McGreevy: Blue Jackets solidify defense at 2012 NHL Draft

By: Matt McGreevy
@mcmatthew4

Columbus, OH – By the time Ryan Murray descended from the stage in the CONSOL Energy Center, the Blue Jackets team store had already stocked memorabilia with their top pick’s name on it. Murray’s jersey hung next to that of Columbus’ newest goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Together the sweaters were a symbol of change, though individually, they were only pieces to the puzzle the Blue Jackets desperately needs to solve.

In the hours prior to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft Columbus addressed its goaltending situation by acquiring Bobrovsky from Philadelphia in exchange for a few picks. The Blue Jackets then selected Murray with the second-overall pick to bolster their already strong blue line.

Though the majority of the draft day attention revolved around Rick Nash trade talks, Howson was smart to divert his attention to Columbus’ void between the pipes. In the time before the draft, the market for available goalies began to shrink for a variety of reasons.

Boston’s Tim Thomas announced his plans to take a year away from hockey. There was a growing understanding that Roberto Luongo’s no-trade clause meant it would be hard for a one-playoff appearance team to land him. Josh Harding re-signed with the Minnesota Wild. And adding the Maple Leaf’s Jonas Gustavsson to the lineup would have entailed a two- step process, negotiating for his rights and signing him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

These obstacles made Howson’s decision to pursue and ultimately land Bobrovsky more conceivable. Although the Blue Jackets traded three picks in the deal, had Howson waited to explore his options or perhaps tried his hand in free agency, he would have the risked making Steve Mason the uncontested starter next season.

Training camp will decide which netminder is better suited for the starting role. Bobrovsky will not rise to the top of the depth chart simply because Mason has struggled in past years. While it may seem dangerous for a team to solve its goaltending woes by adding a backup goalie, the competition between Bobrovsky and Mason could produce a dynamic similar to that of 2012 Jennings Trophy winners Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak.

The Blue Jackets’ defense focused draft continued when they selected Murray from the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips. Howson said he heard a couple interesting offers for Columbus’ first round selection, but when the Oilers selected Nail Yakupov with the first overall pick, he stopped listening. Murray was the top prospect on the Blue Jackets radar. His leadership, character, and hockey sense struck a chord with Columbus.

The 18-year old defenseman joins an established Blue Jackets blue line. His only lacking attribute, physicality, should not be much of a detriment considering his skilled body positioning and the likelihood he will play alongside a teammate with a more domineering physical presence. Finding adequate playing time will probably be his biggest obstacle, though Howson put the team in a better position by adding to an already solid defensive core.

Having addressed the defense, Columbus can now place majority of its attention on moving Nash and adding more goal-scorers. Howson’s to-do list has slimmed, but the bulk of his offseason responsibilities lie ahead.

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