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.

Tressel forced out; this CBJ fan's reaction

If you've been following me for any period of time on Twitter, you'd know that I have a passing interest in the strange and wonderful world of college football at the Ohio State University.  If you've lived anywhere in Big 10 (well, not really "10" any more, but we'll give the numerically-challenged a break) country - but especially here in Central Ohio - you know that college football at the Ohio State University has landed itself (and the school) in potentially catastrophic trouble with the NCAA.

Just a mere mortal, Jim Tressel made a mistake that
cost him his job in the end.
Presumably as a face-saving move with significant NCAA sanctions looming on the horizon, the leadership at the Ohio State University apparently told their head football coach, Jim Tressel, that they looked forward to accepting his resignation.  Tressel obliged.

Why do I bring this up as a Blue Jackets fan (and not necessarily a blinders-wearing fan of the Ohio State University or their athletics program - I'm a proud Notre Dame alum, thank you) on a Blue Jackets blog?  Simple - the Columbus Blue Jackets don't operate in a vacuum here in Columbus.  They share space with the Ohio State University and its many collegiate sports.  They share space with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.  While fans of one team (or school) may want to think that their favorites can live without the others, I suggest otherwise.  A healthy sports environment means that ALL teams and schools do well, that all teams enjoy success.  People want to see winners - winners in hockey, soccer, football, basketball, etc.  Winning is good for a community, boosting pride and enthusiasm for everything about the place we call home.  I WANT the Ohio State University to win.  I want the Crew to win.  And you bet your ass I want the Columbus Blue Jackets to win.

So when the head coach of arguably the biggest sports program in the State of Ohio is forced out under a cloud of investigations and alleged wrongdoings, it's not good.  Not for the community, not for the Crew, not for the Blue Jackets and most certainly not for the Ohio State University.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Malhotra Cleared to Play

Former Blue Jacket Manny Malhotra may get a chance to
play in the Stanley Cup Finals after all.
Puck Daddy is reporting that Manny Malhotra of the Vancouver Canucks has been cleared to play in the Stanley Cup Finals following recovery from a serious eye injury.

I'm not sure what all this means, but it must be very exciting for Manny.

We here at the Dark Blue Jacket wish him all the luck moving forward in his career.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Columbus' casino back on track

Columbus Mayor Coleman's Facebook account posted this announcement on his Wall earlier this evening.

I'll spare you my analysis of the deal itself because it's really not relevant to hockey.  Long story made short: The casino is back on track, and the casino tax revenues are that much closer to being realized (if Governor Kasich doesn't scuttle things with a cash grab).  As we all know (and some of us predicted long before the news broke), the Columbus Blue Jackets have positioned themselves somewhere in line for the Columbus (or perhaps Franklin County?) share of those new tax monies to support their bid for a municipal takeover of Nationwide Arena.

Out of Time: Put the biscuit in the basket

[NOTE: I greatly apologize for the delays in getting this series moving along.  I'm in my final quarter at school, and the classload is terribly time-consuming.  I graduate in a few weeks, and hopefully the floodgates will really open after that point.  Until then, enjoy this piece.]

There are many ways in which one can break down a team and their season.  Being a little late to the "season in review" dance, I'll point out that the crew at The Cannon has done a bang-up (pun intended?) job on their exit interviews - which puts me in the position of not wanting to duplicate efforts.  Go read their work...good stuff.

Thus, my mind wanders away from the individual players to larger team issues.  At the risk of over-simplifying the game, I'm going to suggest that there were two overarching issues that the Columbus Blue Jackets absolutely MUST address in the 2011 offseason:
  1. They need to score more goals. 
  2. They need to stop other teams from scoring on them.  
Yeah, I told you this was simplistic.  Such is life when you finish in 13th place in the Western Conference.  When your team is (league-wide) 25th in goals scored for and 26th in goals scored against , however, you're not going to get far when only the top 16 teams make the playoffs.

I'm going to tackle the goals scored issue first, because I sense this issue to be a little counter-cultural for the Blue Jackets fanbase.  So much ire has focussed on the goalies and defensemen that there's little oxygen left to talk about forwards and, more importantly, scoring.  But the numbers don't lie: The scoring basically was just as bad as the defense this past year.  So let's dig in and see what we can divine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Todd Richards - WHAT?

