Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

Boone Jenner
Editors note: Murray and Jenner both made the team after I posted this.  
The preseason games are complete, and a little more than a week remains in training camp for the bumps and bruises to heal, and for Todd Richards to get his lines straightened out.  Then the CBJ will launch into their inaugural season in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference.  I have been to the home preseason games, and watched them when possible on the road.  And we've kind of seen it all in terms of what lies ahead for the team this year.

It seems clear that the team is not at the emotional level it was at the end of the year last year.  That is to be expected, and they will need to start building that level as the regular season commences.  As far as the preseason, we saw games where they played very well, games where they didn't play well and were deservedly beaten, games they didn't play well and won, and games where they hung on, but lost late.  And I think this is a reflection of the kind of things we will see once the regular season gets started.  If they can balance the games that they play well and win, with those that they play poorly, the should be able to hang in at about a .500 pace.  They don't need to roar out of the box, but they need to keep pace with the league.  It would be ideal to take advantage of the Calgary game, and start the season on a winning note.  While I like to discount Calgary, I suspect it won't be that easy, and they are likely to play this year with a chip on their shoulder.

I think I will like the addition of Boone Jenner to the team.  He seems to have made the squad with a very good performance in training camp.  Now he needs to bring that on a consistent basis.  Which will work okay until about December.  The pace of play elevates at various points in the season, December, January, the Olympic Break, and the trade deadline.  That is roughly 4 or 5 times this year that Jenner will need to elevate his play from what he has done previously.  That will be a challenge for him.

Ryan Murray
Fortunately Bobrovsky looks ready to go.  He impressed me as being pretty solid during training camp.  I thought our defense wasn't as solid as I would like to see.  However, it looks like we'll have rookie back on D, because it seems sure that Ryan Murray has made the team along with Jenner.  Murray has a great deal of upside, and he seemed like a good pairing with Wisniewski during the exhibition season.  He has the speed and defensive awareness to cover for some of Wiz's crazier moments, and it may be a very good pairing for the CBJ.

A long rugged road awaits the Blue Jackets in the Metro conference.  Unlike my wildly optimistic preseason prediction, training camp seems to have shown us a team that is going to be pretty middle of the road.  Pray for a healthy Bobrovsky folks.  We're going to need him.  But no matter what, I think this is going to be a really fun year, and I look forward with eager anticipation for the season to start.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Debate over "The Goal" ended - No Goal

We here at the Dark Blue Jacket aren't reporters.  We're bloggers.  We don't break news or pretend to walk the CBJ beat.  But every now and again we are prone to investigative reporting.  In the following blog post you will find one of the finest pieces of investigative reporting I have ever done. 

The date was January 18th, 2013.  The location was Elizabeth Lake near Waterford, MI.  The event was a very competitive and beer soaked game of W-H-O-R-E-S on the frozen waters of this illustrious lake between 3 two-men teams.  Myself and Joe Reader were in command of the game flawlessly executing every trick shot thrown our way.  Sam Beckman and Craig Rohrenbeck had "W" and were doing well.  Already having W-H-O and desperately needing to convert on a 'Gretzky-Curl' trick shot in order to avoid further humiliation, John Kemp and Art Rohrenbeck attempt to complete this rudimentary shot.  Typically, you make or you miss these shots by a mile.  And when it came time for John and Art to complete their shot, we were left with nothing but questions.  After a loud clang and finding the puck laying on the ice outside the goal, the five casual observers never observe the puck actually crossing the goal mouth.  Art and John celebrate as if they had just beaten the Soviets.  John is guilty of senseless humping (again).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

DBJ Season Preview 2013: The Kekalainen Gambit

In case you missed it over at FOX Sports Ohio, I started my season previewing with the suggestion that the Columbus Blue Jackets' placement in the Western Conference, and its hellacious divisional lineup, made it impossible for 1) The CBJ to win much, and 2) The CBJ to get noticed by anyone as a result.  Thus, the CBJ have been largely overlooked and are, I suggest, underestimated by their new Eastern Conference (and Metropolitan Division) foes.

I predict that the Blue Jackets will most likely be a bubble team when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.  If they get in by a hair, I won't be surprised.  If the miss the playoffs by a hair, I won't be surprised.  I will be surprised if they dominate their new schedule, just as I will be surprised if they engage in another round of Greatest Tank Battles.

