When the trade was announced that the Columbus Blue Jackets had traded away R.J. Umberger, I don’t think many people in the Columbus area were surprised. I can tell you first hand that Umberger wasn’t surprised. Commonly a healthy scratch for pivotal games toward the end of the Blue Jackets’ season, it appeared that Umberger had either upset management, or simply wasn’t playing to his full potential.
About four weeks ago, I ran into Umberger at a bar that will remain unnamed in the Columbus area. We talked about the Blue Jackets’ success and the adversity he faced within the organization. I asked him if he thought he would be coming back next season.
“Probably not,” he said.
So for Umberger, the move to the Philadelphia Flyers was no surprise. The surprise came when it was discovered who the Blue Jackets received from the Flyers – Scott Hartnell.
It’s tough to imagine Hartnell wearing any other uniform, but the Blue Jackets received a better player than Umberger and, more importantly, someone who actually wants to be in Columbus. The issue with Umberger was that it was obvious he wanted a change of scenery. It’s difficult to get the maximum productivity out of certain players when they don’t want to represent a particular franchise, which won’t be a problem with Hartnell, who waived his no-trade clause to be sent to Columbus.
Hartnell has already said that Brandon Dubinsky texted him about being able to play Muirfield, which is where the PGA Tour plays the Memorial Tournament every year, whenever they want now that he is in Columbus. He also joked about making Ryan Johansen feel bad for wearing Hartnell’s patented No. 19.
Johansen may be the superstar of the future in Columbus, but Blue Jackets fans have to be excited to get a veteran who will be respected in the locker room. Hartnell is a skilled agitator, which is nearly impossible to find in the game nowadays, and has a contract that will keep him there for a significant amount of time.
He’s an entertaining guy who the fans in Columbus will learn to love quickly, especially if he can lead them back to the playoffs for only the third time in franchise history come the 2014-15 season.