Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hitch and the Jack Adams

Hitch working the bench in days gone by
As Coach Ken Hitchcock brings his power house St. Louis Blues to Nationwide Arena for the first time in the 2012-13 season, I wanted to take this moment to congratulate him on winning the Jack Adams award for coach of the year in 2011-12.  This award is well deserved, as well as Hitch's current position with an organization that thinks about hockey the same way he does.

Hitch is still the winningest coach in CBJ history by a long margin.  Richards seems to have absorbed some of the lessons he would need to have in order to make a run at Hitch, but he's still a long way away.  Hitch's coaching stint here marks the high point of CBJ hockey, much as Arniel's stint marks the low point.  We are clawing back from the low point, but it does bear mentioning that the vast majority of the players who turned on Hitch are gone.  Perhaps that purge will serve us well in the future.

Welcome back to Columbus Coach Hitchcock!  And well done!

GO JACKETS!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

JAM and Erixon Called Up!

Tim Erixon
Due to injuries to Matt Calvert, Adrian Aucoin, Cam Atkinson, and Nikita Nikitin, two players were called up from Springfield this afternoon.  Forward Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (odie-marsh-a-so), affectionately known as JAM and defenseman Tim Erixon, both fresh off of AHL All-Star appearances should break into the line-up tomorrow night, along with David Savard who has been a healthy scratch for every game so far this year.

Rob Mixer has a nice article here.

A little youthful enthusiasm and some fresh legs won't hurt this squad, and the overall speed of the CBJ just increased.  On a personal level, I've wanted to see John Moore's minutes increase, as I feel he has been playing well.  Looks like that's going to happen.  I'm not sure how these guys were paired in Springfield, whether Moore and Erixon played together, or Moore and Savard, or Erixon and Savard.  I'm sure Brad Larsen down in Springfield has some thoughts, I hope our guys have the sense to talk with him.

So far the Springfield Falcons have weathered the loss of key players, and remain at the top of their division in the AHL.  I sure hope they can continue to do that after this latest blow, they are putting together an awesome season.

Tomorrow's game should be interesting and entertaining!

GO JACKETS!!

DBJ's six-pack for Game 7: Minnesota

Minnesota 3 - Columbus 2
2-4-1, 5th in Central Division, 12th in Western Conference
Without the benefit of a morning skate due to having to travel to Minneapolis/St. Paul on the morning of the game, the Columbus Blue Jackets played the second night of a back-to-back.  The host Minnesota Wild won in regulation, 3-2.

Why does Hockey Jobu hate me so?  Why does he give Gallos and Morgan such fascinating, storyline-filled games and stick me with a game where the only noteworthy action was coming from the fourth line?  What have I done to deserve this?  I am pained, my friends.  Pained!

Hockey Jobu is a harsh taskmaster, and
DBJ clearly has to atone for something.  But what?
Still, I labor on.  Hockey Jobu be damned (oh crap, now I've done it)...I'm cracking open yet another six pack and sharing the liquid love!  And none for you, you Cuban-smoking, chicken-eating fiend!

1. The scorers - I've been railing on scoring (or lack thereof), so let's give props to those who actually found the back of the net.

1a. Mark Letestu - The fourth liner, a favorite of my ticket package partner Chris, couldn't find his way to the ice for the first few games.  When finally inserted, however, all he did was score goals in his limited minutes.  Such was the case tonight when "The Test Tube" was in the right place at the right time to jam one in past Niklas Backstrom.  And he got Big Boy minutes, logging 14:59 time on ice.  Goes to show you: You score, you play.  Coffee is for closers.

1b. Jack Johnson - Hey, a power play goal!  Johnson's dump-in from the blue line...not necessarily a booming shot, not in the least...is proof positive that if you shoot the puck at the goal, you might get it in.  Johnson did, and good for him.  Share your cold one with Letestu, Jack.

2. Team speed - The Wild roamed...wild...when the Blue Jackets couldn't jam up the ice, and it appeared to give the CBJ fits.  The Blue Jackets have a couple horses who can run with guys like these - Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen come to mind - but largely lack the top gear.  File this under "Longer-term projects," Mr. Davidson, and let me pour you a pint of a real potent stout while you mull over how to solve this one.

3. Penalty kill - Once again, the penalty kill was perfect on the night.  If I understand correctly, the brewskie goes to assistant coach "Tough Actin'" Keith Acton, who's a bit of a PK coaching expert, and assistant coach "Dan" Dan Hinote.  I love seeing the guys in proper position, sprawling to the ice to block lanes where necessary, keeping the sticks on the ice and clearing puck after puck after puck.  It just seems like the PK fundamentals have taken hold with the club, and that's a good thing.

4. The Minnesota thoroughbreds - Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Zach Parise are one awesome line, with each registering a +2 on the night.  I spent a little of the early evening catching the Rangers-Flyers game, and I'd be tempted to take the Wild's top line over the well-hyped Rangers line of Richards, Gaborik and Nash.  (Side note: Ryan Suter isn't worth the same amount of money to me as Zach Parise, at least right now.)  One cold can for the boys from the other side in a show of nothing but respect for world-class skill.

5. Jared Boll and Colton Gillies - I really don't care for fighting in hockey when it's as pointless as it looks when Boll drops the gloves, but this game all too often felt like the back end of a back-to-back...and the two guys won their fights.  So split your can, gents.

6. Todd Richards - I like the coach.  I think that's clear.  He appears to have a decent grasp of X's and O's (unlike, say, his predecessor) and speaks truth to power.  So when posed the question of whether the team needs to bring up a forward or two (presumably Springfield's Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, the AHL All-Star scoring machine), he doesn't discount the notion.  THEN he goes to the next step and calls out his supposed playmaking forwards.  You know them, they're the ones not making plays.  Richards wraps up with something to the extent of, "I hope that they're not waiting on me to motivate them."  You go, coach.  Drink a tall boy, maybe with Davidson as you two work through the speed/skill gaps.

I know the coach has one helluva bag skate in his toolkit and hope that he does not have to pull it out.  Hopefully the legend is enough for the players.  There's too little time in this condensed season to wear out the players and recover in time to play competitively.  Beyond that, it's clear that this team is neck-deep in rebuilding...and bag-skating them only ensures that you won't be the coach when things get rosier.

But jeez, Richards had a little snarl in his postgame scrum.  It was enough to remind me of what he's capable of doing.  And not that the top 9 forwards don't deserve a bag skate...

WERE THE BLUE JACKETS OUTWORKED TONIGHT: Yuppers.  In my humble opinion, Minnesota wanted this one more...and played like it.  For more on this, refer to cold ones number two and number six (above).

NEXT UP: The day trip to Minnesota finished, the Blue Jackets return to Nationwide Arena for a 7PM Thursday night tilt against former CBJ coach Ken Hitchcock and his powerful St. Louis Blues squad.  I hear that the Vegas bookies are taking bets on whether CBJ president of hockey operations John Davidson (former Blues president for six seasons) will break down in uncontrollable weeping at seeing his old team and what he spent so many years building.