Jarmo's big gamble had best pay off,
or we're going to be agonizing over evenings of
Creepy Huntington Bank Ad Guy with no payoff at the end.
That prediction presumes that everything, more or less goes right in Columbus this season.  By that, I mean that the team avoids catastrophic injuries, that coaching stays competent and that players continue to develop as NHL players do on a career continuum.  Keep in mind, this is Columbus...and those things are not to be taken for granted.

Beyond the standard caveats, I have one more huge "IF" to toss into the ring - one that I do not think has been discussed previously.  That is what I call The Kekalainen Gambit...and it must pay off in order for the team to achieve any degree of success this season.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wherein I try to rationalize the Jared Boll re-signing

Jared Boll signed a new contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  It is reportedly a three-year deal worth $5.1 million, taking Boll through to the 2016-17 season.  The Blue Jackets will carry a $1.7 million cap hit for Boll.

Proof that Jared Boll will do anything for the team and its fans
(Instagram photo by seanworthman)
That the Blue Jackets re-signed Boll is not incredibly surprising.  He's a fourth liner's fourth liner, working hard when he's on the ice.  He's popular with the fan base and will pretty much do whatever the team asks on the PR side ("Jared, can you sign some autographs at the team event?"  "Sure!").

And he fights.

Boll is not a scorer.  His top scoring season was 2010-11, when he dropped seven goals in.  The past three seasons, Boll has had two goals apiece.

He's a fighter.  Really.  Off-ice contributions aside, he's a fighter.

DBJ Season Preview 2013: I Don't Hate the East...Yet

For 12 seasons the Blue Jackets called the Western Conference home. For myself, prior to the Jackets arrival in Columbus, I was a Blackhawks fan. So something very new is about to happen to me and a lot of my fellow Jacket fans...we have to work up some good bile against teams in the Eastern Conference.

No more unfriendly banter with Preds fans on twitter. No more teaching Blews fans how to properly spell Blews. No more asking Chicago fans where they were prior to 2010. It's on to a whole new batch of people to quietly annoy.

Our record since entering the league means nobody out there actually hates our team. Our one trip to the playoffs we were basically a welcome mat for sending the Wings to the second round, so we don't have any great playoff struggles to build up a good rivalry. That leaves us with taking the tack of a little brother, and try to irk people as best we (Tom fired the first shot with this little gem, it doesn't seem like it'll be too hard to get Pens fans undies in a bunch.)

As luck would have it the Wings are coming East with us, so no need to learn anything new on how to hate the Wings. The aforementioned welcome mat, numerous invasions of Nationwide, the whole Ohio-Michigan thing, we've got the Wings covered.

What about everybody else? As the season progresses I'll preview our first game against each of our new conference mates with reasons we should, can, and will hate them. For now, a one timer for each team just to get warmed up. Atlantic Division first...
  • Boston: Jeremy Jacobs and his lockout. Boooooooo Boston!!
  • Buffalo: Have you BEEN to Buffalo? Hate 'em...
  • Detroit: Red Wing aversion has been well established. Continue to hate them at your leisure.
  • Florida: They should have never fired Doug MacLean. He should still be working there, and we'd have hired somebody, ANYBODY else back in '98. Curse you Florida!
  • Montreal: Les Habitants and all their history and all those Cups...pure evil.
  • Ottawa: They don't know who Bobby Ryan, American, is?! They hate America, we shall hate them.
  • Tampa Bay: Their GM is a former Red Wing, we don't like the Wings, how can we like a former Wing? Die, Bolts, die!!
  • Toronto: Over-covered, over-hyped, and over-rated. Let the Leaf loathing begin.

Now on to our Metropolitan division brethren
  • Carolina: Peter Karmanos almost single handedly wrecked the NHL in Columbus back in April of '97. We'll cover that later, for now just know you must hate the Canes.
  • New Jersey: Recent past, Marty beat out Bob for the NHL '14 cover vote. Stupid Devils and their Internet voting fans!
  • Islanders: This might be tougher than the two Florida teams, they've been as bad as we have this whole time. It's hard to hate them, most people spend all their time making fun of them. That's it! They get made fun of more than us...SCREW YOU, ISLES!!
  • Rangers: Awwww, the Rangers. Everybody around here seems to think, "They have all these ex-Jackets, I want those nice boys to win." WRONG!! They should be despised like every other team in the East, probably more.
  • Philadelphia: Two words: Jeff Carter. Won't even be a challenge working up some good anger for the Phlyers.
  • Pittsburgh: [This comment removed for fear of upsetting a delicate Pens fan.]
  • Washington: Ovechkin's first two NHL goals came against who? Your Columbus Blue Jackets. Have had no use for Washington ever since.
That should get you started on despising every team in the Leastern Conference...some habits die hard...I mean the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

