BY any measure Brendon Bolton is the man to coach Carlton for the long-term future.
His game style is safe and dour but exactly the method proven to win premierships if he can gradually integrate attacking dynamism.
He has committed to an un-Carlton-like methodical list build that already has pillars like Charlie Curnow and Jacob Weitering in place.
The single question mark over whether he would win the hearts and minds of players has been emphatically endorsed by Blues young and old.
But if anyone truly believes the Blues are ready to soar up the ladder in 2018they are ambitious in the extreme.
Sam Docherty’s ACL injury on Wednesday was a dramatic reminder of how few established match-winners the Blues still have on their list.
A club that won seven games in 2016 and six last year has now lost its best-performed midfielder of the past two years (Bryce Gibbs) and its best player in the past two years.
Docherty won last year’s best-and-fairest, was second this year, was their only All-Australian since 2011 and led all defenders last year in marks and kicks.
Fair or not, there will be expectation from some fans and sections of the media for the Blues to finally march up the ladder.
So why allow the coach to effectively be out of contract in a year where expectations might not match reality?
Why allow even a hint of pressure to fall onto Bolton when in reality he might be five years from putting the Blues into the premiership window?
Bolton was put on an employment contract when he signed up, a deal that effectively gave him three years of salary protection.
He is already a member of staff but after 2018 he has moved past that initial safeguarding.
It was instituted by chief executive Steven Trigg – removed in the past few weeks – who believed it would spare the club speculation in the years Bolton came out of contract.
Instead he is effectively out of contract every year.
No one is suggesting Carlton isn’t backing in Bolton, but look at St Kilda’s stunning show of faith in Alan Richardson these past months.
Despite this year’s setback he was extended until 2020 with CEO Matt Finnis saying: “We are very confident Richo is our man for the long term”.
If Carlton stuns the football world next year and hurtles to 10 wins a rival might consider poaching the Al Clarkson disciple.
If the Blues lose more key players to injury and battle to another bottom-three finish some will question if they are on the path.
They will be, but either way having a coach with real security — backed with words and dollars by the club — makes sense.
In an ideal world without a 24/7 media cycle and print, TV and radio companies desperate for headlines, Bolton would be spared any speculation next year.
But witness Nathan Buckley’s lot last year in the final year of his contract and the continued distraction it caused.
Anything that can avoid that circus can’t hurt your club.
Docherty’s loss is immense but while it is a significant blow the Blues believe they have significant coverage at half-back.
Kade Simpson isn’t going anywhere, Tom Williamson’s raking kick will feature prominently there next year and Irishman Ciaran Byrne is a ball-carrier with dash.
Harrison Macreadie, Lachie Plowman, Jacob Weitering, new addition Aaron Mullett and Caleb Marchbank all add depth and versatility, along with Sam Rowe and Liam Jones.
Former Port Adelaide defender Cam O’Shea, who played with Carlton’s VFL side, and ex-Gold Coast defender Matt Shaw, have been training at Carlton and are possible rookie additions.
If there is any small silver lining to his injury it is that the backline is the one place the Blues are well stocked.
Their optimism remains undiminished despite the early setback.
Signing up their coach to a long-term deal can only add to the new-found stability at a club once famed for its ruthlessness.