Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 49: Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay 4 - Columbus 2
13-30-6, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets coasted into the All-Star break with a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

1. Did I sense a little punch from the boys? - I genuinely thought that for the first part of the first period that the CBJ were pushing well into the offensive zone.  This was notable for both being a rebound from last night in Nashville, where there may as well have been a literal wall of concrete at the Preds' blue line, but also for beating the vaunted Tampa 1-3-1 trap.  Sure, the Bolts' blue line is almost as bad off as Columbus'...but the system still can work.  So making anything happen under such circumstances is a bit of a moral victory.  Which appears to be all the Blue Jackets can muster right now.

I've warmed considerably toward Todd
Richards but still don't see him as
more than a caretaker.
2. How's that new coach? - I've now had a chance to watch healthy parts of two Todd Richards-coached games, and here's my take based off of what I've seen: He's probably a better coach than Scott Arniel and seems to get the players to work harder.  Still, he's 2-5-1 as interim head coach.  Not a fantastic bounce.  You can chalk that up to the M*A*S*H unit that is the CBJ injured reserve right now if you want, but I still buy the philosophy that of all the major sports, hockey is the one where raw effort yields the biggest returns and can actually swing games your way.  And the games still are not falling into the win column.  So while I appreciate his effort right now and find his post-game presser candor refreshing (albeit not as darkly entertaining as this), he hasn't shown me that he's the long-term answer as head coach.

2a. We interrupt this game recap for a more expansive thought - In contrast, Claude Noel had at least as bad a roster by the time he inherited the Blue Jackets from Ken Hitchcock.  He squeezed a 10-8-6 record out of them - and that includes the team that remained after the trade deadline.  Noel also had a firm grasp on the locker room and ideas on how to address them, as he told the Dispatch back in November when he and his Winnipeg Jets came to town:
“I would have liked to have been given the opportunity to keep the job, because I felt like I had a leg up on that situation, Noel said, referring to the chronic losing in Columbus. “I knew the situation deeply, to its core. They felt that would be a disadvantage. It came up three or four times in my interviews, and I disagreed every time. I still disagree. 
“I knew that team. They may not have liked the music I was going to play. But we were going to give them the music. It might not have been pleasant. But I feel I knew what was at the core of what it would take to get that team going in the right direction."
Noel now has the Jets, which has a roster largely made up of of the woeful Atlanta Thrashers, at 22-22-6.  His team isn't setting the world on fire, but they're only five points out of the eighth playoff spot.

More and more, I'm thinking that passing on Claude Noel was a huge whiff by Scott Howson.  Watching Richards just reinforces that feeling.

3. The top of the 2012-13 shopping list - Fox Sports' Bill Davidge pretty much called it: The first and fourth goals were Sanford softies.  While he's the best that Columbus has right now (especially now that the snakebit Mark Dekanich got injured again), he's just not NHL starter material.

Brett Lebda in happier times.
(It was this or raising the
Cup as a Red Wing...)
4. The road to redemption - As a fellow Notre Dame alum, it did my heart good to see Brett Lebda score one for the good guys.  He was morphed into a running joke by the Toronto fanbase when he apparently - ummm - underperformed.  I was a bit stunned to see him placed in the top pairing with Fedor Tyutin, but he hasn't played any worse than his new teammates.  Yeah, I know...set that bar high, DBJ. [rolls eyes]

5. One more day until margarita time - I checked, and all but one flight left Tampa-St. Pete's airport by the time that the game was over.  The one that didn't leave was delayed by four hours.  That means that unless you're a CBJ'er who is lucky enough to ride Rick Nash's charter to whatever beach he chooses, you're hanging out in a hotel in Tampa tonight.  Crocodile tears, I know.

NEXT UP: You can watch Ryan Johansen in the NHL Young Stars component of the All-Star weekend's skills competition on Saturday at 7PM.  Otherwise, enjoy a few days off before starting another dreaded West Coast roadie on late Tuesday night in San Jose.

Oh yeah, and the 1,000th DBJ blog post tomorrow.  I hope you enjoy it.

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