Sunday, November 29, 2009

Western Conference playoff race, 29 November edition

Another week in the Western Conference, another jump for the playoff qualifier bar.  This week, it went up from 26 to 29 points.

BIG POINT GAINER THIS WEEK: Soo-prise, soo-prise - It's the Calgary Flames with 7 new points over the past seven days.  Yes, the Flames finally got their act together and are en fuego.  And they didn't beat up on patsies, either - there are wins over Detroit (a shutout, no less) and Phoenix mixed in.  Other big jumpers are Anaheim and (sigh) Nashville, with 6 new points this week each.

PULLING UP THE REAR: Sigh.  Double sigh.  The Columbus Blue Jackets "40 Minute Men" strategy yielded all of 1 point this week, which included the loss to Calgary after returning from The Road Trip From Hell.  Adding insult to injury, the CBJ fell under the playoff bar, now sitting in 11th seed.  Interestingly, 3 teams only acquired 2 points this week: Detroit, San Jose and Phoenix.  If San Jose doesn't watch it, the Blackhawks (and maybe the Flames) will overtake them in the next couple of weeks - both Chicago and Calgary have only played 25 games while the Sharks have played 27.

Two gems from the Puck Rakers comments

Yes, I periodically troll the Puck Rakers blog.  Here are a couple items that really jumped out at me:

1. The Columbus Arena District was highlighted in this great article in the Edmonton Journal.  The Oilers management apparently is looking at the entire Arena District as a model for their eventual replacement of Rexall Place.  They could do a LOT worse than Columbus (but make sure the gargantuan university up the street doesn't pull any crap like Ohio State did with building a similar arena at the same time...).  For those who don't know the backstory on the District, it's definitely worth the read.

The "Keep the Jackets in Columbus" folks should be waving this article from the streetcorners.  It tells a great story about the community and the contribution that the Arena District has made.

2. More pertinent to the Columbus Blue Jackets, I note this comment from the Calgary game summary:
When Hitch called time out after the equalizer, all he said to the boys was "this is our f-ing game!" four times. The problem is they needed to play that way. Opponents seem to sense our tentativeness and go for the kill in the third periods. Finish should be the only word they should say and hear from here on out.
I wasn't at the game, nor do I believe everything that's posted in the comments. Still, I can very easily see Ken Hitchcock doing this. What I also hope happened is that a player or two did the same. The coach is pulling his hair out trying to harness the impressive talent on the Blue Jackets to mold a winner, but the players have to "carry the flag" at some point. There's been an undercurrent of discussion regarding the lack of veteran leadership (I jumped on this bandwagon a month ago), and observations like this tend to back up the assertions that the players - presumably veterans - need to get this team focussed.  Coaches fulfill this role in college play, but the veterans shoulder much more of the burden in the pros.

I offered a thought back in October and think it bears repeating:
They have beaten themselves through poor execution, sloppy play and loss of composure, but they have the talent to beat just about anyone in the NHL.  The question is whether they have it in them.
The coaches can only carry the team so far.  The players have to bring it home.  (For 60 minutes, too.)

10 Thoughts about Game 25: Calgary

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets returned to Nationwide Arena after a hellacious (1-3-1) road trip and lost to the Calgary Flames, 4-3, in a post-overtime shootout.

1a. Here are the highlights:

2. I watched the Notre Dame-Stanford game last night, so I only saw bits and pieces of the CBJ game.  The 1st period, the Boll goal, the overtime period and the shootout.  That was probably enough.

3. I think I should trademark the term, "40 Minute Men" - I sure am using it enough.  Being up, 3-1, at the end of 2 and then letting the Flames back in during the 3rd -just like so many other teams this season - is ridiculous.

4. This season is starting to feel like we're listening to a broken record.  Kids, if you don't know what a record is, ask your parents.

5. Glad to see that Rick Nash got another goal.  We need a bright spot on what has become a surpremely frustrating season.

5a. I really like Raffi Torres, but I'm not sure that he's the best choice to put on the 1st line.  I can't say that definitively  as I didn't see enough of the game, but I'm reasonably sure.

6. Steve Mason again played a good (but probably not great) game, fell apart for a brief stretch and forced us to endure the pain of him on the shootout.

7. I love Anton Stralman's shot.  On defense.  Not on the shootout.

8. When two of your three non-shootout goals come from 1) A 4th-liner who probably shouldn't be taking shots and 2) A defenseman who could be a healthy scratch on any given night, you have to ask, "Outside of Rick Nash, where are the top six forwards?"

8a.  Where would this team be without Derek McKenzie and his fellow kamikaze 4th liners?

9. Nice to see the 17,000+ crowd at Nationwide.  Columbus so desperately wants to root for a winner...

10.  Hitch's notable post-game comment: "We'll get it fixed." (re: Mason's shootout performance)  Combine that with Scott Howson's statement to the Dispatch that there will be no personnel changes in the offing, and you have a management that's sticking to their guns.  Gulp.

