Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Warming to the Kid

PLD, Hartsy, and Torts, in the old days
Tonight, the CBJ lost to the Nashville Predators 3-1.  The only goal was scored on a rush by Pierre-Luc Dubois, which represents visible strides taken by this young player with each game.  It won't always be this way.  He will hit plateaus, have slumps, get hot, just like every other player.  This is a normal progression, with the exception of how well he has played over the last few games.

Dubois has shown a steady progression early in this 2017-18 season, and has shown signs that he may be a driver of play in the future.  He certainly did his part in that department tonight, scoring the only goal, but also being a visible presence all over the ice. 

Tough night tonight for the CBJ, losing their second game in two nights.  Korpisalo played well enough to get them the W, giving up only two goal, but the CBJ could only solve Pekka Rinne for one goal.  There it is. 

A young, young, young team gains more experience, and they still lurk at the top of the division and the conference.  A good Metro tilt coming up on Friday, which is becoming a must win game against a similar, young, and talented Carolina team.  It should be fun to watch, much like tonight's game.

The CBJ have a lot of growth to accomplish as the season progresses.  That process should result in some entertaining hockey.  I'm looking forward to it!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

This is the Future of Hockey

Hannikainen has as many goals as Dubinsky and
Panarin combined.  
Tonight the Blue Jackets lost in a shoot out to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a score of 5-4.  This was a game of raw speed, with both teams flying up and down the ice.  The entertainment factor was huge, and I thought the Bolts were going to skate the Jackets off the ice, the CBJ rallied in the third period to tie the game and steal a point. 

For all of the complaining about our fourth line not having an identity, the fourth line has gotten on the board in the last two games, with critical goals, driven by Marcus Hannikainen who doesn't want to go to Cleveland any more.  It is important to keep in mind that this is a VERY young team, but the talent level is very high, shockingly so for a long time Jackets fan. 

Dubois is getting better every shift.  Love the commentary from the Dispatch and the Athletic about Dubois being in center.  The quote was that it helps him keep his legs moving.  Late in this game, he was playing high in the lineup, albeit as wing, and finding the play physically rich.  But he is a big boy, and he can make that adjustment as the season goes on.  Sonny Milano may fade, or he may get better.  I'm not sure where this will go yet, but I think he is ready for it, and I am betting that he will find his way in the NHL this year.  As long as the coach is feeling he wants to learn, and he has reasonable success in implementing those lessons, it will be okay.  He has less than 20 games experience now, when he makes it to 60 he is going to be a steadier player.  He took his first shoot out shot tonight.  It will come.

This is the kind of game the NHL has envisioned, and shockingly, the CBJ are right on the curve in adapting to the new, fast, mobile, NHL game.  The CBJ are looking like an offensive juggernaut without the power play, and with the stars not playing well at all.  The stars will start to play well as the season matures, and some of the guys that are hot now will fade, but there is a lot of depth on this team right now, and a lot of guys who can score on any given night.  The power play cannot remain this pitiful can it??  Gosh is this going to be a fun season, however it turns out.

Great rally in the third to steal a point on the road.  Well done lads!!  Rangers are up next, go get that one!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Spousal Strife. Is it Better to Beat the Bruins or the Penguins? #SaveTheCrew

Shoot Out Winner Oliver Bjorkstrand
Okay, right out of the gate.  It feels good beating the Bruins.  They did their usual crappy cheater game, set a good pick on the tying goal, and climbed back into a game where the Jackets tried to set the tone early.  It's a good pick if interference isn't called right? 

Anyway, that ravening beast, Oliver Bjorkstrand drew his first NHL major for boarding (LOL!!!), but the Jackets still got the power play because it was really a minor and their guy jumped Bjorkstrand, who threw his first punch in his career (watch out NHL, you have unleashed the Kraken), and then turtled like a guy who ought to turtle.  Then he undressed Rask in the shootout with the game winner.  Bjorkstrand has to learn to stand up for himself in a league that will physically dominate your game if you let it.  This is a journey for all young hockey players trying to break into the NHL.  You end up needing to handle teams like the Bruins (or the Kings, that was not intended as a slam against the Bruins, it's who they are), and learn to play your game in spite of that.  In the end, Bjorkstrand did so, scoring the game winner.  That's his game. 

