Saturday, February 27, 2010

I do not think he is who you think he is

I can't help but highlight a funny from today's Columbus Dispatch - Tom Reed had a very nice article on the development of Antoine Vermette as a center for the Columbus Blue Jackets, one worth reading.

Problem is, we have a bit of a Sports Editor FAIL on our hands.  The accompanying photo - both on the Sports front page masthead and in the article on page 3 - was of Fedor Tyutin, not Antoine Vermette.

Number 50....Number 51....what's the difference?

Goes to prove that we're all human...even the Dispatch!  Now, can we get the NHL season up and running again?

Nash Takes Vancouver, Game 5

A power outage left me unable to watch the Canada-Slovakia game, but I eventually thawed out and learned that the Candians won 3-2.  And Rick Nash didn't show up on the scoresheet at all.  Not sure what else I can tell you about the game.  Puck Rakers has a nice recap of both the Canadia-Slovakia game and the USA-Finland game.

Canada plays Team USA tomorrow at 3PM for the Gold Medal.  (And Columbus Blue Jacket Milan Jurcina and his Slovak teammates play Finland tonight at 10PM for the Bronze!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Gold Medal performance during and after the game

Let the prudes have their moment of angst and hand-wringing.  That the Canadian Women's Ice Hockey team brazenly partied like boys after winning the Gold Medal Game, to me, only shows how far we've come as a culture.  And I don't think it's a bad thing.  These are young women who worked their tails off, bonded as a team and cut loose after persevering through what probably was the most pressure-packed moment of their lives.  (And keep in mind that these aren't the lilting flowers of femininity that make up Ladies Figure Skating.)

Congratulations on winning the Gold Medal, ladies!  Lift that Molson proudly...and smoke 'em if you got 'em!

(Full slideshow of the debauchery is available here.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nash Takes Vancouver, Game 5

"Oh my." - Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy, "Bull Durham"

After the overly dramatic quote to summarize Game 3, I thought an equally lighthearted quote summarized the Canadian dismantling of The Fightin' Ovechkins in Game 5.  Team Canada won, 7-3, and in the process set themselves up for a semifinal round match against Team Slovakia for the right to go to the Gold Medal Game.

(That's right, everyone, the Columbus Blue Jackets are guaranteed to have a medal winner out of these Olympics as Canada has Rick Nash and Slovakia has -- wait for it -- Milan Jurcina!  With both teams on one side of the tournament bracket, the CBJ can do no worse than a Silver Medal. But I digress...)

Our Columbus Blue Jackets captain got shuffled in the lineup again, this time placed with Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards.  This was a starting lineup change, though, as coach Mike Babcock moved Rick Nash to a Sidney Crosby line in the third - or maybe that was a sloppy line change.  No matter.

Last night, Nash was an integral component of Babcock's plan to throw a wrench in the well-oiled Russian scoring machine.  As suggests:
Mike Babcock figured the best way to counter against Alex Ovechkin's power and speed was to put a forward and a defenseman on him who have plenty of both.

Rick Nash and Shea Weber are each 6-foot-4 and combine to weigh 450 pounds.

Yup, they'll do.
Even though Canada was considered the road team by seeding and was not afforded the final change, Babcock still managed to get Nash and Weber to play the right side against Ovechkin just about every time he was on the ice. They shut him down while also getting a goal apiece in Canada's 7-3 win over Russia.

Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards and Scott Niedermayer rounded out the five-man unit that held Russia's top line of Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin off the scoreboard. Malkin is the only one who had a point and the trio combined for nine shots and a minus-6 rating.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nash Takes Vancouver, Game 4

Going to keep it short today, as the Canadians are playing the Russians tonight. Should be a good one. [UPDATE: Rick Nash has been moved to a line with Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards.  Again, go figure.]

