Sunday, June 30, 2013

Settling for three first round picks

As I understand it, Jarmo Kekalainen wanted to trade around today.

He wanted to trade for get some legitimate, NHL-ready scoring help.

He wanted to trade up to get into the top five.

He wanted to trade back.  

The only trade he could pull was to trade his second rounder, number 44 overall, to Pittsburgh for their second rounder (50) and third rounder (89).  

Anyway, Jarmo apparently tried...and he couldn't get jack squat.  

So he drafted three decent prospects, guys who could form the core of the CBJ toward the end of the 2010's.  

Didn't help one bit toward improving on their 25th-best (out of 30) ranking in goals scored, but it'll help someday.  

We're now left to pray that something either shakes loose by trade - which was supposed to happen today, but only Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey had the stones to actually pull the trigger - or that the unrestricted free agent market isn't as gruesome as we've been led to believe.  Maybe the compliance buyouts might shake up the market a little.

Have the CBJ signed Sergei Bobrovsky yet?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Perhaps my favorite Pierre McGuire comment ever. Really.

Pierre McGuire,
NHL everyman
NBC Sports' Emmy-winning "inside the glass" commentator is a regular contributor to Sirius XM NHL Network Radio's "Hockey This Morning" program, and I'm occasionally lucky enough to be listening to the radio when he comes on to visit with Mike Ross and Mick Kern.

Usually, McGuire's contribution is boilerplate: A handful of thoughts about the greatest game on earth, the toughness and skill levels of the players and an obligatory mention of some obscure Canadian major junior team.  He's a pleasant guy, and he clearly knows his hockey.  A fun conversation, to be sure.

What frustrates me about McGuire, though, is that I never seem to catch him when he draws upon his experiences as a coach and scout with the likes of the Ottawa Senators, Hartford Whalers and Pittsburgh Penguins to explain the "Why's" of the NHL's goings-on of the day.  I always seem to get the "What's."

That is, until last week.  Out on vacation, making an early morning baby food run, I caught this nugget from McGuire.  The Daniel Briere insight is interesting (his contract will be bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers in accordance with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement), but it's the discussion of what roster components are critical to a championship contender that I love:

Recording courtesy of Sirius XM NHL Network Radio - Hockey This Morning

Good folks, those Sirius XM
NHL Network Radio guys...
As longer-term readers of this blog know, I am downright starved for these types of strategic insights.  I'm not a lifelong hockey aficionado, so I don't automatically understand what it takes to put a championship team together.  I want to learn, to understand.  I want to know my team's visions for winning.  And when I glean insights like this, I'm really excited and want to share what I've learned.  So thanks to the gang at Sirius XM NHL Network Radio for sending the clip along at my request when I couldn't find it anywhere online.  

I'm still working through my reactions to it when listening with a Columbus Blue Jackets filter - but I'll have something up on the Dark Blue Jacket Plus blog over at FOX Sports Ohio soon. 

Until then, enjoy!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So what's taking that Bobrovsky contract so long?

The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup.  Sergei Bobrovsky has won the Vezina trophy.  I love hockey, but I haven't had the energy to write about the Jackets recently.  Rule number one around this place is "Have fun"  blogging.  Seeing the Blue Jackets in the review mirror of the playoff bus again this April hurts even more because of how close, and how far, the Blue Jackets were to the playoffs this season - it's no fun missing the playoffs.  And for those of you quick to blame a disallowed goal for the missed opportunity at the playoffs, remember that Jared Boll was seeing Power Play time in January and February.  #StinkyCheese.  Now that it's almost July, it's fun to start speculating what might happen to the Columbus Blue Jackets with the upcoming draft and free agency period right around the corner.  But what has caught my immediate attention is the lingering issue of Sergei Bobrovsky's contract status.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Dark Blue Basket Case

The draft looms, and I'm not sure what to think.  Aaron Portzline over at the Columbus Dispatch posted an article about Jarmo today.  It was thought provoking stuff.  We have three 1st round picks in the draft next Sunday.  Given our drafting position, it seems unlikely that any of them would necessarily make the team this year, most would require a bit of seasoning before being ready for the big dance.  And I'm okay with that.

I like the notion of stocking our development system with 4 players out of the top 44 in a deep draft.  Something good ought to come out of that.  But there is more in play here.  This draft, as constructed now, is about a future core of players.  Guys that will show up in the next 2-4 years to help the big club.

Our team finished the year strong.  But the goal tender, now Vezina Trophy Winner, is not signed.  It's a process, and Bobrovsky's agent is taking advantage of that leverage, so the process has a ways to go yet.   Bob might win the Vezina again next year, but it unlikely.  There are other fine candidates on better teams that will be in the hunt next year, and that is an award that doesn't see a lot of repeats.  It happens, but it hasn't happened much recently.  A pragmatic sort of person would expect to see his numbers dip some.