So my lovely and faithful spouse and I got in a good natured tiff about whether it was better to beat the Bruins or the Penguins.  We beat the Bruins tonight, so of course that was my argument, but she held that it was better to beat the Penguins.  Tough call.  It's always delicious to beat the Pens.  So there it is, I'm likely to lean toward who we played last, so long as the Jackets win.

According to Twitter, the Jackets are a mess.  No centers, we can't beat good teams, power play sucks, back-up goal tenders no good, etc.  Best October in franchise history.  It is good to be this much of a mess, and this far along.  The team well knows that they can be better.  But they are resilient, and that will take you far.  Now the challenge of a good November, with the dreaded December swoon laying in wait.  Our guys have a lot of climbing to do.

Tomorrow our home town Columbus Crew embark on a further playoff run.  Best of luck to the players.  Interesting news out of San Antonio today.  Those folks are thinking they have been ripped off by the Crew's enterprising owner, and have assigned a criminal prosecutor to the job.  Do yourself a favor MLS.  Vote down the move to Austin, and keep the Crew in Columbus.  You have to ask yourself; 'Have you ever been in a Texas jail?'  On the other hand, life is a journey, and six months of hard confinement so your buddy can have his team in Austin isn't that much of your life, right?  Just think of the stories you will be able to tell!!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!
GO COLUMBUS CREW!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Getting a Sense for the 2017-19 CBJ

Booooooooooonne!
I've been kind of quiet here at the beginning of this hockey season.  Probably because my angst level is low.  A top 5 finish the year before helps that a lot.  It's also because I haven't been real sure what we are seeing.  Most of our early season wins have been against teams that have struggled coming out of the gate (Rangers! Whew!), but these last two games against Tampa and LA I thought would be good measuring stick games against two very different teams.

Tampa, wow!  They dismantled the Penguins last night, almost extending their shutout streak to two games.  That's a fast, balanced team that has their goal tending problem solved, and are playing like a team two years removed from a Cup final that is mad they did not make the playoffs last year.  They really have it going.

The Kings presented a much different problem, that big weighty team, and I wondered how much our younger players were going to get pushed around.  And, coming into last night they had only given up about 10 goals all season, and their penalty kill had given up none (zero, 0).  The Jackets lit them up for 4 goals, including an early power play goal, so that was good.  Unfortunately, the Jackets surrendered 5 and an empty netter, with Kopitar potting a killer goal with 2:34 remaining last night.  So it goes.  It was a 'rich' game for our youngsters, and they will benefit from the experience. 

As far as the CBJ this year, we inexplicably got younger, with Bjorkstrand, Milano and Dubois all making the team and playing.  Nice to see both Milano and Bjorkstrand score last night.  One thing for sure there is a lot of room for growth in the 2017-18 CBJ, and we will see the ups and downs of that growth as the season goes on.  Having Boone Jenner return to the lineup stiffens the team, and will be very helpful going forward.  Don't judge Nick Foligno's ability to play center until you get to the end of the year.  It's possible the Jackets will make a move, but if they don't have to they may not. 

For Milano, Dubois, and perhaps to a lesser extent Bjorkstrand, you want to see how they are playing at about the 15 game mark.  That way any bump in energy they got from making the team is long gone, and what you are seeing is the best picture of what you've got.  If at that point they are playing solidly, and still generally improving (with ups and downs allowable), then we are in pretty good shape for the future. 

Everyone has Werenski circled this year, and it is interesting watching him deal with that.  Other teams know what they want to do with him, so he'll have to play through that attention.  I was interested to see Werenski skate by Drew Doughty last night.  Werenski is actually bigger, which surprised me.  He might not be thicker yet, that will come.  Seth Jones, likewise, is still trying to really get going.  I did a preseason poll of some die hard Jackets fans, and they were unanimous that you don't split these guys up yet.  I guess I see what they are saying.  They need to learn to be a dominant pair first, and they are not there yet.