NEXT UP: Monday, home against St. Louis - the only team in the Central Division below the Blue Jackets.  Gosh, I want to see that punk, Oshie, get flattened.  Ideally, that would come from Rick Nash.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shuffling the deck ... smartly

The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports:
Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock has adjusted the forward lines, saying he wants veteran players to help support young players on each line.
Here they are:
  • F1: Raffi Torres -- Antoine Vermette -- Rick Nash
  • F2: Kristian Huselius -- Derick Brassard -- R.J. Umberger
  • F3: Jason Chimera -- Sammy Pahlsson -- Jake Voracek
  • F4: Jared Boll -- Derek MacKenzie -- Mike Blunden
Now this is interesting.  Looking at the lineups, I see three things happening:

1. The "Big Brothers" approach.  Voracek, Brassard and Nash (yes, Nash) are flanked by veterans who will hopefully help in keeping their minds on the Hitchcock style of game, regardless of the game circumstances.  I really like this and can only hope that Hitch gives the third line equal standing to the first two lines.  That's a nice lineup (4th line included!).  Now, how do we get Mase a little "Big Brother" treatment?

2. We're in a meritocracy, and that's a GREAT thing.  Raffi Torres has been tearing it up - even after taking the puck in the jaw - so he gets rewarded with time on the premier line.  Huselius and Umberger are tailing off a little, so they go to the second line.  Not sure what to make of the Voracek move in this light; I think he's more in the "big brother" mode with regard to his place on the roster.

3. Hitch is always thinking.  He's had enough of what he saw on the read trip, and he's going to make changes that prohibit the team from behaving the same way.  There's no quit in Ken Hitchcock.

One defensive change that I don't get - scratching Kris Russell again.  He signed his extension in October and then preceded to ride the pine.  Makes no sense.  If he was important enough to re-sign early, isn't he important enough to play?  Never mind that he's probably the best Blue Jacket at skating the puck out of the defensive zone.  Perhaps it's because the Flames play the Jackets as if the Boys in Union Blue stole their lunch money.

Should be a good game tonight - glad to see the Jackets get some home cooking!

10 Thankful Thoughts about Game 24: Ottawa

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets played a much more Hitchcock-friendly game on (American) Thanksgiving night, holding tight on their defense and checking (reasonably) hard, until the last 10 or so minutes, losing to the Ottawa Senators, 2-1.  Here are the highlights:

2. Many, many apologies for the delay in getting these 10 Thoughts out.  I've been crunched with family obligations related to Thanksgiving, the end of the quarter at school and now a death in the family which is going to require some unplanned travel.  Things might be a little spotty in the not-too-distant future, so please bear with me.

2a. The Thanksgiving nature of the game has prompted me to share that for which I am thankful related to the game, the CBJ and things hockey-related.  Enjoy!

2b. I'm especially thankful that I got a chance to watch the Ottawa game with my Friendly Pens Fan.  She's and Mrs. DBJ joined me to make one heck of a peanut gallery.

3. I'm thankful that the Jackets have Rick Nash.  The Captain was really pushing it against the Sens, registering 6 shots and plenty of effort on the ice.  He did everything outside of showing up on the scoresheet.

4. I'm thankful that Steve Mason has the ability to bury his memories of his poorer games and rebound with a solid game like Thursday night.  He turned aside 34 of 36, with one of the two goals coming on a power play.  That's not bad. Not at all.

4a. I'm also thankful that Mase is mature enough to look critically at his game and work on his deficiencies.  Taking an extra practice just to work on his reaction to plays that develop from behind the net reflect the character of a guy who's trying hard to be better, who knows he's not perfect.  He's young and will get more consistent with time as long as he keeps that attitude.

5. I'm thankful for Anton Stralman and his wonderful shot from the point.  It's just a thing of beauty, even if it doesn't go in.

6. I'm thankful that Derek Dorsett finally is coming around after the James Neal-inflicted concussion.  Sounds like the headaches are going away.

7. I'm a thankful that the CBJ are off to the best start of the franchise's history, but a little less so with what I'm seeing at the end of games.  The Ottawa game was no different.  Right around the first half of the third period, the Jackets get called for a penalty or two that starts wearing them down.  They then get in this vicious cycle of penalty - fatigue - sloppiness - penalty - etc.  I'm guessing that at least 3 games were lost due to this.  Is it fatigue that causes the penalties?  Is it lack of discipline?  Regardless, I'll be VERY thankful when I can stop referring to the Jackets as "the 50 minute men."

8. I'm thankful that Mike Commodore and Jan Hejda are back on the ice on a consistent basis and pray that they both get into game shape by...oh, I dunno...yesterday.  Might help Fedor Tyutin, who's been carrying way too much of the load this year.

