Monday, November 14, 2011

A measuring stick game, and other thoughts

Jeff Carter is back.  Wiz is free from "time out."
The season can start now.  Oh, wait...
When perfectly reasonable and rational people were getting red in the face over the 2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets, shouting "IT'S NOT WORKING" into the night, the stock answer from the terminally patient generally started out with "You can't make any such statement because the roster as envisioned hasn't played together in a single game yet."  Putting aside the abject silliness of such a statement - this is the National Hockey League, for pete's sake...people get hurt all the time and good teams have depth and/or coaching acumen to compensate for injuries - we now can have this discussion on the playing field suggested by those who appeared to be satisfied with a 3-12-1 start and a season that was trending toward 29 standings points after 82 games.

Jeff Carter is back.  James Wisniewski is back.  Jared Boll is back.  OK, Boll's return isn't as monumental, but he was slotted into the roster.  The only player of note who isn't back and was expected to contribute is Mark Dekanich.  I also acknowledge that Kristian Huselius is still out, but he wasn't expected to play again until the holiday season, hence the signing of Vinny Prospal.  (And then there is the purge of the kids and the backfilling with the likes of Letestu, Nikitin, Bass, etc.  The roster will never look like what was originally conceived - which further emphasizes my point about how silly the above retort is.)

Anyway, the roster finally is coming close to looking like what general manager Scott Howson and head coach Scott Arniel envisioned come October 7.  That means that it's time to put on the spectacles and see what our ninjas have come up with.

I'm not placing much stock in the Winnipeg victory beyond it being a victory against someone, ANYONE (especially seeing that the CBJ didn't break their self-imposed two goal limit), but tomorrow night's Minnesota game at Nationwide promises to be a good benchmark game.  Minnesota is currently first in the Northwest Division, but they're at the end of a road trip and probably are pining more for Momma's home cooking than a game against Columbus.  So they're a good team, if a bit tired and distracted, and they're playing in our barn.

If this roster truly is as talented as was advertised, Columbus should give its expansion cousins from The State of Hockey a run for their money if not steal a win outright.  If the Blue Jackets lose convincingly, that will also send a powerful message and make this type of stuff sound reasonable.

Is the coaching staff consciously sheltering Ryan Johansen?
So Ryan Johansen gets two goals the other night in a powerful response to being scratched by coach Arniel in the preceding game.  That in and of itself is remarkable, but did you notice The Johan's line-mates?  Vinny Prospal and Mark Letestu.  Is it coincidence that Arniel put him on a line with guys who still are working through their probationary periods at the Columbus Country Club?  I can understand not putting the rookie on the top line, but avoiding placing him with Vermette, Umberger or (the scratched) Brassard seems telling. It's as if Arniel is trying to protect The Johan from getting infected with whatever malaise comes over long-time Blue Jackets

Many also have suggested that in that "inconsistent" (being gentle here) game on Saturday, the only Columbus line that showed any fire was - wait for it...wait for it - the Prospal/Letestu/Johansen line.  Go figure.

Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett
Derick Brassard is apparently looking at a second straight healthy scratch against Minnesota.

Is Arniel trying to send a message to him, or is Howson holding him out (and keeping him healthy) as trade bait for a real defenseman or goaltender?

If you give a goalie some help,
he plays well!  Who knew?
Steve Mason was one strange deflection and puck bounce away from a shutout against Winnipeg.  And the Blue Jackets often had four men back to clog shooting lanes and protect their goaltender.

They didn't beat Winnipeg by blowing the doors off of Andrej Pavelec (they still haven't shown that they have the ability to perform as the scoring machine that was suggested with the preseason talk of three scoring lines); they won by actually playing a discernible team defense.  

Now, will this lesson hold?

I don't care who the coach is.  Some
stuff is just too good to pass up.
Ken Hitchcock has five standings points in three games in St. Louis.  Scott Arniel has seven standings points in 16 games in Columbus.  Just saying.  Not that Hitch wanted anything to do with this club this time around (so says Howson).

At least both Kris Russell and Nikita Nikitin both got on the scoresheet in their first games with their new teams.  Has Russell scored and Nikitin seen his rear end crazy glued to the bench in the third, I think my brain might have exploded.


  1. I wonder how Brass will look in Vancouver blue and white?....

  2. Indeed DBJ - We'll get a good measuring stick this week. And quite a bit of data for that talent debate we have been having.

    I think that both Nikitin and Letetsu will come back to earth pretty quick. You can't really judge how they will turn out until after about 5 games, when the opposition is ready for them. That said, the size that Nikitin brings definitely helps an undersized defense. Mass is mass.

  3. Oh yeah, I wanted to add to my above comment that Dick Tarnstrom looked good for about the first 4 games. And you know how that turned out.

  4. You keep underestimating the Jets. Don't do that.

    The Wild will put up a massive, MASSIVE fight. Prepare thyselves.



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