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Spotlight on: centers

April 20, 2006

As part of our season ending process here at EOB, we will be examining the various position players on the Blue Jackets. We’ll give our opinions on the pros and cons, a little bit of salary info (if we can find it) and any other tidbits we find interesting. Today, the centermen get put under the microscope.

Centers

Sergei Fedorov
– Age – 36
– Status – Signed through 2007-08
– Pros – Is a seasoned pro who plays a smart, calm game. Locker room influence should help rising stars, especially Nikolai Zherdev. Able to play a lot of minutes in all game situations.
– Cons – In the past has not played to potential at times (lazyness). He has not shown this in Columbus, yet. Obviously past his prime compared to his award winning seasons in Detroit, not producing points as prodigiously as hoped upon signing.
– If I were GM/Coach – Should continue to center a top line in Columbus as long as he’s under contract. His influence on developing players will likely be worth the heavy cap hit he levies.

Gilbert Brule
– Age – 19
– Status – Signed through 2008-09
– Pros – In his limited time with the Jackets, EOB was impressed with his ice vision and his two-way play (rare commodities at his age). Scoring has not been a problem with his WHL junior team (not surprising).
– Cons – It is tough to tell at this time. One might say injuries, just from the limited time we’ve been able to see him in Columbus, but I don’t know if we can saddle that tag on him at this time. The biggest obstacle he had six months ago was the pressure of being the best pure centerman in the franchise. With Fedorov available to tutor him, the sky is the limit for Brule.
– If I were GM/Coach – Barring injury/bizarre free agent moves, Brule will center the second line for the Blue Jackets. In two years, he is seasoned enough to move up to the first line.

Jan Hrdina
– Age – 30
– Status – Unrestricted free agent
– Pros – He’s in the top 35 in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 51.9%. Uhhh, that’s about it.
– Cons – Nickname: Captain Hook. Need I say more. In the “new NHL”, where penalties are called with more frequency than in the past, Hrdina is fifth on the team in PIM with 78 behind bigger hitters Shelley, Westcott, Chimera, and Foote. You don’t want a guy who is your number three forward in ice time (read: used in all game situations including penalty killing) to be that high on the list. Especially when each time it’s a cheap-o hooking, holding, or tripping call. Some people regard PIM’s as a stat worth seeing up high. I’m not a member of that school, and Hrdina gets a failing grade from me.
– If I were GM/Coach – It’s been a year, thanks for the try-out. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but there can’t be any doubt he’s gone from the team.

Manny Malhotra
– Age – 25
– Status – Unrestricted free agent
– Pros – Centers the checking line well and has developed a good chemistry with linemates Chimera and Letowski. Provides a good physical presence against the top opposition line and is smart on the penalty kill. Best faceoff artist on the team at 56%
– Cons – Sometimes finds himself in the right place at the right time, but doesn’t have a great scoring touch. What will be his asking salary as a free agent?
– If I were GM/Coach – If we can keep Manny at a reasonable price (he’s a little over a half million now, maybe we can afford him for around $750-850K?), it would be great to lock him up for a few more years and see how he develops. If he’s looking to receive over $1 million per, let him test the waters and bring in Dan Fritsche or Mark Hartigan to center the checking line.

Mark Hartigan
Age – 28
– Status – Signed through 2006-07
– Pros – The mystery minor leaguer of the past few years has finally showed his scoring touch in the NHL at the end of this year. He’s proving he can stick in the league, which has been his biggest problem in past season call-ups.
– Cons – Not a huge guy (6’0″, 200 lbs), but likes to throw his body around which could lead to future injuries. At age 28, he’s looking back on a lot of good hockey years.
– If I were GM/Coach – Hartigan makes the team as the third or fourth center, with the ability to play the point on the power play. If he keeps playing at his current level, he’s a 20 goal scorer. If he plays like he has in the past, he may be out of the NHL for good.

Mike Rupp
– Age – 26
– Status- Restricted free agent
– Pros – Was starting to find his niche on the team with Shelley on the fourth line and playing some on the penalty kill. Has good size and decent hockey sense.
– Cons – Health concerns. Rupp sat out the last few months of the season with heart problems. They were not described as serious, but given Hartigan’s play at the end of the season it would be hard to elevate Rupp above him on the depth chart.
– If I were GM/Coach – If you can hold on to Rupp for close to what he’s making now, keep him in the mix. Having five forwards on the team will enable you to scratch the cold hand, or move one to a wing slot if needed. Rupp is a big physical guy, which is an asset to a team that needs bulk.

In a flash
Geoff Platt was a scrappy 20 year old who flew around the ice for 15 games in the fall. He might be a bit small for the NHL, but I think he’ll get another shot or two with the Jackets before all is said and done.

Alexander Svitov has been playing well in Russia, and if the team can get him a good contract we could have a strong Russian threesome on the team. Svitov has shown creative potential and is a decent physical presence, but needs to show that he is willing to play at the NHL level (read: dedication) before I’d give him too much money up front.

Up next, the left wingers.

Thanks for reading, and sorry for the delay in recent posts.

Drop a line, or a comment. I try to respond to most things either on the site or via email.

Have a great Friday.

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One comment

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more about Funky Jan Hrdina.

    Can’t wait to read your thoughts on defense.



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