Well, I think the dust has cleared...
The moves by GM Scott Howson have been pretty well noted, but a quick recap...
Added R.J. Umberger, Mike Commodore, Christian Bachman, Fedor Tyutin, and Kristian Huselius. Gone are Gilbert Brule, Danny Fritsche, and the enigmatic Nikki Zherdev. Still around are Mike Peca and Hitch.
My opinion is we are definitely a stronger club, especially on the back end. Down the middle we're better than we were a year ago, even if R.J. has to move up to play on the top line with Nash, and most likely Huselius.
What the moves didn't really do for me was get me excited about how many goals we're going to score. I still feel we're a player or two short in the scoring department, and shipping off Zherdev put a big blow to that goal total. Especially considering the move netted two mid-range defensemen.
On the blue line, Howson didn't net the big, numer one, puck-moving, power-play-quarter-backing defenseman. We lost Hainsey, who wasn't that guy - and in my opinion iffy in our own zone at best - but didn't really add a guy who put the puck on net like Ronny. Overall the blue line is upgraded, and should be getting the puck out of our zone. Nashville pulled the whole "overhaul the blueline" thing a few years ago, and it worked pretty well for them. And they found Kimmo Timmonen in the process.
Even though we didn't get the big #1 d-man, and are still a scorer short, I still can't help but get exicted about the upcoming season. First off, I'm a fan, so there's always some hope in the offseason.
First of all I'm excited for this season because Howson and Hitch seem to be building an actual team rather a collection of individuals. One by one, Howson's moves make you scratch your head, especially the Zherdev one. But, the overall result is going to be a stronger defensive team, and a team more committed to playing the system Hitchcock has in place. So, while there is much dissention on message boards, we don't know how the team will fare on the ice this fall at all. This is the most change any of us have seen to the line up since we participated in the expansion draft.
Secondly, we look to have two or three rookies coming in that aren't being rushed, that have the playmaking ability that made them top draft picks, and won't have the deer in the headlights look on their face all season. Brassard looks to be a lock at center at this point, and it's three years after he was drafted, so he's got some seasoning. He's also got about 15 more pounds on him since we saw him in January. Add Voracek to the mix, and possibly even Filatov, and could the Jackets be this year's version of the Kane and Toews show in Chicago last year? From a fan stand point, it's about our turn, isn't it?
The slow time of the offseason is almost upon us, so things will drag. But once again, for the umpteenth summer in a row, I'm again looking forward to what happens on the ice in September.