Maybe Rick Nash should get called out by reporters more often. On the same day that Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star blisters him (and the Columbus Blue Jackets!), Nash goes and scores his first-ever Olympic goal as part of the reconstituted World Championship line of Nash, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.  The Canadians escaped the Loser Bracket by thrashing Germany and now are in the top eight - back in contention for Olympic Gold.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nash Takes Vancouver, a Canadian view

Toronto Star columnist Dave Feschuk clearly isn't pleased with the direction that the Olympics men's ice hockey tournament has gone for Team Canada, and he uses his column to spotlight the perceived shortcomings of one Richard Nash.  The insinuations about the Columbus Blue Jackets...well, they're not appreciated in this corner of Central Ohio.
Tinkering is [Team Canada coach Mike Babcock's] right, of course, but the onus to perform is on the players. Canada's goal scorers weren't brought here to go scoreless, after all. And no Canadian needs a goal more than Rick Nash.

Nash, the 25-year-old from Brampton, has been anointed a top-line winger in two straight Olympics now, but he has yet to score as an Olympian. That's nine Olympic outings without a goal for a player who has averaged a half a goal a game in his best NHL regular seasons.

Columbus Chamber carries the flag....AGAIN

Just saw this from the Columbus Chamber - could be worth checking out if you're in the area...

Young Professionals' Exchange

It's Not Just About Hockey

Columbus is challenged to retain the Columbus Blue Jackets and continue the economic growth of the Arena District. The loss of the team likely would result in significant negative economic impact. Join us for this important topic and learn about the efforts of a group of concerned citizens, Forward Together Columbus, that hopes to retain the jobs, residents, tax revenue and pride we've gained over the past decade. All are welcome to attend.

Malkin for Nash, a rebuttal offer

[DBJ note: The "Evgeni Malkin for Rick Nash: Taboo or Logic?" article, which I so lovingly linked without the ability to present a cogent reply, got the blood pumping in the Columbus Blue Jackets fan base.  And some of us want to offer "A Modest Proposal" of our own.  Take bzarcher, for example...but read his first paragraph very carefully before flying off the handle!]

No, this photo has nothing to do with this post.  I just find it funny.
OK, so first off, let's assume that every GM, AGM, VP of hockey operations and owner in the NHL has momentarily been incapacitated by a wave of food poisoning in Vancouver, because the only way a deal like this could happen is if Skippy the Intern is left running the fax machine.

Disclaimer: I am using cap numbers from and I promise that I am not drinking.

 Looking at the needs of Pittsburgh and Columbus, Pittsburgh is clearly a team that will be looking at a hard bit of cap space to deal with in the next two years, and a lack of wingers, with guys like Guerin, Fedotenko, Cooke, and Dupuis all at or near the end of their deals, while players like Godard, Kennedy, and Craig Adams will be reaching the end of their rookie contracts. And there's the small matter of having to pay some guys named Fleury, Malkin, Staal, and Orpik a combined $22 million dollars until the 2014 season. And did we mention that the team has exactly two d-men signed through next year? Gonchar, Eaton, McKee, and Skoula are all UFAs, while Letang is an RFA who will clearly be looking for a raise in 2011.

Today's sign that the NHL needs to start up again

Dear God. All of this ice dancing, snow-cross and malfunctioning torch lighting stuff clearly has gotten to some people.

"Evgeni Malkin for Rick Nash: Taboo or Logic?"

I've tried writing a snappy comeback about eight times now and just can't. This is too much.

Restart. The. League. Now. PLEASE.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nash takes Vancouver, Game 3 (with help from Bill Clement)

"These are the times that try men's souls." - Thomas Paine

OK, so things aren't as desperate in the hockey world as the times which inspired Paine to write that inspired line.  But if you're on the Canadian Olympic men's ice hockey team, you're thinking Paine probably had a point.  A 5-3 regulation loss to Team USA does it to you...

Closer to home, I'd suggest that Paine probably looked at the Dark Blue Jacket Rick Nash Olympic Goal Scoring Contest.  Man, THAT was a crap-tastic idea.  Captain Columbus has not put a single biscuit in the basket in three games.  Just 3 assists.  And here I predicted he'd get 7 goals!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My AHL Outdoor Classic moment

I feel a little sheepish, pointing to this particular moment after the Syracuse Crunch (the Columbus Blue Jackets' top farm team) hosted an American Hockey League attendance record-setting Outdoor Classic at the New York State Fairgrounds, but what the heck.  Jon Mirasty is incredible, and this fight with Jeremy Yablonski lived up to the fine event that Crunch owner Howard Dolgon and his crew put on.