A PARTING THOUGHT: Didn't you used to be R.J. Umberger?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One year ago yesterday


A year ago, yesterday, a group of roughly 300 Columbus Blue Jackets fans publicly called for an end to the team's losing culture and the installation of hockey management that could turn this franchise into a legitimate contender.

Yesterday, Jackets F.A.N.S. took what could be construed as a victory lap.  Considering what's happened since the rally, can you blame them? 
A year later, and quite a bit has changed.  Rick Nash--gone.  Mike Priest?  "Promoted" where he'd no longer provide input on hockey decisions after his crowning achievement, Jeff Carter, was traded less than twelve months after his acquisition.  The roster which finished last in the NHL for the first time in franchise history?  Largely overhauled.  Even Scott Howson now finds his authority diminished after the hiring of John Davidson.
I agree with the post's author that the changes in the Blue Jackets cannot be attributed directly to the fan protest.  At the same time, it would be naive to suggest that it had no impact on organizational urgency to right the ship.

The hard work of change is underway.  Congratulations to the Blue Jackets for making the hard decisions.  And congratulations to the fans for making themselves heard.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gallos' Six Pack for Game 6: Dallas Stars


Photo

Tonight, in front of 10,475 sometimes agitated, sometimes boisterous fans, the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled out a 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars.  The CBJ pretty much waded into this game again, but in spite of dominating the play in the first period, Dallas had nothing to show for it.  Dallas ended the period with 9 shots on goal to the Blue Jackets' 3, in spite of the fact that the Blue Jackets had 3 power play opportunities.  After leaving the ice to a chorus of boos which was a fitting salute to the first period, the CBJ returned to the ice and gave up a goal at the 4:13 mark of the second period to fall behind.  But that was all that Dallas could muster, and the CBJ answered with goals at 17:47 of the second period, and 1:22 of the third.  After that, the CBJ played relatively effective defense, Bobrovsky stood tall in goal, and the home team pulled out a 2-1 win.  To be truthful, after the first period I was thinking that writing this recap was going to be a pretty grim job.  Instead, the boys put one together, and pulled out a badly needed win to keep from losing ground in the initial 2012-13 scramble.  The win puts us momentarily in a 5 way tie for sixth place, and keeps us in touch with the pack.  HUGE win, as the team tries to settle itself while playing a slew of games.

They taste so good after a win!

Double D
1. My first, cold frosty beverage of the evening goes to Derek Dorsett first, #becausehesawesome, and second because he scored that crucial first goal late in the second period.  This was the first of two goals that the CBJ seemed to just will past Lehtonen, who was on the top of his game.  Atta boy double D!  Doors has been one of the more consistent players this year, and his great 'hockey sense' puts him in the places where he needs to be.  Unfortunately, his skill betrays him there, and he often can't score.  Tonight he did.  The goal, a workman like effort from in close, was a huge turning point in the game, energizing the crowd and the team.  

2. My second cold one goes to Vinning!  Vinny Prospal scoring the game winning goal.  I think this one is one the Lehtonen would like to have back, but I'll elaborate later on that issue.  Vinny had the good celebration, but I think it really juiced the team.  Like most of the team, Vinny didn't start real well, but seemed to gather momentum as the game went on.

Detective Bobrovsky solves another one!
3. Bob, this bud's for you!  Without solid play from Sergei Bobrovsky, this isn't a game.  Bob was good early, and he was good late.  As the first period unfolded, and the CBJ proceeded to give up more short handed shots on goal than they were getting on the power play, Bob was called on to be steady, and he came through.  He lost one slapper from the point, but that's the only shot he didn't track well all night long.  A very solid effort, and a crucial win.  Bob is now 2-1-1 (I think, check me on that, its late).

4. My fourth, cold, frosty adult beverage is for Ryan Johansen.  Although, in what was admittedly a team effort, his play in the first period was pretty forgettable, he definitely cranked up his intensity, and was really on his game by the third period.  Although officially not credited with an assist on Prospal's goal, the reason the puck went in was that Johansen was in Lehtonen's grill, and I think he spared a glance in the young center's direction.  Johansen had already taken a shot in the sequence of play, and was steady and ready in case of a rebound.  Instead, Lehtonen lost the puck and it trickled into the net.  While I have felt that Johansen's play has gotten better game by game, I'm not sure if tonight was another step that way.  But he came on strong in the end.

5. My fifth, star emblazoned cold one is for Wiz and Jack Johnson.  Yes, they both got assists on Vinny's goal, but that's not what this beverage is for.  Its for chasing down all the stupid plays, especially in the first period, and getting sticks on the several breakaways given in the first period.  Both players got back and covered in seemingly desperate situations, and Bob cleaned up the trash.  

6.  If I was an equitable kind of guy, I'd give this to Kari Lehtonen, who made some amazing saves, including a back hand grab of a puck that was behind him.  But I'm not that kind of guy.  I'm a homer.  Sorry.  So my last beer goes to Brandon Dubinsky.  Dubi had a pretty forgettable game in many ways.  But I'm giving him this beer because late in the second period, right in front of us, one of the Stars was isolated, with the puck at the right corner of the net, Mano y mano with Bobrovsky.  All of a sudden Dubinsky comes sliding in on his belly, reaching with his stick and breaking up the play, before the Dallas player could even get the shot off.  I'm sorry, I love that kind of effort.  So well done Dubinsky!  This cold one is for you!

Dishonorable mention.  The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that somehow managed to process Jamie Benn's permit to work in a single day.  Seriously?!  I'm pretty sure Obama heard that they were playing the CBJ so he signed it personally to help keep us in our place! (underlined italics is the official sarcasm font of the DBJ, this was not a politically motivated comment).

At the end of the day the team waded into this one, as has been their tendency.  They gathered momentum throughout the game, and finished strong to win an important game.  If they can repeat this effort, sans the first period, in either of the next two games, they will gain important points in the standings. It's all about keeping touch with the pack in this crazy period.  We'll soon find out what they are really made of!

GO JACKETS!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Morgan's Six-Pack for Game 5: The Chicago Blackhawks



Columbus Blue Jackets 2 - Chicago Blackhawks 3
1-3-1, 5th in Central Division, 12th in Western Conference
 The Blue Jackets returned to the familiar confines of Nationwide Arena after dropping a pair of games in the Mountain Time Zone by a combined score of 9-1.  The Blackhawks rode into Nationwide Arena as the league's first 4-0 team, playing 10 out of their first 12 games on the road.  The sellout crowd of 18,381 at Nationwide Arena was certainly much more partisan than the home opener on Monday, setting the stage for a game that CBJ fans will talk about for quite some time.  I'm just going to say it, This team confuses the heck out of me.  This write up is not really a "This Bud is for you" 6-pack, but more of a six-pack of discussion points of the game.


