Blue Jackets players face uncertain times

Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said he intends to change the makeup of his last-place team. He has until the Feb. 27 trade deadline to do so.

In the interim, Blue Jackets players will walk softly, waiting to see who stays and who goes. It is a white-knuckle road traveled by every pro athlete without a no-trade clause in his contract.

“It’s nerve-racking coming to the rink and not knowing what is going on,” forward R.J. Umberger said. “It’s a lot of extra tension.”

On a team with an NHL-worst 10-23-5 record, no one is off-limits. The players wear no blinders. To them, the possibility of a trade is a real and regular part of their daily lives.

“Teams that are at the top have certain areas of their game they can improve on, and they make moves, too,” defenseman Marc Methot said. “But when you look at a team in our position, sometimes the rosters are blown up. You’re aware.”

Methot said he and his teammates hope that management chooses another route. If there was no chemistry in the dressing room, Methot might think differently, but there are no players who should be purged for the sake of the team, he said.

“Some teams, you have a couple of cancers in the room, but I can honestly say we don’t have that,” Methot said.

The Blue Jackets opened the season with an eight-game losing streak, and the job security of coach Scott Arniel has been in question for the duration. Arniel repeatedly has said he tried to block out talk of a coaching change and focus on his job. He declined to comment on the difficulty of his players doing the same.

“You know what? You can write whatever you want,” Arniel said. “You can talk about whatever you want. I’m not worried about what’s going to happen, what might happen.

“I’m not going to comment on that. Ask the players and get their opinion. I’ve talked about it enough the first three months of the season. I’m not worried about what’s (hanging) above their heads. I’m worried about tomorrow’s practice. That’s all I care about.”

Forward Derick Brassard has been the subject of trade talks for much of the season. The 2006 first-round draft pick was once a regular healthy scratch but has settled into a spot on the fourth line. He hasn’t gotten too comfortable, however.