Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Interesting Observation: 3rd Periods

We now have a 10 game sample to examine the Blue Jackets performance. While the advanced stats continue to get more advanced, one thing holds true - goals against.  Despite the Blue Jackets losing, they were still scoring goals.  This was a positive sign, however something was wrong with the defense, and something was wrong with the goalie leading to a lot of pucks in the net. What's even more fascinating is the timing of when the goals were allowed.

It's a little early to be comparing the 7-game sample of Coach Richards with the 3-game sample of Coach Tortorella, but one thing has definitely stood out for me and that is the 3rd period. If one were to buy into the notion that most people are as lazy as they can get away with, then the 3rd period is when tired legs start to lead to goals against if not held properly accountable.

Many believe that Coach Tortorella is able to demand more out of players, and to get them to play to at a high level even while fatigued. So while the men in Union Blue allowed an average of over 2.5 goals per 3rd period under Richards, they have only surrendered 1 goal under Tortorella in the 3rd. The one that they did allow was near the end of the game with a 3 goal lead.

We shouldnt forget that it's only been 3 games. So while John Tortorella is currently the winningest coach in Blue Jackets history, let's not erect a Broze statue outside of Tim Horton's just yet. It's just an interesting observation, and something I'll enjoy watching unfold as the season goes on.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Knock You Down, I Take Your Puck, and I Score a Goal

Scott Hartnell checks lead to goals 2 and 3.
This was a game Ken Hitchcock would have loved.  Lots of texture.  It wasn't a 'hitting' game, with wild, big hits, but it was a very physical checking game.  In stark contrast to the first 7 games, the Blue Jackets resolutely refused to give New Jersey time and space, in spite of what Coach Tortorella described as 'heavy legs' in his post game interview.

The Blue Jackets were explosive tonight when they finally found a crack in the Devils' armor, and they did it by maintaining a high level of physical play.  This, my friends, is what Blue Jackets hockey looks like.  I'm happy for the team that they can find this.  Over the last two years this team has shown a tendency to be streaky.  All Tortorella needs to do is rein in the losing streaks, and these guys will be okay.

Two big road wins, as the team gathers itself after a very rough start.  I highly recommend you seek out and watch Coach Tortorella's press conference, as it is informative and entertaining.  I would think the CBJ would have it posted soon.  Anyhow, the coach takes the blame for the heavy legs and credits the team for battling through it.  The team certainly battled, but whether the legs were because of the onslaught New Jersey hurled at the players or because of the coach remains to be debated.  New Jersey was the home team, with a four game winning streak.  I thought they had a lot to say about the play, especially in the first half of the first period.  But the Jackets just pinned their ears back, and battled, and I think you really have to like that.

In spite of a raging text message debate as to whether the Jackets would break 10 shots, they established their forecheck in the third period, and finally cracked a darn good New Jersey defense for a goal with 9:03 gone in the third, when Boone Jenner jumps a rebound and pumps it home past Schneider, with assists to Clarkson and Campbell.  Thirty seconds later Scott Hartnell lays a solid and effective check behind the net, the puck comes out to Dubinsky, who finds Atkinson crashing the net, and in 35 seconds the Jackets suddenly lead 2-0.

Five minutes later, New Jersey swings the puck from behind their net out to the half-wall, and Scott Hartnell knocks down the New Jersey player, skates away with the puck, then scores on Schneider all in one play to give the Jackets a 3-0 lead.

With 2:28 remaining, the Jackets make a tentative line change on the penalty kill, and with their goalie pulled, New Jersey scores on the 6 on 4.  But that was the end of the heroics, and the Jackets took away a hard fought 3-1 win.

Bobrovsky made one really unbelievable play, and several other really solid stops, that will help him to settle down and be Bob the rest of the way.

Tortorella has the whole team playing better, and I think he's just getting started.  Cool stuff.

Two game winning streak.  Make it an 8 game streak, and put us back in this thing, eh?