Next up is Buffalo, our 'Rivalry Night' game, for some reason or another.  Perhaps they thought the Foligno brothers would have a steak riding on the game, but Marcus got traded to Minnesota.  Buffalo is an interesting team, it should be a fun game. 

Last night we didn't really get the result we wanted, but there was no doubt that it was a fun game to watch.  And a good test for our young team.  There are more of those to come!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

109 Goals Off the Table; 3 Big Metro Wins

Sonny Milano
Sonny Milano did not score tonight.  That means he has fallen off his 109 goal pace, down to a mere 82 goal pace.  That does not mean he was not a significant player on the ice tonight against the Rangers.  Indeed, I thought he was one of the better players.  But I also thought that John Tortorella's decision to roll out an all rookie line of Bjorkstrand, Dubois, and Milano, which was an effective line for at least one shift, was a real kick in the pants to the veteran players, and you saw a real elevation in their games as this game came to a close.

Artemi Panarin scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket, a game winner that brought the crowd out of it's seats.  Just wow!  It was an awesome thing to see, and one of the things that are going to make this season really fun to watch.  The veterans have been patient with how things are coming together, but late in the game, Panarin took things into his own hands in spectacular style.  Arguably, better function and scoring earlier in the game would eliminate that need, but that assumes the Blue Shirts are a push over, and they are far from that.  Nonetheless they fall to 1-4 while the CBJ climb to 3-1. 

It's early in the season.  The Jackets have avoided falling behind the 8-Ball, which is a good thing to date.  In addition, they have achieved wins over 3 Metro Division opponents with the win tonight, which puts them in good standing from a playoff viewpoint.  Divisional games are important games, and the wins early are every bit as important as the wins late. 

So all is well as we prep for trying to get a regular season win for the backup goal tender tomorrow against a depleted Minnesota squad. 

I had a lot of angst tonight.  Problematically for this long time season ticket holder, who has watched more than one season get punted before Halloween, these guys seem real, and I am already highly engaged, and thus vulnerable.  It is a fun, precarious, and unfamiliar position for me.  I did not breathe easy tonight until the Bread Man scored that second goal.  That's when it got fun for me.  Before that, I was a bit of a wreck. 

So the Jackets have banked a reasonable start.  That and $0.05 will get you a cup of coffee.  The NHL cranks up the pace several times from here on out, and it will be interesting to see how the rookies respond. 

But for now, it's a good start, with wins against 3 Metro opponents, which will help us down the road.  A  good night.

GO JACKETS!!!
GO MONSTERS!!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Set for a New Season

Anderson Back in the Fold
As of 5 PM today the lineup for this year's Columbus Blue Jackets is set.  The CBJ (not CLB thank you) are set, and a very interesting group of forwards it is indeed.  The nice part is that the late addition of Josh Anderson will provide some thump to the lineup down the road.  Mark Scheig of the Hockey Writers pointed out that this years addition of the CBJ actually got younger in spite of being another year older.  I think that is largely because Sonny Milano made the team, and I for one could not be happier.  It seems like he has been with the organization for ever, but he is only 21 years old.  But this is a great developmental step.

Sonny Milano is likely to play for the Monsters yet this year.  This will not be a set back, but a normal developmental step for a young player like Sonny.  He may prove me wrong, and no one could hope for that more than I, but pragmatically, he may need a bit more seasoning before he is ready for a full NHL season.  Making the team out of camp, and doing well in the preseason is one thing, but no later than 3 games into the season and the NHL will be up to full speed.  Sonny will have to demonstrate that he can take the increased pace, and thrive.  There will be  3 or 4 more 'crank ups' in the typical NHL season. and Sonny will need to show that he can handle each of those as well.  He's felt that increase in intensity at the Monsters at some level, so maybe he will be ready to rise to the occaision.  We'll see.  But a trip to Cleveland does not mean this player is a bust in any way shape or form.  He is showing good progress.