CBJ therapy

1. My first beer goes to today's date - January 26th, 2013.  Today is Wayne Gretzky's 52 birthday, CBJ 01A defenseman Ryan Cooney's 12th birthday, and the NHL All-Star game was scheduled to be played in Columbus today.  Yep, today was that day.  #HockeyIsBack (I hope you all picked up on my sarcasm with that hashtag).  I should be tweeting pictures from a post-game private party, but I'm not...

2.  My second beer goes to Nick Foligno, the usual suspect.  By my count, Nick Foligno was called for 7 goaltender interference calls last season, and one already this year.  While the disallowing the goal was possibly the worst piece of officiating in the NHL so far this season, I can't help the feeling that anytime usual suspect Nick Foligno is around the netminder, he's guilty until proven innocent.  He did enter the crease unnecessarily (albeit it ever so slightly), but Crawford's glove BARELY comes into contact with Foligno and the goal is waved off on the spot.  The Jackets made it tougher on themselves to recover from this officiating gaffe in the third period squandering a key powerplay opportunity.  I know blowing a crucial PP opportunity in the third doesn't rile up twitter like a disallowed goal, but the Jackets had every opportuninty to get that one back.  It's also worth noting that Brassard was on the point for that PP goal that was disallowed, which leads me to my next beer...

3.  The CBJ defensive corps.  I really don't know what to think anymore.  They hold the Hawks to 8 shots in the 1st period .  Also, like in the Detroit game, Columbus completely locked down the middle of the ice in the neutral zone forcing the more skilled opponent to enter the offensive zone wide.  They executed this plan well tonight.  Then the brain farts happen:  Aucoin and Moore BOTH loose sight of Jonathan "Camel" Toewes as Letestu can't clear the zone.  Bolland doesn't score his rebound goal if Tyutin hits the net with his WTF point shot (and if Kane doesn't treat Aucoin like an orange cone along the left boards).  The defensive corp is inconsistent, and each pair takes turns disappearing or underacheiving each night.  The Blue Jackets drinking game has one rule, "everytime a Jackets defensemen takes a shot and misses the net."  ugh.

4.  My fourth beer goes to organic chemistry - I know some of my cohorts on this blog feel as if the forward lines don't have any chemistry.  If by chemistry they mean the forwards aren't swirling and swooping into the offensive zone as if weaving a tapestry of 300 team goals, then they will be waiting a long time for the chemistry to form - this is the Blue Jackets, not the late 80's NHL.  This team can't get cute with the puck - like when Anisimov dropped the puck to Dorsett in the high slot during Monday night's game against the wings, which caused me to spray beer out of my nose onto John Kemp.  They need to drive to the net hard, crash the net, and bang home goals.  I saw that tonight and I liked it.  The Jacket's aren't a offensively gifted team, especially with Atkinson being out, so this team has to play hard-nosed in the offensive zone, and they did just that tonight.  You can see this team working hard.

5.  Mason looked good tonight.  This Bud's for you.  Your glove hand was quick tonight and you had Kane's number on two key saves in the first and third periods.  It's weird to say that at 1-3-1 that the least of the Blue Jackets worries is their goaltending.  Mason made some big saves tonight that he hasn't made in the past.  Keep it up kid.

6.  The PK was a light that shined brightly again tonight, and it's a very simple and effective Penalty Kill.  The Jackets set up inside the Red Zone and put their sticks into the passing lanes.  They have quiet sticks, not the 'windshield wiper' sticks you sometimes see from fowards on the PK.  If the forwards on the top of the PK challange the points, they don't overskate the points.  The PK, while not used a bunch, kept this game close and contained Sharp, Kane, and Toewes.  The only time I notice Dubinsky was on the PK.

Were the Blue Jackets outworked tonight? Absolutely not.  Columbus worked hard all night.  Chicago capitalized on the few mistakes the Blue Jackets made.  Columbus was able to capitalize on some Chicago mistakes as well, which will go a long way this season.  The Hawks looked like Keystone Cops in front of their own net on Letestu's goal.  A goal that doesn't happen without hard work. I am a little scared that all the bounces seem to be going Dorsett and Umberger's way.  The puck is coming to Dorsett because of his hard work.  Dorsett should try a shoulder or head fake once in a while rather than getting into open space and jamming the puck into the goalies chest. And Umberger?  Well, Umberger is like a 7th year senior - he can't seem to finish.  He had a doorstep opportunity against Phoenix he couldn't jam home, and on the short-handed 3-on-2 the jackets had tonight, RJ couldn't get a handle on the biscuit.  He'll eventually start burying those, and I'm sure he'll be thinking about that missed shorty when he climbs into bed tonight.  It was nice to see Anisimov get on the board tonight, actually, it was nice to actually notice a former Ranger on offense tonight.

The Jackets next game is Monday night at home against the 2-2-1 Dallas Stars.  The Star's team stats don't really wow you a whole lot, but they have themselves 5 points already this season.  Their scoring threats up front are old - Jagr, ex-CBJ captain Ray Whitney, and Brendan Morrow.  Kari Lehtonen was part of the switch-a-roo that brought Rick Nash to the CBJ.  It's also worth noting that Lehtoen is a big time gamer, er, video gamer and his goal mask used to feature Anime or video game artwork.  He's tried to butch up a bit since going to Dallas by adding Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris to his helmet artwork.  But still...



Production Line Hockey

Calvert, DMac, and Artie
The Blue Jackets production line of hockey continues tonight with the arrival of the undefeated Chicago Blackhawks.  The CBJ are coming off of a pretty rough road trip, where they didn't perform real well.  And the 'Hawks will be bringing a lot of speed, something that the CBJ have often had trouble with.    It should be an entertaining game, and I will be intrigued to see if the CBJ can get back to their lunchpail, grinding ways, and dictate the pace of this game. If Chicago dictates the pace, it could be a long evening.

On Monday, Dallas comes to town.  On Tuesday they play at Minnesota.  On Thursday the Blues are in town.  To keep pace with the league, the Jackets have to try to find a couple of wins in this stretch.  Its probably another week or so before they really find their legs, so I think in this stretch it is up to the AHL guys who have been playing all along to step in and make a difference.  Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson need to bury a couple of goals.  Ryan Johansen has looked stronger with each game, and he needs to start asserting himself against these teams if we are gonna get those wins.  John Moore needs to start snatching ice time from some of the other defensemen.

I'm looking forward to this grind.  We have seen the type of rough road trip the Jackets just experienced happen many a time in the past, and it does not necessarily define the team.  The road is a rough place to be in the Western Conference.  With 3 in 4 on home ice, the Jackets need to focus on holding serve in Nationwide Arena.  If they can do so with reasonable success over the next few weeks, they will remain in the mix.  At this time of an abbreviated season, that's all you need to do.

