Winning the Vezina Trophy is an enormous accomplishment for 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky, but a new opportunity born from change may be even bigger.
Coming from an organization which signed him out of Russia and helped put him on track to become a solid, young NHL goaltender, Bobrovsky perhaps needed a change of scenery and a new challenge to jump-start his career after things got stale for the Flyers following the 2010-11 season. It was deemed time for change between the pipes and Bobrovsky was no longer "the guy."
He continued to work - that's pretty much his hallmark, if you talk to goaltending observers around the sport - and push forward in pursuit of getting another crack at being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. When he was traded to the Blue Jackets a year ago, his life and career completely changed.
Perhaps exactly what Bobrovsky needed was to take the reins of the Blue Jackets and be part of the club's extensive remake that began at the 2012 NHL Draft, selecting Ryan Murray at No. 2 overall and selecting two other young goaltenders to form a solid pipeline for the organization. A few weeks later, it was the acquisitions of Nick Foligno, Adrian Aucoin, and then the blockbuster deal with the New York Rangers that brought three players and a first-round draft pick back to Columbus.
The re-shaping was in full swing, and when John Davidson came aboard in October, there was a new confidence and attitude instituted.
Near the top of Darnell Nurse's list of attributes is an athletic pedigree.
His mother, Kathy, was basketball player and dad Richard was a wide receiver with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Oh, and his uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, making for quite the lineage when it comes to performing on the field.
The standout defenseman for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds just completed his second season of junior hockey, both with the Greyhounds, and the 2012-13 season was his strongest to date. Nurse netted 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games played, leading the Soo defense in a season that was anything but ordinary: the Greyhounds fired coach Mike Stapleton on Dec. 3 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe, who brought a track record of success and experience with Hockey Canada with him to the club.
The Greyhounds qualified for the OHL playoffs for the first time in three years in 2012-13, and a large part of that was due to stability on defense that allowed for a strong puck possession style of hockey. Nurse is known as a solid skater with a high hockey IQ, and a guy that can shut down offense as well as make plays of his own.
He's a monster, too: Nurse checks in at 6-foot-5 and a shade under 200 lbs., giving him an NHL-type frame that he's only going to further grow into. Scouts have regularly compared his game to that of Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber, and those lofty comparisons are not without merit.
Teams in the market for a steady, smooth-skating defenseman (read: many teams) may find themselves taking a long look at Mirco Mueller at the 2013 NHL Draft.
A year after his Everett Silvertips teammate and former defense partner Ryan Murray was selected No. 2 overall by the Blue Jackets, Mueller finds himself to be on the radar of several NHL clubs as draft day approaches. The 17-year-old native of Switzerland started to garner significant attention last season, as he stepped up and played big minutes after Murray's season-ending shoulder surgery in November.
The 2012-13 season was Mueller's first in North America after playing two seasons in Switzerland's Kloten organization, both with the big club and the junior squad. Mueller, who checks in at 6-foot-3 and roughly 180 pounds, has room to grow into his NHL-style frame but displayed an advanced, mature game as one of the younger players on Switzerland's 2013 World Junior tournament team.
Mueller was the 12th-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings and finished the draft year ranked No. 9, putting him in prime position to be a top-15 pick when the draft begins at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
This from the NHLPA's statement on proposed rule changes (specifically grandfathering the mandatory use of visors for the 2013-14 NHL season) by the Competition Committee, which met earlier this week in Toronto:
"Under the proposal, players who have played less than 25 NHL regular season or playoff games in their career by the end of the 2012-13 season, would be required to wear a visor. If given the green light by the NHLPA Executive Board and the NHL Board of Governors, the grandfather visor rule would come into effect for the start of the 2013-14 NHL season. The full NHLPA/NHL Competition Committee have agreed to meet next week to develop the transition rules regarding visor use."
The new-look Competition Committee held its first meeting today and took action on several issues surrounding the game.
Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, led the meeting which was attended by five NHL executives (general managers, owners, coaches), five NHL players and long-time referee Don Van Massenhoven. Among the league's contingent was Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, Flyers owner Ed Snider, Predators GM David Poile, Red Wings GM Ken Holland and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
The meeting concluded around 5 p.m. ET at the NHL's offices in Toronto. According to NHL.com, players present for the meeting were David Backes, Cory Schneider, Mike Cammalleri, Alex Pietrangelo and Ron Hainsey.
Among the items headed to the league's Board of Governors for approval: grandfathering mandatory use of visors for NHL players. After scary eye and facial injuries brought the issue of visors to the fore this past season - namely Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, who missed the remainder of the season and playoffs - the topic of grandfathering in mandatory use became more prevalent.
Every NHL team wants depth, competitiveness and options -- and sometimes those three go hand-in-hand-in-hand.
Over the past two seasons, the Blue Jackets have concentrated a significant amount of time and effort into building competitive depth throughout the organization, while at the same time giving themselves as many options as possible to improve the team in both the short and long term. When they acquired Jack Johnson from the Los Angeles Kings a year ago, they not only picked up a key piece of the club in Johnson, but also a first-round pick that they could use in either the 2012 or 2013 NHL Draft.
Then came the Rick Nash trade in July: the Blue Jackets bolstered depth at center ice and on defense, and also netted another first-round pick in this year's draft. In a year when the draft class is widely considered to be ripe with NHL talent, there's no such thing as too many assets (and really, is there ever such a thing?)With three first-round picks, it's pretty much a guarantee that the Blue Jackets' phone number will be a popular one - if it isn't already. Kekalainen has indicated to NHL.com and other outlets that the team's first rounders are in play, but only if a potential deal brings back young, established NHL-caliber help. That alone should raise some eyebrows around the league and up the level of activity leading up to the picks.
Here are a few of the options available to the Blue Jackets...
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Simply put: the timing was right for George Matthews.
One of the most recognizable faces and voices in Blue Jackets history made the decision to move on to the next chapter of his life today, officially stepping away as the team’s radio voice after 12 seasons.
Matthews will relinquish full-time radio play-by-play duties with the team, but plans to call a limited number of Blue Jackets games during the 2013-14 season and will take part in future team initiatives.
Matthews called the 1,000th game of his NHL career this season when the Blue Jackets played the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 16 at Jobing.com Arena – a deserving milestone for a man who has enjoyed a remarkable career that began years ago as a part-time broadcaster on Prince Edward Island.
“This has been a very difficult decision, but one I have been contemplating for some time and one that is in the best interest of my family and me,” Matthews said in a statement issued by the team. “I want to thank the McConnell family and Doug MacLean for giving me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of calling games in the NHL, as well as all of the players, coaches and staff I have worked with over the years and the great Blue Jackets fans who have made this a truly memorable part of my life.”
A schoolteacher turned broadcaster of 37 years, Matthews' career began in maritime Canada calling games for little to no pay, eventually landing a job with the Prince Edward Island Senators of the AHL. His longtime friend and former Blue Jackets president/GM Doug MacLean gave him his first opportunity at an NHL job in 1998, and as the cliche goes, the rest was history.
The Blue Jackets have worked hard to make goaltending a position of depth in the organization, and this morning, they solidified what they hope is another piece of their future.
Anton Forsberg officially inked his first entry-level contract with Columbus this morning, a three-year deal that gives him options when it comes to continuing his professional development. The 20-year-old native of Harnosand, Sweden, a small town on Sweden's east coast, spent the 2012-13 campaign with Sodertalje in HockeyAllsvenskan.
Blue Jackets assistant general manger Chris MacFarland confirmed this morning that Forsberg will attend the club's development camp later this summer.
Forsberg appeared in 33 games, recorded 24 wins and finished second in the league with a 2.04 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. The 6-foot-2, 176 lb. netminder was the Blue Jackets' sixth pick (188th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
He joins a strong stable of young goalies in the organizational pipeline that includes Oscar Dansk, Joonas Korpisalo and Martin Ouellette - giving goaltending coach Ian Clark an impressive group of pupils in the coming years.