Hartnell Down to Columbus

So Scott Hartnell got traded to Columbus for one-time Flyer RJ Umberger and a 2015 fourth-round pick. Why would the Flyers do this? Hartnell has proven that he’s a top-6 LW while Umberger has struggled with Columbus. They are both 32 years old. Umberger’s contract only runs three more years at $4.6M cap hit a year while Hartnell’s runs five more years at $4.75M, so the Flyers get a tiny bit of relief at the end there, but almost nothing immediate. Yes the Flyers also get that draft pick, but again, it’s probably nothing that’s going to help them immediately. Is it possible that new head coach Craig Berube isn’t a Hartnell fan? Anything is possible. So why make the move?

At times this year, it looked like Hartnell wasn’t the Hartnell of old. He looked hesitant to mix it up, to play the brand of hockey that made him a fan favorite in town. He used to play like his hair was on fire. Now?

(all ratios excluding playoffs, all fight stats from http://www.hockeyfights.com)

2007-08: A fight every 13.3 games
2008-09: A fight every 11.7 games
2009-10: A fight every 11.6 games
2010-11: A fight every 13.6 games
2011-12: A fight every 20.5 games (scored 37 goals though!)
2012-13: A fight every 16 games
2013-14: A fight every 39 games

He played 78 games this year. He had two fights. TWO. This on a team who was third in the league with 45 fighting majors. But this goes beyond fights though; this doesn’t include all the other little between-play altercations that go on. At times he just appeared not himself.

What’s the explanation for this? Is it possible that his acrimonious divorce (which finalized in 2013 but had been going on for quite some time and included salacious rumors about possible affairs with teammates), and subsequent recovery has led to him not being himself? I don’t know a person alive who functions the same at work when they’re unhappy as when they’re happy; most professional athletes are no different.

This isn’t your classic problem-for-problem trade; this is a mercy trade. This is a trade to try to get something for Scott Hartnell while giving him new scenery and a fresh start. He’ll do well in Columbus while Flyer fans watch Umberger try to rediscover whatever RJ Umberger does well (because he wasn’t doing much of anything in Columbus).

Regardless of the stated or unstated reasons for this deal, Columbus comes out ahead in this deal in the short term, and if Hartnell rebounds to where he used to be on all levels, this deal will be a landslide winner for the Blue Jackets.

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