Across the league, even though there are a few teams doing well, a lot of teams are struggling, and turning in performances like the CBJ's last two.  So long as that doesn't remain a trend, they'll be okay over the short term.  We'll have a better feel for the group at about the 15 game mark.

So get your mojo going, and come down to Nationwide Arena tonight and try to help the Jackets dictate the pace of the game!

GO JACKETS!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for Game 4: Colorado

Colorado 4 - Columbus 0
1-2-1, 4th in Central Division, 8th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets wrapped up their two-game, two-night road trip with a 4-0 shutout loss in regulation to the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

I'm saving the entire six-pack for myself. In my opinion, no Blue Jacket deserved one. I'll probably also need it to forget what I just saw.

So let's go meta instead.  The Blue Jackets are winless since the opener in Nashville and have not yet won a game in regulation.  They were outscored 9-1 over this road trip, highlighting significant issues on both offense and defense.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gallos' Six-Pack for Game 3: Phoenix Coyotes

Photo



The Columbus Blue Jackets took to the road to play the Phoenix Coyotes in the first of back to back games, and lost 5-1.  Steve Mason started in goal, and the first period ended scoreless.  Not a work of art, but a good road period.  As Craig Hartsburg said during his in game interview with Natalie, both teams are checking well and waiting for the other guy to make a mistake.  The CBJ scored first during the first half of the second period when Brassard cycled the puck out high and Tyutin blasted one home with Derek Dorsett cruising the slot and making traffic.  Phoenix countered with two goals, one off a turn over, the other when a seemingly bad pass bounces to the D-man and is hammered home by Ekman-Larsson.  Once the third period started, the Blue Jackets unraveled, became disjointed, and started giving up goals.


Stick tap to Light the Lamp

1.  This adult beverage goes to John Davidson, for his interview at the first intermission.  This is the type of thing that is a HUGE addition to the franchise.  You also have to remember that the other announcers are going to interview JD too, every time he's in their building.  And every time he does one of those interviews the credibility of the organization takes a jump.  I liked his perspective, that 'you have to improve, but you have to recognize that everyone else is trying to improve too".  Good stuff.

2. My second beer for the evening goes to Assistant Coach Keith Acton, for telling Natalie in an interview how bad our defensive zone breakouts were.  Unfortunately, it only got worse as the night went on.

3. My third beer of the evening goes to Steve Sullivan for his hat trick.  What can you say?

4. My fourth beer of the evening goes to Antoine Vermette who dominated in the face off circle.  Had you done some of that last year in a Blue Jackets uniform you might still be here.  Of course if you had the choice of being coached by Dave Tippett or Scott Arniel, you'd obviously take the former.

5. My fifth and sixth beers of the evening strangely had a hole in the bottom of them when I got them out of the fridge, probably stolen by an enterprising Coyotes fan.  It was that kind of night.  Plus I didn't want to give any more beers to Coyotes players, in spite of the fact that they earned them.

The CBJ came out hustling in the first period, but couldn't get anything past Mike Smith, the starting 'Yotes goal tender.  He was injured, and replaced by Jason LaBarbera, who stoned the CBJ after giving up the one goal in the second.  Steve Mason's fragile confidence shattered in the second period, and by the latter part of the third period he couldn't stop pucks that he had good looks at.  The only good thing you can view out of this game is that Curtis McElhinney is returning to play in Springfield, and if I had to take a chance on passing  Mason or CMac through waivers, I'd definitely take that chance on Mason.  We don't have a 1 and a 1A goal tender situation.  We have a 1 and a distant 3.  The good news is that we got CMac from the Yotes in the Vermette trade, so we got something out of that.  Perhaps he would make a reliable 2.

Did the BlueJackets get out worked tonight?  You betcha.  It was bone ugly.  Best forget it as soon as possible.  We'll find out what that means tomorrow night.

GO JACKETS!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Morgan's Six Pack for Game 2: The Detroit Red Wings


Columbus 3 - Detroit 4 (SO)
3rd in Central Division,  5th in Western Conference


The Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the rival Detroit Red Wings in their 2012-2013 season home opener.  Announced attendance at Nationwide Arena for the game was 19,206.  The Jackets rallied back from a two goal deficit to tie the game at two goals a piece on goals from Atkinson and Wisniewski.  The Jackets went on top in the 3rd from a well positioned Prospal power play goal.  The lead was spoiled by, who else, Pavel Datsyuk who tied the game at three late in the third period.  After a conservative overtime period, the teams headed for a shootout which, after further review, ended in a Red Wings victory.



1. It should be no surprise to anyone who watched this game that my first beer goes to none other than Sergei Bobrovsky.  I'd give him the whole six-pack and go to bed if this wasn't my first write-up. Bob kept the game from getting out of hand in the first period when the Red Wings were afforded one scoring opportunity after another.  42 shots reached the net, the Jackets blocked another dozen or so in front of him.  Bobrovsky continued to make key saves in the second and third period to keep the game close.  It is easy to wonder how this game would have ended up if another goaltender was in net for the ol' CBJ, but Bobrovsky kept it simple and was the sole reason the Blue Jackets weren't down by two touchdowns after the first period.

2. The second beer goes to Ryan Johansen.  Why?  The kid was clutch on face-offs all night.  He had won 9 out of his 11 draws at the start of the third period.  Coach Richards used Johansen on key offensive zone face-offs late in the third period.  This was a pleasant surprise and good on Johansen.  It's not often you see a young kid getting tasked with key face-offs in close games against teams like the Red Wings.

3.  Cam Atkinson, this one is for you.  The Red Wings made a mistake, Johansen got you the puck, and you split the Red Wings defense for a doozy of a goal.  It feels good that the Blue Jackets have a player who can capitalize on the opponents mistakes - something I feel the Blue Jackets haven't had for a while.  Maybe ever...

4.  I will take a liberty with this fourth beer, and give it to the Fans. I'll sprinkle it around as I was in attendance for tonight's game. With the Red Wings in town, there was absolutely no mistaking who was the home team.  There was no 50/50 smattering of Red and White jerseys in the stands.  There was no "let's go Red Wings" cheers to be heard in Nationwide Arena and only a few isolated cheers when the Wings did get on the board.  This was a loud and proud Columbus Blue Jackets home game as it should have been.

5. I hate to do it, but Pavel Datsyuk gets a beer.  Again he shows us why you don't give him time and space with the puck late in games.  He got behind the defense late in the third and tied the game at 3.  He quietly got 2 points and first star.  Yuck.  Dats Yuck, get it?.

