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NHL trade deadline looms – What to do?

By Tom

The NHL General Managers have been meeting in Toronto this week, which more or less kicks off the league’s trade deadline season.  With the trade deadline on April 3rd, that gives us just under two weeks to see whether the Columbus Blue Jackets new management team of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekäläinen will work aggressively to either make a playoff push or nudge the team toward a lottery pick in the upcoming NHL draft…or stand pat and see where the chips fall.  Three scenarios, each worthy of consideration.

GO FOR IT

Conventional wisdom from people much smarter than I suggests that the Western Conference playoff cutoff will be something like 53 or 55 points.  Considering that the Blue Jackets have 30 points in 30 games right now, that means that they will need to accumulate another 25 points in the remaining 18 games to be reasonably safe in securing the number eight seed and make the playoffs.

How does 11-4-3 (or better) down the stretch sound?  Do you think that the Blue Jackets can do it?  Does it matter that 12 of those last 18 games are on the road?

GREATEST TANK BATTLES

To “tank” means to essentially give up on the season, sell off assets and position the team for a terrific draft pick.  And while there’s plenty of conversation over what it will take to reach up and snag a playoff spot, I have not heard word one of the opposite end of the spectrum.  So what will it take for the Blue Jackets to really tank this season and butt the inhabitants of the NHL’s sub-basement out of a prime draft slot?

I looked at the worst five teams in the league and extrapolated their records against a 48-game schedule to get a rough idea of how bad the Blue Jackets would have to be.  Here’s what I came up with:

* Calgary – 26 points in 27 games = 46 points

* Colorado – 26 points in 29 games = 43 points

* Buffalo – 26 points in 30 games = 42 points

* Washington – 25 points in 29 games = 41 points

* Florida – 22 points in 30 games = 35 points

Looking another step up the rankings, Philadelphia has 27 points in 30 games, putting them on a 43-point pace.  So it’s probably going to take a 42 or 43 point season to make the draft lottery.

By comparison, Columbus has 30 points in 30 games, which has them trending toward 48 points if you equally balance their rough start with their 11-game point streak of late.  A 43-point season would mean that the Blue Jackets would need to go 5-10-3 down the stretch.

Is a run on antacids in Central Ohio worth a top draft pick?

DO NOTHING

We’ve learned that the team is trending toward a 48-point season.  It’ll take 55 points to make the playoffs, and 43 points puts you in the draft lottery.  Seven points away from the post-season, five points away from sitting at the Counter of Shame, wondering if your name will get called to bump your team up to the top draft pick.  (I know, the lottery was expanded in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement.  But it’s about the imagery at this point, folks…)

Is there a tougher position to be in than where the Blue Jackets are right now?

This writer hopes that the Blue Jackets brass sits on their hands and lets a couple more games play themselves out.  Games against Calgary (home), Nashville (away) and Vancouver (away) get us to next Wednesday – one week before the deadline.  Hopefully, things will be clearer by that point.

If the team wins out – or even goes 2-1 with a win in Vancouver, a sign of toughness on a much higher level – I’d probably be inclined to go for it.  If the Blue Jackets slip, I’d be tempted to listen to offers from other teams for players who aren’t projected to be part of the core going forward.

And no matter how enticing it is to say, “Let’s just watch the season play itself out,” and do nothing…I just don’t see that as a positive.  Missing the playoffs, especially after this incredible run of late, would hurt, but it would be partially soothed by a top draft pick and knowledge that the team will have a bona fide star in the making going forward.  Without either, what do fans get?  Early golf and a mid-round draft pick?

On the other hand, maybe the New York Rangers, whose first rounder in this draft was traded to Columbus, might do the tanking for us.  A guy can dream, right?

What do you think?  Go for it, tank, or stand pat?

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