Lots of credit goes to my new favorite tv announcing team, Bob McElligott and Danny Gare. Gare was especially awesome in calling this fight. Any hockey fan who listens to Gare and is not entertained/excited by what they hear is just dead inside.

(On the serious side, had I been able to find a video of the Alexandre Picard breakaway goal from the first period yesterday, I would. It was one hell of a play.)

This is how you celebrate a shutout!

I caught up with Kirsi, Rick Gethin, Matt The Mask, Jeff Little and Greg May over lunch today to talk Columbus Blue Jackets at the break.  We discussed a great many things related to the team, which I'm sure Rick and Greg will be writing about as they had the microphones out, and it was a great deal of fun to see familiar faces and finally put faces with some online friends.  And thanks to Greg for lunch - whatta guy!

Gotta hand it to Kirsi as she unearthed perhaps the all-time great goalie celebration after a shootout on YouTube and shared it on her phone as we were getting our food orders in.  It's too cool, and I had to share it with everyone.

Yes, that goalie went ice fishing. Right on the ice after the game. Too funny!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nash takes Vancouver, Game 2

Very briefly...

Four years to the day after being upset by Team Switzerland, Team Canada faced their fears and came out victorious with a 3-2 shootout win over the Makers of Fine Timepieces.

Rick Nash again looked massive out there on the ice.  I'm starting to think that, at least in part, it's because Babcock has Nash crashing the net more than he does in the NHL.  When you're out on the wings all the time, people can't see your size.

Nasher didn't get any scoring credit in this game, not that he didn't try as the game wore on.  In overtime, I believe he had not one but two drives right at Swiss wunderkind goaltender Jonas Hiller.  In one play, Nash threw himself into the goal as well, taking out Hiller in the process.  (Glad no one got hurt!)

While the scoring isn't coming (which pretty much screws me in the DBJ Rick Nash Olympic Scoring Contest), it's clear that the Team Canada coaches see something special in Rick Nash as they have him on the ice in all circumstances...and he's clearly got the green light to score at will.  Now, if he can just find the back of the net!

What's in it for me?

That's the question that National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman has to be asking after looking at what NBC has done to men's ice hockey exposure in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

If there's been a way for NBC to dump on hockey, it has.  We've seen hockey - ALL hockey, men's and women's - get relegated to the curling ghettos of CNBC and MSNBC.  We've seen starts of games get preempted.  We've seen commercials when goals were scored.  We've seen games shifted between channels in the middle of games.  Puck Daddy and Puck the Media pretty much tally up the damage.

To the best of my knowledge, since the opening ceremonies when Bob Costas and Matt Lauer talked about a couple of the non-NHL hockey flag bearers and how the hockey gold is pretty much the only thing that the Canadian people care about, we have had a whopping ONE mention of men's hockey on the NBC "mother ship" network in primetime.  Costas fumbled through some highlights of the Canada-Switzerland shootout thriller.

(The incredible irony of all this is that the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" - a men's Olympic hockey tournament - was considered the greatest sports moment of the 20th Century.  Today, a potential "Miracle" wouldn't even make it to broadcast television.)

Now, the USA-Canada game on Saturday - a legitimate big game, seeing as the Americans are improbably  ranked higher than the Canadians right now in the standings - is on MSNBC.  As longtime hockey writer William Houston explains in trying to unravel the strange TV arrangement between NBC and the NHL:
NHL irked over NBC Olympic scheduling 
Insiders say the National Hockey League was furious when it learned NBC relegated the Canada-United States Olympic hockey game, in prime time Sunday, to its cable channel MSNBC.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nash takes Vancouver, Game 1

Team Canada opened up last night against Norway, and Rick Nash left no doubt in anyone's mind why he's on the top line for the (co-?) Gold Medal favorites.

