Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Time to step up: Kristian Huselius

  • Left wing
  • 31 years old, 10th year in National Hockey League
  • $4,750,000 cap hit 
  • 8.0% of Columbus Blue Jackets salary cap
  • Contract expires at end of 2011-2012
  • 2009-2010 CBJ numbers: 74 games played, 23 goals, 40 assists, 63 points, -4, 36 penalty minutes, 18:23 avg. time on ice
Ah, the mercurial "Juice."  

You genuinely wonder where he goes for shifts (and sometimes games) on end.  He's not really a clutch scorer.  He rarely scores a pace-setting goal.  He only dropped one last-minute goal last season.  Yet he ends the season with only 4 fewer points than the team's captain and all-world superstar.  

He doesn't appear to be full of sparkling personality and bravado, has never worn a letter on the front of his jersey in Columbus (haven't checked on his time in Florida or Calgary), yet a Google search of images tagged with his name sure show a lot of celebrations.  

He makes a lot of money - second highest cap hit on the team behind Rick Nash - and he kinda sorta backs it up at the end of the day.  He's just quiet about it. 
This whole series is about players needing to step up their games.  When it comes to Kristian Huselius, I'm not entirely sure where to target.  He's making big money and scoring lots of points.  I suppose his defense could improve (for nearly $5 million a year, don't you think we're entitled to some defense?), but it was understood from the outset that defense isn't exactly what Juice "does."

As he rounds the corner into the back half of his contract term, it appears that the Kristian Huselius challenge is simply to keep it up - to prove to Scott Howson that he shouldn't be a trade deadline casualty like so many veterans before him, and to show the many National Hockey League general managers (including Howson) that he can continue playing at a high level at least as long as Ilya Kovalchuk planned to play for the New Jersey Devils.

Because if you can get away with playing hockey while not hitting anyone, you can play for a long, long time.

[UPDATE: I really don't want to get in the habit of writing updates, because that could happen long into the season, but my terrifically lousy work on Huselius makes an update necessary.  Thanks to my readers Mark2112 and En4cer45 for pointing out these deficiencies.


I touched on the lack of meaningful defense by Juice, but the offensive side is not perfect, either.  His turnovers are becoming the stuff of Columbus hockey legend.  Any improvement on that front would surely make life easier for the defense and goalies.


Another area that could use help is Huselius' laser-like focus on the goalposts.  That poor guy dinged the posts more than anyone else I saw in the NHL last season.  A few of those go in, and you might very well have a few more wins...]

3 comments:

  1. Here's an area of improvement...those blasted turnovers. Cutting those in half even would be a huge plus.

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  2. And that, Mark is why I consider my readers smarter than I. That one was so obvious...but I have only been tracking scoring, not turnovers.

    Great catch!

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  3. Juice dangles... but he's one of the few guys who actually tries to make something happen on his own, rather than just dumping or passing. Sometimes the result is good. Other times... meh.

    Something that struck me after reading the Filatov post and this one, is that the CBJ NEVER have space on offense. They're not strong on the puck & haven't played a possession game. During the DET playoff series, it was glaringly obvious what they were... not really dangerous with the puck, at all. Put a little pressure on and we cough up the puck immediately. The Wings swarmed and for the first 3 games, we couldn't really get anything going. At all.

    I really think the other other X-X Factor this season is Arniel's commitment to focusing more on puck possession and staying in control. Everyone harps on Rick Nash for whatever he's not doing, but you can bet the environment/systems he's had to play in makes it incredibly difficult to get his game on. He can be pressured and double teamed because most teams can get away with it. There tends to be little danger in actually getting out of position on defense.

    I watch so many other games (other teams) and it's interesting to watch defense actually hang back and defend, rather than challenge every chance they get. If the CBJ can earn a little more respect in that regard, I think we'll see things open up considerably.

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