Friday, December 31, 2010

Game 38/Ottawa: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets closed out 2010 with an overtime win over the Ottawa Senators, 4-3, at Nationwide Arena.
  • Friday night.
  • Big home crowd - 17,652 attendees.
  • Wearing 3rd jerseys.
  • Steve Mason in goal.
  • Jackets win.
  • 2 points in the standings.
Can any more jinxes go down in one night?

NEXT UP: Sunday night in Nashville.  I don't care what the Preds' record - overall or recent - is.  It's a big game for the CBJ.

Game 37/Toronto: My Take

Making their once every two years pilgrimage to the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets emerged victorious against the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in regulation for their second straight win.

At risk of being a buzz-kill, this was a matchup of two 13th place teams.  I appreciate that 13th in the West means you're almost qualifying for the playoffs (by virtue of being 4 points out of 8th) whereas 13th in the East means...well, you're not very good.  But this was most definitely a "should win" if not a "must win" (to get back in the playoff hunt, you start by picking off the weaker teams).  And they won, two points for the good guys, bumping the CBJ up to 11th by the end of the evening with a 19-15-3 record (41 points).

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Top 11 DBJ posts of 2010

You all had your shot, so now I'm taking mine!  With almost 400 posts to reflect upon over the past year, I enjoyed spending an afternoon and reflecting on this blog and how it's grown over the months and seasons.  Beyond that, simply reliving the memories of a wild 12 months in the life of the Columbus Blue Jackets was a treat.  (I can see why people do these end-of-year retrospectives...)

The style and form of the blog content has changed over the years, too.  I used to write "10 Thoughts" for every game and eventually realized that a "My Take" approach where I jotted down whatever came to mind was a lot more practical.  I've also done some longer-form pieces, mini-series following themes and a little goofiness with graphics manipulation.

In no particular order, here are my 11 favorite posts (or series of posts) offered up over the past year.  It's a slightly different batch than what you chose, but these are the ones of which I'm most proud.  Because this one goes to 11!
I'm not sure I'll ever come up with
a better graphic manipulation than this.
  1. Rosebud - As far back as January, we could tell that something was in the air with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  This post tried to figure out exactly what that was.  And if you look at the conclusions, I'm not sure it was that far off the mark.
  2. Channeling Barry Trotz - Mike Priest suggested he wanted a team dynamic like Nashville, so I got some help from Nashville Predators bloggers to learn more about what makes their team tick in this  five-part (12345) series.
  3. The season that had to happen: My thoughts on the CBJ, 2009-2010 - The season wrap-up...somewhat painful to write yet oddly cathartic.
  4. The CBJ coaching search - 29 posts covering the landscape from early short list scratches to a rather detailed investigation of the finalists (remember the DBJ Coaching Challenge?) and the obligatory post-mortem.  What a ride it was (even if the Jackets didn't hire Kevin Dineen).
  5. A modest proposal: 82 in 10 - It didn't quite get the effect that I wanted, but we DO have more CBJ games on TV and in HD than ever before.
  6. My CannonFest post, or "A funny thing happened on the way to the cookout" - We came. We saw. We ate wings. We talked CBJ hockey.
  7. Time to step up: DBJ's 2010-2011 Columbus Blue Jackets season preview - Player by player, coach by coach, even a couple front office gents. Without question, the most exhausting series I've done thus far.
  8. "Must Win" v. "Should Win" - DBJ's perspective - One of those posts that I keep going back to...if only to keep sane amid the day-to-day insanity that is following a team through an 82-game season.
  9. Changing the culture - Inside and out - Additional ruminations on perhaps the Greatest CBJ Game Ever.
  10. The Hangover - Never thought it would linger this long. Yow.
  11. About the Pittsburgh game and ticket sales - Dissecting the WTF moment of the year for the CBJ. Well, perhaps outside of the Dorsett non-goal against Dallas.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sestito returns to Springfield

Gone but not forgotten - Tommy Sestito left his mark...
literally...on the NHL in his nine games with Columbus.
The Columbus Blue Jackets gave the AHL Springfield Falcons a huge (literally) Christmas present in the person of 6'5", 228-pound forward Tommy Sestito, who apparently was the odd man out in a roster squeeze that resulted from the imminent return of Derek MacKenzie from injured reserve.

In nine games with the Blue Jackets, Sestito tallied 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points.  Looking at the perspective of the scoring-anemic CBJ, those four points are nothing to sneeze at.  Sestito not only used his size to barrel his way through the defense, but he also appeared to be the "missing link" in the power play, setting up shop in the crease with such force that even the vaunted Roberto Luongo started complaining.  One of the long-envied aspects of the Detroit Red Wings' game is the ability of Tomas Holmstrom to control the crease and make goalies' lives miserable.  For nine games, it looked like we might have our own such player.

Your Top 10 DBJ posts of 2010

It's that time of year when we look back and (somewhat) fondly recall those moments over the past 12 months that touched our lives in ways that we can no longer remember without being reminded.  (Or in the case of this post, the blog posts that got the most traffic.)