6. CBJ Special Teams - The Blue Jackets played a simple, and for the most part fundamental, special teams strategy on both sides of the puck.  The PK was a passive box that set up on the perimeter of the Red Zone.  They let Detroit dangle the puck on the outside as long as they wanted and clogged access to the key scoring areas of the offensive zone, the "Red Zone."  Detroit tried attacking this PK two different ways with no luck, Bobrovsky being the best penalty killer.  The CBJ Power Play started a little wonky for my tastes with the point men criss-crossing at the blue line to pull aggressive Red Wings penalty killers out of position.  It got back to meat-and-potatoes fundamentals by creating 3-on-2 opportunities on one half of the ice.  Special teams looked good tonight.  They have to continue to stay that way as the Power Play and Penalty Kill will be crucial to this team's success.

The question everybody wants to know: Did the Blue Jackets get outworked?  Looking at the game as a whole, I say YES - but it wasn't for a lack of effort. Some might say they came back from being two goals down so how could they be outworked?  Well, the Red Wings played the first period against the Blue Jackets like I imagined: send two guys at the puck on the fore check and have their way with the Jackets.  The CBJ are a high energy team who aren't gifted with oodles of offensive skill.  The Wings put two guys on the puck the entire first period forcing the Jackets to make quick 'thread the needle' passes which were never made or intercepted.  However, the Jackets adjusted in the second period by quickly getting the puck into open areas and open forwards with shorter passes.  As the Jackets adjusted, and got their two goals, the Wings resorted to slowing the play down and spreading out the ice.  At no point in this game did it appear the Jackets were out of it, even down two goals. However, the Jackets were overwhelmed in the first 25-30 minutes of the game, and it's fair to say they dug themselves into the two goal hole (ha, rhyme) by being outworked.  Bobrovsky kept this from getting much, much worse early on.

Despite the 1st period, the Jackets never gave up.  I don't know how last year's team reacts to being down by two goals to the Red Wings, but I saw how this team reacted and I liked it.  The Atkinson goal had a great level of satisfaction to it. Wisniewski's power play goal had blue-collar artistry to it.  Prospal's goal is one that every youth hockey player should watch: it's always good to keep a third guy high.  I saw enough tonight to keep on watching.

The Jackets next game is Wednesday night in Phoenix against the 0-2 Coyotes.  The Coyotes still maintain a few ex-CBJ player with the likes of Antoine Vermette and Rusty Klesla.  Whitney has moved on and Torres will be watching this one from the press box via his suspension.  My money says we see Steve Mason in net for that game, but one can never tell.




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Introducing "Did the CBJ get outworked last night?"

In his introductory comments back in October, new Columbus Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson said of his new team, "We'll never be outworked."

J.D. threw down the gauntlet to his team in October.
Those words are exactly what this blogger wants to hear.

Look, I'm realistic about this team.  I'm not convinced that the Blue Jackets will end the season in the Central Division cellar.  I'm equally not convinced that the Blue Jackets are a playoff team (although the unpredictable nature of a six-day training camp and a condensed, 48-game season make it more likely).  I believe that both abject failure and exhilarating success are largely due to factors far beyond the Blue Jackets' control.

The "compete level" - the amount of effort expended in a game - is well within the team's control, however.  If a team works hard, they are more likely to win games.  They won't automatically win because they play harder than the other team, but I'd suggest that they probably are more likely to lose because they don't play as hard.  I think the tail-end of the Hitchcock and Arniel eras in Columbus can serve as reference points for us.  The team gave up, and they lost... waytoo many times.

In my opinion, that question, "Did the CBJ get outworked?" - that will determine whether this team is competitive in 2013.  On paper, this team is not elite.  Effort, however, can be the great equalizer.  A hard-working team of lesser skill will have a much better chance against a lackadaisical group of All-Stars.  So that's where I'm focusing my attention this season.

DBJ's six-pack for Game 1: Nashville

Columbus 3  - Nashville 2 (SO)
1-0-0, T-1st in Central Division, T-1st in Eastern Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets kicked off their abbreviated 2013 season with a nail-biter of a win over the Nashville Predators, 3-2, after a six-round shootout in front of 17,113 fans at Bridgestone Arena.

The past season or two has used the 5 Thoughts format as a means to organize our post-game thoughts here at DBJ, but - as you may remember - we've humbly adopted the "6-pack" motif of our retired colleague, Light The Lamp.  So let's crack one open and see how it works.

1. In a move that probably surprised someone...somewhere...the game-ready Sergei Bobrovsky - fresh off an 18-3-2 opening act for the Kontinental Hockey League's SKA St. Petersburg (1.94 GAA, .932 save percentage) before coming back to Columbus after the lockout ended - got the start over incumbent starter Steve Mason.  After a stumble out of the gate with a first-minute gimme to Martin Erat (and to Bob's credit, the team defense never set up on the goal), Bob locked down and gave up only one more goal the entire game.  32 saves, 1.85 GAA, .941 save percentage...Give us a season like that and we'll be one happy bunch of campers in Columbus.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Join the Battle: 2012-13 Season Starts!

At last it's here, and I am pretty excited about finally seeing some NHL hockey played.  Tomorrow night the Columbus Blue Jackets take on a Central Division nemesis at the Nashville Predators.  We will find out a lot about the team in this match.

This is a Blue Jackets squad with perhaps the deepest defense in franchise history.  It seems unlikely that anyone will unseat Jaroslav Spacek as the all time leader in defensive assists in this shortened season.  But Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin have it in them to be collectively in the top 5 in the league in defensive assists if they play to the level they have shown before.  They are backed up by veteran Adrian Aucoin and youngster John Moore who played well in the role of 'last man standing' last year before fading late (not uncommon for a young player).

There are a couple of things I want to say about this group.  Tyutin and Nikitin are probably the shut down pair.  How well they perform in that role is yet to be seen, but they have a significant offensive upside, with the bonus of knee high heat from Niki 6 (see DKM hockey).  One thing I can get my arms around with this group is that we will definitely lose at least one game when Johnson gets burned on jumping up on the play, and someone like Toews goes in on a break away to score a late goal.   And we as fans will howl, and the Twitterverse will explode with criticism of JJ's defense.  But there will also be games where we are trying to protect a lead, and he will skate it out of the defensive zone and attack the opposing goal when everyone on the other team is trying to crash our net, thus taking the heat off and preserving the win.  I think our power play will finally be something to be scared of, instead of wanting to decline the penalty, we are going to want to watch it.  With an abundance of forwards who will crash the net, Wiz's slap shot is going to get a few tips into the net.  JJ has a perfect skill set to set up Wiz's slap shot, which we did not see used to full effect until late last year.  With Tyutin and Niki 6 on the second unit, we have good point men there as well.  The power play should develop into something solid as the season progresses.

Artem Anisimov
The forwards are intriguing.  The line I think I like the most is Prospal - Johansen - Foligno.  I think Vinny Prospal and Nick Foligno are kindred spirits.  I think their veteran presence will help the youngster Johansen.  If Ryan is not going to play center, then he should be sent down to Springfield to play big minutes at center.  That's where he is going to end up eventually.  This line is not too bad defensively, and while it is listed as a third line, has a deceiving amount of offensive pop.  Foligno has really soft hands, and his shots seem to always find the net.  In the right circumstances, those will be goals.