Monday, October 26, 2015

The Dark Blue Jacket's Definitive History of the CBJ, Part XI: A Requiem for Richards

Head Coach Todd Richards
It is fitting that Todd Richards's name be mentioned in the titles of this history; he is the winningest Coach in Blue Jackets history in terms of Blue Jackets games won, and represents an era in Blue Jackets hockey history.  My perception from my seat in the upper bowl is that Richards was responsible for stabilizing a situation where a hockey club was on the rocks, getting things turned around and taking the club to the highest heights it has ever seen.  With the inexorable spiral of a Greek tragedy the whole thing fell apart swallowed by a wave of injuries and expectations.

As of this writing, the Blue Jackets are the proud possessors of the most awful start since World War II, and are yet to win in the 2015-16 NHL season. Editor's note: They finally won!  Todd Richards has been relieved of his coaching duties, to be replaced by John Tortorella.  How did this come about?

CBJ M.A.S.H. Unit

 I last left this space in a state of exultation over the playoff performance of the 2013-14 CBJ, and how far we have come.  The offseason after the playoffs started strangely, with RJ Umberger asking to be traded.  Given the decline in his play, it seemed at the time that the CBJ might buy him out, but Jarmo Kekalainen pulled off an interesting trade when Philadelphia decided to move Scott Hartnell in spite of his no move clause.  So far this trade has tilted in the CBJ’s favor.  Sonny Milano was drafted, to further build the pipeline, along with Ryan Collins, Elvis Merzlikens, Blake Sibenaler, Julian Pelletier, Tyler Bird, and Olivier LeBlanc.  Blake Comeau and Derek MacKenzie were allowed to walk, and the shock waves of the loss of the latter still reverberate through the organization.  Brian Gibbons was signed as a free agent, and Jack Skille was picked up off waivers after signing with the Islanders.

Summer progresses, Cannonfest moves to Strongwater, and then some ugly news starts circulating about the condition of Nathan Horton’s back.  On top of that, Ryan Murray’s surgically repaired knee is not at all responding to therapy, soon the CBJ groin shredding factory would open for business.   The hits just kept coming in terms of injury news, and during the course of the season both Boone Jenner and Sergei Bobrovsky would suffer a broken hand by being struck by a puck in practice.  By the end of the 2014-15 season the Blue Jackets had lost a stunning total of 508 man games to injury, which is basically having 6 players out of a 23 man roster injured for every single game.

However the overriding issue as training camp approached was the fact that Ryan Johansen had not signed a contract for the 2014-2015 season.  This issue loomed over training camp like a cloud until October 6, when Johansen agreed to a 3 year contract.  The puck finally dropped on the 2014-15 season, and while the Jackets started out okay, the tide of injuries just kept riding.  By the end of October we had a first line, and a fourth line, and everything in between was a mess. 

October ended and the CBJ had a record of 4 wins – 6 losses – 0 overtime losses and a decimated squad with a backup goaltender preparing to face the November schedule.  It was in these dire times that one of Todd Richards’s best attributes shone through, the ability to maintain an even keel in spite of all the adversity.  At several times during the season this attribute was tested, as an inconsistent and beat up hockey club ripped off several impressive winning and losing streaks.  Richards’s ability to maintain an even keel, through winning and losing, allowed the players to gather themselves when the chips were down, and slowly turn things around.  These streaks reached a crescendo at the end of the season, when a finally healthy hockey club ripped off a torrid 16-2-1 stretch to end the season with a confidence formed of team self discovery cushioned by Richards’s calm demeanor.

As it so often happens, a strength can be a weakness as well, and faced with an inexplicable 0-7-0 start to the 2015-16 season, Richards was unable to generate the push on the players in response to the emergency because it was contrary to his nature.  In retrospect we will probably trivialize the nature of the emergency as a mere 8 games (~10%) in an 82 game season, but it appears that heroic efforts are in order for the rest of the way to sniff the playoffs.  In that regard, to the fans, it appears to be another season down the tubes 8 games into it (the new coach lost one of the games).  I’m not saying how this will end, but anyone who wanted to make the case that we were already out of the playoffs would have a pretty good argument.  So at this point in time, this particular 7 game losing streak (ultimately 8) assumed franchise rattling proportions.  Since Todd’s nature is to maintain an even keel in these times, it became apparent that another direction was needed, as rather than responding to the long leash, the team became more dysfunctional. 