DBJ's One Shining Moment of
graphic manipulation excellence!
Thus, with no further ado, I present you with the Top 10 most popular Dark Blue Jacket blog posts - ranked in order of traffic volume (per Google Analytics), with a little commentary from yours truly:
  1. Is this a Blue Jackets third jersey preview? - From August, my first take on the possible new third jersey design.  Also known as the first time I humiliated myself on my blog in the name of team identity marketing.
  2. The Blue Jackets' 10th Anniversary Patch - May brought us a leak of the 10th Anniversary logo.  Kinda sharp, and indicative of the power of the Inter-Tubes to share information quickly.
  3. Do we FINALLY have a new 3rd jersey leak? - Yup, I stuck my neck out there again in late October and you gladly watched the egg fly on my face.  Or maybe you just wanted to see what the new jersey looked like.  
  4. Who is this Guy Boucher? - Oh, him. the time, we really thought he was a serious candidate back in May...and not just using Columbus as a means to get a job elsewhere.
  5. DBJ's last stab at the CBJ third jersey - This pre-Thanksgiving attempt was surprisingly close thanks to the intelligence gathering of others, but didn't quite get the prediction right.  Cue the rotten vegetable tossers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why is Scott Howson not in THN's "100 People of Power"?

I received my digital copy of The Hockey News' January 17, 2011 edition - the "100 People of Power and Influence" issue - and was surprised to see that Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson was nowhere to be found on the list.

When teams start panicking in April because they are sitting
on the playoff bubble with a bunch of shootout wins, they have
one man to thank.  And that man apparently is not one of the
100 top people of power in the world of hockey.
Let's look past his work with Columbus (because we understand that CBJ business largely is not of interest to the hockey world) and instead consider his larger impact on the National Hockey League.  Howson has been shrewdly maneuvering to increase the importance of actual hockey play in the standings and, as a result, decrease the importance of shootouts.  First, he proposed that shootout winners only get 1.5 points instead of 2 points.  That concept didn't gain the GMs' approval.

Howson didn't pound his fist and stomp his feet like Brian Burke (THN ranking: 11), who has been flailing around since 2006 to change the rules such that teams can trade salary cap dollars and is getting nowhere fast.  No, Howson did what he does so well...he learned from the experience and changed his stance to make progress toward his goal.  And guess what?  It worked.

Now, because of Scott Howson, shootout wins will not count when breaking ties in the standings.  He proposed the idea in March, and it received full approval in August.  This is an important change in the way the game is played - it forces coaches whose teams are questionable playoff qualifiers to "go for it" when they may have sat back and waited for the shootout in years past.

The boiling point

When Doug MacLean was frog-marched out of Columbus, one of the many grievances aired about him was his oft-frantic approach to personnel moves.  I won't admit to a first-hand knowledge of MacLean's foibles as I started following the Columbus Blue Jackets when he had one foot out the door - right before Ken Hitchcock was hired.  Regardless, the terms "circus huckster" and other all-hype/no-results slurs have been tossed his way.  And it appears that trades like that for Sergei Federov were at least in part based upon desperation, not just for improving the team.  And the results were not strong, to put it gently.

[UPDATE: I just read this blog piece about the rebuilding of the NFL's Detroit Lions.  Read this paragraph, substitute Doug MacLean for Matt Millen, and I think you get a sense of where I'm coming from:
Under former GM Matt Millen, the franchise wasted roster spots on blown draft picks and lemon free-agent acquisitions. And, under the multiple coaching changes, never appeared to establish any scheme. As Millen's pokes and prods turned into desperate risks and frantic prayers, the transient, ambiguous roster fed an incessant identity crisis. One that was defined only by failure.
Does that make sense?]

Enter Scott Howson.  Our very own personnel Ice Man (or Ninja GM, depending on the jargon you use) has dropped the organizational blood pressure considerably in Columbus.  He often is loathe to make any moves at all, but he most certainly does not get rolled over when he does.  Consider Antoine Vermette for Pascal Leclaire.  Who won that trade?  Or Tyutin/Backman for Zherdev/Fritsche?

Perhaps the penultimate demonstration of the patience on Howson's part was this entire past offseason.  Staring a disastrous 2009-10 season in the rearview mirror, complete with the firing of likely Hall of Famer Ken Hitchcock and replacing him with Claude Noel, one would think that Howson would take advantage of the drop-off after the 2008-09 playoff year to move some players out, bring some in and improve the roster.

Think again.  The two major roster moves that Howson made were: 1) Claim Ethan Moreau off of waivers, and 2)  Re-sign Steve Mason.  Other than that, Howson essentially said that he liked his roster, and that while he'd like to upgrade the defense, he'd be comfortable taking this squad into the season.  And, yes, he overhauled the coaching staff.

So here we are, the week after Christmas.  Despite what still is the best CBJ start ever, the Jackets are struggling mightily to extricate themselves from a slide that has seen them win a whopping four games (including overtime/shootout winners) since Thanksgiving.  As I've written all over this blog, the Blue Jackets have demonstrated since their dismantling at the hands of the Red Wings that they are incapable of reliably beating any good NHL hockey club with this roster.  It's probably past time to start making moves to get the CBJ out of 12th place in the Western Conference and back into playoff contention.

