative in the double digits. That includes William Karlsson (-17), Nick Foligno (-11), and Johnson’s partner David Savard (-13). Johnson has top-pairing offensive skills, but what he gives up is not a fair trade-off.

Savard, as I have stated in the past, would be a nice second-pairing defender, but to expect him to be a top-pairing anchor, and then give him a contract that reflects those expectations simply isn’t fair.

In the deal for Saad, the Blue Jackets also gave up promising young forward Marko Dano, who very well may end up with a similar NHL footprint as Saad. Also throw in center Artem Anisimov who has performed well for Chicago, and his absence only further complicates the Columbus forward depth situation.

Basic Needs not Addressed

General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen simply did not address the basic needs of this team: defensive deficiencies that allow a weak top-pairing and Dalton Prout on the roster, as well as forward depth that give important roles to David Clarkson, Rene Bourque, and Gregory Campbell.

When Kekalainen traded for another high-end forward, he added an unnecessary asset. Again, this is in no way a knock against Saad. The Pittsburgh-native is a great player and will be an asset for years to come. He just wasn’t what they needed at that particular time.

Hindsight is 20/20, and clearly this team has deeper issues than just getting Saad instead of a defender. It may be a good thing that he was brought over from Chicago. The Blue Jackets need a player to be the face of the franchise, and it doesn’t appear that Ryan Johansen is much interested in filling the position.

Until next time.