I think we are going to like the Anisimov line with Dubinsky and Dorsett.  I know a lot of people wonder about putting Dorsett on that line.  Some are downright critical of it, and I understand that as well.  But Dorsett has very good 'hockey sense' and will put himself in a position where he can score, and where he is available for the puck at the right time.  Unfortunately, he has some unquestionably Duran like qualities (as in Roberto Duran and 'hands of stone').  He has also worked hard to overcome those tendencies, and had a career scoring year last year.  Great potential for this line to surprise people as well, but  the line is also very defensively responsible.

The 'top' line of Umberger - Brassard - Atkinson ought to be able to have some good chemistry early.  Hopefully Brass is ready to emerge from the role of  'the guy that sets up Nash' and uses his very good shot more often.  This line has good balance as well.

Finally, there is the goal tending.  I think Detective Bobrovsky is going to unseat Mason (aahhhh, I can't get these numbers out of my head!!!) as the number one goal tender.  Hopefully he can flash the kind of numbers he showed over in the KHL.  In this shortened NHL season, any team is a hot goal tender away from being in the mix for the playoffs.  Mason (Viktor Resnov was my friend!!) is fighting for his NHL life.  He seems to be resolved to go down swinging.  Very good goal tending could become the price for keeping the net.  Or, if they both ring up numbers like they had last year, its gonna be a long, short year, but we have 3 first round picks in the draft.

We will find out a lot about these lines tomorrow night at Nashville.  I'm excited to see what they can do.   If this team can maintain a .500 pace through the early going, to allow the new comers to gel into the team, they have a chance to cause people some real problems.  However, tomorrow is only round 1 of the 18 round slugging match that is the Central Division.  We'll check in again after the first round bell.

GO JACKETS!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Your annual FOX Sports Ohio TV schedule post

It's an annual tradition like no other...better than the azaleas at Augusta, better than the inevitable Michigan State football October swoon, better than Tebow and A-Rod coverage: The annual Dark Blue Jacket reproduction of the FOX Sports Ohio broadcast schedule press release for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Remember when I used to rant about not having enough games on TV?  Or in high-definition?  Folks, those days are long gone.  

FOX Sports Ohio has gone "all in" for the Blue Jackets, giving us ("us" being those in Columbus...can't speak for those living out of the metro area) every single Blue Jackets game that they can get their hands on.  That means 47 out of 48 games this year, with the other game (Monday's home opener against the Red Wings) exclusively on NBC Sports Network.  I confirmed with Kate Zelasko at FSO that FOX will be broadcasting the two games that will also be shown on NHL Network (February 21 at Detroit, March 1 at Chicago).

You know the worm has turned when the annual press release spends more talking about the broadcast team than about the games that the network will (or won't) be broadcasting.

And wait a minute, who's that DBJ guy that gets a mention?  :-)



P   R   E   S   S      R   E   L   E   A   S   E

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2013


FOX SPORTS OHIO & COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS ANNOUNCE 2012-2013 TELECAST SCHEDULE

Dan Kamal joins Blue Jackets broadcast team.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – FOX Sports Ohio and the Columbus Blue Jackets announced today the 2012-2013 telecast schedule.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Camp Day 3, Special Teams

Nick Foligno - Number 71
I got a chance to attend the public practice in the Ice Haus today, to watch the Blue Jackets continue their abbreviated training camp.  Earlier in the morning, the CBJ had scrimmaged over on the big ice in Nationwide Arena, however, that part of practice was not open to the public.  According to Shawn Mitchell over on Puck Rakers no goals were scored, which is okay as they were emphasizing their defense.  If you go over to the Blue Jackets web site Bob McElligott has done a great job of getting a lot of good video content up on the site.  I'll come back to the points about coaching that Bob touches on in a later post.

The public camp session was mostly spent on special teams, the power play and the penalty kill.  I felt the players weren't really flying, but they already had a scrimmage behind them.  One thing I really like about Todd Richards is that he is willing to stop a drill and make sure it gets done right.  He's very vocal and involved in the practices, and I think that is a good thing.  Ian Clark got to borrow Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard and Jared Boll to do some work with the goal tenders.  At that stage of the practice, the rest of the players were working on the penalty kill.

The two power play units were the Brassard line with Cam Atkinson and RJ Umberger as forwards and with Johnson and Wisniewski as the defensive pair.  The second unit had Vinny Prospal, Ryan Johansen, and Nick Foligno with Tyutin and Nikitin as the defensive pair, though this unit got a lot of looks, and possessed the puck really well.  While I wasn't real impressed with Johansen on the first day of camp, he showed some very good stuff in the power play work.  He did some nifty puck possession skating right up the slot (and still got a shot away) and scored on a beauty of a one-timer.  The other guy I was really impressed with was Nick Foligno.  Dude has real soft hands, and seems everywhere on the ice.  I have a feeling that we are going to like watching him play.  At a down time at the last stages of the practice, Foligno was balancing a puck on his stick and trying to flip it to John Moore for him to catch on his stick.  It was fun to watch them.

One thing that I observed, is that the new guys seem to have melded right into the team fabric.  It was easy to see instances where they showed that they liked playing together, and though they were working hard, they were also enjoying themselves.  There wasn't a lot of 'stiffness' to the practice, they seemed relaxed and happy to be there.  The worked hard, and were very attentive to the coaches, but there was just a good spirit to the whole thing.  That will serve them well in the inevitable times of duress in this year.

I really can't wait for Saturday, and I am really looking forward to the home opener.  It will be highly entertaining to watch these guys play.  All they really have to do at the start of the season is play .500 hockey to give themselves a chance to gel.  Then we'll see.

GO JACKETS!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Robert Frost, the CBJ Fan

One of my favorite classes I ever took in college was an elective poetry class. It wasn’t a creative writing. This poetry class was about reading a poem in context to discover the author’s message or the poem’s purpose. We were not trying to delve into the mind of the tormented poet to ease their pain. We were learning how to listen to what the poet was saying. Through this, I discovered Robert Frost, who I have come to believe was a long suffering Blue Jackets fan. How do I know this? Quite easily, he left us the poem "Acquainted with the Night."

This is like looking a picture of a girl you used to love
with all your heart who dumped you for a pretty boy
named Todd Slawson.

