Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"The Howson Interview" - The Commentariat Speaks!

The response to my call for Columbus Blue Jackets bloggers to take a swing at answering the questions that Columbus Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline posed to CBJ general manager Scott Howson was impressive!  The bloggers came through with (largely) insightful and sometimes witty answers that reveal a remarkable depth of understanding about the big picture issues facing the Blue Jackets as they hit the mid-point of the season.

I believe that the following list encompasses all the blogs that participated in this exercise.  If I missed any, please let me know.
I also compiled the answers by question (including Howson's) and listed the responses after the fold. (Because I wrote a book for each question, you can just click on my link and read my answers.)  This is a great way to see the diversity of opinions on any of the questions that Portzline posed. I found that it brought new ideas and fresh perspectives to light - and how could I forget John Moore when talking about minor league callups?

Regardless of what you think about everyone's ideas, keep in mind that the whole reason that most of us blog is for fun.  It's fun to write about our favorite team, to theorize, to play back-seat driver to team management. So please enjoy this, and have fun reading what we came up with.


Given the expectations
surrounding this club heading into this season, how surprised are you to
be closer to last place than a playoff spot in the Western
Conference?



Scott Howson: Well, we're surprised and disappointed. We've had a 15-game stretch where we just haven't performed.
Stingers on Ice: I’m not completely surprised that we are fighting near the bottom of the playoff picture. Last year’s team completely over-achieved in the 2nd half of last year. If you remember we were in a very similar situation last year when it came to the Blue Jackets overall record at this point last year.
A Shot fron the Point: Really quite surprised, both in terms of the CBJ performance and the performance of some other clubs. The length and depth of the current losing streak is beyond anything that I would have foreseen. However, we fortunately had two solid winning streaks earlier in the season, and every team takes their turn in the barrel, so to speak, so six points out of the playoffs with more than half the season left is not disasterous.

Phoenix, Colorado and Nashville have been real surprises for me this year, and I still wonder what their staying power will be long term. Similar thought with Dallas. Los Angeles appears to have started coming together, so they may be more solid down the stretch than the others, provided their goaltending holds up.

CBJ*CRA*Z: To be honest, I'm not very surprised. I've always seen this team as a team who has to work extra hard to get results and was never under the impression that wins would come easy. Blue collar. That's a great way to describe my view of this team; starting at the bottom and working their way up. I think the excitement of clinching the playoffs last season shadowed a lot of peoples realistic view of how the team was built to perform and in that had their expectations set too high.
Dispatches from Columbus: I’m stunned, but I should have seen this coming. After all, the only team in our division that didn’t improve is Detroit. But a weaker 2009 version of the Red Wings is still a tough team for the Blue Jackets to compete against. In all honesty, we made one big roster move, signing a competent back-up goalie for our team. Other than that, we haven’t changed much.
Does It Have Booze In It?: As a fan, I am actually really surprised that the players that were part of such a stellar effort last season are not more excited to repeat a playoff appearance. I realize it’s a long, grueling season, however, you can’t give less than you gave and get more than you got. Haven’t these guys ever seen Rocky? I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention my distaste that the Blue Jackets are still in the Western Conference. How is that really fair? Suffering through a road trip and playing five and six games until what would be 1:00am our time doesn’t seem to be all that level of a playing “field”.
CBJ4Ever: I am surprised but not shocked. In today’s three point game NHL parody rules the day and teams can be on top one minute and at the bottom the next minute. Look at Colorado and Los Angeles, both teams did not make the playoffs last but they are at the top of the conference this year. I said many a time last spring to whoever would listen not to be surprised if the Jackets did not make the playoffs this year. We just barely got in last year. What is so shocking is how much worse the CBJ are in every area this year as compared to last year.
JacketsBlog: The quick start was a very pleasant surprise, but there were early problem signs on (what Porty called) “The Tennis Trip”. The team defense has not performed consistently or anywhere near the level they were able to last year. Compounding the issue has been a revolving door of injuries, while not substantial “big name” type of players, there has consistently been a role players out of the line-up.

What player, what aspect of
the club, has been most surprising?