It bears repeating that during that 7 game losing streak, Richards had two (2) practices to try to right the ship, while losing to a Toronto team that had 7 days off before they played the CBJ, and a Minnesota team that had a game every 4 days to start this season.  However, you can’t have a good Greek tragedy without some weird circumstance intervening to amp up the pressure, and the NHL schedule makers did their part. 

Todd Richards leaves the CBJ as the winningest CBJ coach in franchise history.  He finishes with a CBJ record of 127-112-21 after serving has head coach from January 9, 2012 until October 20, 2015.  He has recorded the only two playoff wins by a Blue Jackets head coach, but was dogged by slow starts in every one of the years he coached.  Blue Jackets hockey is not easy to play, and it is difficult to instantly ramp up from training camp, where you don’t want to play that way for fear of injury, to regular season form.  Indeed, his teams seemed to need their back against the wall before they could really play the way they needed to experience success. 

Todd Richards was the coach this franchise needed when he was hired.  He stabilized play, and got the team to be more defensively accountable.  He laid the foundation for future teams, and it is hoped that success will flow from this foundation.  It will be interesting to see where he lands after this, as I don’t believe he is done coaching by any stretch of the imagination.

2014-15 Summary

As noted above, October and the regular season started slowly, and went downhill from there with the injury news.  After starting October 4-2-0, the injury machine got rolling, and the CBJ lost the next 9 games after Bobrovsky went down with a broken hand and McElhinney came back too quickly after a concussion.  By the end of October, their record had sunk to 4-6-0 with more losing on the agenda.  Veterans Day rolled around in November, with a November record to that point of 0-4-1.  With 2 wins to mark the middle of the month, the CBJ proceeded to lose the next 6 games, to finish November 2-9-2 for an overall record of 6-15-2.

December rolled around, and the pendulum slowly swung back the other way.  December started with a win, a shootout win, another win, 2 overtime wins, and 2 shootout wins before an overtime loss ended their winning streak, but kept the point streak alive.  The Jackets ended December with a 10-2-1 record and an overall record of .500 at 16-16-3 at the end of the year.

January was mostly back and forth, win a few, lose a few, but with a 4 game losing streak tucked into the middle of it, all against Eastern Conference teams, and ended up January with a 5-8 record, losing ground on a .500 pace.  This left them 21-24-3 at the end of January.  February saw them continuing the trend of win a game or two, lose a game or two, until they ended up the month in the midst of a 5 game losing skid.  February’s record was 5-7-1, with an overall record of 26-31-4, losing ground on a .500 pace.

March rolled around, and the team began to get healthy, and began to play at a torrid pace.  Finishing off the 5 game skid in early March, the team went 11-2-0 the rest of the way in March, for an overall record for March of 12-3-0, climbing above .500 by the end of the month with a 37-35-4 record for the season to date.

In April, the team continued to play strong hockey, and finished 5-0-1 for the month of April.  The team’s overall record for the 2014-15 season was 42-35-5, good for 89 points, a very respectable showing by this franchise’s standards, but short of the point total necessary to make the playoffs. 

Beginning March 6, the CBJ ended the season on a 16-2-1 run, which is good hockey anywhere.  Unfortunately, this was counterbalanced by the 2-13-2 run from October 24 to November 29, which effectively put the playoffs out of reach. 

2014-15 Accomplishments

Nick Foligno lead all scorers for the year, with an amazing 31 goals-42 Assists-73 Points, with Ryan Johansen following close behind with 26-45-71, but Scott Hartnell finishing second in goals with 28.  The team had four 20 goal scorers, Foligno, Hartnell, Johansen and Atkinson.

Nick Foligno joined the ranks of CBJ 30 goal scorers, joining Ryan Johansen, Rick Nash, and Geoff Sanderson.  He also joined the ranks of 70 point scorers, with Ryan Johansen, Rick Nash, and Ray Whitney. 

Cam Atkinson turned in back to back 20 goal seasons, and Jack Johnson had a 40 point season, good for 3rd all time among CBJ defensemen.   Scott Hartnell was a huge success in his first year in the Union Blue, going 28-32-60, and more importantly showing real chemistry with Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano down the stretch. 

