Friday, July 30, 2010

Who are the CBJ's clutch scorers?

It's getting time to start formulating thoughts and ideas for the season preview, and - time permitting - this blog will have a couple different perspectives on the team that could prove useful in how we look at the Columbus Blue Jackets and its roster.

To start work on this project, I built upon some database-oriented work that I've been doing in my "spare" time (basically, when the Dark Blue Toddler is sleeping). I've had a few lingering questions about the roster and, after learning a little more about Microsoft Access, think I now know enough about the program to start using it for CBJ purposes.

It shouldn't be surprising that captain Rick Nash is Columbus'
premier clutch goal scorer, but who are the rest? (Photo from
My interests revolve around team scoring. It's clear as day that the Blue Jackets need to boost their scoring - they scored 216 goals last season, meaning that only five teams in the entire National Hockey League (Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Boston and Florida) were less prolific. By comparison, the Presidents Trophy-winning Washington Capitals scored 318 times. The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks scored 271 times. The average number of goals for a playoff-qualifying team in 2009-2010 was a hair under 243 goals. So if the Jackets are going to win, it's because they're going to put lots of pucks in the back of the net. (Yes, the Jackets need to tighten up their defense, too, but I maintain that 2009-2010's poor CBJ defense was more a function of injuries than lack of talent.)

All scorers aren't equal, though, and that's where my research lies. First, I catalogued every single goal scored by the Blue Jackets last season. Every goal was identified by date, opponent, home/away, game number, win/loss (and score), period scored, order of CBJ scoring by game (1st goal, 2nd goal, last goal, etc.), names of goal scorers and assists, empty net, shootout, power play, short-handed and penalty shot. It was a bit tedious in getting all the data organized, but it's gold to me now.

Perhaps most intriguing to me, however, was the inclusion of a unique characteristic for each goal: The score differential when the goal was scored. Why is this important? In my opinion, a goal is more important when the game is on the line. The goal scorer is the type of person you want on the ice when it's crunch time.

So I started playing with this data and think it's time to start sharing some insights as a personal "training camp" to get ready for the season previews.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stralman signs

Apparently Anton Stralman and Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson thought better of going before the arbitrator and agreed at the eleventh hour to a one-year contract.  At $1.95 million, it's a definite compromise for both sides.

Shedding the dreaded +/- 'Green Jacket' will help keep Anton Stralman (-17 in 09-10)
 around in Columbus beyond this season (photo by Dave Gainer/The Hockey Writers)
The money is neither here nor there in my book as the Jackets likely won't hit the salary cap this year.  The term, however, is interesting.

From Stralman's perspective, his agreeing to a one-year deal tells me that Anton (or his agent) still feels that the NHL is a potential goldmine for the young defenseman.  They're going to take the good (but not great, despite being nearly triple last season's salary) money for one more year and test the market again.  The question I need to look into is whether Stralman would be an Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the season.  From Stralman's perspective, a one-year contract makes sense if that's the case.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anton Stralman a point

Betcha didn't know that Stralman had a nasty streak.
Tomorrow is the Big Day Thus Far in the Columbus Blue Jackets offseason - the steel cage match arbitration hearing between defenseman Anton Stralman and CBJ general manager Scott Howson (backed up by assistant general manager Chris MacFarland).

As best I hear it (and I'm just reading the news sources like everyone else), Stralman and the CBJ are about a million dollars apart.  Stralman appears to be pinning his hopes on the 4-year, $14 million Restricted Free Agent offer sheet that Niklas Hjalmarsson got from the San Jose Sharks (which was matched by the Chicago Blackhawks, sending the Hawks reeling into another round of Salary Cap Hell cutbacks - So sad! ).  That means that Stralman is pegging his value somewhere around Hjalphabet's $3.5 million cap hit.  Take a million off because Stralman isn't half the defenseman that Hjarliwicz is, and $2.5 million is still a lot for our friend Anton.

Luckily for the CBJ, Stralman appears to be a one-year inconvenience to management.  Scott Howson asked the arbitrator for a one-year contract decision, as is his right, and reserves the right to walk away if he doesn't like the decision - making Stralman an Unrestricted Free Agent.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Want to learn more about our prospects?

Premium Scouting does a rather thorough scrubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets' prospect pipeline with predictably mixed results.  Check it out here.

That is one fine photo of Columbus' rising blue liner.
Doesn't the number "7" look cool on a hockey jersey?
On the bright side, it's pretty clear that the authors like the talent that Scott Howson has drafted.  (Douggie MacLean's drafts....not so much.)