Scott Howson: Our goals-against has been unexpected for me. And that's a team issue, not an issue of one player or one position. Everybody on our team shares the responsibility for that, and it has to improve.
Stingers on Ice: Steve Mason, but it’s not surprising in a good way. I guess rookie goaltenders don’t have a great success rate in the past decade or so. Jim Carey had a great rookie year too, but teams figured him out and he had a mediocre career bouncing between NHL and AHL.
A Shot From the Point: On the negative side, Commodore and Hejda have been the most surprising. Granted, they both had injuries/illness, but they are both very tentative on the ice and are just not executing some basic things. Methot has been awful, but this is not surprising to me -- I have never liked his attitude and think he has been vastly overrated. Stralman has been a pleasant surprise, and Russell is starting to come into his own. Chimera has been somewhat surprising, showing some more skill than in years past.
CBJ*CRA*Z: Most surprising to me has been the lack of physical play from everyone. Everyone knows a Hitchcock team is going to be a brutal in your face, down your throat team, but I haven't seen enough of that this season. Checks aren't being finished and pressure isn't being put on the opponent on a consistent basis.
Dispatches from Columbus: I’m not happy with the overall play of the team. For crying out loud, it looks like the boys went home over the summer and forgot about the demands of playing in the NHL. We do not come prepared to play hockey most nights this season. And we have failed to consider the changes in the NHL, like the speed and puck possession styles that successful teams utilize.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Good surprise: Raffi Torres. Bad surprise: Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets inability to clench a SO win – tie.
CBJ4Ever: Brassard. I expected big things from him this year after the start he got out to last year. Mason’s struggles are not as shocking to me. It is very hard to play goal at the level he did last in the NHL unless your play goal in New Jersey. I was against trading Leclaire last spring. I felt we needed to see Mason play another half season to see if he was for real. I think we have our answer now.
JacketsBlog: Tough to answer because there have been pleasant surprises; Dorsett and his importance to the team, Torres and his scoring+energy combination, and the big disappointments; Brassard who might need to sit and watch, Mason and his wildly inconsistent play. The expected great players Nash, Umberger, Vermette, Voracek, were expected to be great, but has it been consistently enough? The lack of consistency is my biggest surprise, offensively and defensively the team doesn’t know who it wants to be it seems.

Why is coach Ken Hitchcock the right coach for this club right now?

Scott Howson: He's had great experience. He's been through this before. He's a really good coach, one of the best in the NHL. There's not much he hasn't seen in this game.
Stingers on Ice: Hitchcock is the right coach for this team because he commands respect and the fact that he’s a teaching head coach. He can get the most out of these young players, even if it means sending Filatov to the KHL to get more ice time. He’s very methodical in his approach to hockey. He emphasizes checking and trying to win all of the little battles in the war to win the game.
A Shot From the Point: Not sure that he is, but the jury is out on that. What Hitchcock does have is experience and the ability to coach the technical side of hockey. The fundamental questions involve whether his system can work in the "new" NHL and how he can manage the intangibles of morale at both the team and individual levels. He seems increasingly agitated and dismissive, more erratic in his decisions on personnel, rolling four lines, goaltenders etc. It is a cause for concern.
CBJ*CRA*Z: You can't look past a resume like Hitch's. Beyond that though, I believe that Hitch is the right coach for this team because he genuinely wants to help this team and this city succeed. I can see the emotional attachment Hitch has to the group of guys he coach's. His 'tough love' approach is his way of humbling the players and not letting them get above their heads because he knows that can only take you so far. He teaches them to work, work, work for what they want knowing that it will make them an all around better player.
Dispatches from Columbus: Because he is the one that we have. Hitchcock was in place before I got here and I am doing my best to work with him.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Because Scott Howson says so.
CBJ4Ever: Not knowing exactly what is going on in the locker room I will answer this way: If the players have quit listening to him then the answer is no. However if he still has their attention he is the right person. I feel if the players do what he is telling them to do they will win. Last season is the proof of that. It is as simple as that.
JacketsBlog: Hitch is the right man because he brings more identity to the Blue Jackets than they ever had prior to his presence. I would argue that more people in Columbus, and the hockey world at large, know about Ken Hitchcock than Rick Nash. As a fan, I recognize that the Jackets are not playing the style of hockey they did last year on a consistent basis. When they are forechecking as we witnessed last season, this team is very difficult to beat, but when there is seemingly a different team on the ice every night this season, it is difficult to place blame.

You have one of the youngest
clubs in the NHL. Does he work well with a group like
that?

