As my last post demonstrated, I'm back from Doug MacLean's undisclosed location and am ready to get blogging again. I'm not going to be as manic in my frequency of posting this fall due to a rough quarter's workload in school, but don't delete those bookmarks because I'm certain to be around.
Having been out of internet contact since Saturday, here are my thoughts on the Columbus Blue Jackets and hockey related to news that occured in my absence:
1. The biggest CBJ news, by far, is that Kris Russell is out for 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee. I tagged Russell as one of the players with the most to gain from the new Scott Arniel "puck-possession" defensive system, and his loss hurts not just his progress in picking up the system but also affects his chemistry with his goalie, defensive partner and forwards.
2. The second-biggest CBJ news, in my opinion, is that the CBJ's AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, are not looking very viable from an economic perspective. "Hundreds" less than 1,700 season ticket holders is downright scary. It's sad to see a 75-year-old tradition in a great community like Springfield, Massachusetts be called into question, but the article suggests that the Falcons may have to consider non-local ownership with no restrictions on relocating the franchise. If that's the case, let's put our "sad for Springfield" faces aside and have an Ohio buyer move the team to Toledo or Akron. Then my dream of a Blue Jackets farm system that includes a northern Ohio AHL team, a southern Ohio ECHL team (Cincinnati Cyclones?) and the NHL team in Columbus that much closer to reality without having to screw around with the Lake Erie Monsters' deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
3. I have not seen young Oliver Gabriel yet, but it sure sounds like he's worth serious consideration for a contract. Talk about making the most of your opportunity.
4. Jake Voracek is having a breakout training camp. Go figure.
5. I'm getting a chuckle out of the many folks using variations on the phrase "time to step up" in relation to the Columbus Blue Jackets this year. Perhaps it should be the team slogan, not "hardcore hockey"?
6. I'm not going to wet the bed over Steve Mason letting two goals past in his preseason opener, especially when one was apparently Jan Hejda's fault. Regardless of last night's performance, I'm still not entirely sure I like his two-year contract extension.
7. If you had any question in your mind about how the CBJ are treating this preseason, look at the "training wheels" line of R. J. Umberger, Rick Nash and 1st round draft pick Ryan Johansen. That Nash looked to pass to Johansen on his goal (apparently Nash's pass was deflected by a Washington defender into the goal) instead of driving to the net himself speaks volumes -- that boosting the youngster's confidence was more important than scoring...or winning...last night. A wise position for a captain to take...in training camp.
8. If that Atlanta preseason game didn't strike fear in the heart of every holdover 3rd-4th liner, I don't know what would. There's going to be a mad scramble at the bottom of the roster for the last few slots, and I would not be surprised if you see some names that you would take for granted as being on the roster getting shuffled off to Springfield.
9. Dark Blue Toddler caught some viral garbage while on our mini-vacation. He needs to get well yesterday; we need to get down to Nationwide and see some camp practices ASAP!
10. Speaking of vacation, I was slightly north of South Beach and can report the following: No one that I ran into - with the exception of one hotel janitor - gives a rat's hiney about hockey, the NHL or the Florida Panthers. And the Panthers are doing nothing to change that view. The pro sports media coverage down there right now is about 75% Miami Dolphins, 15% Florida Marlins and 10% Miami Heat. The NHL's Hockey Fraternity can keep thumbing their noses at Columbus (their overblown reaction to the now-discredited notion that the team is hemhoraging season ticket holder equivalents being the latest example), but the crappy work being done in Tampa and Miami should be downright scary for the NHL and its supporters. The league needs those teams (and Atlanta and Phoenix) where they are if they ever want meaningful national television coverage. And putting tarps over entire sections of unsold seats just ain't gonna cut it, Mr. Tallon.
12. I'm intrigued that I can't find easily-accessible attendance figures for the preseason games thus far. I'm not trying to shape my "the hockey world hates Columbus" tinfoil hat but am genuinely interested in learning how Columbus' preseason attendance is comparing to other markets around the league.
13. Can't wait to see the Voracek-Brassard-Filatov line in action. Sounds like a treat to witness. Stuff like that is why I love to watch hockey.
14. I'm sensing rumblings that the young defensive prospects might not be ready for primetime yet. And by that, I mean pretty much all of them.
15. Who knew that Tommy Sestito could do more than throw haymakers? And who knew that Jared Boll would have a hard time doing anything else when not dropping the gloves?
16. So glad to see that Mike Commodore is feeling good and playing well. We need him to perform if this season is going to go anywhere close to the way we want.
17. HBO is doing a "24/7" preview for the Winter Classic focusing on - big surprise - the trumped-up rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. While the subject matter doesn't make me shiver with anticipation, I'm happy that the NHL is getting more exposure. Period. I'm already a fan...this series clearly is about helping bring new ones into the game.
18. The NHL giveth, and they taketh away. It appears that bloggers are banned from NHL visitors locker rooms this season. This is not an issue to me, but I'm sure that some other bloggers will not be pleased. And make sure you check that link out. It suggests a correlation between good blog exposure and business success in the NHL. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Caps are such a strong regular season franchise...) Worth considering...
19. There is some outstanding CBJ coverage in the blogosphere this season. It's so comprehensive that I think I need to reassess what I will be bringing to the party. Why recreate the wheel when others are doing such great work? What do you folks want to see out of this blog that you can't get anywhere else?