Which brings me back to Porty's article about Jarmo.  We are under the new salary cap by quite a bit, about $18 million according to CapGeek.  That puts us in the third of the league with the most cap space.  And we have current needs, no doubt about that.  As Morgan has often wondered aloud, where is the scoring going to come from next year? And I think that Jarmo and JD have a lot more on their mind than just stocking the farm system.

I'm not happy that they are not talking with Vinny yet.  I think you need him no matter what.  But I understand where they are coming from, they want to see where they are standing come free agency before signing him.  That's the smart way to do it, but it's unsettling for this fan.  Which in a way is good, because if I'm unsettled, the opposition is in the same boat, and I think THAT is a good thing.

So its going to be an anxious week to see what befalls the roster.  There could be quite a bit of change.  We'll see where that takes us.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bob wins Vezina

Vezina Trophy Winner Sergei Bobrovsky
Mickelson leads the US Open in Philadelphia, but the Vezina Trophy winner no longer plays there.  For two three draft picks Scott Howson acquired Sergei Bobrovsky, in the summer of 2012, who today deservedly won the Vezina Trophy as the goal tender of the year in the NHL.  Bedecked in a really spiffy suit, Bob did the award interviews through an interpreter, as his English won't support a national TV interview.

Please accept the heartiest congratulations from this season ticket holder and ardent fan.  Well done Bob, well done indeed.  You reflect great credit on the Blue Jackets organization and our fair City.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The one question whose answer tells us if the Coyotes are moving

So let me get this straight about the Phoenix Coyotes:

1. General manager Don Maloney re-ups for a "long-term" on May 24th.

2. Assistant GM Brad Treliving re-ups for a "multi-year" term today.

3. The NHL is making noises (once again) about time running out on the Yotes in Glendale if the team isn't sold ASAP.  The potential moving destination is Seattle, Washington (whose arena, contrary to the THN column, DOES have the ability to make ice - hence the hockey seating chart).

So are the Coyotes moving or not?

The Dark Blue Podcast - 2013 Season Wrapup (Part Three)

If you recall, Morgan, Mike and I took over the DKM Hockey Podcast studios for an evening to kick back and try to process the madness that was the 2013 Columbus Blue Jackets season.

At long last...our final segment looks ahead to the offseason ahead.  Tough decisions loom for the firm of Priest, Davidson and Kekalainen, and we share what limited wisdom we can offer.  Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It's Time to Start Getting Ready for the Penguins Jarmo

There is no substitute for veteran leadership
Last night we saw the final dismantling of the Pittsburgh Penguins by the Boston Bruins.  The Pens, in the words of Mike Milbury, were the 'prohibitive favorite to win the Cup' and were swept by Boston, 4 games to none.  The NBC Sports color analysts were unanimous that there would be a coaching change in Pittsburgh in the wake of the debacle.    So things will be different in Pittsburgh next year, and they will still be loaded with offensive talent.

And, as I have watched these playoffs unfold I have never felt, as I have in past years, that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be out of place in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  If they are playing the style of hockey next year that they played down the stretch, they are going to be in the conversation.  How did Boston sweep the Penguins?  I think they outworked them.  They beat them to loose pucks relentlessly, and checked like demons.  Sound familiar?  Boston has also showed a great deal of resiliency under duress in the playoffs, the hallmark of solid team leadership.  Much like the CBJ showed down the stretch.  Much like the Penguins didn't exhibit in the conference championship.

Adrian Aucoin, you need leadership on the
back end as well.
What were the ingredients of the CBJ's stretch run, things that they will need in ample supply next year in the eastern conference?  A relentless work ethic and a 'never say die' attitude.  These pieces have their foundation in the veteran leadership in the locker room. And Vinny Prospal is the ring leader and wellspring of these attitudes in the locker room.  The teams leading scorer, Vinny is obviously not done in the NHL.  It's time to get him signed to a new contract Jarmo.  I know you have been focusing on the draft.  I know we need to sign Bob.  Vinny's contract should be easier.

Prospal is the guy who knows how to have fun, but also knows how that you have to work hard, and then work harder.  He sets that example on a day to day basis, which is a critical example for our young players.  They are not ready to do it without him.  It's time to get this foundation piece in place Jarmo.  Its time to sign our leading scorer.

Adrian Aucoin, by all accounts, was a crucial leader on the back end.  Where are you going to put Murray's locker stall?  Next to Aucoin.  The back end may be crowded, but Aucoin will miss enough games due to injury to give the young 'uns a chance to play.  But they will need to him to help navigate the NHL as young players.

These are two, easy, one year contracts to preserve the veteran leadership in the locker room.  As much as the Penguins were loaded for a Cup run, this is one ingredient they were lacking.  The CBJ do not have the talent margin to enjoy that luxury.  It's time Jarmo.  Let's get this done.