The funny thing about adding Sonny to the lineup is how much more dynamic it shows the whole group is becoming.  We lost good players from last year, and we need to replace that scoring.  So far, we have added Panarin, Bjorkstrand and Milano to the line up, and they will need to make the scoring happen.  There is a lot in their respective pedigrees to suggest that this is a reasonable expectation, so it will be fascinating to watch the season unfold.  This edition of the CBJ is going to be fun to watch.  They are built to compete with the Penguins.  I'm not sure how they will do against a team like LA Kings, which are big and strong, and going to attempt to stifle you not to mention the attempts at intimidation.  Boston is a bit of the same ilk.  But there is a dynamic streak in the forwards, that if it achieves its potential, could be really good.  Don't discount the stabilizing influence of the Captain, Nick Foligno between Milano and Bjorkstrand.  That group won't lack for play making, and we know the Captain will score when he gets a chance. 

I was pleased to learn recently that Torts had warned Foligno in the off season to get his head around playing center.  It makes a difference, and I think Nick is going to surprise a lot of people with how he does.  Our center depth may not be as bad as everyone thinks (or not, I could be dead wrong, but I drink from a half full glass).

Our defensive corps is deep, and very solid.  We have two defensemen who will be sitting in the press box eating nachos that Colorado would die for, but appearances have to be kept up.  So we'll just settle for a very strong D-Corps, and when adversity shows up, which it inevitably will, Harrington and Nutivaara will come out of the press box and perform.  Why isn't Sakic trying to build around Duchene instead of getting rid of him?  Enquiring minds want to know.  But I digress, as usual.  With our dynamic D-Corps feeding dynamic front lines, the CBJ look like they can compete speed wise with the other fast teams in the league (Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Toronto), yet still have enough stiffness to compete against the heavy teams, especially after Boone Jenner returns.  Anderson makes a big difference there.  Have fun skating off Tortorella's conditioning there Andy.  You'll be okay after a few days. 

Tortorella's a funny guy.  I think he is way more cerebral about the game than a lot of pundits give him credit for, and there are a lot of guys who still see him as New York Rangers Torts.  He is a fiery guy, no doubt.  But he thinks about the game, and his approach all the time.  I think he truly understands that it is how you handle the people, and he is very smart in that context.  That is a give and take thing, and all people make mistakes, but Torts seems to want the players to challenge him.  I think he feels it will make him better.  And that is a healthy situation. It will be fascinating to watch this unfold this year.

It is my personal belief that it is an organizational imperative that they make the playoffs this year.  If we don't, then we haven't moved the needle.  I think they will, mainly because we may have one of the best defensive corps in the league.  Neither Zach Werenski or Seth Jones is a pretender, and those two dudes are gonna be scary, maybe as soon as this year.  But one thing for sure.  This team is gong to be fun to watch, for good or for ill.  As my buddy Bill says, these seasons never turn out the way you think they are going to.  It is a long journey to the end of the year, and the hope for a playoff spot.  The only thing that seems truly certain, is that this will be an exceedingly entertaining year to  watch Blue Jackets hockey.  There will be joy, there will be tears.  That's part of the journey.  But it will be fun.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bubble Boys Win 5-2

PLD in 2016 training camp
Interesting game tonight.  CBJ bubble boys against the St. Louis Blues bubble boys.  Much like Bob's early season performances, Jake Allen had a kinda soft night in a game that doesn't count.  Motte, Hannikainen and Nutivaara had goals in the first period for the CBJ.  In the second period the Jackets let a few Blues hang around in front of the goal for extended periods, and they both roofed wicked backhands in the corner opposite Korpisalo.  Dubois in the second period, and Kukan in the third responded to the Blues, and the CBJ came away with the win.

In my opinion, both teams waded into the game, as might be expected from a bunch of players on the bubble.  By the end of the third period the Jackets players were really starting to swirl and look like a dangerous hockey team.

My observations.  The cuts tonight will tell you a lot.  Dubois has made the club.  He has the potential to be an effective wing, and if Boone Jenner is healthy could enable Jenner to move to center because there is someone (Dubois) to replace him in his 'get the puck off the boards' role.  In other words, Dubois = replacement Boone, which enables you to do something creative with Boone Jenner.  As long as Boone is ready early in the regular season, that could be good. 