Sergei Bobrovsky, once healthy, became the first CBJ goal tender to record back to back 30 win seasons.  He went 30 wins – 17 losses – 3 SOL and recorded a 2.69 goals against average (GAA) and a save percentage of .918.

The most amazing non-accomplishment of the year was the total of 508 games lost to injury during the year, a franchise record. 

Major personnel moves were the trading of Nathan Horton and his uninsured contract to the Toronto Maple Leafs for David Clarkson, and the trading of fan favorite James Wisniewski to Anaheim for Rene Bourque and William ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson, a player who plays a game very similar to Alexander Wennberg. 

With their middling position in a deep draft, the CBJ drafted Zach Werenski, a promising young defenseman, and continued to add defensive depth through the draft.  But the block buster trade of the offseason was the acquisition of Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks for Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano.  Saad, only 22 years old already has two Stanley Cup rings, though the price was high, as Dano had shown much promise.  There were other parts to the trade, but I have gone on long enough. Editors note:  Yes, there was an All-Star Game.  I will produce and addendum regarding that event.

As a final ending to this period, during the off season Nick Foligno was named Captain to the CBJ for the 2015-16 season end beyond.

So ends Todd Richard’s role in this history, and the John Tortorella era has begun.  It should be interesting to see where this leads.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Brave New World - Briefly

Work night tonight, so need to be brief.  Same result, different vibe.  Totally different vibe.  Let's just say this, the game wasn't over with 10 minutes left.  First time this year.  They pressed and attacked to the end, they forechecked better than ever, and finally, finally, played some Blue Jackets hockey.  Wins will come.

A fascinating 24 hours.  The next 24 should be mellower, as the team tries to get a stride.  Travel and then an off day.  Let some dust settle, and get ready to get after the Avalanche.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Now.  Glance both ways for observers.  None?  Ok, admit it.  It was fun.  They finally skated hard to the end of the game trying to win one.  Dubi, Saad, Foligno line looked like a load to deal with.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I Wonder How This Town Will Treat A Firey, Pugnacious Coach if He Wins???

John Tortorella Goes Down the Hall to the Calgary Dressing Room...
Today the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that John Tortorella was taking over the job as the head coach.  Todd Richards was relieved of his duties last night after the team stumbled to an 0-7 start for the 2015-16 season.

Tortorella has a history of combative interactions with members of the media, but has won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with Tampa, and took the Rangers to the Eastern Conference finals.  Tortorella is a solid, winning coach, with a contrasting style to that of Richards, and comes in at a time when a change is needed.

My buddy Bill described Tortorella as Woody Hayes on steroids, which is quite funny, but perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.  I would suggest that John has some shared characteristics with Woody, in that he apparently does not suffer fools gladly.  He does not appear to be the type to back down from a challenge, and appears to have a blazing competitive spirit.  These attributes may contrast with Coach Richards approach, but are merely different ways of going about the same job.  In the end, Tortorella is a veteran, successful coach, and I think he will find that this team is a good fit to the way he likes to see hockey played.  I did not feel that way about Vancouver's personnel when he went to be Coach there.  Tortorella is far, far from a square peg in a round hole here, and I think the personnel and the coach will adapt to each other rather quickly.

In my opinion, this is a very important coaching job for Tortorella, and I think he is going to give it a very good shot.  Things got cross wise from the start at his last job in Vancouver, and it didn't end well.  I think he needs to have a good outcome here.  Goodness knows I'd love for him to have a good outcome here.  And honestly, I think Tortorella brings something that is not found elsewhere in the Blue Jackets organization, and in that way complements a lot of pieces that are already in place.

I got a chance to listen to Jody Shelly over on 97.1 the fan on their "Inside Edge" show.  Jody has played for Tortorella, and spoke glowingly of how Tortorella was able to be honest about accountability.  I think those are things that are needed right now, as our team tries to fend off the record for 'most ignominious start ever'.  We need a win at Minnesota tomorrow.

If we accomplished no other thing today, we screwed up the other teams 'book' on the CBJ.  Whatever they thought we were, we are something different today with the addition of Tortorella.  There are no guarantees in this business, and you have to play the games and get the results.  I think this will turn out well in the short term.  Ideally, it also works out well in the long term.

