Friday, October 28, 2011

The Purge of Youth is almost complete

Do you understand what's going on with the latest roster shuffle?
Me neither, but I'll take a stab at trying to decipher this one.
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel mentioned last night that he shortened his bench in the middle of the second period to those who were "running."

Apparently "running" means allowed by law to run to the liquor store, as Ryan Johansen (19), John Moore (21 on November 19) and Max Mayorov (21 - OK, he could've survived getting carded...but play along now!) sat on the bench for much of the second half of the Buffalo game while David Savard (turned 21 last week) was munching hot dogs in the press box.

At the same time, "Veterans" (term used loosely, as many of those "veteran" seasons were spent in the AHL) like Aaron Johnson (28), Cody Bass (24), Alexander Giroux (30) and Derek Dorsett (24) were kept out on the ice in the losing cause.  Is it safe to say that none of these four distinguished themselves more than the four kids listed above?

It sure looks like Arniel has turned away from the kids.  Toss in that Cam Atkinson (who was producing a little in Columbus, along with his -4 plus/minus in four games) and Matt Calvert (who wasn't producing) were shipped off to Springfield earlier.

Today, the Blue Jackets announced that Mayorov and Savard will be joining Atkinson in Springfield.  Calvert is coming up to Columbus.  Here's my take, which probably is wrong but is something to chew over nonetheless:

The kids aren't going to play in Columbus.  For whatever reason - Arniel seeing something he likes in the veterans, the young players really did screw up something fierce (I'd love to see such errors pointed out, with a relative value applied to compare against the errors of the vets), Arniel looking to veterans to help him preserve his job as this season slips away quicker than quick, whatever - the "play the kids" thing in Columbus is dead.  At least for the time being.

Slight digression: This is so reminiscent of how Scott Howson pushed Nikita Filatov on Ken Hitchcock, who promptly stapled Filatov's hockey pants to the bench (and I make no claims one way or the other about Filatov's skill or potential - I'm discussing Howson's proclivity to put young'uns on the big league roster).  This season, Howson cleared out 2010-11's League of Very Ordinary Ex-Captains and backfilled with the young bucks...whom Arniel can't bring himself to play.  (But didn't Johansen and Moore provide two goals in the CBJ's only victory of the season?  Remember?)

The Salary Cap noose is tightening.  Mayorov is an $862,500 player in the bigs, Savard a $916,833 salary cap hit.  Calvert has a cap hit of $891,667.  Today's move saved the CBJ whatever the pro-rated amount of $887,666 is.  Every dollar counts, especially if Howson wants to make any deals to try to improve this mind-bogglingly incapable, $65 million roster (which sometimes has been a $40 million roster, but that was another blog post).

Howson still sees something in Mayorov and Savard.  So he sends them down to Springfield to get them ice time while Arniel stews around with his AHL-plus roster.

Calvert might be a lost cause.  He didn't do much in Columbus and wasn't doing much in Springfield, at least on the stat sheet, so why not let him hang out in the press box during games and take in practice with Rick Nash and the boys?  But does this "promotion" mean anything positive in the long haul for Calvert in the Blue Jackets system?  If he gets meaningful minutes on the ice, maybe.  Arniel's recent behavior, however, makes that unlikely.

Ryan Johansen, you're on the clock.  Johansen has played in seven of the CBJ's ten games thus far, netting a goal and two assists with a +1 plus/minus.  He's bounced around every single forward line on the team and has lined up at center and wing.  By all appearances, he's doing everything that he's been asked.  Yet if Arniel doesn't trust him to play him for all but one shift over half a game, why keep him in the NHL?  Why not send him back to juniors - especially when the likes of Dane Byers or Martin St. Pierre could take his spot on the roster?  (OK, that one was a little snarky.)  Seriously, Johansen has two more games (games played, not including scratches) to state his case before the team has to make a decision.

My point is, the kids are being run out of town.  This would be understandable if the vets on the team were actually playing well, but they're largely not.  The team is 1-8-1.  So let's just shake our heads in disbelief over how this season has gone...and tune in tomorrow to watch the vets do their thing.

5 comments:

  1. Calvert could be a show-case for a potential trade? How many five-footers do we want on the roster?

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  2. What a sobering post.

    Between the lines, I am reading, "If you think 1-8-1 is bad, wait a few more weeks." It sounds like the only hope we have is for Arniel to change his mind and rely on young talent, or for the CBJ management to change their mind and fire Arniel.

    You're argument is so strong that it's hard to disagree with you. :-/

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  3. Anon - Makes total sense if Calvert surprisingly gets all sorts of playing time. Let's watch, shall we?

    SCOC - You've smoked me out. Like many CBJ fans, I took heart that the season was looking up during the Detroit game only to come crashing back to reality with the team in the Buffalo game. I'm not optimistic about things right now, so expect a lot of Claude Noel press conference material in the days ahead. ;-)

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  4. Arniel is dead in the water. The only question is, who will be named interim coach? At least, once Arniel is fired, the new coach will be able to bring back the young players and give us something interesting to watch, warts and all.

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  5. I know you all hate Filatov, but you have to admit there's a huge sense of Deja-Vu in all this.

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