I'm not entirely sure I agree with the ranking of the top ten prospects, but I don't have a lot of reason to disagree as a collection:
  1. Nikita Filatov, LW
  2. Ryan Johansen, C
  3. John Moore, D
  4. Cody Goloubef, D
  5. Maksim Mayorov, LW
  6. David Savard, D
  7. Kevin Lynch, C
  8. Matt Calvert, LW
  9. Petr Straka, RW
  10. Tomas Kubalik, RW
Looking at that list, I'm also struck with the appreciation for why general manager Scott Howson drafted a couple goalies this past draft.  Not having ANY goalies in your top ten prospects probably is not a good thing.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Traverse City tournament dates

Former CBJ prospect Jared Boll (right)
getting ready for the big leagues.
(Courtesy of Light The Lamp)
As many Columbus Blue Jackets fans know, the CBJ send a team of prospects up to sunny and beautiful Traverse City, Michigan (visit Sleeping Bear Dunes!) to play in a brief tournament against other NHL teams' prospects.  It's a nice move as it builds cameraderie and chemistry with young players who surely will play with each other at some point through the junior/minor league systems.  In addition, it gives the teams a chance to put prospects (some street free agent prospects, others drafted/signed) into more meaningful game environments and see how they perform.

Here's the entire schedule for the September 11-15 tournament, but I'll reprint the Columbus Blue Jackets' schedule:

Sat. Sept. 11
9:30 AM - Practice at David's Rink
3:30 PM - Game v. New York Rangers at Huntington Rink

Sun. Sept. 12
8:30 AM - Practice at Huntington Rink
2:00 PM - Game v. Minnesota Wild at David's Rink

Mon. Sept. 13
9:30 AM - Practice at Huntington Rink
No game

Tues. Sept. 14
10:30 AM - Practice at David's Rink
6:30 PM - Game v. Carolina Hurricanes at David's Rink

Weds. Sept. 15
Top 2 teams in each division (Howe and Gretzky) practice.  One team on each rink at 9:45 and 10:45.
2:00 PM - Seventh-place game at David's Rink
2:30 PM - Fifth-place game at Huntington Rink
5:30 PM - Bronze Medal game at David's Rink
6:00 PM - Gold Medal game at Huntington Rink

No official word on TV for the games, but the NHL Network carried the tournament (or at least portions of it) last year.  It would surprise me if they don't do so again.  (Ack!  Looks like the NHL Network is out this year.  So who's carrying the competition?)

As for the CBJ roster for Traverse City, I have no idea and haven't seen anything come up on the CBJ official site.  As a prospect camp, it stands to reason that some of these prospects will be in attendance.

One Shining Moment

Strangest thing happened last night: I got an email telling me that The Dark Blue Jacket was one of the top 40 NHL blogs. I got an award button to put on the site and everything.

OK, how does one put this kindly: I'm not sure how much stock I place in the award.  First, it doesn't have the grand-daddy of NHL blogs, Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy.  Not having the preeminent blog in the field on the list seems somewhat odd.  (But, to their credit, the list of 40 blogs that they DO offer awards is pretty strong - even includes The Hockey Writers, another great source of Columbus Blue Jackets information and analysis.)  Second, the award itself is sponsored by - and the award button's code has some "free advertising" that I so delicately removed.  Lastly, the group offering the award, "Awarding The Web," seems kinda loose in structure.  But they suggest for the NHL blog award that there was a panel of five judges, and that some level of scrutiny took place.  Go figure.

Perhaps the nicest thing to come of this was the kind mentions on Twitter from many CBJ-fan friends and blogging colleagues about the blog.  Like most bloggers, I pretty much toil in obscurity.  (A rare post will grab the attention of the public, but that's not an everyday occurrence.)  So the possibly undeserved praise still is nice to receive.  Thanks, everyone!

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'...


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.]


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.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mike Commodore answers the WTF question

Perhaps the greatest mystery of the 2009-2010 Columbus Blue Jackets season was "WTF happened to Mike Commodore?"  After signing for the 2008-2009 season, Commie never really came out of the blocks for the 2009-2010, playing poorly when he was on the ice and suffering from perhaps every possible injury that an NHL defenseman could face.  Most classic among them was the roughly quarter season-long charley horse, something that surely baffled medical professionals on both coasts.

Commie spoke truth to power about the team's performance last season, but he never explained what happened in his case.  So imagine my excitement when I hear that Scott Arniel said at the first night of Season Ticket Holder Q&A that Mike Commodore was the one player with the biggest motivation to improve this season.  YES!

I still vividly remember the Commie of 2008-2009, paired with Jan Hejda and pretty much shutting down the NHL's top forwards on the somewhat improbable run to the playoffs.  Perhaps most vivid to me (and my oh-so-impressionable nephew, who saw it with me live and still talks glowingly about it to this day) was the connection that Commie made with Evgeni Malkin's face and the goalie crossbar in the Pittsburgh game on March 12, 2009.  Such positioning, such finesse, such "Who me?" brutality.  He was playing like the Bill Laimbeer of the Columbus Blue Jackets; sure, he played like a jerk, but he was OUR jerk - and don't you forget it!  Almost made me want to go buy a bathrobe on the spot.

