Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Set for a New Season

Anderson Back in the Fold
As of 5 PM today the lineup for this year's Columbus Blue Jackets is set.  The CBJ (not CLB thank you) are set, and a very interesting group of forwards it is indeed.  The nice part is that the late addition of Josh Anderson will provide some thump to the lineup down the road.  Mark Scheig of the Hockey Writers pointed out that this years addition of the CBJ actually got younger in spite of being another year older.  I think that is largely because Sonny Milano made the team, and I for one could not be happier.  It seems like he has been with the organization for ever, but he is only 21 years old.  But this is a great developmental step.

Sonny Milano is likely to play for the Monsters yet this year.  This will not be a set back, but a normal developmental step for a young player like Sonny.  He may prove me wrong, and no one could hope for that more than I, but pragmatically, he may need a bit more seasoning before he is ready for a full NHL season.  Making the team out of camp, and doing well in the preseason is one thing, but no later than 3 games into the season and the NHL will be up to full speed.  Sonny will have to demonstrate that he can take the increased pace, and thrive.  There will be  3 or 4 more 'crank ups' in the typical NHL season. and Sonny will need to show that he can handle each of those as well.  He's felt that increase in intensity at the Monsters at some level, so maybe he will be ready to rise to the occaision.  We'll see.  But a trip to Cleveland does not mean this player is a bust in any way shape or form.  He is showing good progress.

The funny thing about adding Sonny to the lineup is how much more dynamic it shows the whole group is becoming.  We lost good players from last year, and we need to replace that scoring.  So far, we have added Panarin, Bjorkstrand and Milano to the line up, and they will need to make the scoring happen.  There is a lot in their respective pedigrees to suggest that this is a reasonable expectation, so it will be fascinating to watch the season unfold.  This edition of the CBJ is going to be fun to watch.  They are built to compete with the Penguins.  I'm not sure how they will do against a team like LA Kings, which are big and strong, and going to attempt to stifle you not to mention the attempts at intimidation.  Boston is a bit of the same ilk.  But there is a dynamic streak in the forwards, that if it achieves its potential, could be really good.  Don't discount the stabilizing influence of the Captain, Nick Foligno between Milano and Bjorkstrand.  That group won't lack for play making, and we know the Captain will score when he gets a chance. 

I was pleased to learn recently that Torts had warned Foligno in the off season to get his head around playing center.  It makes a difference, and I think Nick is going to surprise a lot of people with how he does.  Our center depth may not be as bad as everyone thinks (or not, I could be dead wrong, but I drink from a half full glass).

Our defensive corps is deep, and very solid.  We have two defensemen who will be sitting in the press box eating nachos that Colorado would die for, but appearances have to be kept up.  So we'll just settle for a very strong D-Corps, and when adversity shows up, which it inevitably will, Harrington and Nutivaara will come out of the press box and perform.  Why isn't Sakic trying to build around Duchene instead of getting rid of him?  Enquiring minds want to know.  But I digress, as usual.  With our dynamic D-Corps feeding dynamic front lines, the CBJ look like they can compete speed wise with the other fast teams in the league (Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Toronto), yet still have enough stiffness to compete against the heavy teams, especially after Boone Jenner returns.  Anderson makes a big difference there.  Have fun skating off Tortorella's conditioning there Andy.  You'll be okay after a few days. 

Tortorella's a funny guy.  I think he is way more cerebral about the game than a lot of pundits give him credit for, and there are a lot of guys who still see him as New York Rangers Torts.  He is a fiery guy, no doubt.  But he thinks about the game, and his approach all the time.  I think he truly understands that it is how you handle the people, and he is very smart in that context.  That is a give and take thing, and all people make mistakes, but Torts seems to want the players to challenge him.  I think he feels it will make him better.  And that is a healthy situation. It will be fascinating to watch this unfold this year.

It is my personal belief that it is an organizational imperative that they make the playoffs this year.  If we don't, then we haven't moved the needle.  I think they will, mainly because we may have one of the best defensive corps in the league.  Neither Zach Werenski or Seth Jones is a pretender, and those two dudes are gonna be scary, maybe as soon as this year.  But one thing for sure.  This team is gong to be fun to watch, for good or for ill.  As my buddy Bill says, these seasons never turn out the way you think they are going to.  It is a long journey to the end of the year, and the hope for a playoff spot.  The only thing that seems truly certain, is that this will be an exceedingly entertaining year to  watch Blue Jackets hockey.  There will be joy, there will be tears.  That's part of the journey.  But it will be fun.

GO JACKETS!!
GO MONSTERS!!

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