9. I'm thankful that the Jackets have the steady leadership of Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock. I'd be pressing the panic button more often than I have Nikita Filatov fighting in NHL 10 (stress relief, if you know what I mean).  These guys have a plan, and they're sticking to it.  At least for now.  It's frustrating to watch a very young NHL team grow before your eyes, making the surehandedness of both Howson and Hitchcock all the more valuable.

10.  I'm thankful that this crap-tastic road trip finally ended.  1-3-1 (only 3 points out of a possible 10) is just not good enough.  Let's hope that a night or two in their own beds will help the CBJ build upon the promising play in Ottawa and get back in the saddle.

NEXT UP: Calgary comes to Nationwide on Saturday night.  Should be a doozy.  I gather that the game will be a highlighted game on the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.  (Big stuff for NHL teams...)

[Due to time constraints, I'm going to pass on adding graphics.  Need to move on to the next game!]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Hitch speaketh: Post-Montreal/"State of the CBJ" edition

Here's the video. Sadly, Fox Sports Ohio doesn't allow for embedded streaming links to their viewers. Probably something to do with Rupert Murdoch's hate of Google and all. But at least it's available in some form as it is must-see video.

Thanks to the Columbus Dispatch, here are a couple of the more choice quotes:
"We didn't manage the game -- that's the story of our season," said Hitchcock, whose team lost its third straight. "We had the game in control, we played two perfect periods and then we didn't manage the game.
"We forced pucks. We forced ourselves up ice from the back end and lost the game because of it."
"We have not got good goaltending the last two nights, it's got to be better," Hitchcock said. "You can't put in efforts like we did and then throw it away. We are not focused in the right areas to win hockey games.
"We want to play a different game than the one you need to play to shut a game down. We want to continually play in a track meet and that's what we did and we got burnt."
As you can tell without even looking at the video, the head coach is ticked.  And rightfully so.  We all know that the team, which is essentially the same as last year's Columbus Blue Jackets, can play the Hitchcock system of Defense First, check hard and get a goal only if it's available to you.  As you can see from his comments, this is something that Hitch is not seeing.

As I was carting the Dark Blue Onesie around this morning, I was listening to NHL Home Ice's "Hockey This Morning" show on XM.  I haven't been the biggest fan of the show since Scott Laughlin went to The Power Play show in the afternoons, but the guys had a very interesting point.  Ken Hitchcock is apparently a pretty vocal guy on the bench.  He also is a man with a system and reminds his players of how to play it at every possible opportunity.  There comes a point when a young player, full of confidence (having made the playoffs last year and all), just tunes the old coach out.  I'm not suggesting that the Jackets are at that point yet, but it makes sense that such a point could come.

What that means to Hitchcock is that he has a window - not sure how long or short - to reach the players and get them to commit to what it was that got them to the playoffs last year...and, to a lesser degree, what got them off to a 5-1-0 start on this season.  If he doesn't get through to them, in a way that makes them realize that the team defensive game is the foundation of the Blue Jackets system, the Jackets will struggle to get to the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Hitch deserves a ton of credit for bringing the Blue Jackets around and making them a legitimate NHL squad. But he is also very aware of how hard this climb is getting:
"For me, I have really enjoyed building this team, but I'm also finding out, when you reach a certain level, the next step is the hardest one," Hitchcock said.
"Becoming a playoff team was a big step. But the next step to becoming legit night in and night out is a bigger challenge. That, to me, is the one we're going through right now."
And those very true words are playing themselves out, night after night...

I started by wanting to share the Hitch video from last night.  I ended with an indirect "State of the Blue Jackets" at the quarter point of the season.  So let's summarize: The talent is there - more than probably ever before - but their heads just aren't in the game. The question is, can the coach, his staff and the players get back on the same page?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 23: Montreal

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their legs starting in the back half of the 2nd period, showing next to nothing in the 3rd against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs won, 5-3. Here are the highlights:

2. The back-to-back games bit the CBJ in this game. The defensive lapses again plagued the Jackets with increasing frequency throughout the game.

2a. I'm wondering if conditioning is a new area of concern. These guys just fade down the stretch.

3. Mathieu Garon turning aside 24 of 29 of the Habs' shots. I was only truly upset with 1 of the 5 goals:

Was it just too hard to get up? Seemed odd to me.

3a. At least his performance was mediocre/bad enough that no one's going to complain when Mase starts against the Senators on Thanksgiving.

3b. Poor Steve Mason, sitting in that little box by himself for the whole game. Looked like he was in Time Out.

4. Two goals for Antoine Vermette, giving him a strong showing in his home province. He's turned out to be quite a good player, bringing it on most every night.

