Just a few days before the 2014 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers traded a 7-year veteran and assistant captain to the Columbus Blue Jackets for R.J. Umberger and a 4th round pick, a deal that Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen absolutely won. Umberger has been declining the last few years, and was scratched more than a few times at the end of last season. But just because Philadelphia got worse doesn't mean we still can't love...
Player We Love: Scott Hartnell
The flowing red curls of the 32-year-old Saskatchewanan (Saskatchewanian?) will now be donning a red, white & blue sweater, and could be the piece that makes the Blue Jackets a legitimate playoff team in the East. Outside of a down year in 2009-10, Hartnell has been a consistent 20-goal scorer in the league since the '04-'05 lockout. And he also adds a much needed physical presence to a slender Blue Jackets lineup.
Columbus finished the season with the 10th most penalty minutes, and 7th in the league in fighting majors. But with 5 different skaters with 5+ fighting majors--and names like Jared Boll, Nick Foligno, and Matt Calvert among them--there was no leader in the team toughness department. Hartnell brings that.
Hartnell has 57 career fighting majors, and has finished a full regular season with less than 100 penalty minutes only three times in his 13-year career. He registered 155 hits to go with his 20-32-52 point totals in his final year with the Flyers. But with his contract/point total ratio creeping into "overpaid" territory, and Hartnell being signed through the 2018-19 season, Philadelphia decided to cut the contract terms by two years for the lesser-yet-comparable Umberger.
In addition to his grit, Philly will no doubt miss Hartnell's playmaking ability. While his point total may not be elite anymore, he led the Flyers in 2013-14 in iFenwick/60 when 5-on-5, and was 2nd on the team during the Powerplay. Assuming Nathan Horton remains the Power Forward for the first line, Hartnell will be the veteran anchor on the 2nd line alongside the up-and-coming Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson.
But Scott, I will miss you. You are one of the few remaining "old school" hockey players--true grit and skill. I hope you still find time to take jabs at the Rangers' bench. It'll be as strange seeing you in a Blue Jackets uniform as it will be seeing Thornton as a Panther. Stay classy, Hartnell.
Player City We Love to Hate: Columbus
Since the Blue Jackets really don't have a player to hate, let's look at the city itself.
Why does the 3rd city in Ohio have a hockey team? I know that Cleveland and Cincinnati are smaller in terms of population and land area, but Columbus? Columbus? Your media market is ranked lower than Hartford, CT (#BringBackTheWhalers).
Bettman, if you wanted to expand the brand, Cincinnati is a bigger media market, and Cleveland fans follow their three teams blindly despite them hot having won a thing since 1964. The only other professional team in Columbus is the Columbus Crew of the MLS, who has been struggling to fill 80% of their stadium's capacity.
Nothing good comes from or resides in Columbus. Biggest things to come out of Columbus, Ohio? Randy Savage (RIP), (Lil') Bow Wow, and Rascal Flatts.
Here are some better media markets than Columbus that don't have hockey teams: Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. You know what else these are? Cold-weather markets, primed for hockey. They also all have arenas--Seattle's is completely empty, and the other houses the Trailblazers. You could also at least go for a comparable market that might enjoy another professional sports, like Milwaukee, who only has the Packers. But no. Columbus is it. We need a franchise here, even though the Conferences are lop-sided, the TV ratings are poor, and the attendance is third-worst in the league percentage-wise.
Sorry, Blue Jackets. You've been in Columbus 13 years too-long. Time to ditch this horrible sports city for a town and fan-base that might actually watch your hockey team.