What we love about Howson - his ability to keep his hand close to the vest until he gets a deal he knows will at least be an even trade if not a win...his willingness to stand pat rather than stir the pot up - is precisely what drives us crazy at times like this.  

Game 36/Minnesota: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets finally shed their notorious "third jersey curse" last night with a 4-3 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild in front of 14,454 fans.

I'm going to temper my enthusiasm a bit with this win.  After all, it's two teams at the back of the "Western Conference" pack struggling to keep from falling further behind the pack.  But it was two badly-needed points, and we can't overlook that important fact.

Scratches last night were Rusty Klesla, Jake Voracek and Derek Dorsett.  Interesting collection in the press box. Rusty is leading the team in plus/minus, Voracek is one of the few consistent top-two liners and Dorsett is perhaps the CBJ's prototypical "energy" player.  One could surmise that the roster shuffle was somehow related to the one-on-one meetings that coach Scott Arniel had with a number of CBJ players over the course of the day.  Whether the Chris Clarks and Mike Commodores of the world lobbied their way onto the ice, or whether the aforementioned trio talked their way off the gametime roster, I have no idea.  Or, perhaps, it had no impact whatsoever.

One guy who came down from the press box with a vengeance was Fedor Tyutin.  Almost seven minutes into the third period, Tyutin made a rocket shot from the point that no one saw coming:

He also was huge on another late rush opportunity. For someone who many thought was totally incompatible with this puck possession style of play, Tyutin may still have some rough edges...but he's picking it up as the season moves along.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Greetings from DBJ, Part V

Let's conclude our holiday trip through the Canadian National Film Board vaults with "Just Another Job," a half-hour documentary on the birth of the Quebec Nordiques in the World Hockey Association.

Strip back the haircuts, the clothes and the groovy music, and you will see a team and organization that was experiencing many of the same feelings about starting up that could have been felt in Columbus.  Well, minus Rocket Richard as the (very temporary) head coach.  (Bruce Boudreau, he is not...)

Enjoy!  Here's to a great 2011!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Game 35/Chicago: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets returned from their two-day Christmas break and avoided a shutout with a late goal in the third period while losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-1, at the United Center.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Blue Jackets were playing for undisputed control of the National Hockey League's Western Conference.  Over Christmas weekend, they're in 12th place in the West (only four points out of eighth, though).  Despite my suggestion of hope, it's pretty clear that The Collapse is on.

Sure, there are similarities to last year's implosion (which cost Ken Hitchcock his job).  This year's collapse, however, has been accomplished with no crushing injuries and a new coach who seemed to embrace the loose, fast-moving play of the early part of the season.  Thus, we can't say "Here we go again" with a straight face.  We can, however, say, "Not again..." because such a statement is only a reflection of game outcomes and standings - and not the underlying reasons for the failure.

Regardless, we can only hope that CBJ GM learned from last year's disaster (and his attempts to address it).  Because something has got to change lest yet another season fall out of reach before New Year's.

Holiday Greetings from DBJ, Part IV

For our day-after-Christmas trip through the Canadian National Film Board's vault of hockey films, let's get historical with a 1998 documentary on legendary NHLer Maurice "Rocket" Richard.  What a great piece (and not a short's about 40 minutes long!) that chronicles the rise of the Canadiens in Montreal - and the effect that Richard had on the game.  Hopefully you'll have some time this weekend to check the whole film out - it's quite good.  (And you'll recognize some footage from the "Here's Hockey!" piece that I shared earlier.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Greetings from DBJ, Part III

Merry Christmas from The Dark Blue Jacket blog!

On the big day, there's no better video to share than the Roch Carrier classic children's story, "The Hockey Sweater."

(Side note: The hardback version of The Hockey Sweater was the first Christmas present that Mrs. DBJ and I gave to the Dark Blue Toddler.  It's definitely not for an infant...I'd think more like a 4th-5th grader.  In case you're interested, a link to the book is posted after the break.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Greetings from DBJ, Part II

Thanks again to everyone who's stopped by this blog over the past year. I hope this holiday season finds you filled with joy and happiness.

Here's the second National Film Board (of Canada) short for your enjoyment, the abstract "HA'Aki". I love how this film uses the flowing animation to simulate the flowing action of the game. Lots of fun...sit back and take it in!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Game 34/Vancouver: My Take

The Vancouver Canucks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in their final games before the Christmas break, 7-3, at Nationwide Arena.

The Blue Jackets were out-worked, out-manned, out-gunned and out-classed by a team that should have been exhausted from playing an overtime game in Detroit the night before.

I am now convinced that this roster, as currently composed, cannot be expected to beat any good National Hockey League team with any regularity this season.

Something's got to change.

[UPDATE: Per Justin Boggs, Scott Arniel apparently had this to say after the game: "That was men against pee-wees out there. That was embarrassing, I want to apologize to the fans. That was absolutely, utterly embarrassing."  At least the coach gets it.]

NEXT UP: Sunday night in Chicago.