Congratulations Coach Tortorella, and good luck!

We wish you the best in all things Coach Richards.  I will thank you for your service in a later post.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

CBJ Tie Modern Record for Futility, And...

Egads, Boomer Already!
The CBJ showed tonight signs of what history has shown is the way this club climbs out of these losing streaks; incremental progress.  The CBJ played a sort of tight game for 2 and a half periods before unraveling in the last half of the third.  This is a pattern we have seen before with this club.  They slowly rein it in, and then go on a winning streak.

Games like tonight happen.  They had the puck behind Halak twice, but still the Isles get the shut out.  This type of game happens during the course of a 82 game season.  The problem is the 6 game losing streak that preceded this game, thereby eliminating any cushion they have to endure this type of game.  The problem is the lack of wins that would counter balance such a loss.

Based on this team's history, I'd say we are looking at a couple more losses, maybe only one, before they tilt the ice back their way.  This script has played out for this group before.  On the other hand, these guys thought they were going deep in the playoffs.  There is nothing about their game now that would lead one to believe that this is possible.

0-7 now, tying the 1997-98 Blackhawks for the record for futility.  On the road against Minnesota on Thursday, I don't see any thing in their performance that would lead one to believe that they could beat a good hockey team.  So in all probability, this group is fixing to own the title of most unable to win in modern hockey history.  A distinguished achievement.  It's not even Halloween, and they are putting this season in the tank.  Auston Mathews anyone?  Oh right, he's going to Edmonton.  Duh.  Sorry, lost focus there.

There is some bad mojo going around the club right now.  I don't know what it is.  But if this season is done, I'm warning everyone that I'm going to start indulging in conspiracy theories just to keep things interesting as we watch another season go down the rat hole.  Keep in mind I'm a season ticket holder (#cashonthebarrelhead).  I'm in too deep to back out now.  I will watch the hockey, because I love it.  I will get together with my friends over a beer before the game, because, well, I like that.  But after 10 years of this, I'm going to think twice this March before I do it again.  I thought I would be scrambling to find cash to pay for playoff tickets.  Imagine my relief to have that burden gone, eh?

So here we go again.  I don't see how the coaching staff survives.  I don't see why they should.  Did I mention that Auston Mathews is playing for Marc Crawford, former NHL coach, in Switzerland?  If not, I will.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Taking Stock

Well heck.  The worst has happened.  We know that now.  The big question is, what next?  At this point, more of the same is probably to be expected.  If they appear to be playing 20 minutes each game, I expect over the next few games they will ratchet that up to 40, and then 60 minutes.  That's where they will start winning some games.  At that point we pick up the pieces.

If retaining your sanity is important to you at this point, I recommend this piece written by Jeff Little over on The Cannon.  I think it helps to put things in perspective.  There is an ominous tone to it too, some of which is driven by the situation.  We will learn a lot about how Todd Richards is dealing with this situation on Tuesday.  Tomorrow, Todd Richards will host his second (2nd) practice since the season started.  Contrast that with Toronto that had 5 days off before the Columbus game.  Richards can host a nasty little 'battle practice', where he works on raising the team's competitive fire.  JD can't stare everyone in the eye if you don't have a practice, so the coaches have had to try to right the ship (get on the rails, if you want) on the fly.  Not tons of chances for instructing his young charges in terms of getting the system in place.  On the other hand, the core should need relatively little 'system' time, but the defensive corps could surely use it.

There is no escaping the fact that this team, over the last 4 years had had to touch bottom in 30th place before kicking it into gear.  They have been remarkably efficient at that, hustling to the bottom in the first 6 games, rather than dragging it out over 30 or so.  This leaves them 7 points out of first in the Metro with 76 games left to play.  But they need to start acquiring points pronto, or they will lose track of things.  We will learn more on Tuesday.


Friday, October 16, 2015


The Sign Over Bob's Crease
Tonight the Blue Jackets succumbed to a bad hockey team, and I emphasize the word 'team', the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.  Toronto may not be good, but at least there is sound team play.  One of the alleged attributes of our 'team' is that they are character players, who go hard all the time.  One of the characteristics of the opposing teams we have played so far this year is that they are standing at the edge of the crease, unmolested, taking shots at Bob.

