Monday, May 30, 2011

CBJ MUST improve on game turnaround to make playoffs

The CBJ at practice on the ice at Nationwide Arena.
Its the dog days of hockey as we wait for the Canucks and Bruins to get rolling on the Stanley Cup Finals.  So I thought I would take a look at some numbers from last season, as I try to unclench my body from ceaseless yard work to celebrate Memorial Day.

Then Tressel goes down.  Ugh.  This ain't gonna be pretty.  But as a CBJ fan, I'm used to that.  One thought that I had, after reading the DBJ's post on the issue was that OSU fans might have a touch more sympathy for a team that's trying to climb the mountain, like the CBJ.  Its easy to disdain those that are climbing when you are on top, but I think the Bucks have some climbing to do now as well.

Back to the CBJ, an impression that I had during the agony and ecstasy that was the 2010-11 CBJ season was that if the team had more practice time, they tended to play better.  I also felt that this was an issue for the 2009=10 Jackets due to the schedule compression of an Olympic break.  So I took a look to see if this impression was borne out in the Jackets won-loss record.  It probably does not come as a shock to CBJ fans to find that in the most commonly scheduled interval, 2 games in 3 days, the CBJ fared very poorly.  Particularly down the stretch.  Improvement in this area is essential.  The other thing that I didn't expect to find in this analysis was a weird microcosm of the season.

The way I approached this was to list as a plus or a minus the result of each game.  Charity points don't count so they don't cloud the picture.  The first part of the season broke down this way:
Days
Between
Games      Wins               Losses                         Totals
    0           ++++                                                 4 - 4W-0L
    1           +++++           ----                              9 - 5W-4L
    2           ++                                                     2 - 2W-0L
    3           +                    -                                  2 - 1W-1L
    4           +                                                       1 - 1W-0L
    5                                 -                                  1 - 0W-1L
And there we are.  Its Thanksgiving, and we are on a team record best start.  It doesn't really matter how long an interval between games it is, the CBJ are flying high.  Sweeping the West Coast ('What have you guys been doing?' seems like a pretty smug quote from a rookie coach, in retrospect).  Two games loom with the mighty Redwings, a challenge for first in the Central Division.  Like a Greek Tragedy, pride does indeed go before the fall.  By early December, the CBJ are in free fall.  And of course, this analysis gets really rocky towards the end.  Here we go with the rest of the season:

Days
Between
Games          Wins          Losses                              Totals
    0               +++++!     -----**##                          15 - 6W-9L
    1               +++++!!    -----------********##     28 - 7W-21L
    2               ++++++    -------***#                       17 - 6W-11L
    3                                -                                           1 - 0W-1L
    5                                -                                           1 - 0W-1L
Note: For March games, !=win and *=loss; for April games, $= win and #=loss


Yowza!  These numbers have some stink attached to them!  And, pretty much refute my conclusion that they played better after practice.  Once the honeymoon was over with Arniel, they went 6 wins, 7 wins, 6 wins on the 3 most frequent schedule intervals.  ESPECIALLY the 1 day interval, which will often include travel in a normal NHL season.

One thing that I think this refutes.  At the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the team said they were changing the way they traveled.  They decided they would spend the night in the city they played in and travel the next day, in order to avoid all the late night flights.  Folks, I don't think this is working.  We made the playoffs in 2008-09 flying at night (in the private jet), but we stunk on the 3 games in 2 days for the next two seasons (1 day between games).

I am going to suggest that by climbing on a plane the night after a game, you maximize the camaraderie of the group.  They fought the war together, and they 'jump on the bus' together (as these guys have done for the bulk of their hockey careers).  If instead, you all go off to your hotel rooms, the team splits up, a few guys go one way for dinner, a few go another way, and its easy to have cliques building up on the road.

I'd like to suggest to the CBJ management that they save themselves some dough, and start using that private plane to travel at night after the games.  Put the boys back on the bus on the road.  Its what they grew up with, and I think it insidiously works against your team structure.  This is an example of a good intention (not making them travel at night) having an unintended negative effect.

GO JACKETS!!!!!

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