The first thing that struck me in the game is how big Nash is.  This is odd because I don't get the same impression in his Blue Jackets games.  But he's a hoss out there, a man(-child?) among boys.

As for the game results, Nasher had one assist on the night and, depending on who you talk to, added a goal or a second assist in the victorious Canadian effort.  The goal apparently was credited to Nash but then went to Jarome Iginla - most likely for appropriate reasons.  But we're CBJ fans here, so we'll gripe about our guy getting screwed.

The Iginla move from 4th line to 1st (as a result of Patrice Bergeron's inability to keep up?) got all the headlines, but check out this nugget from Puck Daddy:
Wouldn't it be a treat to see Rick Nash play with world-class teammates every night, and/or on a team that favors an up-tempo style? Nash is capable of beating you so many ways – with his size, his speed, his hands, his competitiveness – and all of these things were on display in the opener.
Good points, indeed, PD.

Next game: Thursday, 7:30PM EST, against Team Switzerland.  Enter your predictions in The DBJ Rick Nash Olympic Goal Scoring Contest before they face off!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The DBJ Rick Nash Olympic Goal Scoring Contest

Seeing as Mike Babcock is going to have Sidney Crosby feeding the puck the the Columbus Blue Jackets' Rick Nash through the 2010 Winter Olympics hockey tournament, it's safe to say that the table is set for the CBJ captain to break out and assume the mantle of international superstar.  The question then becomes, "How big will Nasher blow up?"  And that, my friends, begs a contest.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Have we seen Raffi Torres' last game as a Blue Jacket?

We're coming up on the trade deadline - there will only be three days between the end of the Olympic trade freeze and the trade deadline.  And, as we recall, it's very possible that Raffi Torres will become a rent-a-player as the Blue Jackets try to get some trade value for our little sparkplug who's wrapping up his current contract this  season.  Just ask GM Scott Howson:
"We're going to do whatever is in our best interest, both long-term and short-term," Howson said. "I don't want to comment further other than to say he has played very well and we'll see where we are in a month or so at the deadline.
(And, yes, this quote was in relation to Raffi.)

If he's traded, I think we all can tip our hat to the John Michael lookalike and say, "Thanks for the memories."  Once he recovered from last season's injuries, Raffi has been en fuego.  He's scored 19 goals with another 11 assists so far this season, and he's not averse to mixing it up with anyone, any time, anywhere.

At the same time, there's a compelling argument to be said for working out a new contract with Raffi before he tests the free agency waters.  He appears to like Columbus enough to say that he would consider coming back next season even if Howson trades him.

Regardless, Raffi's been an asset to the Blue Jackets.  If he's traded, consider this a fond farewell.  If he sticks around, consider this a not-frequent-enough appreciation of one tough hockey player.

Claude Noel: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Since Claude Noel took over as CBJ head coach, the team beat Dallas, beat Buffalo, beat San Jose, lost to Vancouver and lost in a shootout to Chicago.  That's  7 out of a possible 10 points - and 3 out of a possible 6 against the top three teams in the Western Conference.  So Noel got 7 points in 5 games.  At the end, Ken Hitchcock got 6 points in his last 6 games.  Considering the Jackets haven't set the world on fire since making the coaching change, is Noel - novelty of his personality quirks and coaching idiosyncrasies aside - performing well enough to keep him on as CBJ head coach?

I'm going to say the obvious: Noel is doing OK - better than Hitch with the same players.  That being said, he hasn't done enough to preclude Scott Howson from conducting a full-blown search for a head coach.  

Game 63/Chicago: My Take

Buckle up, kids, it's going to get a little bumpy.

The Columbus Blue Jackets played a tough, gutty and not altogether consistent game against the Chicago Blackhawks.  They took an early lead, gave it up, came back to tie it and then lost in the shootout to make it 5-4 Chicago.  Chalk up the loser point for the Boys in Union Blue.

