Sunday, March 11, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 69: St. Louis

St. Louis 2 - Columbus 1
22-40-7, 5th in Central Division, 8 pts. out of 29th in the NHL
The Columbus Blue Jackets wrapped up a home-and-home weekend series with the St. Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena tonight, losing 2-1 in regulation.

1. NASH WAS ON THE ICE - Defying competitive logic, the CBJ chose to once again put mutinous captain Rick Nash on the active roster for the game.  His presence in the locker room, combined with his 21:04 of ice time, further forestalled the inevitable rebuild that is facing the team as a result of this disastrous season.

1a. NASH DIDN'T GET HURT - As best we know, Nash's trade value to the Blue Jackets was not diminished by his play last night.  So the Blue Jackets once again dodged a bullet.

1b. HOWSON IS STILL EMPLOYED - For that matter, general manager Scott Howson continues to be employed by the Blue Jackets.  Not sure why, but he is.  I'm sure this Blue Jackets fan isn't pleased:

There were quite a few neon green shirts
and signs in the arena tonight
2. WELCOME TO PURGATORY? - I had the pleasure of sharing the game once again with Full Mental Jackets blogger/#CBJ Daily publisher/DBJ blog compadre Greg May, and while the game wasn't quite the rip-roaring time that our escapades with Pekka Rinne and that Sasquatch guy on Nashville was, 'twas still time very well spent.

Among other gems, we talked about how weird this team looked in comparison to what we saw back in Game the course of 40 games, this roster has been heavily turned over.  That could be due to trades (Letestu, Nikitin, Jack Johnson), waiver wire pick-ups (Gillies, Boyce), AHL call-ups (Atkinson) and the many, many injuries that forced CBJ management's hand, but the fact remains that this is quite the collection of players.

But where IS this team?  Is it Limbo?  Purgatory?  Are we looking at the future when we see guys like Atkinson, Nikitin and Letestu?  Are we looking at the past with players like Nash an perhaps the likes of Brassard and/or Umberger (both of whom were rumored to be on the block at the trade deadline)?  Or do we have a bunch of placeholders as the team plays out the string in anticipation of a very busy summer with 15 players under contract for next season (not that being under contract has stopped the CBJ from making changes) and $18+ million in cap room to play with.

Regardless, it's darned hard for bloggers (and from conversations tonight, not just the two of us) to write meaningful commentary about games that only have meaning insofar as they strengthen or weaken the CBJ's position as the team with the worst record in the National Hockey League.

3. WAS IT A GOAL OR WASN'T IT? - This shot and scrum in the crease pretty much was the Blue Jackets' last shot at tying the game up:

The video does a poor job portraying the scene, but I was sitting almost on line with the goal line...and it was a God-awful mess of a play.  (And I haven't seen any coverage from Fox Sports Ohio beyond the above video, so I don't know what they said/showed.)  The in-arena cameras gave us a few looks, and the best one that they offered was from behind the net (never showed above the net).  What it looked like to Greg and me was that the St. Louis player covered up the puck with his glove, and linebacker-sized Jack Johnson plowed over him...pushing both the player and his glove with puck over the goal line.  The whistle, however, was REALLY quick, and you never saw the puck actually cross the line on the video.  You presume that the puck was under the glove, but you can't tell conclusively.  So I suppose that the "no goal" call was correct.  Unless you're Jack Johnson, who apparently knows better.

4. HE'D LIKE TO HAVE THAT GAME BACK - R.J. Umberger could not buy a break tonight.  Pucks jumping over his stick, missed breakaways, missed shots...he pretty much had it all going against him.  While this was just one game, he's had a lousy season.  Wonder what happened to him?

5. THE SLOG IS ON - With the many injuries that I mentioned in Game 67's 5th thought, I worried that the team was going to crumble like a house of cards.  While the first period wasn't very good at all, the last couple period saw the Blue Jackets fight back to (almost!) get to even with the top team in the Western Conference.  (Yeah, it had to be Hitch - the coach we let go to a division rival... <brain explodes>)  So they didn't crumble, which is good to see.  But they looked like they were skating uphill against the Blues for much of the night.  They just don't have the horses to compete night in and night out.

