July 03 2013 09:33AM
Jonathan Blum - WikiCommons Media
The former Vancouver Giant star defenseman has been cut loose by the Nashville Predators. The team decided not to qualify him – and they are looking to trade his rights before he becomes a free agent on Friday.
Does Blum make sense for the Canucks? The 1st round draft pick from 2007 (23rd overall) has had an up and down start to his NHL career in Nashville, and he has fallen out of favour with the management. There simply isn’t any room for him on the Predators back end, especially with the drafting of Seth Jones and the development of Victor Bartley, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. The recent acquisition of TJ Brennan from Florida didn’t do much to help Blum’s chances of making the team, either.
#Preds GM Poile said Halischuk and Blum will not get qualifying offers from the team but will try to seek trades for them.— 102.5 The Game (@1025TheGame) July 2, 2013
Blum made $650,000 last year on a two-way contract. He had seven points in 35 games for Nashville, and 12 points in 34 games for Milawukee. His best AHL season was his first, back in 2009-10 – 11 goals, 41 points, and a plus-17 rating. It is very rare for a 1st round pick to sign a two-way contract upon the exipiration of his entry level deal, but Blum had plenty to prove to himself and the Predators organization. However, he obviously didn't prove enough this past season.
On a personal level, Blum has been through a lot on his life, losing his twin sister in a house fire. He played his rookie year with the Giants as his mother was battling cancer. That is a heck of a lot of adversity for anyone to manage, let alone a teenager playing hockey far away from home. It isn't fair to sit here and speculate as to how that has impacted him as a person, but I'd guess that it makes dealing with adversity like losing your spot on a hockey club a whole lot easier.
Blum had a phenomenal junior career with the Giants, playing four seasons in Vancouver. He eclipsed the 60-point mark in each of his final two seasons, and he had 18 points in 17 postseason games in 2008-09 to finish his WHL career. He served as the Giants captain that year, and was also named as the top defenseman in both the WHL and entire CHL, as well. Blum isn't physical in the slightest, but he has good size at 6-2 and 195 pounds. He was the second best Giants defenseman I saw come through Vancouver (the best being Andrej Meszaros). Blum was a step ahead of everybody on the ice with his passing and positioning.
He was able to separate himself at the lower levels with his passing and hockey IQ. However, he has struggled to do that consistently at the NHL level.
What happened in Nashville? Was it a case of unfair expectations?
The unfortunate thing with Blum is how expectations were unfairly raised by his NHL debut in the spring of 2011. He looked spectacular during the stretch run that season, but most of that perception can be tied to a ridiculously fortunate run of puck luck. His PDO of 1068 came about due to unsustainably hot shooting (13.9%) by the Preds during his ice time, while his underlying possession metrics flashed major warning signs. Sure enough, when his PDO fell back to earth in 2011-2012, and Blum's Corsi-related metrics stayed the same, the guy turned from stud to dud in a hurry.
Blum is only 24, and it is much too early to write him off as a bust. But whoever picks him up is going to have to be patient with him. As things stand right now, the Canucks have two right-side defensemen in Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev, and three left-side defensemen in Dan Hamhuis, Jason Garrison, and Alex Edler. Garrison looked good on the right side with Hamhuis, but that meant that Bieksa and Edler were often paired together. Returning Bieksa with Hamhuis makes sense, and then splitting up Garrison and Edler. Perhaps a steady defensive guy like Garrison by his side would help Blum find his offensive game once again?
Some potential pairings (as of July 3rd... subject to change):
Even giving Blum the opportunity to compete for a top six spot with the likes of Frank Corrado and whoever else the Canucks bring in this summer or at training camp would be a smart move.
The fact that Alex Edler is still being shopped (or offers are being listened to – whatever you like better) tells me two things – one, the team wants/needs to cut more cap space, and two, the market for offensive defensemen is as strong as ever. Blum isn’t the kind of asset that grows on trees, even with the fact that he hasn't proven a whole lot at the NHL level (outside of a strong stint a few seasons ago). Bring him in, give him an opportunity to produce. It would be a low risk, high reward move.
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