Scott Howson: Absolutely.
Stingers on Ice: I think Hitchcock could coach the Mighty Ducks to a decent record in the NHL. He can coach stars and young talent. It’s unfair to judge him clearly on the Nikita Filatov experience. Look how Jakub Voracek dedicated himself and he’s playing great hockey under Hitchcock.
A Shot From the Point: No. Hitch has a double standard of performance for veterans and youngsters, and it has shown up time and time again. The young guys are terrified of making a mistake, and they are playing like it. He is strangling the club with micromanagement and constant personnel moves, when he should be going the other direction -- simplicity and stability. The Filatov situation was just a symptom, but there is a rigidity in Hitchcock that does not serve the club well. Howson is building the team for the long term, not just for a Hitchcock style of play. Any system has to have the flexibility to accommodate talent like Filatov and others, and differing styles of play.
CBJ*CRA*Z: Just like a teenager thinks his parents are out to make his life miserable, so it is with young kids and Hitch. What few of them grasp right away though, is that while his process might be a bit harsh it is setting a foundation of character and grit. Nothing measures a players inner strength more than putting them in situations that might make them feel belittled, uncomfortable or inferior, and seeing how they react to it. He makes them earn their place and their ice time which coincides with the 'blue collar' work ethic that Hitch embodies.
Dispatches from Columbus: You could make the case that he is not getting his plans across to the team. The players know that he has the experience and knowledge that a successful NHL coach needs, but the younger guys are not comprehending him very well. It’s kind of like taking calculus; some students do well with Professor Huang while the more experienced Professor Jones can’t get through to anyone in his class.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Viva Dave King.
CBJ4Ever: Same answer as the previous question.
JacketsBlog: With Hitch’s vast knowledge of the game of hockey, I don’t know who is better for installing an identity and properly educating players the right way to play the game. Hitch is about discipline yes, but I think with the balance of veterans and young guns, it shouldn’t be an overbearing issue like some would make it out to be.
Do you feel like you over-estimated Derick Brassard, expecting him to be a No. 1 center this season?
Scott Howson: I don't like the word overestimate. I think we probably put him in a position that he wasn't quite ready for, given his experience and his injury last season.
Stingers on Ice: Yes I do, he teased us with some great play before he suffered his injury last season. I was expecting big numbers from him equivalent to what R.J. Umberger is putting up this year.
A Shot From the Point: In terms of timing, yes. Again, the physical side is one thing, the confidence and the instinctive side is another. The latter take longer to develop. His progress has been hampered by Hitchcock's impatience, in my opinion. When you are trying to get your game back, it helps to have stable lines and expectations. Brassard is another one who has been afraid to make a mistake. He has recently shown a lot more speed and tenacity, despite Hitch moving him around a lot.
CBJ*CRA*Z: It seems that way right now, but that's not to say that Derick isn't capable of the duties. That is a lot of pressure to put on a very young kid who is just coming off a season ending injury and I think even Derick set his own expectations too high. He is still a very bright, young, promising player who has the determination and passion for the game. The team slump and his personal slump are probably causing him to grip his stick too hard these days, but knowing Derick, once the kinks start getting worked out so will his performance and he will then be able to be the player he thrives to be.
Dispatches from Columbus: No, Derick is the right guy for our club. You know, the Blue Jackets don’t have a lot of offensive talent, just Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius. After those two, we have a significant drop in NHL talent and skill.
Does It Have Booze In It?: I think Derek Brassard is completely aware of how much the club expected of his play. If he didn’t exhibit the skill and confidence that led to this expectation than he would never have been placed there. You don’t just get given a No. 1 spot, especially in Hitch style hockey. The sooner these guys learn that, the harder they are going to play. You can’t keep a guy on the No. 1 line that is just not performing.
CBJ4Ever: No. Brassard was the leading candidate to win the Calder last year until he got hurt. Actually at this point why not give him another crack at the top line. It might give him confidence and he can’t do any worse than Juice.
JacketsBlog: At risk of sounding like team management, I don’t believe Derick has been overestimated, but is still struggling to adjust after missing over half of last season. Derick seems to be a player with a lot of passion and determination but hasn’t quite found the stride that he had going last year. There is an obvious level of talent, and I still believe he will be centering a line with Voracek and Nash on the wings in the future.
How close did you come to
making a deal over the last few days, before the NHL's holiday roster
freeze went into effect on Saturday?