I think Motte and Dalpe make the team.  Unfortunately, for a favorite player of mine, I think Marcus Nutivaara starts the season in Lake Erie Cleveland because if he plays 2 more NHL games he has to go through waivers.  An unfortunate math problem for him, but the notion of Nutivaara and Collins on the top pair for the Monsters kinda warms my heart, and allows Nutivaara to get big minutes and drive play.  He needs to drive play to stay in the NHL, so be hot with that by playing huge minutes in Cleveland.  What the CBJ depart camp with is not how the whole season will go.  Either Ryan Murray asserts himself, or he doesn't, but Nutivaara needs to be hot and ready from The Monsters, so it makes sense that he goes down.  That allows the team to carry an extra forward instead of an extra defenseman, which they will need to do.

The huge question is do they keep Abramov in the slot Nutivaara formerly occupied?  He looks like a real tweener at this point, and I am not sure that going to Europe helps him as much as sitting in the press box in the NHL.  As a young player, you want him to play, but people will get injured, and if he is the next guy up in the NHL, the waiting might be worth it.  He and Sonny Milano are duking it out for this role, and the health of Dubinsky and Jenner is probably the ultimate arbiter of where they end up.  Sonny can go rock Cleveland without waivers, but he has certainly knocked hard on the NHL door, and would be the first guy up in the face of adversity by the parent club.

So the season looms, but the BEST indicator of how this season might go is the incredibly solid play by Joonas Korpisalo in his last two preseason games, the two wins to date.  The notion that the CBJ has a backup goal tender who can be expected to win is foreign to most long term fans, but would be a refreshing change.  We haven't had that since the Sandman (Curtis Sanford) flashed the amazingly aqua pads in relief of otherwise injured goal tenders.  Joonas has the potential to be a determining factor this year.  Think for a minute about the possibility of Torts confidently rolling out the backup on the second night of a back to back, and expecting a win, rather than hoping for a win.  That could take a ton of pressure off of Bob, and I personally believe that is what Joonas Korpisalo will provide this year.  I may be wrong, I have been before, but this could be a key issue regarding a return to the playoffs this year.  I hopefully predict Joonas Korpisalo will have a winning record this year.

What a great time of year, the games don't count.  Soon they will, and we will be on the journey again.  Cuts today and tomorrow will tell us where we are.  And then we ramp it up for the season!!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Season Looms; 2017-18

The Sweaters are washed and hung to dry, ready for a new year.
Training camp physicals start tomorrow, and the 2017-18 Columbus Blue Jackets season is upon us.  Like all seasons, there are expectations that will not be met, and there are expectations that will be exceeded.  My buddy Bill has a saying he is fond of that goes 'these seasons never turn out the way you think they will'.  I have found this to be invariably true, because if they always turned out the way you thought they would, why play the games?

We go into this year with something different than expectations.  In my opinion, making the playoffs this year is an organizational imperative.  If we want to establish the fact that the organization has indeed moved forward, the playoffs are imperative.  And the road to the playoffs is long, hard, and full of pitfalls.  In many ways we may be counting on the guys who finished second in OT at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament last night.  We may need those guys to rise up if misfortune visits our team.

They made a credible showing, losing the championship game in 3 on 3 OT.  Those things happen in that format.  They played well against a good Chicago team that they jumped early, but Chicago took over in the latter half of the game.  There is a lot of room for growth.

Due to being home yesterday unexpectedly, I had an opportunity to engage in a spirited Twitter discussion with a lot of CBJ fans, but primarily @CapnCornelius.  The subject of our discussion was the contract status of Josh Anderson, with training camp looming.  On its face, this would seem to be a pretty straight forward negotiation.  The Agent is asking for a lot of money because the CBJ reputedly gave up a lot of assets to keep Anderson.  But Josh is a Restricted Free Agent without arbitration rights.  That means this is the one contract negotiation where the CBJ have the leverage.  Josh had a fine first year in the league.  He needs to duplicate that to get the big money.  Holding out of training camp will not help him to duplicate it, but he would be stone cold crazy to go to camp without a contract.  So whats the sticking point?

