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With Rick Nash gone, Blue Jackets moving on with new identity

Sean Leahy
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Who would have thought that the final full week in July would be so busy with hockey news? Kris Versteeg, Lubomir Visnovsky and Rick Nash all made waves on Monday, with the Columbus Blue Jackets finally dealing their captain after months of trying and oh so many rumors.

Nash entered the Blue Jackets organization in their third year of existence in the NHL. At the end of the 2007-08 season the then-23-year old was named the franchises' fifth captain. He's been the face of the organization for a long time, devoting himself through nine seasons with just four playoff games and a single winning record over that time. It was a long break up, one that had to occur eventually as long as GM Scott Howson was staying in charge.

Now, as the Columbus Dispatch's Shawn Mitchell points out, Jared Boll is your longest-tenured Blue Jacket, having joined the club in 2007.

While trading the franchise's best player signals a huge change in the direction of the franchise, the captain's absence isn't being panned by Blue Jackets fans.

Many, like Mike MacLean of The Cannon, understood the tough spot Howson was in and feel he made the best of a bad situation going forward:

At first I was underwhelmed, but the more I think about it, the more I like the deal, given the circumstances. I feel for Howson, he was in a terrible position from the get-go, and did well to add players that can help the team win now, and assets to help the team in the future. It remains to be seen what kind of impact a player who recently held-out, a player who demanded a trade from the team that drafted him, a young Russian and a late first rounder will have, but if nothing else, it feels good to have the Rick Nash saga come to a close.

Tom from The Dark Blue Jacket feels the Columbus roster didn't take a hit:

It's always a gamble to trade a top-level talent, but I won't come out and say that the Blue Jackets lost the trade.  Not in the least.

The money is roughly even, but the statistics of this trade favor the Blue Jackets.  If forced to make a grand pronouncement, the Blue Jackets' talent pool leveled out considerably.  No longer will the CBJ be "Rick Nash and Friends" …it'll be a cadre of mid-level talents, something I've been hoping to see as I think it will make the Blue Jackets harder to defend over the course of the season.

The challenge, of course, is to recognize that Nash is one player and the Rangers gave the Blue Jackets three.  It stands to reason that the Blue Jackets will have to displace at least one additional 2011-12 top six forward to make room for the two new ex-Ranger forwards.  How much scoring productivity will that displaced player take with them?

The Union Blue sees a change in the identity for the Blue Jackets, one team centered, not Rick Nash centered:

My thoughts on the team moving forward are very positive.  The Blue Jackets have removed themselves from an enormous shadow of an individual who could not take them where the fan base and the organization so badly want to go. They have replaced that shadow with more players who will fight for playing time and become a part of a new identity, a new look, and a new attitude towards winning. The vacancy at captain will also be a welcome change, with a number of current Blue Jackets players being fine options. In many ways, this trade will allow the Blue Jackets to be a core, rather than 'the house that he built.'

Derick Brassard, who spoke with Mitchell after the deal was announced, feels the same way:

"I don't think we have a superstar in the lineup but we have guys with character, guys who work hard and guys who are going to make other teams pay the price," Brassard said. "With Rick gone, maybe we're going to need five, six, seven guys with 20 goals and that's how we're going to be successful. Dubinsky, I really like his game. Same with (Nick) Foligno and Anisimov. They play with edge and that's what we need. That's going to be our identity."

Will these changes, however, be enough to start the franchise moving in a successful direction or will they still be treading water at the bottom of the Central Division?

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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