Scott Howson: I wouldn't say we were close on anything. We're still considering some moves for when the roster freeze is over, but there's nothing sitting on the table.
Stingers on Ice: I think Nikita Filatov is getting traded to another team within the next 8-10 months.
A Shot From the Point: Likely not all that close, unless a youngster was in the mix, which Howson is not likely to do, with the exception of a Boll, Methot, Murray, etc. Too early for most clubs to part with a front line defenseman, and long term contracts serve as obstacles to portability. Howson will only do a deal if it is a good one for the CBJ, which is the right approach.
CBJ*CRA*Z: I will admit that after the Colorado game I was expecting things to get a little hairy on the trade front, but I believe Scott when he says he thinks the answer is in the locker room. With such a tight knit group of guys it is probably hard to do anything that might mix up emotions or chemistry. If the guys can stick through this slump and climb the hill together I don't see Scott doing anything drastic.
Dispatches from Columbus: If I wanted to trade Steve Mason or Kris Russell or Jakub Voracek, I could have made a deal. But the rest of the NHL is not interested in our roster beyond those guys and Rick Nash.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Not as close as you should have.
CBJ4Ever: Who knows but I would sure keep trying.
JacketsBlog: We all know that Howson has not been the type to make deals just to make deals. He has slowly and steadily brought this team to respectability, going from a bunch of random pieces not worth much, to a team with plenty of “bullets” when it comes time to make deals. I do expect a move in the near future especially if the losing streak continues, if for no other reason than the Jackets could very possibly be sellers at this years deadline.
Do you consider talking
during the next week, even though you can't make a move until after Dec.
26?

Scott Howson: Yes. We'll continue to talk and we'll continue to listen. But I'm not going to do something just to do it.
Stingers on Ice: The Blue Jackets are always looking to improve their team, but they aren’t in “win now” mode. They are building for a run in the next one to two years.
A Shot From the Point: Howson is on the horn all the time, and that won't change during the freeze.
CBJ*CRA*Z: He said he did, so the answer is yes. For a team in the situation we are in, he's a smart man for doing so in the case that things don't start looking up.
Dispatches from Columbus: I’m always talking, that’s my job as an NHL General Manager.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Everyone knows we need help.
CBJ4Ever: There is no rule against talking so why not. It would be stupid to stop.
JacketsBlog: Of course there will be conversations had during the holiday freeze. As mentioned above, I expect a deal eventually, but it probably won’t happen right out of the roster freeze. Maybe we should all hope for Mrs. Howson to make Scott’s eggnog a little stronger this year and he will come up with a sweet deal landing a great veteran defenseman.
Any thought given to a minor
league call-up?

Scott Howson: It's something we've discussed, but I see us playing the Phoenix and Dallas games and then taking a look where we're at.
Stingers on Ice: I think they should call up D John Moore, just to see what they have and how long it would be until he’s a full-time roster member. Given the injury to Klesla and the fact that the defense isn’t very good right now, if Columbus keep this slide, get Moore some ice time and build for next year.
A Shot From the Point: I would like to see Picard up and get a real chance to play, and wouldn't mind seeing Mayorov with some time. Picard had a great camp, and I thought that Hitch made a mistake by putting Boll on the roster instead of Picard. He brings lots of grit, but with a much better talent pool. Mayorov, with some exposure, could be surprising, and is worth more of a look. I see nothing on the defensive side right now that gets me excited, outside of John Moore.
CBJ*CRA*Z: You can't turn aside the fact that Matheiu Roy has been a breath of fresh air in the face of injury. He's a big physical guy who has great hockey sense so to keep him around for the long term wouldn't surprise me at all. As far as any other major call-ups, I don't see it happening in any case other than injury.
Dispatches from Columbus: Excuse me? We don’t have anyone to call up.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Anyone that will play harder and better than anyone on our current team should get a chance. That should send a pretty clear message.
CBJ4Ever: In fact the one move I would consider (depending on whether he can go up and down without having to clear waivers) would be to possibly send Mason down for more seasoning. At this point I don’t feel we can afford to have him “find his game” in the NHL. Our position in the standings is too precarious for that luxury. Instead let him go down, take some of the pressure off and let him have some fun. Conversely, if the rumors about him having a big head are true, a couple of bus rides to Worchester should clear that up. You can always bring someone up from Syracuse to back up Garon.
JacketsBlog: Based on how the CBJ played last year with half of a minor-league roster in the games against the Avs and Sharks, I should hope so. I’m a bit surprised someone like Picard hasn’t found his way to more playing time in Columbus this season. It says a lot about the d-men we have in the ‘Cuse that only Mathieu Roy has had meaningful time in the ‘Bus, but I think a lot of it is also an effort to make sure none of them are improperly rushed to the NHL level.
You made one change to your
blue line last offseason, adding defenseman Anton Stralman. If you had it
to do over again, would you have done more to upgrade the
defense?