Jackets goals came from Kristian Huselius, Raffi Torres, Rick Nash and Fedor Tyutin.  Kris Russell was +3 on the night, while Antoine Vermette and Raffi Torres were +2.  The Jackets weren't perfect, and they went into their shell here and there, and Mathieu Garon clearly was not in the zone (but the Hawks put 37 shots on goal, giving him a not-horrendous .891 GAA).  And the Blackhawks are good - they're the second best team in the Western Conference right now.

Now, the gripes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Game 62/Vancouver: Take Two

Kirsi here again. My friend DBJ has been kind enough to welcome me to post some of my thoughts about the Blue Jackets! Thankfully, the need for my "Free Milan" piece became irrelevant.

Last night the Blue Jackets lost their first game under interim head coach (IHC?) Claude Noel. I went to the game with a friend and we were hoping to keep our perfect winning record streak together alive... but no. The first three minutes of the game saw three goals and much other excitement - the first ten minutes of that period seemed to last forever! Other notables from the first period include successfully killing off a 4 minute power play. The shifts seemed especially short and I was glad to see a whole host of players getting PK time. (The only players without time on the penalty kill were Boll, Dorsett, and Torres).

Er, but Luongo was not in net. Just ignore the announcers.

In keeping with Noel having the players choose a motivational quote, I too chose a quote after the game:
Never let life's hardships disturb you ... no one can avoid problems, not even saints or sages.
 - Nichiren (famous Japanese Buddhist monk)

Throughout the season, the Blue Jackets excelled at various things like giving up early goals (very early), giving up goals late in the game, getting extremely discouraged after fluky goals, etc. Hope died in Nationwide during those times. Last night was different. Nash scored 22 seconds in... the Canucks tied it up 1:46 later. Boll responded right back. Torres made it 3-1 in the second, a lead that lasted by two for all of nine seconds. A weak second period and that very fluky goal in the third period, could previously have spelled certain demise for these Blue Jackets. But after only five shots on goal in the second, the Jackets took 19 in the third. I, normally quite the pessimist, was optimistic. I believed that a goal would be scored to at least force overtime. The guys didn't let the bad stuff get them down - joy reigned! How refreshing. To be able to see and nearly feel that passion makes this loss a little less disheartening.
They were quiet the whole time in (the locker room). I really liked the fact that they sat there. It really how shows me that they care and they don't phony care. I can cut through that stuff pretty easily.
- IHC Claude Noel

Remember that tremendous losing streak earlier in the year? Remember how long it took for the players to boil over, and call a players-only meeting? I know that I am not in the room and don't know their personal feelings, but their attitudes occasionally came across as apathetic. Not anymore - thank goodness.

Loser hardhat award goes to: the Brassard line. Torres, Voracek, and Brassard combined for nine shots, six hits, zero penalty minutes, +1, one goal, and two assists. If I had a fourth loser hardhat, it would go to Hejda, who took a puck to his face (or close to it) and then came right back, did a great job of keeping the puck in the zone, and finished with two hits and three blocked shots.

Have a joyful day!

Game 62/Vancouver: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets went down against the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3.

Long story made VERY short: When crap like this gets in....'s just not your day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Game 61/San Jose: My Take

Playing San Jose seems to bring out the extremes in the Columbus Blue Jackets.  As brutally painful as Game 3 was, as heartbreaking as Game 14 was, Game 61 was equally impressive in its own right.

The Jackets came out and laid the lumber to the San Jose Sharks last night.  They outhit San Jose, 36-22 (that's right, we landed 3 hits for every 2 that they countered), and kept the Sharks at bay en route to a 3-0 shutout.

This was an ice pack type of game.  Derek Dorsett (welcome back, by the way) laid 5 hits down.  Marc Methot pounded on the Sharks 4 times.  Kris Russell, who probably shouldn't try to hit anyone because he's so small that he'll bounce off, got in 4 licks.  Andrew Murray, who's probably mad as hell that he can't sleep at night any more because of the new baby, added 4.  And - get this - Our Veteran Leader Chris Clark offered up 4 hits of his own, seemingly snarling, "GET OFF MY LAWN!" at the Sharks each time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fox Sports Ohio shares CBJ Olympic (break) gold

Now, this is chock full o' awesome. I just got the release from Fox Sports Ohio and thought I would share in its entirety.  Set your DVR's, everyone!


