You know, Welcome to Your Karlsson Years never really had a real send off for Nicky Foligno. He was a well-liked guy, a character player, and was traded just as he was entering his prime. It would have been nice to see what the new season held in store for one of the old regime’s last picks before Murray and Co.’s junta. I wrote this here little ditty about Jack and Diane over on Silver Seven, which summed up my feelings for the gritty (read: goaltender interfering) top six (read: top nine) forward (read: forward).
But what we most need to acknowledge here is not Foligno’s accomplishments, which were complementary at best, but the unmitigated hellhole to which he was sent. Columbus is an absolute mess, has been one for most of its existence, and doesn’t seem primed to get anywhere soon. Foligno went from being a key component to a group that really seemed to play for one another to a team damned for bottom ten finishes for the next half decade at least and being eaten alive by ill will.
It all starts at the top for Columbus, with General Manager Scott Howson. Here’s a pretty thorough summary – it ain’t pretty. There seem to be a few commonalities: total lack of prospect development; disjointed philosophies between coaching and drafting; allowing critical decisions to linger for far too long, like the firing of coach Scott Arniel; taking what spending leverage was afforded by ownership and blowing far too much of it on terrible free agent acquisitions like Mike Commodore, Kristian Huselius, and maybe Wisniewski (if it’s not too soon to judge there); he outs Rick Nash’s trade request, throwing him under the bus, and then doesn’t trade him for months; he goes on radio shows and makes his demands for Nash public. Not to mention that his demands for Nash – some NHL ready forwards – are also terribly stupid. Why make a lateral move? What’s lateral to last place?
Most baffling of all is the firing of the entire scouting staff just days after the 2012 draft. In doing a little bit of reading about that move, I discovered that this same staff had been in place since 2001! That’s insane. A team that has drafted in the top ten every single year of its existence except one, and has only made the playoffs that one year, should probably have looked at swapping out some staff a little bit sooner. I’m not even close to being current on this, but it bears saying again: if you have no faith in these scouts, why allow them to run not only your draft, but one of the most important drafts in the franchise history, one in which you’re launching your rebuild?
I’d enjoy watching just how haplessly this team is managed if we didn’t just send one of our most likeable players there. Clearly Columbus is a desirable trade partner: they’re always rebuilding, and their management is incompetent. I’m surprised that Murray never seems to fleece them. (And in the case of Vermette for Leclaire, actually got pretty fleeced.)
Anyway, this is what passes for a tribute on WTYKY. Foligno, we barely knew thee. And by barely I mean we put unreasonable expectations for a late round pick and then shipped you off to the franchise equivalent of a gulag so that, like RJ Umberger before you, you can go from being a promising player to totally and utterly forgotten. At least you got paid!
It does stink that Foligno is no longer part of the team. I thought that the rebuild was going to treat Nicky well.
Drafted at a bad time when the Sens were spiraling downward after the final run, he was the team’s only prospect with a remote amount of NHL potential back then. Much like Filip Kuba in the post-Redden / pre-Karlsson transition, he was asked to be a little more of a savior than his talents could likely allow. Couple into those heightened expectations injury problems and other factors (entire team stinking), the fans got impatient fast.
One thing I will always remember Foligno for was that he scored some of the most amazing goals I’ve ever seen (many of them in person which only made things more memorable). I’ve seen him bat pucks out of mid air whilst himself air born, find new and exciting ways to tuck them into mere inches of space with speed, score with seconds left, even throw some amazing hits along the way. Foligno could cycle like nobody’s biz (fun to watch when we had Kovalev too) and could really hang onto the puck under pressure down low. It’s really too bad he was focused on so much as a player poised to burst onto the scene in a big way instead of a guy who was steadily improving with each year. Maybe it was his impressive hands coupled with scoring droughts or the fact that he was drafted in the first round but it was a connotation he couldn’t seem to shake. No one seems too upset that Colin greening put up 37 points on the first line but Foligno putting up 47 points in lets call it the mid-six shuffle was seen as a disappointment. This is without mentioning that Foligno really upped the toughness/agitation element of his game this past year. 45-50 points for an agitator who can really stick handle and take a draw? Would have been a real nice going forward, especially come playoff time when you consider his 4 points in 7 games last season was only one less than Jason Spezza.
One thing has been evident the past couple of seasons and it was that Foligno was starting to come into his own and was beginning to forge an identity on the team. This is why, as I mentioned earlier, that I thought the rebuild was going to treat him well. With a lot of high end rookies coming up through the system and the team playing well so far through the rebuild, I figured the unrealistic expectation to be a second line forward was about to become a thing of the past and he could finally just concentrate on being the solid, gritty utility man he is. Hopefully the opportunity for him is greater in Columbus and the pressure lower. What’s that? He’s now playing in a division with Detroit? AND Nashville AND Chicago AND St. Louis? AND now he’s on the team that plans to trade Rick Nash for magic beans? I hope the best for him. Ummm, moving ON.
It’s also tough to see a personality like his have to go to. Was there a nicer seeming guy on the Sens? He was like a ray of good vibes through thick and thin and his community involvement speaks for itself. The team and city will miss him.
I suppose I am currently taking solace in the fact that there wasn’t a draft pick going Columbus’ way on top it *Kevin Eubanks does a guitar lick* and in the hopes that Foligno was a quality player and in return we got a quality stay at home defenseman in Marc Methot. It’s hard to have balance on the team without giving up something and as far as organizational need, the Sens had to obtain a responsible defenseman in a big way. If his numbers are any indication, Methot is more responsible than Mr. Belvedere *throws blue index card, glass shattering sound effect*
In closing, I thank Nick for his work ethic and his commitment to Ottawa on and off the ice. I have some great memories during some dark times in Sens history, like going to some exhibition games and #71 bringing me to my feet fighting like a water bug to the net and tucking in a mind bendingly weird dangle making me think “This kid is going to make it.” There wasn’t a ton to cheer for back then but it was always easy to root for Foligno.