Scott Howson: No. I still believe in that group. They certainly deserve the opportunity to come back. We rode a lot of them to the playoffs last season -- Jan Hejda, Fedor Tyutin, Mike Commodore. They were a big part of us getting to the playoffs. We're looking for a defenseman right now because of the long-term injury with Rusty Klesla. But when we're healthy, we think it can be an effective group.
Stingers on Ice: Of course, I thought that the addition of Anton Stralman was to make up for the lack of depth and he was a puck-moving defenseman, this didn’t didn’t have a consistent one of those until the trade. We hope that the you defenseman in the minors matures fast, so we can challenge for a high Western Conference playoff spot.
A Shot From the Point: This is 20/20 hindsight for the most part, as it would have been darn near impossible to predict that Commodore and Hejda would have gone in the tank. If any mistakes have been made, it has been over-reliance on Klesla and an inflated concept of Methot's value. Look for those mistakes to be rectified this year, although Klesla's injury history will likely reduce his market value.
CBJ*CRA*Z: When our defense is playing up to par they are damn good. We saw it last season and we've seen snaps of it this season. Anton Stralman has proved his worth here and with those two facts it's hard to argue a do-over.
Dispatches from Columbus: We looked at Martin Skoula, but Hitch passed on him. I’m a little surprised Hitch didn’t ask me to go after his old buddy, Darryl Sydor. Sydor was available, but the guy is 37 and I told Hitch we don’t run a retirement home here. Besides, he was here a few years ago and hated it. I don’t think he wants to come back, friend or no friend.
Does It Have Booze In It?: I think upgrades are needed defensively. No one expected Mason to perform this inconsistently to last year. Now with Klesla likely to be affected by his injury for quite a while a solid enforcer/defenseman would be very beneficial to the team.
CBJ4Ever: Good lord yes. By the way no matter what you thought about him in the past DO NOT TRADE FOR WANYNE REDDEN. He is in Torterlli’s doghouse in New York and would probably come cheap. However the cure for a headache is not to hit yourself over the head with a hammer.
JacketsBlog: I would have liked the CBJ to add a better stay-at-home type of d-man. Getting Stralman has been important to the drastic improvement of the power play, but then again, who could’ve predicted that Jan Hejda and Mike Commodore would not be performing anywhere near the level they did last season? Getting a player like Pronger was not an option as it would severely handicap any chance of keeping all of our youth who’s contracts are coming due in the near future. Without re-hashing all the players we didn’t sign, I would have expected the Jackets to be putting claims in on some of the d-men going through waivers, just as a flyer even.
Could this club use another strong veteran presence in the dressing room?
Scott Howson: I think veterans can help in these types of periods. But I also have faith in our
leadership group, and they're working their way through it.

Stingers on Ice: I think this team needs one of its young players, like a Voracek to step up and become a leader. Everyone looks up to Rick Nash as a leader, but he’s still a very young guy. I would love to see Columbus get a veteran defenseman to teach the young talent how to play up to an NHL level.
A Shot From the Point: Sure, but only if the leadership accompanies on-ice talent. Peca is not that guy right now. Great guy, good leader, but we can't toss a roster spot to a figurehead. Modin is an iffy proposition as it is, so any move for a veteran should be for a veteran, top line defenseman.

Howson is taking a lot of grief in retrospect, but which of the veterans should he have kept? Peca isn't playing professional hockey, so nobody else was jumping at his skill set or leadership either. Malhotra tried to hold us up for $2+ million, and is now playing for $700K in San Jose. What should we do, bring back Christian Backman??? It wasn't unreasonable to think that Commodore, Hejda,Tyutin, Chimera and Nash could provide the leadership. Again, however, it may well be that the team leadership is being overwhelmed by Hitchcock.