Holiday Greetings from DBJ, Part I

We're now knee-deep into the holiday season, and it's time to say "Thank you" to everyone who has blessed this blog with their visits, comments, etc.  As a little way to express my gratitude, permit me to share a few neat videos from the Canadian National Film Board about their national sport.

Let's start with a very appropriate first video, "Here's Hockey!" - a vintage overview of the game from 1953.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nationwide Arena survives another "All You Can Eat Night"

Staff for new CBJ concession vendor Tim Horton's hold
an anxious pregame strategy session to prepare for
the rampaging hordes on Season Ticket Holder
"All You Can Eat Night"
It comes infrequently, and thank the lord for small favors.  Yes, last night was "All You Can Eat Night" for Columbus Blue Jackets season ticket holders.

And, by all reports, the carnage was impressive.  The CBJ might be in a mini-slump, but such trivialities easily are trumped by the offer of free food.

As a disclaimer: I am not a season ticket holder, nor was I at last night's game.  I was online, however, and the Tweets coming out of Nationwide Arena were enough to set public health back 20 years.

With a small yellow wristband, season ticket holders were entitled to have pretty much whatever they wanted from any of the many concourse concessionaires.  And while I will never complain about arena cuisine, we're not talking about food that would make the editors at Eating Well swoon.  Nope, we're talking about nachos.  Smothered in cheese.  We're talking about pretzels.  And hot dogs.  And burgers.  It goes on and on.  Why not give you a visual of the fare?

Actual photo from CBJ season ticket holder "All You Can Eat Night."
For one night only, season ticket holders could gorge themselves on the
finest that Nationwide Arena could offer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Game 33/Calgary: My Take

The rested Columbus Blue Jackets got to take advantage of the road-weary Calgary Flames tonight at Nationwide Arena to the tune of a 3-1 win in regulation.

The two points in the standings for the CBJ represents the first regulation win since December 11's 3-1 win over the New York Rangers.

The game itself was competitive, highlighted by nice, tough goals by Jake Voracek and Jared Boll - not to mention another strong effort from Mathieu Garon in net.  Calgary tried to muster a little gusto in the second and third, but it was pretty much all CBJ tonight.

In fact, I'll go as far as to say that it could have been a lot worse for the Flames - if not for the Blue Jackets.


The overturned Derek Dorsett goal against Dallas, with no underlying penalty, was the proper call?


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Howson on the prowl?

Has Scott Howson been talking to the New York Rangers
 about 20-year-old blueliner Michael Del Zotto?
It took a little while for the scuttlebutt to circulate throughout the NHL world, but rumors have been swirling that Scott Howson has been talking to the New York Rangers about obtaining their first round draft pick in 2008, Michael Del Zotto.

Beyond that, the scuttlebutt (the above link plus this and this) is that Howson may have offered up defensemen Fedor Tyutin for Del Zotto.  Let's emphasize the rumor component of this part...we're descending into the deepest of unsubstantiated rumor. The rumor-mongers then suggest that Tyutin for Del Zotto is not enough for the Rangers (and, of course, the Rangers are entitled to roll the Blue Jackets over on such a the Tyutin/Backman for Zherdev/Fritsche trade...hee hee!), so they suggest Nikita Filatov as well.

Lots to discuss as we dissect this combination of sourced information and rumor...

Game 32/Dallas: My Take

The road-weary Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena last night, sticking with the Stars through two periods but running out of gas in the 3rd, falling 2-1.

Rather than cover the game in any depth, there's only one major point to deal with: The officiating crime of the disallowed Derek Dorsett goal.  The simple fact of the matter is this: If you have a goal (a puck in the back of the net, with play stopped and everything) nullified on account of a penalty, and the penalty is overturned, then the goal should be allowed.  There is no reason why there shouldn't be a goal.  I don't care about stupid rules and rationales - the fact that Dorsett's goal was not allowed to stand defies common sense.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Peace, at last

As someone still relatively new to Columbus Blue Jackets fandom, I will suggest that the presence of the Columbus Blue Jackets has made a truly lasting impact on the National Hockey League in just two ways.

First, the incredible mixed use Arena District has become a go-to design model for just about every team looking to build an arena these days.  The Blue Jackets apparently host more than their share of team and municipal leaders who are looking for design and land use inspiration - or, perhaps, to copy Columbus outright.  And with good reason: The Arena District (and Nationwide Arena), at 10 years old, is still perhaps the greatest environment in which I've ever seen an indoor sporting event.

The second legacy of the Columbus Blue Jackets, sadly, is the 2002 death of Brittanie Cecil and the resulting mandate from the NHL to place nets behind the goals at both ends of every NHL arena.  (This also was my first exposure to the CBJ, for what it's worth.  I saw the Sports Illustrated that discussed the incident.)  If memory serves correct, the decision to place nets behind the goals was not unanimously hailed throughout the league, but John McConnell didn't care and put them up anyway in Columbus.  The league then followed suit.

Columbus fans know that the precipitating incident was caused by an Espen Knutsen shot that caromed up into the stands after a deflection from a Calgary Flames defender.  Cecil apparently was OK until later after the game, upon which she was taken to a local hospital and passed away.  As I understand it, Knutsen was devastated and never was really the same as a player.  Brittanie's family...well, anything I could say should go without saying.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The bright side of life

Are you a little down in anticipation of the holidays?  