5a. WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE COACH - I know that this is a lost season and that the team is playing out the string with much less than a full deck.  Despite the circumstances at hand, Greg and I discussed at length whether to retain head coach Todd Richards beyond the end of the season (perhaps without vetting other candidates).  He's not doing a terrible job considering the mess that Scott Arniel left him.  I'm guessing that he and Rick Gethin will do a Full Mental Jackets faceoff on the topic - it's a good one - so I'll spare you his opinion and share only mine.  I'd like to see Richards win a couple games that he wasn't supposed to with this type of roster.  I want to see him coach the team to a win or two.  Winning a good one tonight would have counted.  Winning the next game against Edmonton doesn't.

BONUS NUMBER 6 - Projected number one overall pick Nail Yakupov took a monster hit to the head last night.  Here's the video (h/t @En4cer45): reports that Yakupov only has facial injuries (with stitches) from the hit.  While initial reports suggest otherwise, I'd be floored if there wasn't a concussion.

Obviously, I wish the best for the kid's well-being first and foremost.  I wouldn't be a hockey fan  if I didn't at least consider the effect of a heavily injured Yakupov on the NHL draft...and the Columbus Blue Jackets' place in it.  The Blue Jackets were already rumored to be considering shopping a first overall pick (they are the current favorite to win the NHL draft lottery as long as they remain in the NHL sub-basement), and most draft projections had the CBJ taking Yakupov with that top pick.  Would an injured/questionable Yakupov shift the pendulum further toward trading the pick?  This team already has to be in even more of a "Win Now" mode after the last offseason's hail mary moves resulted in this season's collapse.

NEXT UP: The CBJ next play on Wednesday night at 10PM EST in Edmonton.


  1. While I am now more amused than anything at your (in my view, silly/pointless) persistence with Game Recap Points 1a and 1b, I am glad to see that Point 1c has made an appearance, even if it's a one-time thing. And while it may seem as mutinous as your description of Rick Nash... I would not be disappointed with an Edmonton win on Wednesday. After all, a top 2 pick doesn't defend itself.

    1. Silly? Perhaps. (But this IS a blog about sports, which is kinda silly to start with. All this time spent on bread and circuses doesn't exactly qualify as serious.) Pointless? Not quite. My rationale in continuing to raise this fact is that precious games are being wasted vis a vis talent and leadership development - and, again and again, Nash is being exposed to injury. The problem didn't end at the trade deadline when the team couldn't/wouldn't trade him.

      Thought 1c. will remain for the duration, if only to make clear that this is not an "anti-Nash" thing and instead a larger statement on the club. If there are topical in-arena signs to share, I might just do so.

      I'm trying very, very hard to not be torn on the Edmonton game. I want the Blue Jackets to win, but that first overall pick wouldn't hurt in the slightest.

  2. "I'd like to see Richards win a couple games that he wasn't supposed to with this type of roster."

    Not trying to be sarcastic here, but the four-game win streak against Colorado, Phoenix (x2) and LA doesn't meet that criteria? Those are three teams fighting for their playoff lives. Two of the wins came on the road. I would think that any one of those (except maybe the high-emotion home game against LA) would count as a game they weren't "supposed to" win.

    Whether any of that can be attributed to coaching is obviously hard to tell.

    I'm not sure how I feel about Richards overall; I'd rather have someone who had coached a team deep into the playoffs. But I think it's reasonable to say that the team has done better under his leadership than we had any good reason to expect.

    I can say that, as things stand today, I would be disappointed if he were hired without a thorough search being done. (I'm not "up" enough on who's out there as options to know what reasonable alternatives are.) I also think I'd probably be disappointed if he were passed over at this point in favor of someone with zero NHL head coaching experience. The remaining dozen-plus games could conceivably change my opinion on either of those.

    Good stuff, as usual.

    1. I like your thought process, Michael. Richards either HAS done some nifty coaching in the recent win streak or been the beneficiary of ridiculous luck.

      And yes: Proven playoff winner > Richards > Another AHL/Juniors coach

      Good stuff from you, too! Thanks for posting.

  3. Nash is not playing like he is mutinous. Don't be so sure that he is gone. Trading the #1 pick, the LA pick and trading RJ may be enough of an upgrade to persuade him that he wants to stay. After all, he does want to stay, it is his Agent that is lobbying for the trade. Don't completely blow your credibility by throwing him under the bus yet.


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