MIXOLOGY: Forging The Identity
Editor's note: This is the latest installment of a weekly column from BlueJackets.com writer Rob Mixer, which will be featured exclusively on the CBJ Today blog. Be sure to follow Rob on Twitter at @RobMixer.
After a long and seemingly endless period of speculation, a Rick Nash trade was consummated earlier this week. But you already knew that.
For my money, the most important item to emerge from this story has been the clear-cut formation of an identity for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The words have echoed from the mouths of GM Scott Howson, head coach Todd Richards, and the players (both incumbent and newcomers): competitive, hard-working, fast, smart. This is the mold of a Blue Jacket, and the building of that type of team began in earnest at the trading deadline in February when a roster reshaping was in the works.
It's safe to say we're in the midst of that reshaping -- and the changes are drastic -- but they are in the best interest of the Blue Jackets. They desperately needed forwards and an increased presence at center ice, and one of the immediate options to remedy the void was in a Nash deal.
The New York Rangers were a willing dance partner and possessed the requisite assets to get a deal done. Sure, Columbus has traded away a star player and a guy who has scored 30 goals in the NHL on seven different occasions, but it had become clear that the team (as it was constructed) was not progressing.
And when things don't go according to plan, change happens. It's part of the business. It's part of life. The Blue Jackets needed to change their makeup and were up-front about it from the get-go, and Monday's trade signals a "changing of the guard" in bringing two young and well-rounded players into the fold.
Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov are two intensely driven players, and that's part of what makes them attractive pieces. The Blue Jackets don't need a game-breaker to win and the NHL's burgeoning parity is proving the theory true. They are team players, the guys you want sitting next to you in the dressing room when it comes time to clock in and go to work every single night.
They'll go through a wall for their teammates and pride themselves on doing the little things needed to win. Dubinsky has scored 20 goals twice in his five NHL seasons and put up 54 points in 2010-11 while drawing minutes in the Rangers' top six and with the specialty teams units.
He's got hands, grit, and a knack for skating "north" when the puck is on his stick -- and a lot of people think he's due for a rebound season after a self-proclaimed "down year" in 2011-12.
Anisimov is still just 24 years old and has seasons of 16 and 18 goals already. He's proven that he can score highly-skilled goals and fit in virtually anywhere throughout a lineup. "Artie" is entering an exciting period in his life, too; he's currently on his honeymoon but got the chance to Skype with Blue Jackets assistant GM Chris MacFarland yesterday, and Anisimov was really excited about the opportunity he's going to have with the Blue Jackets.
It's a fresh start for these two players, but it won't be foreign territory because they fit the profile of a Blue Jacket. They're surrounded by a group of teammates who rallied together at the end of a disappointing season and found a way to take a positive vibe into the summer, and now have the ability to hop aboard the train while it's in motion.
Dubinsky said it best when he met with the media earlier this week: with the right pieces in place, the establishment of a winning culture doesn't have to a process, but an opportunity.
Jack Johnson, R.J. Umberger, Vinny Prospal, Derek Dorsett, James Wisniewski and others form a more-than-capable leadership group that isn't afraid to hold the group accountable and say what needs to be said. There are some fierce competitors in that group and guys who are sickened by losing, a quality that the Blue Jackets' young players can feed off.
What's most exciting for me is that the Blue Jackets won't be a flashy or glamorous group. It may sound odd, but glitz can sometimes be dangerously confused with a guarantee (what's the line from "Tommy Boy" about a guarantee?). From a fan's perspective, the one guarantee I would be looking for is that my team shows up every night and competes like crazy -- win or lose.
This edition of the Columbus Blue Jackets is going to be aggressive, combative, hard-working, and above all else, entertaining as hell to watch.