Is all of the Columbus Blue Jackets fan angst getting to you?  

Have you spent too much time looking for "Boomer" gear?  (It doesn't exist, and - soon - neither will Boomer.)

Did you buy a new third jersey for your loved one, only to hear that same loved one curse "those @#$@#!!! jersies" while your precious gift withers under the tree?  

Is Steve Mason's implosion screwing up your fantasy hockey league team?  

Did the joy of CannonFest result in a little too much irrational exuberance on your part going into this season?  

Do blowout losses just take the win out of your sails? 

Are you just reading this blog too much?  (Wait, that can't be a problem.  Strike that.)

Don't fret, Blue Jackets fans.  There really are some bright spots to this season, and I'm going to share a few of them with you.  Perhaps, with your help, we can find some more rays of sunshine in this most muddled of seasons.

Game 31/Edmonton: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets wrapped up their three game-four night swing through Western Canada last night, falling to the Edmonton Oilers, 6-3 in regulation.

There was little to be excited about in last night's game, so let's get the really good stuff out of the way: In his second game back, Kristian Huselius got a hat trick.  Yup, he alone scored all 3 CBJ goals.  One of them even was on the power play, where Juice took up residence on Nikita Filatov's dot and played sniper.  And wasn't it a beauty:

For a guy playing through a very painful high ankle sprain, to drop 3 goals in represents an incredible passion for the game and injection of pure scoring skill that is sorely needed.  Welcome back, Juice!

The Jackets also had 23 shots on goal in the first period.  It was ridiculous.  The CBJ kept peppering Nikolai Khabibulin and got two through.  (It was a real shame that we ended the first down 3-2, though...)

Now the rest of the story.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Game 30/Vancouver: My Take

In a strange scheduling move that had the Columbus Blue Jackets leaving Alberta (Calgary) to play in Vancouver only to return to Alberta (Edmonton) the following night, the Columbus Blue Jackets played an overall solid game against one of the top teams in the National Hockey League's Western Conference before falling to the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 in overtime at The Arena That Likely Will Be Renamed Within Six Months.

Regretfully, the game being played in Vancouver meant a 10PM Eastern start - and I was out of caffeinated products (No, I was not going to brew a pot of coffee for the CBJ.  A man's gotta set limits.).  I struggled mightily yet still fell asleep after the hard-fought first period and awoke with about 4:30 left in regulation.  Hence, my recap is incomplete.

I was able to watch the game on NHL's GameCenter Live service (Thank you, CBJ, for lifting the local blackout as Fox Sports Ohio inexplicably chose not to broadcast the game.  82 in 10, baby!), so I "rewound" the game to check out the Sestito and Brassard goals.  Both were solid and deserve mention.

I'm serious - Let's trade tickets!

This is not a joke. Really.

I've got two front row, upper deck seats in a prime viewing location for next week's Columbus Blue Jackets game against the Vancouver Canucks that I really need to swap to fulfill family obligations.  I mean, who am I to crush the Christmas dreams of the Dark Blue Toddler?

If you're interested in going to this game - got family coming to town, want to show off the (relatively) high-flying Blue Jackets and our sparkling gem of an arena, perhaps? - drop me a line at darkbluejacket [at] sbcglobal [dot] net and let me know.

Don't have tickets to swap and want to go anyway?  Email me and I'll either sell them or swap for (cheap) seats that you pick up on SeatGeek (but if you go in this direction, I'd like to have a little input about the game you select, so don't buy first - ok?)...or from that weird guy in the office with the red stapler.

Besides, what greater holiday joy is there than watching Roberto Luongo "chirp" at Tommy Sestito for crowding the crease?  Maybe...a Blue Jackets win?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This is how you build an organization the right way

Readers of this blog know that I've spent a lot of time over the last week or so discussing the impressive amount of youth on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster and the challenges that presents (including Nikita Filatov).  I then went as far as to suggest that Steve Mason may need a little time to find his game again in Springfield.  Not the most popular of ideas, to be sure, but one where I think diminished short-term gain (How many times will he need to get pulled in the first period before the message sinks in?) is overwhelmed by Mase's long-term potential.

In light of all that, I was heartened to see in today's Dispatch that the CBJ management is intentionally taking the slow road with its next generation of stars:
...the Jackets brain trust appears to be committed to allowing its minor-league rookies such as [forward Matt] Calvert, [forward Tomas] Kubalik and defenseman John Moore to develop at their own pace with minor-league Springfield, without rushing them into the Jackets lineup. 

"That's our guy!"

One of the nice things about going to play in Vancouver - or perhaps the only nice thing, seeing as we in Columbus will be up until something like 1AM watching the game - is the "old home week" coverage that the Vancouver media is giving to the former coach of the Canucks' AHL affiliate, Scott Arniel.  Nothing beats the story of a guy who was part of your organization, strikes out on his own and does well for himself, and Arniel is no exception.