Scott Arniel is rumored to be recruiting ex-Minnesota
coach Todd Richards to the CBJ staff
Word comes out of The Cannon's daily "Shrapnel" that Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel is recruiting fired Minnesota Wild head coach Todd Richards as a replacement behind the bench for recently-quit offensive (in the hockey logistics sense of the word, though last season's CBJ stats would support the perjorative use) coach Bob Boughner.

Let's look at Richards with eyes wide open and see what he would bring to the table.

Richards is another ex-jock, like Arniel, bouncing around between the Hartford Whalers and its Springfield Indians affiliate between the 1990-91 and 1992-93 season.  He then finished out his playing career in the IHL from 1993-94 through 2000-2001 with a final swing through the Swiss-B league in 2001-2002.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Contempt; Thinking about the East

If the CBJ get moved to the East, personally, I will come up with a way to say '7:00 PM start' the same way Homer Simpson says' Beeeeeeer'.  That drooling, slobbery dream of no more 10:30 PM road games is enough to put any CBJ fan in a good mood.

One thing that would be really great about the move to the East would be the match up with Pittsburgh.  I'm not saying that we would fare any better than we ever did against Detroit, but one thing the Pittsburgh match up does is create echoes of NFL rivalries.  Both Cleveland and Cincinnati get pretty fired up when their football team is playing the Steelers.  Given our minimal market penetration in those cities, the notion that the Ohio team had a hockey game going with that old rival might stir some interest in those areas.  I like that a lot.

One thing I don't like about the move to the Southeast, is that it is likely that we would assume the role of Atlanta.  Literally.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where there's smoke...

What a fascinating evening last night...the Globe and Mail article broke, and apparently a street party broke out in Winnipeg (right).  Looks like either NHL hockey is returning to the 'peg, or someone put a really, really good one over on those poor folks.

An impromptu street party in the 'peg last night - Photo taken by Gord Barnsley
Speaking of, the post-article "media scrutiny" was a wonder to behold.  Hockey journalists were all a-Twitter in posting "I can't confirm" and "[True North/Atlanta Spirit/NHL] won't confirm that a deal is done" ad nauseum.  (And then the media navel-gazing ensued.  But I'll spare you that.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thrashers to Winnipeg...and CBJ to Southeast Division?

Here are the links.  Read for yourself.
For those not interested in clicking around, here is the pertinent information for Columbus Blue Jackets fans, from the Pioneer-Press piece:
Wild fans should pay close attention to the Atlanta Thrashers' situation. That team could wind up in Winnipeg as early as next season. If that should happen, one of the contingency plans being discussed behind closed doors is a shifting of three teams to different divisions:

The new Winnipeg team moves to the Northwest. The Columbus Blue Jackets slide into Atlanta's old spot in the Southeast. And the Wild replace Columbus in the Central.

At first glance, it appears as if Nashville is the Central Division team best suited to move to the Southeast. But unlike Nashville, Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone, the same as the other Southeast teams. That's a big deal in terms of TV schedules and travel.

Of course, everything is subject to change. But this particular scenario makes so much sense that, according to a couple of people with knowledge of the situation, even the league sees it.
There's quite a bit of scuttlebutt that these articles jumped the gun. I'm in no position to judge. Take it all for what it's worth.  And cross your fingers.

Howson speaks

I probably should link these videos more often, but suffice to say that when the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets speaks, we all need to listen very closely.

Big takeaways from this interview:
  • Ryan Johansen isn't ready yet (but could be by the time the final roster cuts are made for 2011-12)
  • The Blue Jackets are going to press hard on the market - trade or free agency - for top four defensive help
  • Mathieu Garon, who had a torn tendon through the latter part of the season and probably saw his effectiveness diminish at least in part due to the injury (but he's already had corrective surgery), is still on the CBJ radar as a potential backup to Steve Mason.
But that's my take.  Watch for yourself.