According to our Twitter conversation, there are a lot more moving parts to this negotiation than you would think.  First of all, the CBJ are still in the running for a trade to the Colorado Avalanche for Matt Duchene, and his $6 million contract.  So money has to go the other way, and what you give Josh has a real impact on how close you are to the cap this year.  And next year the salary negotiations are just going to be awful, with many good players up for contracts and raises.  You cannot go into next year with enough cap room.  The money they give to Josh takes up some of that space.  Pierre Luc-Dubois is eligible for a lot of bonuses under his ELC.  If those bonuses put you over the cap, there are penalties to be paid, and you sure as heck don't want penalty money on your cap next year.  So the Jackets need to know where these chips are going to fall before they can get serious with Anderson's contract negotiation.

That's a lot of moving parts.

Lastly, on the cross-mojozination front, there has been a lot of change in the CBJ blogosphere.  A couple of new sites have been launched, along with the standards the Cannon and Buckeye State Hockey.  A new site called The First Ohio Battery has been launched, and has maintained a good content stream all summer.  I recommend checking it out.  Secondly, in a phenomenon sweeping the continent, a new site called The Athletic has been launched.  This site is a subscription site behind a paywall, but they have gathered a great deal of talent from across the country.  Aaron Portzline and Tom Reed have both left the Columbus Dispatch to write for The Athletic Cleveland, and the content has been outstanding.  If you can afford it, I recommend it.

I'm looking forward to a fun season.  I haven't had a whole lot of angst this summer, and have enjoyed the summer a great deal.  A top five finish will do that kind of thing for you.  But its a new season, and we are tied for first, and tied for last.  There will probably be some separation once the real games start.  For now, we must be content with preseason.  It's gonna be fun!

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

COGH Tells Sakic to Pound Salt (Fake News!)

Sunday, Central  Ohio Girls' Hockey (COGH) Board Member Natalie emphatically declared that she would not trade any of her girls for Matt Duchene, the talented center of the Colorado Avalanche.  This is a real setback for General Manager Joe Sakic, and one wonders if this diminishes Duchene’s trade value at all.  The unwillingness of the Board to trade assets to an NHL franchise speaks to the core mission of the COGH, which is to support female youth hockey in the Central Ohio area. 

You have to admire the determination of the Board of the COGH, to even consider trading their skaters for Duchene (when pointedly asked about it).  In spite of lingering questions about the ability of a youth hockey organization in central Ohio to bargain with an NHL organization under the current CBA, you cannot question the potential value of the Avalanche Centerman to the Board.  At $6.5 million per year, the COGH could likely leverage significant benefits from owning his rights.

But here’s the problem.  The COGH doesn’t ACTUALLY have any players to trade in the first place.  That’s because those players are part of the four existing youth hockey leagues in the Columbus area, the Columbus Ice Hockey Club (CIHC), the Easton Youth Hockey Association (EYHA), The Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association (CCYHA) and the Capital Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA).  The COGH is interested in supporting female youth hockey in all of those leagues, so selecting a few players to trade for Matt Duchene involves brokering a lot of deals, so we think this trade is probably not going to happen. 

However, I had the opportunity to interview Natalie at the hockey talk in August gathering at the R-Bar (@RBar_AD) and found out a lot of things I didn’t know about COGH.  For instance I found out that COGH has a goal to promote the sport of hockey to young women, and then promote ways to keep them in the game as they age.    They also play a role in introducing young girls to the sport.  In that role often find themselves assuring parents the sport is safe, compared to a sport such as gymnastics.  As in all sports there is some risk of injury, but wouldn’t you rather fall off a balance beam wearing hockey gear?

When Natalie answered the safety question, it made me wonder about the gear; hockey equipment can be pricey at times.  So I asked her if they ever help girls starting out with their equipment needs.  Besides dipping into her personal stash of accumulated gear, if there is a significant need, COGH will instead work with the Columbus Ice Hockey Club (CIHC).  CIHC has a mission of promoting diversity in the sport of hockey, and are in a position to help with the more significant needs. 

