Could John Davidson keep Rick Nash with the Blue Jackets?
The "what ifs" in this story by Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline are Costco-sized, but for a struggling franchise like the Columbus Blue Jackets it's the most tantalizing news of the offseason. Well, next to Steve Mason finally taking a seat on the pine in favor of another goaltender come this fall.
John Davidson is the much-respected president of hockey operations with the St. Louis Blues, whose future with the team has been uncertain since Tom Stillman purchased it earlier this year. He has three more years remaining on a deal that'll pay him $6 million.
That's a lot of scratch for a hire that Stillman didn't make; Davidson had a 30-day window that started May 9 allowed him to speak with other clubs.
One of those clubs, according to Portzline, was the Columbus Blue Jackets on May 29, as Davidson interviewed with majority owner John P. McConnell and club president Mike Priest.
What would this mean for Columbus, and for the potential for Rick Nash to remain there?
It's unclear what role Davidson might fill with the Blue Jackets, or how his addition would affect the role of Priest, or others. In St. Louis, he presided over an experienced and accomplished hockey operations staff, but Columbus has one of the most inexperienced front offices in the NHL.
Also to consider is what impact Davidson's arrival would have on the impending trade of Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, who asked to be traded last winter after he was told by management that the Jackets were rebuilding. One NHL source said he suspected a meeting between Davidson and Nash would be one of the first items on Davidson's agenda should he join the Blue Jackets.
(Interesting, by the way, that the Dispatch ran a column putting Davidson over on the same day he interviewed with the Jackets brass. Coincidence, or …)
It's been hard to imagine a scenario through which Nash remains a Blue Jacket after GM Scott Howson tossed him under the bus during the trade deadline. Perhaps the only hope was the altruistic nature of his trade demand: That he felt he could help the Jackets by asking for a trade. As teammate Derek Dorsett categorized it:
"Rick loves Columbus, he loves it here. He loves this organization. It's one of those things where it's a business and he thought maybe he could help this organization."
Now, Davidson could come in, talk to Nash and decide the best thing is for the Jackets to reload with the bounty he'd return. Or, perhaps it could go another way, with the captain buying into a new plan.
Beyond Nash or any other on-ice issue, Davidson would bring two things the Blue Jackets lack to their front office: a track record of success, and a significant voice of encouragement to fans.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last month:
The Blues were coming off a season in which they finished last in the NHL with 57 points and attendance at Scottrade Center reflected the performance on the ice, with the team playing to a half-empty house.
With a restricted budget, the Blues built through the draft, selecting players such as Erik Johnson, David Perron, Patrik Berglund and Alex Pietrangelo. Visible on numerous TV and radio commercials, Davidson implored fans to "come grow with us."
Rebuilding is a bitch. So is losing. What leads a fan base through that mire is hope and confidence. The current regime in Columbus doesn't inspire either. Davidson wouldn't just inspire it because he's someone new; he'd inspire it because that's what he does.