Blue Jackets Learn Patience; Tampa Not So Much

The youth movement is going well in Columbus, with lots of rookies stepping up to help the team.

Columbus isn’t a powerhouse, but they’re right on the playoff bubble. And people are noticing the team has something going on; attendance and TV ratings are up for the team.

The Blue Jackets have always relied on young players, but they’ve stopped pushing them into the lineup. Nikita Filatov is probably the best example of this new discipline. He was expected to make the line-up out of training camp, but instead was sent down to the AHL for more seasoning.

And now, he’s pretty well-seasoned. It’s like Thomas Keller was up in there.

Teams expect so much out of high first-round picks. GMs want to look smart right away. They want an investment that pays off immediately. Unfortunately, that’s not the way player development works. While a lot of first-round (and some late-round) picks are ready to go from the draft to NHL ice, the vast, vast majority need to work their way up. Look at Bobby Ryan in Anaheim.

I mention this as a public message to the Tampa Lightning, who made 2008 first overall pick Steven Stamkos a healthy scratch earlier this weekend. Stamkos just does not get the NHL game right now and could use some patience and some seasoning. He doesn’t need to sit in a press box. He doesn’t need to play minimal NHL minutes. He doesn’t need big NHL minutes. He needs to play against players closer to his skill level.

Perhaps most importantly for the Lightning, he does not need to be around this odd, dysfunctional team. Let him go down to the AHL and come back to the NHL thinking losing is a very bad thing, rather than thinking it’s a fact of life, as much of the Lightning seems to think night-to-night.

Oh. And another example of a first-round pick who was brought up slowly? Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, who the organization has never seemed to like. Rumors have him about to be traded just about everywhere, but one possible destination could be Columbus.

Hopefully, the Blue Jackets won’t have to give up too much of their youth for Spezza.