Sunday, March 27, 2011
Game 75/ Vancouver: Gallos' Take
Vancouver did not really come out and play hard against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. They didn't really have to. Realistically, I thought our boys gave it the old college try. It was not one of those games where the effort was not there. The CBJ skated hard, and crashed the net. And every time they crashed the net, a Vancouver defender had their stick tied up or simply knocked them down. I swear RJ shot the one goal through the pipe. I was sitting up high on the side where he scored. I've never heard a pipe so loud.
What we saw was a very balanced team, good on offense, good on defense, preparing itself to run for the cup. Good luck to Vancouver. They definitely have a shot. On our side, there was a big contrast. We do not have a balanced team. Our forwards are ok, but they are not supported by adequate D. The D can't jump up in the offensive zone because they are vulnerable to the breakaway. When they do shoot from the point, it is usually blocked. Vancouver blocked a lot of shots, because no one has a shot you are afraid to block. A baseball analogy might be having a bullpen full of knuckle-ballers and junk ball artists. After awhile the hitters start standing in and ripping away, because you won't get hurt if you get hit.
The impact of this (back to hockey), is that the puck is unable to penetrate to where our forwards are, down low trying to generate offensive pressure. The puck stays high in the O-zone, and forwards have to come out to retrieve it. Once the puck does go through to the net, there is no support on the shot in the crease to pick up the rebounds. This is because the support is late due to the need to come out for the puck.
So what does this have to do with Luke Richardson and Wade Redden? Or Adam Foote for that matter?
It means the CBJ is in to another defensive rebuild in the off season via trade and/or free agency. And we've been there before. Allow me to recite the roll:
Luke Richardson and Scott LaChance
Fedor Tyutin and Mike Commodore
Luke 'one punch' Richardson was brought in by Doug McLean to solidify the defense. Luke was eventually the Captain, which in that situation says a lot about Richarson's character that he stepped up for that. He did a good job, but was realistically a second pairing defenseman trying to be a top pairing defenseman, with predictable results. Darryl Sydor was so freaked out by the level of dysfunction in Columbus, that he was traded to Tampa Bay in time to play a big roll in the 'bolts winning a cup, in exchange for Svitov. The came the Adam Foote acquisition, which was designed to provide a level of repectability to our defense.
Fortunately for Footer, Hitch entered the scene at this time. Hitch's system was ideally suited for an inadequate and immobile defensive corps, and we proceeded to see some of the better defensive efforts (because EVERYONE was responsible for D). However, having other plans, Footer moved on leaving the Jackets in the lurch. By this time, Doug was gone, and Scott Howson was on the scene. Then came the next big defensive re-make, with Howson trading Zherdev to the New York Rangers (suckers!!) for Tyutin and Backstrom. Then free agency came around, and the Rangers fell on the sword for the CBJ one more time by luring Wade Redden to the Big Apple. Howson said he wouldn't be outbid for term or money, going after the top free agent in the crop, but Wade didn't want to come. Talk about dodging a bullet! So we did the next best thing. Campbell was already signed to Chicago, so we signed Mike Commodore to a big money, long term contract. I'm hit, I'm hit!! Medic! Medic!!!! Nope, we didn't dodge that bullet.
Honestly, those moves paid off okay, resulting in Columbus' only appearance in the playoffs, which turned out the way everyone should have figured it would turn out. The following season, the loss of veteran leadership in the locker room (Michael Pecca), and the complete lack of practice time (Olympics), and the CBJ crashed hard after a good start, one they never recovered from. Hitch was fired, and they played out the string.
Enter Scott Arniel, playing a system that exposes defensemen quite a bit more than Hitch's system. And boy have our defensemen have been exposed. While our D is okay at skating up the ice, they can't A.) hit the net with a big shot, and B.) clear the area in the low slot in front of our net. This leads to lots of 3+ to 1 losses against playoff bound teams can at least defend the slot, and can support their forwards adequately.
So what does that mean for the loyal CBJ fan (count me in, and if you all donate some cash I promise to go see a shrink)? It means we are looking for another defensive rebuild in the off season. We'll pick up (insert player here) via trade, and (insert over paid player here) via free agency.
And just like Doug McLean promised me long ago, when he signed Luke Richardson, our defensive problems are now over. Trust me.
editors note: I tried to spell check this, but it wasn't working. So my terrible spelling is not my fault. Really.