Acquainted with the Night is a five stanza poem written in the under-utilized ‘Terza Rima’ meter and rhyme scheme. If we break the poem down stanza by stanza, and read each line grammatically, we can see the trials and tribulations of a Blue Jackets fan. Robert Frost had feelings of being alone in his love for the CBJ and wasn't sure whether or not to give up on the Blue Jackets after the 2011-2012 season. It was was season of hope that turned out to be the season of doubt. Carter was a bust, Nash wanted out, Arniel was canned, and fans were left with nothing. Robert Frost spend a considerable amount of time being emotionally conflicted over the team, searching for something that could silence his doubt and give him sincere hope.  The unknowing chasm of the lockout mixed with the sting of 2011-2012 and the muted optimism of off-season acquisitions tormented every Blue Jackets fan's heart since last April.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
Immediately we see the doubt and sense of hopelessness of Frost’s love for the Blue Jackets. Robert Frost knows darkness of the night. He feels alone being a fan of the Blue Jackets he searches aimlessly for a reason to believe. Frost’s taking long walks at night in the rain, long walks that that make the shiny beacon of light beaming from Nationwide Arena disappear over the horizon - Long walks of metaphoric doubt finding ways to justify another year of season tickets in section 102.  Frost has wandered, and wandered far. He’s wandered so far that he’s found himself right back from where he first began wandering from. The dreaded circular logic, last season offered so much hope and ended poorly. Hope is rekindled this offseason with new faces, but how is that any different. What is Frost searching for? What we all are:  am I all alone, is there nothing greater for a Blue Jackets fan? Conflicted, he loves something that doesn’t seem to love him back.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.


Frost has spent a long time searching for something to make him believe again. He’s even searched for it in Toronto as described by "looked down the saddest city lane." He thought if he could look at the opitomy of misery, he would know how to escape it. But Toronto offered no such answers, they had their own advisors, their own miserable drafts, and mailed off their own beloved talent. Still, the fans paid a premium and packed the arena while mercilessly taunting Blue Jackets fans. As Frost continued his walk, he passed the judgemental fans of other teams, who looked at him and offered their pity seeing him in that rain soaked Blue Jackets jersey of self-doubt. He averted their glances, for a response they could understand could not be given. He knew he loved the team, but didn't know if he could continue.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,


Frost had walked so long and searched so deeply that he stopped for a moment, ready to give up on the team. He had stood by them loyal for 10 years and was nearing the end of what he could give. And it was when he stopped walking, and had a chance to listen, that he heard something speak to him. Something near he did not expect to hear.

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky


Frost found himself in the arena district, staring up at the luminous clock that stands tall above the corner of Nationwide Blvd and Front Street. The time on the face of the clock was unimportant, but what was important - where the clock was, where it stood against the sky, that spoke to him.  It wasn't up to the Blue Jackets if Frost should continue to care.  Win or lose, the Blue Jackets were Columbus' team.  He was in the arena district, and no matter what Frost did, the Arena district was there because of the Blue Jackets.  The one place a person could go to know they are not alone in their love for the Columbus Blue Jackets was the arena district.

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


That luminous LED clock shining brilliant against the night sky offered Frost comfort. As long as the arena district was there to support the team, as longs as fans like him came to the arena district and showed their pride, Frost knew he would never be alone, there would never be a reason to doubt. As alone as he felt as a Blue Jackets fan, that clock in the arena district reminded him he was not alone.   He would never have to explain his love for the team to anyone in the Arena District - they would already know simply by him being there. Being a Columbus Blue Jackets fan is so much more than the team’s place in the standings. It’s about sharing the experience of being a fan with other Blue Jackets fans. It’s about being part of a fan base that beyond the losing encourages everyone to come out and support something that is truly unique to Columbus. Frost has been acquainted with the night, but with the lockout over, and he’s had a chance to see training camp, all that is behind him now. No more doubt when you witness the crowd at training camp - hosted by the Arena District.

 

Yeah, that line looks pretty good.

 

Acquainted with the Night

By Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rainand back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Great Focus; Training Camp Opens

Todd Richards was large and in-charge
This afternoon the Columbus Blue Jackets  opened their 2012-13 training camp to a packed  Ice Haus.  To me, the biggest thing I took away from the day's activity is that the players were very focused.  Yes, they were happy to be back on the ice, but they recognize that the puck drops for real in less than a week.  They were very intent, and the pace to practice was good.

Dang its good to have NHL hockey back.

Nick Foligno - Number 71
Lot's of drills today to get thing going.  They did battle drills in the corners, to get people used to the hitting.  One of the drills I enjoyed watching the most was a 1 on 2 drill where the puck holder had to go one on one with a defender, and a forward skated across the ice to join in to try to strip the puck carrier.  In one of the drills, Nick Foligno was going against Derek Dorsett and the two of them got the puck pinned on the boards.  This situation demonstrated that Foligno has just about as much 'no quit' in him as Dorsett, which bodes well for the teams future.

The other thing that I noticed was that goal tender Sergei Bobrovsky plays every puck in practice like its a game.  He worked very, very hard.  Likewise, Steve Mason looked very sharp today too.  I'd like to see nothing better in the CBJ goal than a 'one goal game' being the currency for keeping the net.  Improbable, of course, but I'd like it.

All in all, myself and a lot of other people in Columbus were darn happy that the NHL was back in business.  The schedule looks crazy, but well talk about that more later.  For now, the CBJ opens on the road in Nashville, and opens at home Monday night, January 21 against Detroit.  THAT ought to be interesting!

GO JACKETS!!

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!!

GO JACKETS!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Excuse Me?!?!?

I put the old logo here so I wouldn't surprise
and national pundits.
OK, I get it.  We finished last.  It may come as a shock to the national pundits that we are keenly aware of that fact.  But this is the kind of 'matter' that drives me insane.

In this post, In Words and Phrases picks us 15th in the West, with this insightful comment:  Why I’ll Be Right: This team is essentially the same one that clunked into last place last year,

Really?  I guess that assumes that Rick Nash is still playing for us, and that we won't have 3 picks in the 2013 draft because we didn't trade Jeff Carter to the Kings.  Now this doesn't mean that the prediction is necessarily that far off.  You have to score more than the other guy to win, and that's not at all certain.  But to read this, it's like the Nash trade never happened.  Lame.  Must be fresh out of college football to follow, or checked out during the lockout.  Its okay to troll us.  That's the lot of the last place team.  It's not okay to be ignorant while you are doing it.  I'm sure Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Foligno are proud to be dismissed in this fashion.

At least do something like the post from Battle of California, that looked at the last 48 games of last year, a relevant number given the season we are looking at.  In that time period, the CBJ finished 13th in the West, still not a playoff team, but not last.  This is probably a little bit more realistic for us.  There are still of lot of unfinished pieces.

But like every other team in the NHL, the CBJ are a hot goal tender away from a run to the playoffs.  That's a crap shoot for us, I understand, but Bobrovsky has been playing very well in the KHL with an 18-6 record and a sub 2 Goals Against Average.  All you need is a little luck, and the CBJ sure used up a truck load of the bad variety last year.

Its a new year, and this team finished the season on a 5-1 run last year.  Anything is possible.