Freddy Modin turns the page; Lessons for the CBJ

Image hosted at Chase Art Gallery
News came out today that forward Fredrik Modin, a Columbus Blue Jacket from 2006-2010, has chosen to retire from professional hockey.

I like the IIHF link above because it highlights his "triple golds" - The Olympic gold (2006, Sweden), the IIHF World Championship (1998, Sweden) and the Stanley Cup (2004, Tampa Bay Lightning).  Talk about a champion.

Modin has also been a terrific "character guy" as well, earning the Alternate Captain "A" in Columbus over the course of his time at Nationwide Arena.  Freddy also is one of only 5 people ever to score a goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Stanley Cup playoff game.  I was there, and it was downright inspiring to see the old warrior, probably still injured (he only played in 50 games in the 08-09 season), dig down deep and drop the tying goal in to make it 5-5 with the Red Wings at the end of the second period in the exhilarating Game Four of the Blue Jackets' only playoff appearance.  Madness, I tell you...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Out of Time: This coaching thing...It's hard work!

I wanted to write something within the larger context of my review of the Columbus Blue Jackets forwards and scoring, for which Bob Boughner was responsible as Scott Arniel's assistant, but Boughner beat me to the punch.

Effective today, the Boogey Man has left the employment of the CBJ.  While the release doesn't say anything about his future plans, I presume that he's going to return to his Windsor Spitfires major junior hockey club.  He apparently has not finalized any future plans, leading this writer to think that the CBJ may be underway with their McConnell-promised housecleaning.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two more relocation thoughts

Clarity comes in the shower so often, and here are a couple NHL relocation thoughts that popped up as I pondered how lousy my playoff/3 weeks left of school beard looks...
  1. Is anyone really surprised that the Atlanta relocation talk waited to get into full swing until after Gary Bettman and the NHL consummated their 10 year, $2 billion television contract with Comcast/NBC?  I mean, that contract wouldn't be worth any less without America's 8th largest media market...right?  
  2. Can anyone tell me with a straight face that the leak from the "NHL source" that the Columbus Blue Jackets lost $25 million last year was not  a calculated opening gambit to preempt any talk of Detroit or Nashville jumping ahead of the Blue Jackets in the line to bail out of the grueling Western Conference?   Remember, this is the same team that is so airtight that it kept a freaking third jersey (and an unfortunate mascot) under wraps all the way until its unveiling.  Nothing comes out of Nationwide Boulevard that the Blue Jackets don't want out...period.  
Enjoy your rainy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thanks for playing, Atlanta

And you think it's lonely as a CBJ fan?

A couple quick thoughts as the winds of realignment change start blowing in earnest around the National Hockey League with the news that the Atlanta Spirit ownership group has started negotiating to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to the True North group of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

First, I think it's safe to assume that if True North buys the Thrashers, they'll be moving to Winnipeg.  This could result in a small realignment scenario where the new Winnipeg franchise would play in the Western Conference, effectively "bumping" a more easterly Western Conference team over to the East.  Logical choices are Columbus, Detroit or Nashville.  There's plenty of room to debate which team should make the jump, both for the good of the team in question and for the interests of both the West and the East.  I'll pass on playing that particular parlor game, but you are safe in presuming that I'd love to see the CBJ in the East.

What I find perhaps more interesting is the lack of enthusiasm over keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta.  Sure, former Braves pitcher and hockey buff Tom Glavine made his quasi-self intersted "for the good of the community" pitch over the Thrashers, but have you heard ANYONE else say anything remotely close to that recently?

More pertinently, why might that lack of outcry be?

I'll suggest that the people of Atlanta stopped caring a long, long time ago.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rest in peace, Derek Boogaard

I didn't want to break the blog silence like this (I'm buried beyond recognition in schoolwork for the last 3 weeks of my formal academic career), but news just came across the wires that New York Rangers heavyweight enforcer (and former Minnesota Wild) Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment tonight.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I've become increasingly ambivalent about fighting in hockey - especially in light of the emerging knowledge about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  (And I can only pray that he did not fall prey to CTE like the late former Chicago Bear defensive back, Dave Duerson. UPDATE: Boogaard's family has donated his brain to the Boston University center that is studying CTE.)  More and more, the Boogeyman stood out to me as an icon of a soon-bygone day where monsters roamed the ice and practiced a form of frontier justice that just is not allowed in today's National Hockey League.  He inspired fear and awe just by his presence.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do you want hockey in this town, or just a winner?

