Monday, July 19, 2010

Casinos and intensity and Howson, oh my!

Another reasonably quick "in-between posts" post to summarize a few of the pertinent points of Columbus Blue Jackets discussion over the last few days - as I try to wrap up the summer quarter of school early.  Apologies for no graphics, but time's a-wastin'...

CASINO TAXES

First off, BusinessFirst of Columbus asked the question "Can casino tax windfall save Blue Jackets?" on July 16.    The Dispatch offered a story the same day.  Fast actors, those guys.  (I first broached the idea back on November 5, and Jeff Little offered his insights on the same on February 19.  Just sayin'.)  To be fair to our newsprint-coated media friends, though, they actually got CBJ president Mike Priest on record saying that the casino tax revenue idea sounded like a decent idea to him.  Jeff and my pieces were much more speculative.

By the way, this is by no means a done deal.  The Facebook group for Casino-Free Columbus (to which I proudly belong, to be clear) is pretty honked off about the whole matter.  Not like the group wanted a casino around to begin with, granted.  Personally, I suppose that using the tax revenue to support the Arena District is less odious than a lot of other possibilities.  In this case, we're preserving a unique cultural/commercial area that makes Columbus unique and distinct in this ever-homogenizing country.

[7/24/10 UPDATE: Field of Schemes has its say, and it's rather predictable.]

PASS THE 5-HOUR ENERGY, PLEASE!

The Dispatch's Tom Reed wrote a downright fantastic article hitting on what I have seen as the crux of the problem facing the Blue Jackets last year - the lack of demonstrable intensity and fire in the belly on the roster.  (Side note: Tom's the perfect guy to offer this piece as the summertime occasional Columbus Crew reporter is familiar with Red Bull.)

Since getting on the "We miss Michael Peca" bandwagon last October, I've been mulling over the question of whether the issue was really a lack of veterans on the roster or a lack of what new coach Scott Arniel calls "giddyup" in the locker room.  It's probably a mix of both (almost never is an either-or situation), but Reed suggests that Ethan Moreau might be helpful toward both ends.

I hoped that Chris Clark was going to be "the answer" when the CBJ picked him up after Christmas, but let's face it: If LeBron James couldn't get the Cavaliers an NBA championship, can you really expect a mid-season transplant to come in and immediately turn the locker room into something it wasn't?  In fact, I was worried just three days after the trade that it was "too little, too late."  Always follow your gut...

Teams have leadership structures for a reason: The Captain and his Alternates need to be the ones to not just lead by example but light a fire when necessary.  Everything else should flow from there.  Reed rightfully reminds us that Captain Rick Nash and Alternate R.J. Umberger helped motivate the team to play for pride and the fans after Claude Noel lifted the veil of ummm - fear? confusion? uncertainty? - from the locker room after Ken Hitchcock left the scene.  That, probably more than any on-ice improvement outside of Steve Mason, gives me hope that the Jackets can get this season rolling in the right direction early.

But have no doubt where I stand: This is Rick Nash's team.  He's now $7.8 million of a roughly $50 million budget.  If you're both captain and 15.6 percent of your entire team's payroll, you had best find a way to both lead by example on the ice and toss some trashcans in the locker room when necessary.

MORE SEASON TICKET HOLDER MEETING GOODNESS

Bart Logan offers a little more of Scott Howson from the recently concluded Season Ticket Holder meetings.  Solid, meaningful quotes throughout.  It's great to hear that Howson still has an eye toward improving the defense and that Nikita Filatov appears to be ready to roll once the visa matters get straightened out.  Most impressive, though, is the extra insight on Mike Commodore's stand-up way of telling Scott Arniel that he'll be ready to roll this season (and avoid another WTF situation).  I'm still not entirely sold on the urgency of avoiding arbitration with Jared Boll, but at least Boll's contract was reasonable.

Gotta hand it to Matt Wagner at The Cannon, Mark at The View from 210 and now Bart - the blog coverage of the STH meetings has been just incredible.  Those guys need to pat themselves on the back.  Or each other's backs, if the mood so strikes.

WHAT'S NEXT?

For the Jackets, we can hope that Howson's dream scenario of a top-pair defenseman comes to fruition, that Commie comes back ready to rumble and that Filatov gets his @!#$!!! visa.

For me, I've got about a week or two of academic hell to endure to get this quarter out of the way.  After that, I've had a long-percolating admiration/analysis piece on Scott Howson that I've wanted to write for a while.  I suppose that a preseason preview should be on the "To Do List" as well.

But more importantly, we're under four weeks away from CannonFest 2010.  Have you made plans to attend?  If not, why not?


Lastly, have you bought your CBJ tickets yet?

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