DBJ Season Preview 2013: One goal - Playoffs


Here we are Blue Jackets fans, standing before the chasm of a new season.  Remember how good the end of last season felt?  The team was regularly competitive and had a chance until the very end to make the playoffs.  Every game mattered.  That should forever be your minimum threshold of expectations for this team.  You shouldn’t turn into insta-trolls if the team doesn’t make the playoffs, but the very minimum you should expect from this team is that all 82 games matter.  The time of treating the team like a bunch of mini-mites stomping around the ice in their Timbits jerseys is done, it's over.  Being regularly competitive has been my expectation for this team since day one.  And more times than not it has been a constant disappointment since 2005.  Too many times have April (and March) Blue Jackets games been meaningless.  However, there is hope.  There is so much hope that I comfortably have the Jackets making the playoffs by virtue of an Eastern Conference Wild Card. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Satire 1, Pens 0

...or, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Blog Post.

Yesterday one of the strangest - and silliest - days that I've had in DBJ blog-land in a long while.


It started with this post.  In writing it, my intent was to write something in keeping with the #DefendNWA motif that's been sweeping the Columbus Blue Jackets blog community since the team fired up the single-game ticket marketing machine.  Of course, I wanted a DBJ post on the matter to be different.  Covering "#DefendNWA" as a genuine news item is intellectually lazy.  Giving stuff away to people who buy tickets...well...we don't have anything to give away. All we have is the Dark Blue Twins' leftover formula from their 4PM feeding, and that's not particularly appealing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

DBJ Season Preview 2013: Four Writers, Four Previews

One of the great things about this blog is that it's a place where opinions are not only accepted but encouraged.  I love that Gallos has his own perspective, that Morgan has his and that I have mine.  Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't.  We respect each others' opinions, though, because (for the most part) our opinions are well thought out and our words are measured and not inflammatory.

What does that have to do with season preview time at the DBJ blog?  Everything.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

BREAKING: Blue Jackets pull single-game Penguins tickets off the market

In a surprise change in club policy, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced at Sunday’s Fan Fest that they will not be selling any single game tickets to their National Hockey League games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Single game tickets that have already been sold will be refunded at a date to be determined in 2018, and only CBJ ticket package holders will be allowed in the arena for the games.

While the move the eastern conference helps the struggling team to establish local rivalries and eliminate some of those pesky 10pm start times, the league essentially gift wrapped three more home games for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The decision was announced by majority owner John P. McConnell.  McConnell cited a number of factors in choosing to go this route.

"Our original thought was to limit ticket sales only to those folks who are residents of the State of Ohio," McConnell said.  "This is assuming that only Ohioians are Blue Jackets fans and all squares are rectangles.  Sorry Covington, KY - your time will come.  Then, thanks to a little sleuthing by the Jumbo-tron intern Steve Galazkiewicz, the ownership group realized why a city like Canton, OH has no NHL broadcast rights to the Blue Jackets.  That’s because eight counties in Ohio belong to the broadcast exclusivity of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  That means there are Penguins fans in Ohio!"

The PatrickPlus: You Will Never Find a More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy. We Must be Cautious.

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s words to young Skywalker never rang more true.  Our beloved Columbus Blue Jackets wade into cesspool of fan entitlement, storied franchises, and some pretty darn good hockey players as they begin play in the Eastern Conference in the 2013-14 NHL season.  Forged in the crucible of the Central Division of the Western Conference, the CBJ now come into the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference, also affectionately known as the PatrickPlus.  The Metro Division consists of the old Patrick Division, which ran from 1982-93, plus the Blue Jackets and the former Hartford Whalers in the guise of the Carolina Hurricanes. 

If ever there was a team flying below the radar, it is the CBJ this year.  With no cross over play between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference in the strike shortened 2012-13 season, our Metro Division foes simply don’t know what to expect from the CBJ.  And frankly, even though a devout fan of the team, I am not far behind them.  As a fan I am extraordinarily pleased by the teams determined run at the playoffs at the end of the 2012-13 season, and I feel Bobrovsky’s Vezina Trophy was well deserved.  But the magic of that run is not automatically recreated, and must be formed anew this year.  The lack of proven scoring is a huge concern until Nathan Horton returns around Christmas.