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June 22, 2008 | 10:05pm ET
Blue Jackets are on the right course
TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta explains why the Columbus Blue Jackets are heading in the right direction.
 

[OTTAWA, ON] -- I don't know why everyone's so upset with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Did I miss the memo? What did they do wrong?

I've received quite a few emails from fans proclaiming their disappointment and disgust with the Blue Jackets following the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. What's with all the commotion?

Heading into the Draft, there was a lot of hype surrounding the Blue Jackets and their need to make a significant change or two. Patrick Marleau's name was tossed around as a possible acquisition; the team was supposedly dangling the No. 6 pick as trade bait; and there was some belief that GM Scott Howson would wave his magic wand and leave Ottawa with a brand new team.

While he wasn't able to get his hands on a first-line center to play alongside Rick Nash, Howson did manage to improve his team.

On Friday, during the first-round, the Blue Jackets brought in restricted free agent R.J. Umberger from Philadelphia. No, "Umberger" isn't German for "Ryan Malone," but the 26-year-old forward has a lot of offensive upside and will fill the void of David Vyborny, who doesn't look like he'll be returning to Columbus.

"He's a versatile competitive player," Howson told me about his new player. "He's played for our coach [Ken Hitchcock] before as a young player in Philadelphia. We think there's more offense there. He'll play probably be in our top-six, and he'll play either center or wing; he can play either position."

Calm down, Blue Jackets fans. The fact that Umberger can play center isn't code for "we've found our No.1 guy."

Umberger will step in on the second-line and the Blue Jackets are hoping his 10 goals in 17 playoff games will translate to more than the 50 regular-season points he tallied in 2007-08.

Howson will be actively pursuing a top-line center between now and, well, until he gets his hands on one. But more on that in a little bit, as there's another player the Blue Jackets added to their roster that people seem to be a little upset over.

With the sixth pick in the draft, the Blue Jackets selected Nikita Filatov.

Yes, I know he's Russian. Yes, I know there are a few question marks surrounding his ability to jump over to the NHL. And yes, I'm aware the last player named "Nikita" selected in the first-round was mega-bust Nikita Alexeev in 2000 (sorry, Tampa).

But, this kid already speaks English, so we know he's already ahead of Evgeni Malkin in one department.

"The draft was so strong at the top," Howson said. "We were very comfortable that whoever fell to six we were going to be happy with. Filatov is a dynamic young player. I think he'll be a good fit in Columbus whenever he's ready for the NHL."

Some compare Filatov to Nikolai Zherdev, without the drama, and while that's partially true, this 18-year-old appears to have more upside, and Zherdev hasn't come close to his peek yet.

The Blue Jackets made two solid additions to their team this weekend. Umberger, once signed, will make an immediate impact, and when Filatov's ready for the big leagues, he'll add great skill to a team in need of some.

As mentioned, Howson and his staff will be on the lookout for a few extra pieces this summer.

While a top-line center will likely come via the trade route, and Marleau isn't Howson's only option, the Blue Jackets will look to fill a few more holes via free agency.

Defenseman Ron Hainsey will test the market and if he signs elsewhere, he'll need to be replaced, and Colorado's John-Michael Liles and Buffalo's Dmitri Kalinin could be options.

If Hainsey stays, and sources suggest that might be a big IF, the Blue Jackets will still be on the lookout for another blueliner. Columbus is likely to pitch an offer for Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik and possibly the Rangers' Michal Rozsival on July 1, if they're available.

Up front, the team could use another top-six winger and Penguins' UFA Ryan Malone and Montreal's Michael Ryder will be looked at. They'll also be looking for a third-liner, likely a center.

The Blue Jackets kicked off the summer with two quality additions. Keep the faith, Blue Jackets fans; they're not done yet.


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.
 

 

 

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