Ohio’s leading regional sports network to televise 5 memorable Columbus Blue Jackets games beginning next Tuesday.

COLUMBUS, OHIO - While the Columbus Blue Jackets and the National Hockey League suspend play for two weeks during 2010 Winter Olympic Games, FOX Sports Ohio will continue the Jackets action. The network will televise five (5) unforgettable Jackets games from the franchise’s history. FOX Sports Ohio debuts this entertaining series Tuesday, February 16 at 9pm.

Hosted by FOX Sports Ohio Blue Jackets broadcaster Ray Crawford, the series will feature memorable Jackets games, such as their playoff clinching game last season, Rick Nash’s “goal of the year,” and more.

A very big night

I know that those who read this blog are probably pretty firmly committed to catching the Columbus Blue Jackets at any and every opportunity.  And I don't make a practice of offering game preview blog posts.  That being said, please don't let me insult your intelligence by stating the obvious:

Tonight's game against San Jose is very, very big for the CBJ and even bigger for (interim) head coach Claude Noel.  

The Jackets have played two games since releasing Ken Hitchcock from his head coaching duties.  They beat a Dallas team that apparently is cashing in its chips by trading for a new goalie (strange, as they're only 3 points out of the playoffs right now).  They beat a Buffalo team that is suffering through a 5-game losing streak and holding closed door team meetings to try to get everyone's heads on straight.  In both games, the Jackets' defense and goaltending has been very good.  The offense is still looking to get fully on track.  And this was against two not-so-great teams.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scott Howson talks to the season ticket holders

Kudos to The JacketsBlog for taking a couple notes on Saturday morning and passing them along to those of us who could not attend.    I heard on Saturday night that this event was a bit of a mea culpa/confessional for Howson, and the blog entry plays that out.

Highly recommended reading!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A few thoughts for the crowd

Just a few things to chew on as we savor the chili from a 4-0 Columbus Blue Jackets over the Buffalo Sabres:
  • The Sabres have been on a pretty terrific slide of late.  Were they that bad on Saturday night, or was the CBJ that good?
  • (Does it matter?)
  • Did the Sabres prepare for a Hitchcock system and get broadsided by the waterbug that is Kris Russell?
  • Will the Jackets come back to earth after the rest of the league accumulates some tape of the Claude Noel-coached CBJ in the same way that Steve Mason came to earth after the Red Wings dissected him in last year's playoffs - essentially writing the book on how to beat Mase for the rest of the league?
  • Is Milan Jurcina being dangled as trade bait?  He's sure getting the minutes.  We all seem to know that Raffi Torres is on display...could GM Scott Howson be asking Noel to do the same with Milan?  (I sure hope not.)
  • What's the over-under on the number of games that it will take for the CBJ offense to really get in gear?
  • Is anyone else having fun watching the trade rumors swirling around the Jackets?  Boston goalie Tim Thomas for Raffi Torres and Kristian Huselius?  Or the Rick Nash-RJ Umberger-Nikita Filatov trade to the Penguins for Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and the Pens' first-rounder?  Folks, you can't make this stuff up...
  • Does anyone else think that Wednesday's game against the Sharks has the potential to set the tone for this "reset" season in the same way that the early October drubbing (of us) started the season on the track that it's taken?  
  • Any thoughts on what the rumored 10th Anniversary alternate jerseys will look like?
Enjoy the snow, everyone, and stay warm!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


That's right, I ventured out into the light yesterday and ran into a few Tweet-friends.  

From left to right, that's me, Kirsi of "10 Thoughts about Game 36: Colorado" fame and The Hockey Writers' Rick Gethin.  

I'm still spinning at the many people that I met yesterday.  So great to put Twitter ID's, names and faces together!