Season Ticket Holder night number two

The Cannon reported on the first night, and The View from 210 offers info on the second night.  I note that the management got much more comfortable chairs this time around.

Call me crazy, but this nugget just warmed my heart:
Game Ops – This topic, on how much it sucked, was brought up. Mike Priest totally agreed, and there will be noticeable differences in what we see this year. A lot of the old items have been retired. They will be trying new things this year, and are looking for people to provide feedback after the games to let them know how they did.
Mark wraps up by saying, "The off season is way too long without hockey games to go to."  So true.

Another must-read if you're interested in what's going on at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Drop everything and read this

Matt Wagner at The Cannon was present at today's (July 13) Columbus Blue Jackets' Q&A session with season ticket holders (and partial season ticket holders - except for the 6-game pack subscribers like me!) and took lots of notes.  He shares them with the world and offers a ton of interesting information and insight from Scott Arniel, Scott Howson and Mike Priest.

Here's the link, go check it out.  Kudos to Matt for his terrific post.

And then, buy some freakin' tickets.  Support your Columbus Blue Jackets!

UPDATE: Today (July 14), the Dispatch's Aaron Portzline corroborated Matt's information (here, here, here and here) but once again neglected to attribute despite posting the same information 9 hours after Wagner.

I presume that everyone is tired of my complaining about this trend of lifting content without giving proper credit, but Matt put a lot of effort into writing a great post and deserves props.  This is a simple matter of the application of basic journalistic skills - if you don't unearth the information, credit the guy who did.  The Dispatch is blowing a ton of goodwill with the blogging community by permitting this behavior; we could be terrific partners and instead are forced into a position of antagonism.  Sigh.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

He's coming back...!

Hide the women and children, put away the sharp implements...the Columbus Blue Jackets have re-upped Jared Boll for two years at $700,000 this year and $745,000 next year.  That means arbitration has been avoided, as Boll surely knew that he was going to get skewered as a johnny one-note (and not a great one at that) in front of the arbitrator - not to mention risk getting his salary dropped to the league minimum.  It's also a statement that the CBJ's AHL farm system has not yet started bubbling over with forwards...might as well sign Boll while the well fills up.

That type of contract is not horribly out of line for a young veteran fourth-liner.  Both Lee Auer at The JacketsBlog and I have significant misgivings about Boll, but at least Howson (again) didn't let himself get fleeced.

More seriously, I think this signing gives Boll a two-year leash on life to figure out a consistent offensive component to his NHL game, as displayed in the video below, or risk finding himself out of hockey.  As much as I slam on Boller, I am actually quite impressed when he pulls some offense and goal scoring out of his hat.  That talent is in there, perhaps moreso than in Derek Dorsett (who's a better fighter anyway), so why not try to bring it out?

Did you miss the CBJ Summer Special?

After multiple misfires with my DVR in an attempt to record and watch the Columbus Blue Jackets Summer Special on Fox Sports Ohio, I vented a little toward FSO on Twitter.  For whatever reason, the Special was not getting broadcast when FSO posted in the DirecTV channel guide.  Most recently, one of the two FSO DTV feeds was showing a Reds post-game (which I can totally understand), but the other was showing some Fox Sports documentary about vintage color home movies of Major League Baseball.  That drew my ire.

Forgiving souls that they are, they responded back via  Twitter with a real tasty nugget of information that everyone should know about:
the summer special is on Just go to video & select CBJ. All segments are there.
So if you're afflicted by Murphy's Law when it comes to seeing this show (featuring interviews with new head coach Scott Arniel, general manager Scott Howson, first round draft pick Ryan Johansen and an analysis of the 2010-2011 schedule), go check it out online!

Many thanks to Fox Sports Ohio for sharing this item.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Four great CBJ blog posts

I've been a little tied up with school, a rather detailed future blog post and working with Matt Wagner at The Cannon in getting CannonFest 2010 off the ground, so pardon my rapid-fire treatment of these four posts.  Perhaps, before the season, I'll spend more time addressing them. They all deserve to be read and discussed, regardless of my $.02, however:

