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These fists were made for fightin'.

Thursday, January 31, 2008
Even though I'm amidst a bit of a slog in terms of classes resuming for me, I feel it's only right to come out from my little cave and say something as it pertains to the trade of Jody Shelley to the San Jose Sharks, which only happened no more than two days ago.

Besides, I figure if anything will get me to finally write something, this is it.

----------------------------------

I'm not about to lie to anyone here and say that Shelley's existence on the Columbus Blue Jackets since their inaugural season (he was signed in January of the 00-01 season) had a profound impact on me either way. To tell you the truth, I've never been much of a person for getting attached to the individual players on a team, no matter who that team was, with the exception of a choice few. So when I see people pouring out their heart and soul over Shelley's departure, I need to remind myself that getting beyond my more disattached perspective of who is and is not on the Blue Jackets, it's understandable how upset a lot of fans are over this.

You've probably all seen the numerous articles that came out of the Columbus Dispatch on the trade since yesterday (1, 2, 3, 4), and other bloggers out there writing on the topic. I probably can't say much else that would add anything of value, but I'll try.

Right off the bat, I get the feeling that the majority of people -- at least, if you're one of those people that goes to the HFBoards -- don't "get" this move. This wasn't simply about getting a 6th round pick, two drafts from now. All you need to do is step back, think about this for an extra minute or two while those brain synapses spark to life in your head, and you'll see there was at least two or three other reasons for this move.

1) The most obvious one, to me, is the need for roster space. Shelley was regularly scratched, and had been scratched for at least 20 of the Blue Jackets' 52 games this season. On a team like this, where more and more youngsters (Jared Boll, Andrew Murray, Curtis Glencross, and now Gilbert Brule once more, with his recall back to the CBJ as of yesterday) stepping up and vying for competitive spots on the roster, it is important to not have to keep shuttling these kids between Syracuse and Columbus on a regular basis, juggling player after player because you don't have enough available spots on the roster to set them aside as healthy scratches if they're not playing that night.

2) It's no secret the Blue Jackets have a self-imposed salary cap that sits around $10 million less than the league ceiling. As a result, and this is important, every penny counts. You need to be milking every bit of that $40 million you have on the payroll for as much as you can, and look for bargains in the process. On a team like the Rangers, the Red Wings, the Ducks, where there's less of a concern about using the full cap allotment of money, the $600,000-$800,000 that Shelley was making might have been a pittance. But the Jackets could very well use that now freed up cap space when looking for a deal before the trade deadline.

There's also something else, and this is outside the realm of just hockey operations-style critical thinking; Shelley was respected here; by the fans, by his teammates, by the coaching staff, and yes, even the guys up top, who with the exception of a few people (obviously Scott Howson), have all been around for a while in this organization, much like Jody. And in my mind, that is why instead of possibly offending one of the players who has been the so-called heart and soul of a team during some of its worst times by releasing him, or waiving him, they found somewhere where he could go, and hopefully continue to play.

A crackpot theory, to be sure. Even I find that idea a bit incredulous to believe, but that's just the feeling that I get. Shelley had been one of the hardest workers during practice, even knowing that his shot at being in the line-up much of the time simply hinged on who was injured, and if he'd fit in for a particular match-up prior to a game. Beyond his on-ice and locker room commitment, he's also been one of the most amicable people to ever don the Blue Jackets' jersey, more than willing to go wherever he had to, whether that involved autograph signings, Hats for Heroes events, lunch-ins, or whatever.

While it's true that an NHL hockey player is almost obligated to partake in fan and community development initiatives such as these, he did these things with a motivation and an eagerness that was as sincere as I think it could be. In essence, he wanted to be out there with the fans. If he didn't, I don't think he would have so emphatically proclaimed Central Ohio as his home, as he did in some of those aforementioned articles.

In the end, however, this is the best for all parties involved. The Jackets have more cap space, a roster spot freed up, and a draft pick they can either hold on to (2009's supposed to be a deep draft, but even I think the sixth round is a bit far off from that "depth" in it), the Sharks get a known pugilist and banger who will help them get tougher on the ice when facing off against the bruising Ducks, and Shelley? Well, he actually gets to play ... and if the cards fall in just the right way, he might just hit 400 games (he's 20 away from that number).

The Blue Jackets as a team might be stunned, and even a little morose, at losing one of their locker room leaders. Even if he wasn't always on the ice, it was obvious that he had an impact on the people around him. But here's what I have to say to that ...

... suck it up, and make the playoffs. I obviously can't speak for Jody, but I think that is what he'd want to see this team do, regardless of the fact that he now wears Sharks teal, orange, and black.

Besides, I know I'm not the only one who would be delighted at the prospect of the Jackets finally making it in, only to face down their departed yet hardly forgotten pugilist in the first round, since San Jose is all but a playoff lock (and possibly a 2nd seed favorite).

In short? Make him proud, you maggots.
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Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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