Game 60/Buffalo: My Take

Tonight's game involved two distinct stories - the pregame and the game itself.

First, the pregame.  Contrary to rumor, I don't live entirely under a rock, and I knew a few folks gathered at the R Bar in the Arena District before the game.  Little did I know that half the Columbus Blue Jackets Twitterverse was there.  I arrived early to meet up with The Hockey Writers' Rick Gethin, with whom I attended the game, and proceeded to meet Tweeters, bloggers and blog-readers alike throughout the late afternoon and early evening.  For a guy who doesn't get out a ton (the Dark Blue Onesie "keeps me grounded"), this was pretty much mind blowing.  To the many folks with whom I enjoyed the pregame festivities, it was a genuine pleasure to meet you!

Then throw in the entire R Bar atmosphere.  It really IS a hockey bar.  EVERYONE is talking hockey.  And they know what they're talking about.  I mean, I was having a normal conversation about the relative merits of keeping Nikita Filatov on the roster, CBJ General Manager Scott Howson's morning Q&A (confessional?) with season ticket holders and the societal ramifications of the "FREE MILAN" movement.  OK, the last one was a stretch, but not by far.  It's one boisterous, loud, fun place.  Even with a lot of Buffalo Sabres fans hanging out.  (Sabres fans appear to be largely harmless - they're more scared of you than you are of them.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Game 59/Dallas: My Take

The Era of Square Pegs and Round Holes is gone. It has been replaced by the Era of Group Hugs.

They say that every sports coaching change is like a pendulum swing for a club, going back and forth between the harsh taskmaster and the players coach.  There's no question that Ken Hitchock was the former, and now Claude Noel is trying his hardest to be the latter.  He's chosen to play the nice guy, the cheerleader...and maybe that's what the Columbus Blue Jackets need right now.

Sure didn't hurt tonight, as the CBJ won, 2-1, over the contemptible Marc Crawford and the Dallas Stars (and, no, I'm not forgetting NHL-designated cheap shot artist James Neal, who was remarkably quiet tonight.  He must not have known that Derek Dorsett went on injured reserve.).

The team played a little ragged, which stands to reason when your (interim) head coach Noel proclaims that he's going to stop the over-thinking and ditch the X's and O's at the door.  Again, part of the post-Hitch decompression.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

An Irish Wake for Hitch's Coaching Tenure

Before we wade too deeply into the Claude Noel Era, let's take one final moment to appreciate the man who, in the words of the late John McConnell, was the "savior" of the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise.  That's right, the savior.  Ken Hitchcock took the mess that was the Doug MacLean era and, with the assistance of General Manager Scott Howson, re-molded a perennial losing franchise into a Stanley Cup playoff qualifier.

I don't know if Hitchcock's ancestry is Irish (this website suggests that there are a few Hitchcocks in Irish geneology), but Irish blood runs in my veins.  When an Irishman passes on, it's customary to hold an Irish wake. In an Irish wake, the first thing that the visitors do is mourn the loss.  I believe that we did that yesterday.  But an Irish wake has more, as this site suggests:
Even the most sorrowful mourner is inspired to raise a glass and remember the happiest of times in the life of the person who has passed.
I suggest we do the same as Ken Hitchcock brought plenty of joy to CBJ fans everywhere. Let's hold an Irish wake online, sharing our favorite memories of Hitch.

Please add your remembrances of Hitch in the comments.  I'll kick off the wake with a few fond thoughts...

Good luck, Coach Claude Noel!

It's your first game tonight...may you have many, many wins as the Columbus Blue Jackets (interim) head coach!

In honor of your first game as (interim) head coach, let me offer a brief tribute...

(I swear, sometimes this material writes itself!)

More serious discussion of the Blue Jackets to come..

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It is done.

According to the Dispatch's Aaron Portzline:
#CBJ fire Ken Hitchcock
And with that, a chapter closes in the brief history of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This is not a happy moment.  A moment of relief, perhaps, and a chance for hope that things will get better for the CBJ - but by no means happy.  You never want to see a good man, one who puts everything he has into his work, lose his job when losing his job means that he failed.  And Hitch is a good man.