GO JACKETS!!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Brand new day


(Just enjoy the music.  The "Sting as Jesus" thing is a bit odd.)

It's been roughly 24 hours since the NHL lockout ended with a tentative collective bargaining agreement between the league's owners and players.

It's a brand new day.

I started this blog in the afterglow of the team's 2009 NHL playoffs appearance - it's only one thus far (and something that we haven't forgotten) - and, despite everything the fates have thrown at us, it has survived to see yet another season with a lot of help from some terrific people.  If you've read it for any period of time, you know that this blog has been one of the most unflinchingly honest about our hometown team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Honesty is hard sometimes.  Looking in the mirror and seeing what you don't want to see is hard.  Looking at numbers that don't add up is hard.  But we've been honest.  We've challenged ourselves to stay honest, and to keep our hometown team honest - at least as a small handful of committed fans can.  Sometimes, that means saying the hard truths.  We've done that.

I say that to say this: With the lockout now over, I firmly believe that this IS a brand new day for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The team finally hired a hockey operations professional with an honest-to-God track record of improving lousy teams.  The team has a head coach that I maintain is pretty darned good.  The defense appears to be better.  The 900 lb. gorilla has been moved to New York.  The goaltending?  Who knows, but the new guy has been doing OK in Russia.

I'm not saying that the team's going to win the Cup this year.  I'm not saying that they'll even get to the playoffs, regardless of whether the rumored move to the Eastern Conference for 2013 happens.  What I am saying is that I am increasingly confident that the elevator ride to respectability for this franchise has started.  When one considers the long-term health of the franchise - financially and otherwise - perhaps that elevator ride is the most important.

In that spirit, I made a small but significant cosmetic change to the site.  Gone is the banner graphic that reminds us of how general manager Scott Howson is so interested in raising expectations across the board (implicit in that is that, in my opinion, expectations never actually went up...pretty much from any corner of CBJ Nation [Update: I suppose there is a notable exception.]).  I think, with the Davidson hiring, that those expectations are rising.  So let's switch to the team's new majordomo, Davidson, who tells us that the Blue Jackets will never be outworked.  Fair enough.  I'll go for a tough team that won't be outworked.  That's a good start, and a welcome change from parts of last season (which we won't forget, either).

It will be a wild and bumpy ride...not just this season but the seasons to come.  The team will deserve cheers at times and talking to's on others.  And through it all, this blog will be here - offering our oft-differing opinions, sharing our stories and enjoying the world of NHL hockey in Central Ohio with you.  And we will be honest.

It's a brand new day.

Some Final Lockout Thoughts

I remember last September when, after a series of direct messages and some wings at BWs, Tom asked me to be a contributor to Dark Blue Jacket.  I was both excited and sad to be doing so.  Excited because the folks who stop by and check out what's on DBJ both love the team and are able to have an honest conversation about the struggling Blue Jackets.  I was also a little sad because I feared it might be some time before I actually had the opportunity to write about the Columbus Blue Jackets on DBJ with the pending lockout.  This lockout has been rough on me with little NHL/CBJ inspiration and not much to write about.  With the recent announcement of a verbal agreement between the NHL and NHLPA, it looks like a truncated season, full of pulled groins and separated shoulders, will be upon us soon.


"The NHL has the best fans!" Wait, can you see me, I'm down here...
First, a two paragraph rant...

There is something I have to get off my chest.  I am surprised at the attitude of fans on social media, or perhaps Americans in general.  There is a sense of entitlement that the fans are somehow owed something now that the NHL lockout of 2012 is over.  Somehow, the fans were wronged by the tyranny of evil men.  For all of my compassion, I have zero empathy.  Professional Sports is 1000% fueled by disposable income - participation as a spectator of the NHL is NOT mandatory household spending.  No one forced fans to live through anything else than what they imagined.  The poor arena workers who were championed during the lockout as the 'victims' derive their living from $9 beers, $85 tickets, and $15 dollar parking.  Now you want those same people to give you something for free because you're a fan?  Get over yourselves fans, and do it quickly.  No one owes you anything.

After a few days of "Hockey is Back" talk, social media can get back to its normal self in hockey circles.  I admit, as sensitive as some Blue Jackets fans are to ridicule about their favorite player or team, I'm sensitive to referring to the NHL simply as "Hockey."  Hey, the lockout is over, "Hockey is back!"  To me, that's a kick in the junk to any minor league or amateur hockey player that's been busting their butt on the ice since September.  By referring to the end of the NHL lockout as "Hockey is back" is in essence like saying any other form of hockey is irrelevant and meaningless.  Rant Transmission Complete.

Now for happy thoughts

I've been a Blue Jackets fan since day one.  I was so desperate for a "hometown" NHL team that once it happened, I abandoned the team I grew up rooting for and abandoned the teams who employ family and friends.  I had a team in my state, in the town I lived in.  The charm of that ownership wore out for me after the first lockout.   Since their only playoff appearance, the Blue Jackets have done just about everything wrong that they could as a professional sports franchise.  However, this year fans got two shining gems of hope and change in a new arena deal (where the former owner is the only one exposed to any risk) and a new President of Hockey Ops who has a track record of righting listing ships.  But little else has changed with the team.

My joy of a returned NHL has already started to subdue.  My thoughts have turned to gaping hole in offensive production, as the Blue Jackets are missing the only person who could regularly score on most opposing team's back up goal tenders.  I am encouraged by having at least 4 competent NHL defensemen on the Blue Line following a draft year that feels like the best choices were made for what this team needs.  Then I look at the goal tenders, gnash my teeth and fight back the tears.  But one thing is for certain, Blue Jackets hockey will look and feel different this year, not only because of the lockout but of the new faces on the roster.  It's easy to call me a negative Nancy, but I expect excellence and aspirations of championships out of the professional sports franchise who voluntarily gets a portion of my disposable income.  I will not sit idly by and be the Martin Niemoller of the Blue Jackets and say nothing when something should be said, only to regret it all my life.

The lockout is now over and the NHL is back.  Attendance records will show how big of a mistake this lockout really was.  I don't think this will be the last lockout, but it will be the last labor dispute that doesn't involve retraction.  I don't know if this season's outcome will be much different that last year for the Blue Jackets, but for reasons I can't fully articulate, I feel a shortened season will be an advantage for a team like the Jackets. The team brought in hard working forwards who seem to have an upside along with John Davidson who's playing experience as much as his front office experience will be a welcome addition to day-to-day ops across the entire organization.  Yet, even for someone with expectations as high as mine, I must admit that I am a little excited about the start of this CBJ season.  I don't feel this season will be a fair valuation of the team and it's abilities, but I am excited for it nonetheless.  Even if they don't move up in the standings, this season will look and feel different than the last 3 or 4 seasons of Blue Jackets hockey.  For that reason, I am happy I have the privilege of sharing that excitement or disappointment with you on this blog.