While the following articles don't say a lot that a diehard Columbus Blue Jackets fan doesn't know (or hasn't surmised), it still is nice to see a little love thrown our way by the Canadian hockey press.  So go ahead and check these two articles out, as they're rather well done:
And here's a little game preview from Vancouver for good measure:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Game 29/Calgary: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets started the first of their three-game, four night road trip with a resounding thud, then recovered to take the Calgary Flames to overtime, only to lose, 3-2.

This was a classic good news/bad news game.

On the good side, one can't help but be impressed at the effort that the Blue Jackets showed in swinging the game from a disaster into a Loser Point.  Took a lot of mettle to make that happen, and it can't be overlooked.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Want to trade tickets?

Pardon the very personal aside, but I would like to see if any of my readers would be interested in trading Columbus Blue Jackets game tickets with me.  Holiday plans prohibit me from using one of the pairs in my package, and I hope to be able to trade them with someone (might it be YOU?).

The game for which I have tickets is on December 23, 2010 against the Vancouver Canucks.  Yes, not only can you witness firsthand the bizarre circus oddity that is The Flying Sedin Twins, you also would get to witness former Blue Jackets Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres ply their trades once again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game 28/New York Rangers: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the New York Rangers to Nationwide Arena for their only match of the season, and the Blue Jackets took the game over in the third period and won, 3-1, in regulation in front of 15,780 very pleased fans.

It was the first regulation win for Columbus since November 22.  And, as one would presume from a team that is scratching and clawing to get out of a slump, it wasn't the prettiest of wins.  The Blue Jackets didn't really get their act together in a consistent manner until the last 5-6 minutes of the game, when they ratcheted down on the Rangers.  Not so coincidentally, that is precisely the same period of the game when Rick Nash had two incredible goals - a ricochet shot from behind the goal line that went off Henrik Lundquist's pads and then a breakaway in the last minute that caught Lundquist leaving the net to give the Rangers an extra skater.

And then the moment of ironic beauty: Whereas last year's game saw Rangers coach John Tortorella calling his team's timeout to calm his team down en route to a 7-4 thrashing of the Blue Jackets, this year saw Torts using the TO after Nash's second goal to dress the Rangers up and down.  My, how the times change.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Who stays? Who Goes? Part III: Is youth being served?

This once-humorous graphic is no longer funny.
The CBJ have too many "Junior Woodchucks."
[Note: I started writing this on Friday morning, well before the announcement of Nikita Filatov's assignment to Springfield.  While Filatov's circumstances impact elements of this post, I think it's still worth considering the larger picture.  Hopefully you agree.]

Considering the growing body of evidence that something is truly wrong with the Columbus Blue Jackets, combined with the team's notice to Kyle Wilson and Derek Mackenzie that they should "get a place" (read: likely to stick around Columbus for the balance of the season) and Scott Howson's past December trade history (Chimera for Clark/Jurcina), it seems like the the time is right for personnel changes to take place.

The challenge in this post-lockout National Hockey League is that the salary cap and the intricacies of the collective bargaining agreement make it much harder to make such changes mid-season.  I'll borrow a line from Light The Lamp's most recent post: "I'll say it yet again.... the time to upgrade your team is in the offseason in this cap system." Can't argue with that.  So let's be honest with ourselves...anything that Howson is able to do at this point will be relatively minor - the proverbial band-aid fix.  (Really, was a mid-season "leadership" injection of Chris Clark supposed to turn that locker room around?  Really?)

So I'm going to look past the here and now on the presumption that nothing huge will happen and instead try to take a broader view of the roster.

Filatov is off to Springfield

How timely.

Seriously, here's my take from that linked post on this very scenario:
Howson, Arniel (and Filatov?) agree to send Filatov down to Springfield to find his mojo on the North American ice. Personally, I think that this is the ideal long-term solution once Huselius, another shooter, returns to the lineup from injury...but the now obvious flight risk to Russia makes such a move a significant point of concern. The only way I can see this scenario working is if Filatov himself asks for the plane ticket. Otherwise, there will always be that lingering fear that Filatov will instead take the first flight back to Moscow.
It now appears that the flight risk is minimal, per the Dispatch: "There are no indications that Filatov is considering a return to Russia. One source this afternoon told The Dispatch that Filatov's return home last season was 'not enjoyable' on many levels."

No way but the hard way....

(And kudos to DBJ reader OSUJumpMan once more for tossing this scenario into the mix!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Game 27/St. Louis: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to St. Louis, Missouri tonight and lost to the Blues, 4-1, in regulation.

That this loss - the third straight road loss - happened against a team that was reeling from injuries is all the more telling.  This is a team that, despite the shootout win over Dallas and the shootout loss (hello, loser point) against Nashville, is reeling and pretty much devoid of confidence since getting undressed by the Detroit Red Wings in games 21 and 22.  They haven't won in regulation in the past nine games - since November 22.  Sigh.

Who stays? Who Goes? Part II: The Filatov Conundrum

This graphic is almost quaint seems that the last thing
 CBJ fans have to worry about is his desire to be a part of the team.
In response to a suggestion by DBJ blog reader OSUJumpMan from yesterday's post, I'm going to take a moment before all hell breaks loose in St. Louis tonight to examine perhaps the leading candidate for Columbus Blue Jackets Mercurial Player of the Year, Nikita Filatov.