So here I found myself at an R-Bar event finding out more about youth hockey in our fair City, and I was really enjoying the discussion.  So I asked Natalie what their skaters thought of the Columbus Blue Jackets.   She replied that at the ages they are dealing with (3 and a half and up), they love the games, they love the arena and the love the events.  They are not quite there in terms of player identification yet. 

So at the end of the day, Natalie said, COGH is just a group of people advocating for all of the girls in hockey.  I felt this to be a very worthwhile endeavor, so I asked Natalie how people could help their organization the most.  She replied that things that would help them the most would be to attend events and share information about the organization and its events.  Since COGH just received its 501(c )(3) nonprofit status, they hope to be able to participate in a 50-50 raffle at a Jackets game in the future. 

Hockey is growing for all ages in the City of Columbus.  Organizations such as COGH help to ensure that all of our children are able to play hockey if they want to play.  It’s part of what makes our City great!

GO JACKETS!!

GO MONSTERS!!  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lucas Sedlak; Fulcrum for Success

Lucas Sedlak, 2016 Training Camp
I don't know if fulcrum is the right word or not, it's just the one I could come up with that was close to what I meant.  I really regret the loss of William Karlsson, as I think he is going to bloom into a better than average NHL center.  And since Jarmo got him through a bit of grand theft as a throw in from the Wisniewski trade, whom we had acquired as a free agent, we were able get out of the expansion draft without spending a hard earned draft asset (well, except for that late first round pick).

I know there are differing opinions out there on Willia Karlsson, but I will point out that by the end of the playoffs last year, Torts was matching Karlsson up against Crosby as one of our best defenders.  So I think Karlsson will flourish in Vegas.  The reason I say this is that I want to paint the picture of the hole that needs filled, and I think Lucas Sedlak is the guy that will do the filling.

Two years ago, Lucas Sedlak had established himself as an excellent defensive center for the then Lake Erie Monsters.  However, when the playoffs arrived, Sedlak's goal scoring exploded through the simple expedient of crashing the net with his stick on the ice.  Oliver Bjorkstrand routinely found him for tap in goals in that series.

Last year, Lucas was a surprise addition to the team, forcing Gregory Campbell into the Blue Jackets front office in a player development role (see what happens when you save your employer $1 million?).  Lucas had a very steady rookie year in a fourth line center role, finally scored his first NHL goal, and seemed to improve as the season went on.  Unfortunately, a late season injury hampered his play down the stretch, but I thought he was a noticeable force in the last playoff game.

So anyway, just how big of a hole does he have to fill this upcoming year?  Assuming he needs to step in and replace Karlsson as third line center, he needs to upgrade his performance from 7 G - 6 A - 13 P to William Karlsson's 6-19-25 in his sophomore campaign.  Some folks have Oliver Bjorktrand playing on that third line next year, so he likely will have opportunity to up his assist totals with better line mates.  His defensive abilities are certainly good enough to hold down the third line center role, and he is excellent in face offs.

There are some people penciling in Pierre-Luc Dubois into this third line center role.  I think that is fraught with, well, fraughtness.  PLD has to prove he can play in the NHL, and probably should be playing with the Cleveland Monsters this year if his development could override bad arrangements with the Canadian Hockey League.  If PLD doesn't make the NHL squad, he has to go back to the Q and push around 17 year olds, which isn't going to help his development at all.  But I think it unlikely that PLD could duplicate 6-19-25 in his rookie campaign.  If he can, power to him.  So on the big club this year I see him getting his feet wet in a fourth line role.  He has the frame to carry it, and there won't be huge pressure to succeed.  If injuries deplete the top 6, then he could fill in at that level, where the organization hopes he is ultimately going to play.

The reason I say this about PLD is my conviction that it is an organizational imperative that the Blue Jackets make the playoffs again in a murderous Metropolitan Division.  The organization should be past the point of throwing rookies against the wall to see if they stick.  The problem with PLD is that the developmental choices are so crappy.

The reality seems to be that it is not such a stretch to expect Lucas Sedlak to be able to step in and replace William Karlsson's contributions to the team.  A prodctive bottom 6 is a good way to wins games, and I think the Blue Jackets are positioned to have a productive bottom 6 again this year.  Now if only Dubinsky would start scoring.....

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!