CBJ*CRA*Z: There can never be too many veterans in a locker room (just look at Detroit), but that's not to say it is a dire need. With the likes of Freddie Modin and Jason Chimera-among others-this team is not lacking in veteran presence. I think we have a pretty healthy mixture of young and 'older' in the locker room, however I wouldn't turn away someone like Michael Peca if the option came along. The great thing about the mixture we have is the fact that the young can learn from the old and vice versa. That is essential for a team who is trying to stay on the same page.
Dispatches from Columbus: We could use something! But then I don’t hang around with the guys after practice. They’re all young and they like to go out at night and it’s not to the local library. Sure, they didn’t mind Peca hanging around last year, but some of them told me he smelled like an old man in a nursing home. The only veterans who want to come here are Hitch’s buddies and I don’t see one of them I want. The kids have worked their entire lives to get to the NHL and this maybe another task that they need to check off. I tell them to think of this as Junior Hockey, but without a curfew.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Two words: Brendan. Shanahan. You missed him when you had the chance!!
CBJ4Ever: Yes. I feel this club is way too young. The recent struggles show that. It would have been nice to have a calm veteran presence in the room over the last six weeks. I am still baffled by not re-signing Manny Malhotra. It’s not like we upgraded his position. Hopefully Freddie Modin being back will help in this area.
JacketsBlog: Frankly, I don’t know. It’s easy to say this team misses Michael Peca or Manny Malhotra, but do any of us really know? This is supposed to be Nash’s team now and if the product on the ice is a result of that, then yes, we need a veteran presence to re-center the group and be an off-ice leader. At this point, I don’t think a move to sign Peca or any other veteran would make much sense. The onus is on Nash, Umberger, Torres, Modin, Pahlsson, Chimera, Juice, Hejda, Commodore to take the reins and get this thing right.
You talk about "going
through the process" and "working through it", but isn't that what last
season was about? Didn't you feel like you'd already gone through all of
this?

Scott Howson: I don't think any of us thought we'd gone through it last year. Because this is such a competitive league, there's always the danger that you can get behind the eight-ball pretty quickly. St. Louis is going through it right now.
Stingers on Ice: Yes, we did the things that we needed to do to make the playoffs last year. This year was supposed to be building on the success of last year, but we have hit some road bumps and injuries have hit our team in key areas. (I wanted to sound like Scott Howson in answering that question).
A Shot From the Point: Hockey is more dependent upon familiarity, timing and comfort than any other sport. Despite the fact that there were fewer roster moves than the year before, the moves that transpired impacted chemistry, and the convergence of injury and tinkering have hurt the ability to get that chemistry back.
CBJ*CRA*Z: Last year was a rush. The team was on an upward spiral and had their mind set on making the playoffs. This year, with somewhat of a slump going on, they have to start looking at the picture as a basic process. i.e. buying in, playing 60 minutes, winning and continuing down that same path. Every year is a different process the team has to conform to so to think that after last season the team was set to go for this one is completely unreasonable.
Dispatches from Columbus: We have to do it again, unfortunately, because our team is not the same as last seasons’. No Jason Williams, not Manny Malhotra, no Peca, you get the picture. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a two season process.
Does It Have Booze In It?: As a fan, I felt like we went through this. I really had a lot of hope after last season ended.
CBJ4Ever: It’s like we been 'going through the process' and 'working through it' since 2000. It’s time to complete the process. If that means a new Coach, GM or new players so be it. The patience of the fan base is at its last nerve.
JacketsBlog: There is no end to the process of development, just like growing older, everyday we all learn something new, or should. The Jackets will always be learning, especially on a very young team, the process is never really over. There were lots of new lessons last year, how to deal with success being a big one, but now the Jackets are getting a whole new education. Teams know what to expect from them and the fans have a certain level of expectation from the players and coaches.
Do you need an
enforcer?

Scott Howson: No.
Stingers on Ice: Of course we do.
A Shot From the Point: No.
CBJ*CRA*Z: I don't believe so.
Dispatches from Columbus: No. We don’t have the roster space to waste on a dancer.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Can someone please teach Mirasty how to play hockey?
CBJ4Ever: Yes
JacketsBlog: No. I have always thought that enforcers were a bit overrated.
[Why or] Why
not?

Scott Howson: I don't see us getting intimidated. Hey, everybody wants to be as physical as they can be. But it's not a high priority for us.
Stingers on Ice: Every major star had an enforcer. Gretzky had Marty McSorley so much that when Gretzky was traded to the Kings from Edmonton, McSorley was added in the trade. You must protect your stars and Nash needs a bodyguard out there.
A Shot From the Point: Several reasons. The true enforcer is a dying breed in the NHL. We have enough guys who run around hitting people and spending more time in the box than on the ice. We don't use our speed enough, and that is the biggest single thing that hurts us. When we carry speed through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, people have a hard time playing with us. It is when we are tentative, spend too much time thinking, that we make ourselves seem vulnerable. Speed is a great equalizer.

