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Mixer's Mailbag: On areas of need, the Monsters' run & more

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Back by popular demand (really, because I need something to do), the mailbag returns for a second straight year. Remember: send your questions to @RobMixer, and as always, food questions move to the top.

Matthew Dersom (@mdersom22)
Mailbag question: What's a bigger need for the CBJ, improving the defense or finding help at center?

Right now, I believe their focus is fixed on improving the center ice position. And listen – I know it’s easy to sit there and say “well, you traded a center (Johansen)” but it’s not that simple. Going into the season and as the season transpired, the management team knew they needed to get better on defense, but they also wanted to find a player that fit a specific mold: younger, could evolve with their young core and who could identify as a top-four defenseman.

The thing is, those players are quite difficult to find and some GMs spend their entire careers with one team in search of that type of player. When the opportunity arose to make a deal with Nashville and acquire a player (Seth Jones) who fit their mold, the Blue Jackets were comfortable moving Johansen to make it happen – and quite honestly, Johansen is the only player who would’ve gotten the deal done.

Jason Liebert (@jel779)
What do we need to do to get a first line C? Without winning the draft how do we trade for a C? Is there a free agent we could get?

The first option (and most likely, if you look back through the last 10-15 drafts) is to draft and develop. That’s the Blue Jackets’ organizational philosophy and they’re hopeful they will find a No. 1 center through the draft; however, that will not prevent them from pursuing top-line or top-six centers in the near term if the player and corresponding financials make sense.

There are players in the draft who have that ability (most notably, Auston Matthews comes to mind), but there are certainly going to be available options on the trade market and in free agency. A trade will require a good, valuable piece(s) going the other way, but face it: that’s just how it works.

Nic Hendrickson (@RedArmyNic)
Who’d you vote for for team MVP? #Mailbag

Give my vote to Boone Jenner. In my eyes (I’m not alone in this, obviously) he had one of the most impressive and encouraging performances of the season. A year ago, Jenner went through a brutal stretch and endured two injuries that caused him to miss a big chunk of the season, one of them a broken back that had him out of action for two months.

Not only did he come back to camp this year with a jump in his step and a chip on his shoulder, he made it happen on the ice. He scored 30 goals – nearly double his previous career high (16) – and evolved into one of the club’s leaders on the ice and in the room. And we’re talking about a guy who is about to turn 23 years old in June. Twenty freaking three. There’s a lot more to give and he’s going to be one hell of a player here for a long time. That’s my vote, but it's close between he and Brandon Saad.

Reminder: you can vote for your 2015-16 MVP (and be entered to win a sweet prize).

Justin Needham (@jneedham24)
What are management’s thoughts on the Monsters playoff run and how many have a shot at making the team in the fall?

It’s a long time until training camp opens in September, but I can tell you that management is thrilled about what’s going on in Cleveland. And really, the feeling is mutual and extends throughout both the Monsters/Cavaliers and Blue Jackets organizations; everything from the convenience of travel to the facilities to collaboration among staffs on various initiatives has been overwhelmingly positive.

This playoff run is a big deal for the organization, but more importantly, it’s a big deal for those players and coaches in Cleveland. They’ve been through a lot this year with a slew of roster changes (signings, call-ups to Columbus, and so on), a few slumps and a furious final push to qualify for the postseason – and they’ve earned it. It sounds cliché because it is, but it’s always a good thing when your top prospects can play meaningful games in high-pressure situations, and the Calder Cup playoffs are a strong tournament.

Alexander Scheufler (@GoingRogueCLE8)
Any chance #CBJ at some point look to affiliate with one of the #ECHL teams in #Ohio?

My understanding is that the Blue Jackets are thrilled with the “one-off” agreement they’ve had with the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). What that means is they’re able to occasionally assign players to Cincinnati from Cleveland (AHL) but don’t have a formal affiliation agreement in place; for example, the Cyclones had Brad Thiessen for a good portion of the season and, by all accounts, that worked out well for all parties.

If it makes sense down the line, the Blue Jackets would definitely be interested in having their ECHL affiliate in the state of Ohio. The door is certainly not closed here – an Ohio-based affiliation is a possibility in the years ahead.

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