Puck Rakers posted an article today that the CBJ lost $25 million in the 2010-11 season.  That's a lot of joe for JP to losing.  The Dispatch today ran an article on the situation, and Bob Hunter commented on the situation.  A busy media day.

My point here, as I take time out from feverishly packing for a camping trip, is that the CBJ blogosphere has been full of commentary over the last year about people not re-upping their season tickets because the CBJ are not fielding a winner.  OK.  Fair enough.  I think people do not want to be perceived as being a sucker on the issue.  Certainly in this space I have been emphatic enough about my distaste for being perceived as a sucker.

But my point here is that it is now time to move past that.  It is now time to start focusing on our civic pride, and to start financially supporting our local owners.  This isn't Lamar Hunt from Kansas City.  This is a local family, with a lot of pride in the City of Columbus, who show that pride when they write the checks.

Do you think the people in Winnipeg have civic pride?  Do you think they know how disinterest, and lack of support for a local team turns out?

Its decision time folks.  If all you want is a winner, than root for the Buckeyes.  If you care about having hockey in Columbus, its time to move past winning and losing to support the franchise.  There is nothing wrong with accountability.  In fact, its a real good thing.  But civic pride should count for something, and we need to show it by reaching for our wallet.

Having NHL hockey in Columbus has been nothing but good for this city.  A good on the ice product is important, and we should loudly demand it in the blogosphere and elsewhere.  But if you care about hockey in Columbus, the day is fast coming where it is going to be put up or shut up.  I prefer to put up.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Regarding RyJo

Relax DBJ!  I'm not going off the deep end again!  Just a quick note to say how excited I am about Ryan Johansen, and his prospects for next year.  This kid is putting together a great season for the Portland Winterhawks, and is capping his 2010-11 regular season campaign of 40 G, 52 A, 92 Pts in 63 games, along with a sparkling 44 +/-, with a real nice playoff run of 11 G, 15 A, 26 Pts in 18 games so far.  His Winterhawks are tied 1-1 with Kootenay in the WHL final, with the next game slated for Wednesday.

In addition, RyJo captured the MVP of the WHL Western Conference Series, as reported by The Cannon.  Its pretty clear that there is nothing left in the WHL for RyJo, and really no where for him to play except for the CBJ next year, as he is ineligible for AHL action. 

Perhaps a better use of strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins would be to have him focus on this young and upcoming stud rather than flogging a dead horse.  And since you have interests in the trade, you'll appreciate what I mean Mr. Commodore.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Regarding Juice

There is a great deal of speculation about the future of Kristian Huselius (aka Juice) with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Some bloggers, such as Light the Lamp make some version of unloading Juice as a center piece of their 2011-2012 CBJ reconstruction plans.  Which I can understand.  Juice can be a very frustrating player at times, creating opportunity, and passing up on it in favor of the 'sexy' play in the same moment.  But with the money we have invested in Juice, perhaps a less, um, urgent train of thought is worthy of consideration.

So I would like to offer some thoughts from my buddy Bill regarding Juice.  And, I might add, Bill is as impatient and cynical as any Day 1 season ticket holder, which he is.  Which makes his thoughts intriguing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Looking for some Snarl with Your LOFT?

One of the things that keeps kind of leaping out to serious followers of the CBJ, is that there is a bit of a lack of 'snarl' on the back end.  Boll and Dorsett are undersized, but will bring some snark.  Not many others on the CBJ follow that lead.  How does one assess that?  The only real statistic out there is Penalties in Minutes (PIM) that might indicate that a tendency to throw that elbow a bit too much.  On the other hand, Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins is number 6 on the ranking of PIM, and he is not exactly going to strike fear into anyone's heart.  Kris Russel is 108, and we know how scared the Predators players are of him.  So this isn't perfect by any stretch.  But it does allow you to weigh the relative merits of Free Agents before you head out to the ATM on July 1.