Nothing's ever easy, is it?
The Blue Jackets already have one difficult hand to play this summer, trying to resolve the Artemi Panarin situation before the season begins. In the background, another is simmering: Sergei Bobrovsky, their two-time Vezina Trophy winner, is also a year away from free agency and there's been little momentum for a new deal.
We're back with another 1st Ohio Battery roundtable, getting our team's thoughts on the Bobrovsky situation and how the Blue Jackets could (or should) navigate it.
Do you get the sense that the Blue Jackets and Sergei Bobrovsky are slowly drifting apart? There’s talk of no negotiations, relative silence, etc.
Sam Blazer: It feels like it, but then again, it's just the normal doom and gloom of a Blue Jackets fan/blogger/writer. Any good that comes to the Blue Jackets has to come undone sooner rather than later. I think they will negotiate and try to bring him back. Losing both Panarin and Bobrovsky would be both bad for the team and the optics as well.
Dan Dukart: I think it’s a bit premature to suggest that the two sides are drifting apart. In 2018, it feels like if a player isn’t signed as of July 2 of his UFA year, he’s good as gone. That wasn’t the case a season ago with Atkinson, and it seems a bit dramatic to me.
Chris Pennington: This situation has happened multiple times with Bobrovsky, so I don’t think there’s as much isolating on his end than most might think. When the report came out that there have been no talks of negotiation - a lot of people (myself included) believed it meant that Bob didn’t want to talk, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was as much the Jackets management not being ready as it was him. They are facing a big (and long-term) contract coming up, and this would likely be for the last great chunk of Bobrovsky’s career. His playoff performances may be giving them cold feet.
Would Bobrovsky be a more significant loss than Artemi Panarin?
SB: If you’re just thinking about the team in a more broad sense, I would say so. Goalie is the most important position and the team would be nothing most seasons without Bobrovsky. If you really zoom in and think about how goalies now operate in the league, the team would likely be fine. They would just move closer to league average than Vezina candidacy year in and year out.
DD: In the short term, maybe, but not in the long haul. Goalies are voodoo and not easy to find (just ask the New York Islanders), but Panarin is a top 10-15 player in the world. I think my answer would be different if Bobrovsky’s playoff numbers even slightly resembled his regular-season statistics, but the fact is Bobrovsky has been a replacement level goalie in the playoffs. Panarin is “just” a winger, but he’s the most dynamic player to ever wear the Blue Jackets jersey. In his only season he had the best year in franchise history. He’s the more significant loss.
CP: Due to how much the Jackets depend on Bob...yes. The team has been so reliant on him since his unworldly end-of-season performance in 2013, that they don’t really know life without him, and it may cause them to be shell-shocked for a bit. On any other team, Panarin might be the most valuable asset, but the club did make the playoffs without him the year before, and with a better record. Panarin is better, but Bob is needed more...at least during the regular season.
Outside of these two situations, the Blue Jackets (on paper) appear to be heading into 2018-19 with a solid team. Is there a concern of distractions?
SB: Putting a win total or anything tangible on distractions is so hard. Sure, I might be distracted at work for various reasons but hockey is a game of reactions it doesn’t operate the same way, once you’re on the ice distractions aren’t going to eat anyone alive. Bobrovsky is going to be alright with or without a contract.
DD: From the outside looking in, it’s easy to say there are distractions, but who knows how the locker room will – or won’t – maneuver through said distractions. It’s a young team, but the leadership group (Foligno, Dubinsky, Jenner) has been in place for years. If that group, plus head coach John Tortorella, can’t keep the boat afloat, it says more to me about that group than Panarin/Bobrovsky.
CP: The mobility of modern athletes has made players have such a “here and now” mindset. I think most players know that the team in their locker room could look incredibly different the next season, and that they just need to focus on what’s in front of them. The ambiguous “loyalty” that fans want so badly of every player is not a part of today’s sport world. Fans might be thinking every time Panarin touches the puck “is this the last time?”, but I believe that most players are just wanting to win the game in front of them.
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