Ryan Johansen needs tossed off the top line.  One of the things that has made him a great player in the past is that he has had Joe Thornton pounding his stick in frustration.  There is no part of that game with Joey right now.  It's glide around the ice and whack at the puck.  I think its possible he's pretty banged up, but still playing.  He skates like I walk, and I'm an old man.  He is not helping this team right now, no matter what is going on.  But it is unfair to pick on Joey like this, the malaise is all through the line up.

One of Todd Richards great strengths is that he can keep an even keel through some pretty crazy times.  He needs to recognize that his job is on the line, and start channeling his inner Mike Keenan.  But what then?  Do you bag skate the team tomorrow, before they play Chicago??  How dumb would that be?  So he is caught between a rock and a hard place.  He has a team that was built to be a tough, physical team, but thinks it's the Edmonton Oilers, where they are going to out skill everyone.  In reality, we need to bring up our ginormous Russian defenseman from the A who at least will have the attribute of hanging around the crease and knocking some people on their a**.  In reality, that's a really stupid statement.  But reality is a relative thing around this hockey team.

Tonight we deepened a franchise record for futility.   This is a Friday night game, early in the season, and already they have crapped on the attendance with their disjointed play.  Honestly, I don't see how Richards survives the weekend, which has stupid written on it in huge capital letters.  But there does not seem to be any urgency in this team's play, and unless Richards decides what players he wants to live or die with, and start benching regulars, it looks like a lost cause.

The only thing that might help this team right now is a down right John Davidson, 'I don't care who you are I can arrange for you to be playing in Peoria by tomorrow night and why in the hell should I have to put up with this crap' stare down of the hockey team.  But what greater sign of dysfunction is hockey operations interfering with how the coach runs the team.  So the only option left is to jettison the coach, which has its own level of dysfunction.  Oy, its making my head hurt.

So let's start with some fundamentals.  If the other guy wants to go to your crease, you need to knock him on his ass.  For the CBJ, the welcome mat is out for territory that should be sacrosanct.  And I promise you that the rest of the NHL does not care if it hurts your feelings that they go in there and score.  The players on this team are supposed to be tough, hard nose players, but they are unable to play that way.  What now?


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cleansing Breath

At least Saad is scoring
I'm still not really sure where to go with this.  The simmering anger of last night has dissipated.  There are things that I would have said last night that shouldn't have been said, mainly because I don't think they would have been correct.  The anger clouds the judgement, and leads to false conclusion.

So where is this going wrong?  I was shocked to see in the stats that they put 41 shots on Anderson.  So some things are going right.  Certainly the first power play unit looks awesome.  But 5 on 5 play is not so good, and the penalty kill is abysmal.

If you look at the Ottawa goals there is one constant.  Time and space.  Blue Jackets hockey is supposed to be tight checking hockey.  That has only been intermittently present during the first 4 games.  The consistency in that area must improve, especially in the defensive zone.  This is a mental thing, I think, and recoverable.  It takes a lot of energy to play that way, and mental toughness, something else that has been absent so far this year.

Which leads to the consistency issue related to slow starts.  If Blue Jackets hockey is mentally and physically taxing to play, it is perhaps foolish to think that you can just flip that switch on, and play it from the drop of the puck in the season.  It also seems that a dip into 30th place is somehow necessary to ignite the urgency that allows the team to jell, and get into its groove.  If previous seasons are any predictor, this is going to come together rather slowly.  At this point if they can jell and be playing good solid Blue Jackets hockey by the end of October, they will be somewhat ahead of schedule.

The way this has worked in the past is a slow pull out of the losing streak.  First keeping a game close.  Then tying a game.  Then winning one, losing one, winning one, and then perhaps a winning streak.  So this is gonna take some time folks.  But as of this morning, there were 8 winless teams in the NHL so far this year, some of which were predicted to go far.  Four of them were are in the Metropolitan Division, so things aren't getting away from us terribly.