I only hope that Hitch finds his new place in the hockey world quickly, and that the Columbus Blue Jackets make the smart steps forward to secure their very bright future.  Anyone who followed the team closely this year could see that it just wasn't meant to be.

More on this later, I'm sure.

Thank you, Hitch, for all you did for my team.  

Free Milan!

Get Milan Jurcina off the bench!

Why start the Ken Hitchcock Firing Pool?

It may seem that last night's opening of the Ken Hitchcock Firing Pool was a bit of a rash move by yours truly.  As you can read from my past posts, I have been displeased with the performance of the Columbus Blue Jackets (and its head coach).  I've always stopped short of calling for Hitch's removal, though.

To a degree (mostly heart and not mind, if you follow me), I'm still not there.  At the same time, I think Hitch's firing is an inevitability for a few reasons - probably more than I'll catalog, but I'll hit the high points.

Game 58/Colorado: My Take

I split my time on this game between the season premiere of LOST and the Columbus Blue Jackets meltdown against the Colorado Avalanche.  (The Avs won, 5-1.)

Both were equally odious, yet both had their moments.

The LOST moments were the opening underseas montage and th whole idea of that Oceanic plane actually landing at LAX instead of crashing on the island.  Of course, that couldn't overcome the actual overwrought execution of the story.  Gonna be a painful season of LOST, pain following heightened expectations being something that we CBJ fans are used to by now.

The CBJ moments were letting Vern Yip and the blue team redecorate the visitors' locker room with a lovely nautical theme -- err, Brandon Yip scored two shorties on the same double minor.  Impressive on a host of levels for both teams.  That, and Raffi Torres pounded on CBJ turncoat Adam Foote.  Still, neither were worth watching the rest of the game for.

That's about all I had.  According to Hitch, the CBJ were the 40-Minute Men again.

Sadly, it's time: Vote in the Ken Hitchcock Firing Pool.

Addendum: I'm not sure I've seen a Fox Sports Ohio broadcast so slanted against the CBJ.  Opposing team interviews and highlights, outright criticism from the announcers, etc.  Either those guys don't care what the CBJ thinks (dangerous water to wade into - ask Jim Day and Danny Gare) or they know something that we don't.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Ken Hitchcock Firing Pool is open

UPDATE: The Pool is closed.

After yet another blowout loss, I think it's a given that Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock is going to be fired.  I suppose he could resign, but he doesn't seem like the type.

So let's open the pool.  On what day will Hitch get the axe?  

I say March 1.  That's the day after the Winter Olympics gold medal hockey game.  

Post your predictions in the comments.  No repeat predictions.  Winner gets subscribed to David Perron's Twitter feed.

Schedules, practice and those pesky Winter Olympics

I'm not suggesting we lay blame for this season's lousy Columbus Blue Jackets showing on anyone other than the team themselves, but let's face the facts:

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of a significant youth movement.  It's reasonable to presume that part of this shift to a younger roster is a lot of practice.

2. The Jackets have had relatively few mandatory practices.  Or, perhaps better stated, they have a lot of optional practices and optional ice time.  The worst example of this is last week's optional where only two players, Milan Jurcina and Mathieu Garon, worked out.  (Didn't do much for Jurcina, seeing as the poor guy is living in the press box during games....)

3. The Winter Olympics are screwing up the NHL schedule this year.  Commissioner Gary Bettman is on record as not liking that the Olympics force the NHL to shut down for 2 weeks.  To start the season on time, end it on time and fit the Olympics in, his league office has designed a schedule that is just plain brutal.  To prove my point, check out this nugget of information from the CBJ web site:
  • On January 30, 2010, the 2009-2010 CBJ played their 57th game.
  • The 2008-2009 CBJ didn't get to game 57 until February 16, 2009.
  • The 2007-2008 CBJ had it a tad rougher, getting to number 57 on February 8, 2008.