  • Blue Jackets Assemble Diverse Coaching Mix for 2010/11 - Interesting thoughts, especially on new Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel and his "offense" coach, Bob Boughner.  It will be fascinating to see how the juxtaposition of Arniel's apparent love of toughness and Boughner's relentless attack will  play out.
  • Inside Hockey: Don't Expect Much in Columbus - Anyone who says the CBJ fan base is unanimous in their opinions of the goings-on at Nationwide Boulevard has their head in the sand. Ed Cmar offers a heaping pile of "shoulda-woulda-coulda" and challenges the current thinking in the Blue Jackets front office.
  • Light The Lamp: Stat of the Day - LTL offers a roughed-out cost-benefit analysis of the Blue Jackets roster that, well, provides Ed Cmar with all sorts of cover. Also, LTL gives us this to chew on: "As a friend pointed out the other day -- Columbus should not viewed as a young team any longer. Brassard will be entering his 4th year pro, Russell will be a 4 year pro and Voracek on his 3rd year. So while at first glance you may say - that is a lot of youth and inexperience on the 2nd line -- is it really?" Very interesting thought. Time for the roster to put up or shut up?
  • The Green Seat View: Does Nash deserve the C on his chest? - In this new blog, one of the great CBJ taboo questions is explored openly and honestly. I'm still making up my mind on it (and am so happy that Nasher has R.J. Umberger riding shotgun!).

Fascinating, thought-provoking posts.  Each could yield a book of thoughts.

Read, consider, discuss in the comments.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CannonFest 2010 - Mark Your Calendars!

It's the most fun you can have outside of Nationwide Arena. And training camp won't have started, so you have no excuses.  Join in!

Who's going to make it?  RSVP on Facebook, or in the comments below...

UPDATE: Buffalo Wild Wings is offering some promotions for CannonFest...take a look:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

You Don't Mess with the Johan

We heard the announcer's call on the Ryan Johansen highlight reel (unearthed by The Cannon)... let's just get it out in the open. Here's my fan graphic for your enjoyment:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Little Nikita

[Note: No fooling - I was working up this graphic when the Puck Rakers post on Wright's trip to Russia hit the web and was about halfway through this post when I actually read it.  Talk about coincidence!  Perhaps I should have put Tyler Wright's face in the poster instead of Arniel's?]

With the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching search complete, the entry draft finalized, development camp out of the way and the prime days of free agency behind us, I daresay it's time to consider other major offseason drama in the summer of 2010 (sorry Jared Boll and Anton Stralman, your filing for salary arbitration doesn't quite make the cut): Little Nikita.

Yup, our petulant Russian wunderkind is back in the headlines.  (Honestly now, did he ever leave?)  Before we really get rolling, let's recall that Filatov is on record as telling the Dispatch in April - pretty unequivocably - that he intends to be in Columbus for training camp in August:
"Yes, I'm sure I'll come for training camp," Filatov said. ... "The coaching change doesn't mean much for me," Filatov said. "Anyway, I was going to be back. When I left (in November), I said I was coming back, and that was no matter who the coach will be."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fear The Cannon!

I saw this phrase on Twitter today, loved it and felt compelled to draft a Columbus Blue Jackets fan graphic.  It's a return to the grunge look of the "It's Jackets Time" motif that the CBJ used in 2006-2007 (when I started following the Jackets).  Whaddya think?

In the spirit of sharing our creative sides, if anyone comes up with a fan graphic of their own, I'll be happy to post it (.gif or .jpg graphics, please) if they either email it to me at darkbluejacket [at] sbcglobal [dot] net or tweet me a link to the graphic at @darkbluejacket.

Boughner coming to Columbus; Dispatch scooped again

At roughly 7:00PM EDT on July 4th, Twitter account Goergs sent identical messages to Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy blog and SPORT Magazine.  The content of the message was clear:
It's Always Sunny in Detroit reporting ex-NHLer Bob Boughner to be named Bluejackets asst coach tomorrow #cbj

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our collective maalox moment

The day we've all been waiting for has come and gone - the opening of NHL free agency - and the Columbus Blue Jackets signed one player, their own Derek MacKenzie to a two-year, two-way deal.  With no disrespect to our AHL captain, whose motor is something that I wish other CBJ players had, I'm sure this signing was not what the CBJ fan base was looking for.  Too many "name" players are shifting teams, and fans obviously want their team in the midst of the action.

(I'll also grant that grabbing former Oilers captain Ethan Moreau off waivers on Free Agency Day Eve kinda-sorta felt like a free agency pickup.  But Moreau isn't a flashy, top six forward.  He's a checking line guy.)

I'll again point out the blog piece posted on Puck Rakers the other day, and I'll toss in the piece that I posted at the trade deadline last season that said virtually the same thing: General manager Scott Howson has gone all-in on his current young core of players with their longer-term contracts.  Read 'em and weep.  The club appears loathe to spend much more money, especially with Jake Voracek and Steve Mason's new contracts on the horizon.  Can't really blame them.

So today is our maalox moment.  Teams are shifting their rosters left and right - or at least it feels like it - and we're largely standing pat, waiting for our youngsters grow up and become the consistent stars that we know think hope wish pray they will be.

For, if they do, the Blue Jackets will exceed the fans' Free Agency Day expectations.  And it will be one helluva run.

And if they don't.....gulp!