Let's retrace our steps: The Filatov Odyssey started when he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft.  At the time, the selection of "another Russian" (following the departure of Nik Zherdev) seemed curious to those who detected that then-coach Ken Hitchcock did not care for the loose, free-wheeling style that Russian skaters brought to the National Hockey League.  But Filatov was determined; he readily submitted himself to the CBJ's then-AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, for the 2008-09 season and went 16G-16A-32PTS over 39 games.  More tantalizingly, he also played with the Blue Jackets for 8 games and went 4G-0A-4PTS, with a hat trick against an unsuspecting Minnesota Wild team on January 10, 2009:

If that display was not a sign that the Blue Jackets might have something special on their hands, I don't know what could be.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Who stays? Who goes?

Interesting little tidbit from the Dispatch guys today on Twitter:
[The Columbus Blue Jackets] said the magic words to MacKenzie and Wilson: "Get a place." On 2-way contracts, but told they'll be staying w #CBJ.
First, and let's not minimize this, let's congratulate Derek Mackenzie and Kyle Wilson.  Both guys are former AHL lifers who have busted their tails off to stick in the NHL and, for both guys, it's the first times in their careers that they will actually do so.  I waxed (reasonably) eloquent about Wilson after his shootout winner on Monday night, and my "Time to Step Up" piece on MacKenzie says all I need to say on him.  Presuming that the two guys perform at an NHL level, more power to them.  It's great to see merit getting rewarded, something that both Scott Arniel and Scott Howson are doing despite the strange world of the NHL collective bargaining agreement, with issues involving waivers, one-way/two-way contracts, salary caps, etc.

Pleasantries aside, let's get to the heart of the matter.  Why is the front office telling these two guys to plan on sticking around for the season at this specific moment?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

About the Pittsburgh game and ticket sales

The Dispatch's Tom Reed shares some of the fallout from the absurd (surreal?) Pittsburgh game experience by sharing the results of a conversation that he had with the Columbus Blue Jackets' Larry Hoepner - the team's VP of business operations.

(Side note: I've met Mr. Hoepner once before, at CannonFest.  He came across to me as a genuinely nice man who was interested in making the Columbus Blue Jackets everything it could and should be.  If you call that bias, so be it.  I liked the man.)

Long story short:
  1. Opposing team fans (or at least opposing team jersey-wearing fans) shouldn't expect complimentary zamboni rides anytime soon.
  2. "The club, which is struggling at the gate, also will explore ways to ensure Jackets' fans get the first chance to buy tickets for popular draws such as the Penguins, Red Wings and Blackhawks."
The article then rationalizes away why the Columbus Blue Jackets can't be overly restrictive on ticket sales.  In essence, the team is so starved for ticket sales that it'll take them any way they can.  

Here's my take: 
  1. The zamboni thing (and moving Pittsburgh fans to the Big Lots "cushy chair" section) is pure symbolism.  It's great that the CBJ is going to make policy changes to fix that, but that's appearances.  
  2. The ticket sale matter is a different story.  What no one seems to get (but Matt Wagner at The Cannon oh-so-gently touches on) is that the flawed process of pre-selling individual game tickets directly led to this problem.  
I'll try to explain as best I can from my memory of the process back in September.  I might be off on a specific point here or there but stand behind my recollection enough that I'm willing to put it up on the blog.  If I'm in error on the facts, PLEASE post a comment so I can make corrections.

Game 26/Dallas: My Take

The slumping Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the streaking Dallas Stars into Nationwide Arena on Monday night and overcame the Stars, 3-2, in a post-overtime shootout.

This was my second regular season game in my ticket package, so my review of the night's events will take on a different tone from having actually been in attendance.  As much as I'd like you to think that a recap based off of TV is the same as one based off the in-arena experience, it isn't.  So enjoy it when you can!

Mrs. DBJ and I bundled up and headed down to Nationwide very mindful of the Buffalo and Pittsburgh debacles.  Our mood heading in was, "Please, don't let it be that bad."  Yeah, the Kool-Aid is back in the fridge and likely will stay there for a while.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The new Blue Jackets third jerseys have arrived!

As promised, I wanted to let this blog's readers know that the new Columbus Blue Jackets jersey has arrived in The DBJ Shop.

The Shop, which is powered by, has the authentic jersey, the (replica) premier jersey, the premier jersey in youth sizes and even a premiere jersey with Rick Nash's name, number and the "C".  The Nash jersey appears to be a pretty good deal, for what it's worth.

There's a lot, lot more in the Shop, and it's certainly worth a gander if you're looking for CBJ gear for your holiday giving.  (And, yes, I might someday receive a miniscule level of compensation from Amazon for referring you to the store.)

Enjoy your jerseys!  Really, they are NOT bad luck for the Blue Jackets.  Ill-timed considering the opposition faced and the state of the team's mental health, definitely.  But not bad luck charms...

Because we all need some motivation right now.

In light of Friday and Saturday night's back-to-back debacles, I gather that some of the Columbus Blue Jackets faithful aren't sure if they want to get back to Nationwide Arena anytime soon.