Please don't get me wrong on this.  I'm not suggesting that fans should bottle up their frustration or anger, nor am I suggesting that fans should be patient.  Indeed, I think that is some of the back pressure that is necessary to propel this team into 'Blue Jackets Hockey' mode.  So let it flow.  Let people know what you think.  It's OK to expect this team to be much better, and its OK to be angry if it underachieves.  Once the players' anger, frustration, and humiliation about being 30th in the league reaches a certain point, they are going to be difficult to handle.  They aren't there yet, and we don't know how long the journey through the abyss will take.  But this is the pressure that will form the team and the new leadership.

I am not a big fan of booing the players, especially if I think they are in over their heads.  This group is not in over its head.  So I made sure I booed loud and long last night.  Because I am hoping that is part of the pressure necessary to turn this lump of coal of a 2015-16 season into a diamond.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Anger. No need to read this.

I booed the team tonight.  Hard.  Because that was my reaction to their play.  My beloved CBJ.  I've been a season ticket holder since Nickolai Zherdev roamed the friendly confines.  I have seldom seen a more pitiful, disconnected game of hockey, and I've seen some bad ones.  The first lesson is, don't say what I want to say tonight.

So good night my friends.  These are good players, and watching NHL hockey is a fantastically good time. But those times are balanced by the ....  No.  I'm not going to talk about tonight.  I need to think before I type.

I'll check in on a more rational basis later.


Monday, October 12, 2015

These Are Not the Droids We Are Looking For

Hartnall got on the board today.
Displaying an uncanny efficiency, the CBJ dove to 30th in the league today, seemingly a prerequisite to establishing a forecheck within their system.  A team with nothing to lose played a team with everything to lose, and the team with nothing to lose skated looser, and got the job done on the home ice.  Nothing wrong with how Buffalo played today.  Likely they will face more formidable opponents than the discombobulated CBJ as the season goes on, so we'll see how that goes for them. Meanwhile, on the home front the CBJ cannot seem to establish any level of consistent play.

A fundamental of CBJ hockey is establishing a forecheck, where we get the puck behind the other teams net, in order to make their defensemen turn around and play the puck.  So far this has been an optional facet of the CBJ game, as well as the concept of actually hitting the net when you direct the puck towards it (but it is still a CORSI event, so our statistics look better).  The CBJ were unable to muster any sustained pressure on a back up goal tender.

The illusion of last year's closing winning streak is that you have all year to develop the cohesiveness necessary to play effectively after you are out of the playoffs.  So far that cohesiveness has been absent in the early games of the regular season, and the CBJ have adapted poorly to the increase in pace between preseason and the regular season.  It's time to get up to speed with the rest of the league.

A problem of last year was letting losing streaks get out of hand.  Time to nip this in the bud. Time to play some Blue Jackets Hockey, something that has been missing from the regular season so far.  BTW I do not think Joey is healthy.  I hope he proves me wrong, just as I have been proved wrong on everything I thought before the season.  That's hockey.  And I love it.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Oh No!! We Didn't Win the First Half Mile of The Marathon!

There we were, lined up with all the other runners at the start of the marathon.  Pretty keyed up, in good shape, and we're off with the start!  Running well, starting to get warmed up, working through the adrenaline buzz to settle in to the pace.  At the quarter mile mark, a gap appears in the front runners, and we surge into the lead.  Then BAM!  Someone steps on our heel, trips us, and all of a sudden we are on the ground while the rest of the herd goes surging by.  We stagger up, trying to find a rhythm again, while more runners pass us up. Finally, as the half mile mark approaches, we find our stride again, but now those crazy Kenyans are way out in front of us.  The good news is just about the whole marathon lies before us. Time to settle your stride, and get to work.

Literary license is a great thing.  First of all, the CBJ are actually 0.648 miles into the marathon that is the 2015-16 season.  Second of all, we are talking about hockey, but the analogy is apt.  It is important to remember that an 0-2 start was always on the table the moment the schedule came out.  That's a tough opening sequence, starting with a home and home with the Rangers.  It's true the result happened in ignominious fashion, which ain't real fun, but this doesn't define the season.  Time for the CBJ to bow their neck and get to work.  Get in the system, and find some urgency.  That's when we play best.  And time to circle a couple of games later in the season, then forget it.