CBJ fans tend to think that hitting is the answer to everything. Not anymore. Sure, a well-timed hit is a beautiful thing, but the hitting has to be with a purpose. Part of the art is knowing when to use the body, and when to just get position, use the stick and make a play. We take ourselves out of a lot of plays by focusing on the hits. Physical, but smart needs to be the motto.

CBJ*CRA*Z: Our entire team, when playing the way they are molded to play, serve that purpose. There are more than a handful of guys on the team who would be more than willing to drop the gloves if the situation called for it, but right now I think the boys believe that if they aren't getting momentum from within, breaking out into fights isn't going to be much of a boost either. Their priorities need to lie in the focus of doing what needs to be done to win the game and if a situation comes up that requires bare hands, then someone will be there to act accordingly.
Dispatches from Columbus: It’s more important that we develop hockey players who can play. When we didn’t have them, a guy like Jody Shelley kept the other teams honest.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Because beating the shit out of someone has sent the same message since the time of the Holy Crusades.
CBJ4Ever: Ask Chimera, Dorsett or any Jacket who has been the victim of a cheap shot this year. Too many liberties have been taken.
JacketsBlog: Yes, this team has struggled to stand up for itself a lot in the past, but there have been more and more signs that the right guys (non-skill positions) are increasingly willing to go to bat when necessary. This is a part of the process of building a young team into a contender.
Sitting here, five days
before Christmas, do you still feel as if that's a playoff-caliber
club?

Scott Howson: I feel like the answer to what we're going through is in the dressing room, yes. We have very good players. We have a very good coaching staff. We're trying to add a defenseman now with Klesla being out, but we have a very good team. Look, lots of teams go through this sort of period. That doesn't make it acceptable, but it makes us like a lot of other clubs. We're not going to make rash decisions based on a 15-game stretch. We're not going to judge our players on a four- or five-week period. Nobody's happy with where we're at. It's a frustrated bunch right now. But I believe we'll get through this.
Stingers on Ice: No I don’t, but anything can happen in the 2nd half of the season. Are the Blue Jackets going to make huge moves this season? No, not at all, but if they just try to fix their mistakes and either score an extra goal a game or prevent one from scoring, this team could still be in the hunt for a #8 seed in the playoffs. This team just has to do the little things in the game and they could be alright.
A Shot From the Point: The talent is there -- what is needed is the confidence and the freedom to use it. While the players need to perform, the coach and the system are responsible for the environment. A couple of moves by Howson, and a few wins in a row could really spark the team for a sustained run. They can't do it playing scared, however. What has been done to date hasn't worked. Time to loosen the reins a bit and see what can be done.
CBJ*CRA*Z: I absolutely believe that this team is a playoff-caliber club. Recent play may suggest otherwise and if things don't start looking up within the next ten or so games that could be an inaccurate assessment, but what these guys possess inside of them is what's going to determine the answer to that. They all have it in them to do what they need to do to play, shut down and win a game - the question is whether or not they are able personify that on the ice.
Dispatches from Columbus: I have two hopes. One, that the boys get their shit together and start playing better. And two, that a few of the Western Conference teams cool off and come down to earth. It’s more likely that number two is going to occur.
Does It Have Booze In It?: Sadly, no. Nash better remember what that ‘C’ stands for…
CBJ4Ever: No. It can be turned around but I am afraid it is too late and I hope I am 100% wrong about that last statement.
JacketsBlog: I know that the Jackets are capable of making the playoffs, and I really believe it. The Blue Jackets have a load of potential talent, but will they be able to tap into it in time? If they can start catching a few simple breaks, it could change in a hurry and we could be right where we were last March, going through one of the greatest weeks in franchise history.

If the play continues like this, it’s not likely the CBJ will be playing in late April this year. On the other hand, in the most extreme situation, take a look at what the Penguins firing of Michel Therrien and subsequent hiring of Dan Bylsma was able to do. No we’re not as good as the Pens, but if the right move is made at the right time, a lot of good can happen.

In summation, don’t expect any rash moves, but I think this club will find a way to push for a spot in the playoffs.

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