Scott Howson takes a lot of heat. Some of it deserved, some of it just plain silly. Could things with Nash have smoothed over? Possibly. But even for a hockey player who’s the face of a franchise Rick Nash played an unbelievably passive aggressive game with the media, the fans, the Columbus team and well anyone not his agent. No one can blame him for wanting to go to a place that will improve his chances to win.  The way he did it probably half a step below Dany Heatley’s methodology and without having ever faced the pressure of a long established hockey market.

So what do we know about Scott Howson’s plan going forward. Well, he’s nailed down three of the planks any good team is built on. Depth is number one. As the Sedin twins, Stamkos and company, and others have well illustrated over the years you can’t win with just one or two elite talents and a roster full of four-A players. With Dubinsky who might prove to be a top center if given room to grow but is already comparable to Kesler or Plekanec they have one undeniable top two center. Anisimov gives more offensive talent at a younger age than second and third lines have seen in Columbus.

Defense is the tricky one to build. Defensemen as rule take longer to mature than forwards, but they tend to stay at their top level longer. With Wisniewski and Johnson as two veteran mentors to younger players Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray are less likely to get thrown into the deep and and left to flounder like Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers. Taking that two hundred games to learn defense at the NHL level will give the Blue Jackets a more dynamic defensive unit in the near future than much of the central division can claim. Don’t overlook Nikita Nikitin as part of this defense. He’s an all situations defenseman who’ll end up playing top four minutes.

The model that has worked best in the last decade for building teams has been draft your core and fill in the rest later. The Penguins, BlackHawks, Bruins and Kings all boasted a lot of home grown talent when they hoisted the cup. This year the team will have three first round picks. While they could flip one or all of those for NHL players or NHL ready prospects, I would in no way be surprised if Howson uses all three selections. Hockey’s Future gives them a very low rating for total prospect pool talent and three first round draft picks of the right kind will go a long ways toward reversing that.  With the talent that is expected to be available in the first round next year, they could be a contending team in not too long if their goaltending can settle in and produce at an average level.

Some may not like Howson. Some make not like the Howson plan even if it didn’t have his name on it. That said, it does appear there is a plan, and he’s certainly demonstrated he won’t be deviating from it for anything less than direct godly intervention.

A rumor that Boston’s most famous hockey playing fashionista might be returning to the NHL this year set Bruins fans abuzz for hours. Anders Per Johan Axelsson known on this side of the pond simply as “PJ” was a stalwart member of the Black and Gold for a dozen NHL seasons. His penalty killing, work ethic, and fashion sense are greatly missed in some quarters. Axelsson’s agent did not return contact by the time this was published.

There is a new and exciting youth hockey league coming to the USA this fall. September will see the sixteen initial teams of the Midwest Junior Hockey League skate into action in two conferences of eight teams. The conferences will be broken down into four team divisions. The young men will chase the Veterans Memorial Cup. Tryouts, team locations and other information available at their website. Follow them on twitter @MWJHLHockey visit their site MWJHL and like them on Facebook. Tell them @PuckSage sent you.

Tyler Seguin is looking for a +1 for the Batman Dark KnightRises premiere.

Batman premiere tomorrow night. Anyone wanna be the plus 1
@tylerseguin92
Tyler Seguin

The former #2 pick, Stanley Cup Champion, Bruins 7th Player Award Winner, former NHL Young  Sttar and NHL All Star and committed Whole Foods shopper is apparently lacking in companionship. Please help him.

The everlasting gobstopper of hockey stories; Where’s Rick Nash going to be in October has not of course wasted away to a memory. Instead it lingers and brings two other important questions: Who will be captain when he leaves? Who will be the teams (token) All Star representative and likely the captain of one team? Assuming he goes it’s looking more and more like James Wisniewski could be a future NHL captain and All Star. Free popcicles for everyone, not just Sean Avery.

The Jordan Staal trade short circuited a hype fest that could have gone on all summer and right up to the trade deadline. It’s kinda disappointing honestly. Sure it’ll be fun to see how many times announcers and the press confuse them this season, but hey there are other players who we’ll all get to talk ourselves sick about.

Bobby Ryan:

The Ducks don’t want to move him. If they did they would have gotten in on some of the big name players in the last two years. Or they would have traded him for a boat load of picks in this draft. Left wing tends to be the weakest forward position for a lot of teams. And a team as starved for depth as the Anaheim is, shouldn’t be looking a signed all star in the mouth.

Jay Bouwmeester:

Anyone not smart enough to grab him when Florida was dangling him years ago, probably hasn’t wised up. A good solid stroll through the stats will show he’s being used much more defensively in Calgary than Florida. A deeper look will show that for the first two years he was there the scoring was more tightly concentrated than his last two years in Florida showing how much less talent the Flames had than the Panthers in forwards.

Zach Parise:

Despite the hopes and dreams of 29 other fan bases, I don’t see Zach moving on unless the Devils are getting ready to fold.

Patrick Kane:

Cabbies across the continent can rest peaceful in their beds. The 140lb bane of all livery drivers is a darling of ownership, and too promising a talent to be tossed aside for anything that hasn’t gotten to the point of criminal behaviour that threatens fans or team staff. Even if despite the denials of others he is the only twenty something millionaire to ever go out and party.

Tim Thomas:

Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely have spent forever bad mouthing him and trying to replace him. Those things don’t go hand in hand bros, you might wanna work on that.

Rick Nash:

Unless someone medicates Scott Howson or Nash and company expand their list, Rick Nash is likely to be a Columbus Blue Jacket for a while longer.