In a way, I can't blame those folks.  The wounds are significant, and the feelings are still raw.  At the same time, there are 82 games in the season...which means there's almost always another game right around the corner.

And Monday night's game really doesn't need help in terms of motivating the CBJ fanbase.  Really, it doesn't.

Remember this guy to the right?  His name is James Neal.  Neal cheap-shotted Derek Dorsett into a nine-game absence from the roster last season.  The NHL gave him The Taint and suspended him for two games.  Not surprisingly, Dorsett's absence marked the beginning of the CBJ tailspin that cost Ken Hitchcock his head coaching job.

(And while I rarely blatantly promote my links, I HIGHLY recommend you go back and read those two.  Really, go and read 'em - and watch the video clips.  You'll understand when you're done.  It's OK, I'll wait.)

Derek Dorsett's been waiting a year for this game.  I've been waiting a year for it - and yeah, I'm going.  How conveeeenient that it's part of my ticket package.  I would love nothing more than for the Blue Jackets to destroy Marc Crawford, James Neal and the Dallas Stars every which way they can.

Tickets are still available - and they're pretty cheap.  (As I type, "cheap" means as low as $10/seat.)  Show up, cheer on the Blue Jackets and enjoy the festivities, folks.

Game 25/Pittsburgh: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets slump extended to five games with a loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-2, in front of the second-largest crowd in Nationwide history.

While there clearly was a huge story in the overwhelming presence of Penguins fans - and their having swiped CBJ season ticket holder presale codes to snatch up hundreds if not thousands of game tickets at season ticket holder discount prices, not to mention the effect on the supposed home ice advantage that the CBJ should have enjoyed - I'm not going to talk any more about the Penguins in this post.  This is a Blue Jackets blog, and I've got better things to do than waste energy discussing how the visiting team's fans caused a massive CBJ marketing fail.

No, I told my Pens-loving friend (who was gently baiting me in the spirit of healthy competition) that the recent matters involving the game made this game not about the Penguins to CBJ fans but instead about the CBJ themselves.  They've been in a slide, and they had to get out of it.  In my mind, I didn't care whether it was the Penguins or the Panthers visiting Columbus.  Sorry, that's how I felt and still feel.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Game 24/Buffalo: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to HSBC Arena in Buffalo and were shut out by the Sabres, 5-0.

On the bright side, there are 81 other games.

That being said, this was a debacle on every level.  Two early-ish CBJ goals were overturned.  Rather than "dig in" (to use a Hitch-ism), the Blue Jackets instead retreated to that dreaded "safe place" where they started cycling the puck and not meaningfully attacking the other team.  It's like they raised the white flag.

The refereeing was horrible.  The CBJ's spirit was horrible.  The team lost any sense of discipline and fight.  Scratch that, there were some fights.  Most likely, a suspension or suspensions will come from it.  Just ugly in all forms.

On that whole attendance thing...

Back in early October, Matt Wagner of The Cannon coalesced a handful of Columbus Blue Jackets bloggers to answer a bunch of questions about the team as they embarked upon the 2010-2011 season.

The first question out of the gate didn't involve the new coaching staff, the ongoing improvement of our young goalie nor the enigmatic Russian who came back in from the cold.

Nope, it was about tickets.  And ticket sales.

Specifically, Matt asked us: Much has been made of the team's ticket woes. Many former season ticket holders are taking a wait and see attitude. If the team can get off to a hot start after their trip to Sweden, how quickly do you think fans in Columbus will respond at the box office?

The answers speak for themselves, but I'll take the liberty of reprinting my response for your amusement:
I think that the "wait and see" attitude will be exacerbated by the challenging economy in Ohio. Should the Jackets take off in the standings - and that's by no means a given - I wouldn't expect to see much of any change in attendance until after the first of the football season will be out of the way, the Winter Classic will help refocus attention and the Jackets will have a body of work by then to prove to the community that they are legit.
I'll stand by everything I said.  On the very bright side, the Blue Jackets are off to one of the best starts in team history - if not the best.  14-8-1 is absolutely nothing to sneeze at, and it places the team squarely on a path to the playoffs if my notions about point accumulation over the course of the season have anything to do with it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Game 23/Nashville: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets gained the "loser point" in going into overtime against the Nashville Predators tonight, only to fall in the shootout, 4-3.

Loser points stink.

Perhaps the really frustrating thing about this game was that, by my intermittent observations (while chasing the Dark Blue Toddler around the house and then getting sucked into an incredible HBO documentary on post traumatic stress disorder in our nation's veterans), the Predators have an inferior roster in comparison to the Blue Jackets.  Say whatever you want, Predatweeter, but what I saw was a Blue Jackets team whose heads, for stretches in this particular game, were not in the game itself.  This team can go on a tear across the West Coast, can expose the formerly all-world Jaroslav Halak and can toss the likes of Montreal, Philadelphia and Chicago into a tizzy...but only when they are into the game.  In some spots, they were.  (Antoine Vermette, for example, seemed locked in tonight and had two goals to show for it.)  In many other spots, they were not.