Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rumbling in the Gut

Alex Wennberg, last night's shoot out winner
This week there has been some rumbling down in the bowls of the NHL standings, with the Blue Jackets riding a 3 game win streak all of a sudden.  It hasn't been pretty, but they are showing a lot of pretty dogged 'never say die' attitude, which is good for this time of year.  And the Jackets are starting to look a bit like the class of the tournament of the damned, winning against Carolina and Edmonton sandwiched around a very solid game against the Redwings.

Last night's game was a feast of the yin and yang of a good team that is lower in the standings than it should be.  I'm not saying their lowly status was not earned, it was, but that I think they are better than that.  So you want them to lose to improve their draft position, but you want them to win because its a ton more fun than losing.  As you may have noticed, I have been all over the map on that issue lately. The notion that we could sink low enough to get a really good player is enticing, but at this point, I think, unrealistic.  But when that puck bounced crazy off the boards last night, and Edmonton tied the game I thought, boy if we could lose this one...

However, I do think that window is closing.  It looks like we are locking into the 6-7 range of picks overall, and not much is going to change that.  So we might as well win to make it fun.  We're heading out west later this week, and those trips haven't always gone well for us, so things will even up.  We'll see.  Got Carolina coming into town tomorrow in the next round of the tournament, and I just can't see any gain in losing to them.  I don't think we could sink down to their level in the standings.

Gosh, I hope you are having as much fun as I am watching that Hartnell, Wennberg, Dano line play.  Richie was dumping Wennberg out on the ice for critical faceoffs down the stretch in last night's game, which is fantastic.  Here's why.  In developing a young player, there is always the quandary for whether to keep them in the AHL and play big minutes in responsible positions, or to play fewer minutes, perhaps not in your ideal spot in the more difficult NHL.  Wennberg started out the year somewhat lost, playing wing instead of center (not ideal), with fairly low minutes in third line duty.  That's not where you would project him.  Now he is playing big minutes at center in a top six type role towards the end of the year.  That experience is huge for him going forward, as he is gaining experience in the proper role.  So one of the huge benefits of all the man games lost in this crazy season is that it has probably advanced Alex Wennberg's development by a year.  He is now playing in the situations that you would want him to play in the AHL, but he's doing it at the big dance.

The whole way the Hartnell trade went down is kind of surreal.  But boy am I glad to have that guy on our team.  A nice 20 goals season, the big cat still has it, and it looks like he's having a lot of fun playing with those crazy rookies.  Marko Dano has been playing really well, and that's been a lot of fun.  It got started last night, the Marko........Dano echoing through the crowd, the play on the old kid's game, Marco Polo.  It was very subtle, but it is not hard to project to a playoff atmosphere, which will be fun, and really crazy.  I can't wait.

The young talent is starting to get the job done.  There is a lot more good young talent in the pipeline, which will continue to push the situation.  And we get to reload the system this year.  There's a possibility that we won't see a system talent reload like this for many years to come.  Even though this is a lost season, I do think that the organization, and the players on the ice, continue to move forward.



  1. I think John Davidson once said and I'm paraphrasing,"it's fools gold to judge a team in the Jackets position by the way they play the last twenty games." So what if we get hot and go on a win streak, it means nothing. We could still get the fourth overall plus have a better chance of moving up in the lottery if we just stopped this winning nonsense and tanked the rest of the season.

    1. Boy a part of my agrees whole heartedly, a part of me doesn't. I read an interesting article by Dave Lozo where he said that it was not in the best interest of all but a few teams (Buffalo, Arizona) to tank, because more than anything you wanted to build a winning culture. His article influenced my thought on this alot. If we strike gold, we strike gold. We will still get a very good player, the difference between the first four players and the next four players is if they are 'NHL ready'. So the price we pay for winning some games down the stretch is a player who goes into our development system rather than a player who will show up next year. It would be very difficult at this point to lose to where we could get that fourth overall pick, as there is nothing to suggest that those below us won't keep losing. And, as a season ticket holder, I have this perverse notion that hockey games should be fun to watch. It's shallow of me, I know, but there it is.

    2. I meant to continue, but got distracted, and hit the publish button. Look at Edmonton. Three first overall picks in 3 consecutive years! And they are a steaming hot mess, with nothing to suggest that they will eventually emerge from this cycle. Maybe they will, look at the Islanders, they have finally emerged from a decade or so of not being so good.

      I guess my point is that the winning culture is so hard to cultivate, and so hard to maintain, that it is important that you not spend that down just to move up a couple of places on the board in a given draft. There is going to be a good player available where we pick, it's just not quite as clear as to who it might be. I think Jarmo thinks the second round is full of future NHL players. We can still benefit highly from our poor performance this year. Our benefit would be maximized if we hit the McLottery, but we had a 20% chance of winning a few years ago and didn't. So why worry about the odds?

      Anyway, thanks for commenting. I always enjoy hearing what other folks think!