The trades in the first round were not hugely surprising, but added to the mystique. i can’t think of any of them even as bad trades. There were however two moves that just made me scratch my head.

The Edmonton Oilers are clearly still using the franchises last successful model. For those scoring at home, the last cup winning team for the Oilers was 1990. The sloppy fast math on that means 21 seasons have passed since the last time they hoisted Lord Stanley. Twenty one failures in a row with one model would indicate to most people that something needs to change. Clearly the Oilers organization is made of stern enough stuff to shrug off such mortal and pedestrian concerns.

In the last decades worth of drafts their scouting methods appear to be about as sound as blindfolding oneself at last call in a particularly seedy nightspot and expecting to leave with a ten. Sure it might happen, but the most successful defenseman they have drafted in that last decade is Matt Greene who played 151 games in an Oilers uniform. He’s won a Stanley Cup just a couple days back with the Los Angeles Kings.  Theo Peckham, taken in the second round of 2005 has played 156 games and recorded 17 points. Those are the two most successful defensemen drafted by the Oilers out of their last 33 defensemen drafted.

How is drafting another forward, however talented acceptable? The clearest possible needs were for quality defensemen who can get the puck out of their zone.

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The next big surprise was that Rick Nash didn’t move. With all the quality players floating about and all the teams with two plus in the top sixty, it almost seemed like a missed opportunity for the Columbus Blue Jackets to retool.

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When the Philadelphia Flyers were called to the podium, their team being booed loudly wasn’t a surprise. It was however a surprise with team with the most injury (and age) riddled defensive corps in the league mysteriously drafted a forward. Scott Laughton is likely to be quite good in the NHL. However for a team that may never get another shift from future hall of famer Chris Pronger, the 35 year old Kubina, the 37 year old Timonen, the soon to be 37 Lilja, certainly aren’t going to replace themselves. So what gives? Matt Finn, Olli Maatta, Jordan Schmaltz, a number of other quality defensive prospects were still on the board. Do they think Laughton will be the best bastion to protect the fragile and flighty Bryzgalov? Are they going to convert him to defense? Maybe in the future they’ll just skate forwards in all five skater positions? Your guess is as good as mine.

Change and unequal cycles of it are a constant in the NHL. The vogue for over a decade was to draft goalies in the first round, sometimes even very high or first overall. Drafting for need is now frowned upon. And in the last decade we’ve not seen more than two or three major trades. But that trend was almost certainly broken when Ilya Kovalchuk went north.

Since last summer two of the major names from “the golden draft” were traded by one team. One of them was traded a second time. Now the rumor mill is swirling around names from border to border and coast to coast. Jay Bouwmeester is one of the best (and most misused) defensemen in the NHL. There are four defensemen who I’ll accept flat statements of defensemen being better than him, and another four or five who with a different tool set are as good, no more. He’s likely the odd man out on the Calgary Flames roster.

The Nashville Predators have not traditionally been big spenders. A year ago they went to arbitration with one of the best defensemen in the game. This year if they don’t sign him long term it is quite likely he’ll disappear over the horizon next summer. On top of the very real possibility of losing this year’s (and last year’s) rightful Norris trophy winner Shea Weber, their other franchise quality defenseman has decided to test the free agent market. If the Predators can’t find a way to keep both they may just decide a radical rebuild is in order and trade their captain while they can still get something for him instead of letting him walk as a free agent for no return. Without Weber and Suter the Predators would be lucky to win 20 games, and that’s with Renne stealing at least six or seven. With one of them if they manage to get some help up front and a passable replacement they arguably have the balance to go far.

Jordan Staal has more rumors swirling around him than a Hollywood starlet the morning after an serious bender. Most of them are Hurricane shaped rumors. But given the 23 year old stars prowess, even the denial of his availability by Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Ray Shero probably won’t do much to dampen the rumors. As long as those rumors persist, the 30 goal scoring “defensive forward” is going to generate a lot of attention. If there are two teams in the NHL that don’t at least kick the idea of adding him to their roster around their warroom, I’d be saddened greatly.

With all the excitement around the fresh chum in the water its almost possible to forget the #Ranson4Rick saga is entering its sixth or seventh month. Rick Nash is unarguably a high end talent who had the misfortune of being drafted by a team with nearly a thimble full of clue. Some might say he’s been stewing in organizational failure so long he’s never going to have that extra juice to be successful in the playoffs he’s seen exactly once in nine seasons. Depending on who you disbelieve least, the rumors have him going anywhere and everywhere including the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, and a couple of basement dwellers not much better than the Blue Jackets.

 There are conflicting reports on the truth of Evander Kane refusing to sign in Winnipeg, but honestly how many rugged, physical, 30 goal scoring 20 year olds come across the trade market? On a sign and trade there’s no conceivable way he’d fetch less than two first round picks or a pick and player. A team like the Los Angeles Kings who may lose some bodies to free agency could certainly slide him into the mix and improve themselves. The Anahiem Ducks would likewise become a much more formidable opponent. As for the Phoenix Coyotes with the aging core that they have been built around, a youngster who has a similar rugged playing style to Captain Shane Doan and more offense isn’t a bad way to pass the torch. If the ownership situation is resolved there I’d be shocked if there were no major moves in the first few months.

So is this the summer scribes across the continent get to write about things that have or are happening? Will we see more posts on how lineups project and a reordering of the standings than on fighting or contracts that are too long? Maybe just maybe the hockey media will stick to hockey and not TMZ like personal life stories of players? Could we get a trade or two that redefines the next decade of hockey? Please??