Commentary: A big day, but a bigger game

Thursday, 04.04.2013 / 3:00 PM
By Rob Mixer - BlueJackets.com / CBJ Today

The early part of yesterday's NHL trade deadline bonanza was more like a pitcher's duel: an exercise in strategic positioning, shrewd signals and no tipping of the hands.

For those folks who took the day off work to enjoy the trade deadline with friends, have some beers and relax, they got their wish on the relaxing part with a lack of activity around the league until the 2 p.m. hour struck. As it does every year, the final hour before the deadline had an almost-Pavlovian effect -- and then it all kicked into high gear.

To continue on this baseball analogy, the Blue Jackets began to make their move as the day went along. When talks became serious on Marian Gaborik, it was like GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the hockey operations staff started to get runners on base and then move them over...slowly but surely.

By roughly 2:15 p.m. ET, they had agreed on a major deal with the Rangers and had loaded the bases.

With the final approval from Gaborik himself, the 31-year-old star forward cleared the bases by showing no hesitation in joining the Blue Jackets. Kekalainen and Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson had orchestrated the biggest deal of deadline day and made waves around the hockey world by acquiring a crucial piece in their playoff push -- but the most incredible thing is they did so without compromising the future of the organization.

Does that sound familiar? Well it should, because it's exactly what management said it would not do. There was no interest in rental players from the Blue Jackets, and Kekalainen said they would only show interest in moving a first-round pick if it were lottery-protected; a new twist in the NHL draft lottery process is that all non-playoff teams are involved, meaning the Kings or Rangers (both teams who had first round picks now owned by Columbus) could win the lottery and obtain the No. 1 overall pick if they missed the playoffs.

The Blue Jackets stuck to their game plan with regard to the future, but they also had a keen and aggressive eye on the present. Sitting one point out of a playoff spot with 12 games to play - the biggest of which taking place in just a few hours at Bridgestone Arena - they wanted to add to the current group and boost the offense.

By acquiring Gaborik, Blake Comeau and bolstering the goaltending with Michael Leighton, it's safe to say Jackets management got a lot of things accomplished yesterday.

But now that the deadline has passed, it's time for the Blue Jackets to convert their excitement and invigoration from the past 24 hours into success on the ice. With precious time left in the regular season and seemingly no competing teams ready to drop out of the race, the Blue Jackets only have one option -- win, win...and win.

As the saying goes this time of year, the most important game is the next game, and the Blue Jackets don't need reminded of what happened in their last trip to the Music City. They were feeling pretty good and riding a 12-game points streak, and got jumped out of the gate as the Predators scored four times in the first 10 minutes of the game.

They didn't let that bad feeling fester for long, and battled through a 1-0 shootout loss in Vancouver before heading back to Columbus with a big 6-4 win in Calgary to close out a four-game trip. The exclamation mark on the week came last Sunday afternoon when Mark Letestu tallied the game winner over the Anaheim Ducks, vaulting Columbus into eighth place and setting the stage for an exciting week.

This time of year, all one can ask for is management to do whatever it can to make the team better. Now that Davidson and Kekalainen have done their part, it's in the hands of the coaches and players to step up, grab hold of the rope, and keep this thing going in the right direction.

Buckle up.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Johansen 82 33 30 3 63
J. Wisniewski 75 7 44 0 51
B. Dubinsky 76 16 34 5 50
C. Atkinson 79 21 19 -4 40
A. Anisimov 81 22 17 -2 39
N. Foligno 70 18 21 5 39
R. Umberger 74 18 16 -3 34
M. Letestu 82 12 22 1 34
J. Johnson 82 5 28 -7 33
B. Jenner 72 16 13 6 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 32 20 5 .923 2.38
C. McElhinney 10 11 1 .909 2.70
 
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