Friday, January 11, 2013

The Upcoming Slug Fest

The 900 lb Gorilla has left the room!
No, I am not talking about gastropods at the spring garden show!  I am talking about the upcoming bout with the Central Division of the Western Conference.  Although the schedule won't be finalized until tomorrow, details leaking out of Twitter seem to be indicating that each team will play its Divisional opponents 4 times in the shortened 48 game season of 2013.  This part of the schedule is driven by the rivalry geeks.

Our Columbus Blue Jackets have typically not fared well in the brutal Central Division.  Lot's of heavy hitters and weighty teams.  Our Divisional brethren know if they lean hard on the CBJ, that there are definitely times when you can push them out of the game.  So they always give it a try.  And its worked for them.  If the CBJ are going to have any success, it has to start in the Central Division.

I got into it a bit with @zekebud in my last post, kind of through being confused and not really realizing who I was ragging on, part of because I disagreed pretty strongly with his rationale.  Again, I reiterate, his prediction may be all too good, but I wasn't fully behind the logic.  He elaborated in this post, saying that he felt it was the same core of the team, and to expect something different is just wishful thinking (I am paraphrasing, read his post to check me on it; also he has another really good post about Columbus hockey).  And I guess I see his argument.

On the other hand, the 900 pound gorilla in the locker room, Rick Nash, is now gone.  Also gone is the fundamental strategy of other teams, which was to start with shutting Rick Nash down and then see if the other guys can beat you.  So how do you plan your game against the 2012-13 CBJ?  And realistically, for Nash, the move to the Blue Shirts is a good one for him, and I wish him well.  The relentless 3 on 1 pressure from other defenses had slowly pushed him away from the net, where he won a Rocket Richard trophy, to the half wall and the top of the circles, where he would launch runs at the net against overwhelming odds.  I don't think we'll have anyone on this team going 1 on 3 with the other team.  So while @zekebud is somewhat correct that much of the core of the team is still intact, the fact is that the 2011-12 team was Rick Nash's team.

#DD #becausehesawesome
But you see, something serious has been at work in the CBJ upper offices.  It has to do with Craig Patrick.
In this post, I described Patrick's clear method of evaluating talent.  Character counts for a lot with Craig Patrick.  And if you look at the players brought in as part of the reformation, they all have one common characteristic.  They are known as players of better than average to great character.  All of a sudden, Derek Dorsett isn't the only one on the team who's motor is always set to full speed  Both Nick Foligno (our new number 71) and Brandon Dubinsky (our new number 17) have been described as high intensity players with very good character.  And of course Wiz brings his own brand of truculence to the table as well (Since the Leafs aren't going to be truculent anymore I figure we can borrow it).  Artem Anisimov may not have the same 'motor' level, but he is described as a player who plays very hard both ways.  Segei Bobrovsky has been described as a goal tender who refuses to get out-worked.  These are big time, high character additions to the 2011-12 CBJ core, that I believe will make a difference in what is essentially a 16 round slugging match (to the glee of the rivalry geeks).

So the hope (I know Jeff Little, hope is not a strategy) is that the strategy of bringing in players of known high character will make this team more difficult to play against.  And while the defensive strategy may not be as clear for the other teams, I trust that coaches Babcock, Hitchcock, Trotz and Quenville will figure out what they want to do.  But if you want to execute a strategy of pushing the CBJ out of the game, it won't be as easy this year.  And Detroit is another year older, and that Hall of Fame Defenseman and the guy with the butt in the goal tender's face are gone.  Nashville has a new and expensive Weber, but they lost one of that pair.  Plus they lost Tootoo to Detroit (ha, ha, ha, I still can't believe that).  Chicago still needs a goal tender (sound familiar?).  St. Louis is looking pretty good, so I'm not gonna mention them.

So it will be a slug fest.  It will be a wade in, stick your chin out and take it, donnybrook to see who can emerge from the Central Division of the West.  And the one thing we know for sure, that ought to be entertaining!!


1 comment:

  1. I, too, disagree with zekebud's reasoning. It was plain, even to someone watching their first hockey game, that beating the Jackets was simply a matter of "Stop Nash, get physical". With Nash gone, who is the focus? Everyone from Coach Richards on up to John Davidson has said this a "scoring by committee". Okay, so you stopped, let's say, Atkinson tonight. But Dub, Umby and the Johan were also slinging the puck at the goal. Sorry, zekebud. Maybe the Jackets will end up in last place, again (Though I doubt it), but it won't be because "this is essentially the same team as last year".


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