I am on record somewhere in the Twitterverse this summer as being of the opinion that the Rangers would regress this year.  Good call, huh?  And I would say my already high opinion of Alain Vigneault has reached new found levels of respect.  No longer saddled with the Sedin twins, he has the Rangers cooking on all cylinders, a team that is better than the sum of its parts, with a world class goalie.  So good on them.  It's a long season, we'll check in later.

According to Puck Rakers the CBJ had a meeting today.  Hopefully they concluded that they don't play Rangers hockey as well as the Rangers, and that it's time to play some Blue Jackets hockey.  We'll see in the matinee game, tomorrow at 3 PM!


Friday, October 9, 2015

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Brandon Saad scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket
From 3:04, when the CBJ took a 2-1 lead, to 1:02, by which time they had surrendered three goals, the CBJ did not win a single puck battle.  In front of a sold out crowd, the Jackets squandered a late lead.  First test for the leadership group.

Short story.  The Jackets played a 58 minute game.  The Rangers, Presidents trophy winners last year, understand playing 60 minutes.  They wanted it more.

Good news, the Jackets played well enough to win, hampered by the emotional energy of an opening game.  Good news, the Jackets are on the ice against the same team in less than 24 hours.  Sound advice: plan on playing 60 minutes.

First exposure of the Jackets to NHL game speed after the preseason.  I thought having a game under their belts was a real advantage for the Rangers.  I guess we'll see what our guys are made of tomorrow.

Jackets cough up a late lead in unacceptable fashion late in the game, and lose 4-2.  Show better tomorrow.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Preseason is a Grain of Sand

Murray and Savard
Ryan Murray was quoted by the Columbus Dispatch as saying 'preseason is a grain of sand'.  Lot's of perspective for a young guy, and I am impressed with his thoughtfulness.  The time for false impressions is done, and the time for the real deal is upon us, and I can hardly wait.

The Rangers struck gold when they got Alain Vigneault as Head Coach from Vancouver, and he has a vision for how he wants his team to play, emphasizing its speed.  The CBJ have their own speed, but play a different game.

Tomorrow night is the start of a good old Metropolitan division slugging match right out of the gate, and both teams will have a lot at stake.  We will learn a lot about our team pretty quickly this weekend, with 3 games in 4 days.  The CBJ have done the work this preseason and have done a lot of things that should help them start quickly.  This is a product of stability in the organization and in the coaching ranks.  Todd Richards has never shown a shyness about manipulating his line combinations, but he steadfastly left lines together all through preseason.  That may change at the drop of the puck, or the first time they are trailing 2-0, but the impression I got from players comments about Richards is that he will ride a hot hand, and some of our players who have been pushed down to lower line situations find that a source of comfort.  Personally I think he may try to stick with those line combinations longer this year than he has in past years, seeking chemistry through stability.

For a long time fan, this is quite a different preseason.  Things look as good as they have ever looked.  But this team has doubters.  Ryan Lambert over on Puck Daddy picked the CBJ as the 'most over hyped team', thinks little of the players on this team (Foligno will regress hard, Dubinsky an average, over rated player, no defense).  Lambert has been hard on the Jackets over the years, and I haven't always liked  what he has said.  But since I'm a guy who drank a lot of Doug MacLean's Kool-aid, he's probably got more credibility.  And truthfully, he's been right more often than I have, so I hope no one thinks this is some kind of rip job.  But taking into account my fan-boy loyalty (not John Kemp loyalty, but it's up there), there are some things that you won't see unless you are really familiar with this team.

A foundational concept held by the doubters, is that Nick Foligno is going to regress hard.  He had a career year last year, and the stats geeks just look at his past performance and think it is a fluke.  But one of the primary things about Nick last year was that his usage as a player was quite different than earlier in his career.  Last year he played big minutes on the first line, whereas earlier in his career he was a third liner.  His opportunities grew, and likewise his production grew.  He seems slated to continue in that role this year, so while I don't think he'll score as many goals as he did last year, it won't be drastically different.

So, there it is.  The season is upon us, and it won't be speculation any longer.  We'll have real hockey to write about.  Enjoy the season everyone.  It looks like this could be fun.