5. Two assists from Captain Rick Nash, including the masterpiece below. He was a little more of a presence than against the Rangers, but he's still way too quiet on the ice.

5a. At least his +/- was zero tonight...but keeping in mind that he had two assists, that means he was on the ice for at least two goals.

6. Speaking of +/-, Jan Hejda "led" the team with a -3 on the night. For a guy who hung his hat on having a gargantuan positive +/- since coming to Columbus, a -3 makes me think he's still hurt. He's clearly not himself.

6a. Mike Commodore also is not himself. But how do you get in condition when you're wearing yourself down every night?

6b. Speaking of injuries, I think we miss Derek Dorsett.  He's a real spark plug, and his absence is noticeable.

7. Shame that the Jackets had to fade out on a night where their game was the only game played in the entire league.

7a. At least the utter humiliation was contained to one night (the Rangers game).

8. OK, the TSN highlight package at the top was a sick joke. Pierre McGuire is a doofus. His interview with Jeff Rimer after the 1st period was lunacy. What was that supposed joke about "The U"? Was it an Ohio State joke? Idiot.

8a. Side TV note: This NHL on the Fly micro-analysis of the CBJ is just painful.

9. My internal "Time for the General Manager to shuffle the deck" clock is ticking. The alarm hasn't gone off, but it sure is ticking.

9a. To quote The Bard: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

10. Despite the crappy showing the past two games, I like the CBJ playing in Eastern Conference arenas. Columbus REALLY shouldn't be in the West.  I know I've mentioned it before, but I really mean it.

NEXT UP: At Ottawa on (American) Thanksgiving Day.  Who's inviting Dorsett to their house for Turkey Day?

Photos from Yahoo NHL.

NHL's video preview of tonight's game

When yours is the only game on the NHL slate tonight, you get special treatment like this:

Let's hope that the Columbus Blue Jackets have their act together tonight and play some Hitch hockey - as opposed to whatever that mess was in New York last night.

Don't be surprised to see Mathieu Garon, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard come out a-blazing. They're both Québécois and surely will want to impress their family and friends. (Which reminds me, I should run the same checks when the Jackets go west. Quite a few players on the roster from Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Not to mention Ontario!)

Object Lessons in Poor Defensive Strategy, Part I

[Seeing as the Blue Jackets are having a tough time playing defense, I thought it would be a service to highlight defensive strategies that don't work well.  Always best to learn from others' mistakes!]

Lesson One: The ¡Ole! defense

What starts as a grand strategy...

...doesn't work out.

Try avoiding this approach, boys.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Open Question: What's up with the defense?

I'll admit it, I'm baffled.

The Columbus Blue Jackets seemed to have upgraded their defense over last year with the addition of Anton Stralman.  However, the defense of late has been abysmal if not absent altogether.  What gives?  Why are the CBJ having such issues on defense ?

Possible answers:

  1. Mike Commodore is still getting into game shape after his preseason flu and other ailments.
  2. The forwards aren't playing Hitch-hockey and placing too much responsibility on the defense
  3. ..... I have no idea
What's your take?  Post them in the comments.

[UPDATE: A Shot From the Point offers some suggestions - Is Methot the issue?  Should Li'l Russ get scratched?]

10 Thoughts (with help) about Game 22: New York Rangers

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets, in a stunning display of inept hockey on the world's biggest stage, gave up seven unanswered goals to the New York Rangers in roughly 21 minutes en route to a 7-4 loss.  In my combination of shock, denial and angst, I have recruited help from CBJ-twittering fans (and harvested a couple others' tweets) to fill out this 10 thoughts.

1a.  As I post this, the highlights (such as they are have not been posted).  So watch this and weep instead:

1b. Note the 3:50 area... "To be honest, at the end of the period I thought it was out of reach so I went downstairs to play some NHL 10. And I got upstairs to watch it a little late."  Sigh.

1c. In the interest of completeness, here are the "highlights" (term used VERY loosely):

2. From longtime New York hockey journalist Stan Fischler: Now I know why Detroit beat Columbus, 9-1, a few weeks ago. Jackets have AWFUL goalies.

2a. From PuckeyesMom to Stan: Unnecessary & inaccurate - if you are *truly* watching the game, you would see that the D is the problem, not the goalies.

2b. I think we have the most observant fans in the business.

3. From hockeyisgood: jackets need to work on defensive odd man rushes and defense...thats a big problem even from the #preds game

3a. From CBlueJacketFan: The defense should have strong legs tomorrow night, since they really didn't use them tonight.

3b. From bcluxton: here's a thought - call up Roy and Clitsome. We need D-men that will hit.

3c. From BlueJacketsBuzz: We all agree that the D has major flaws. Who does Howson go get? Joe Corvo & Paul Mara have to be 2 targets to trade for.

4. The inability of this team to forecheck - hard, punishing forechecks, I mean - is totally baffling.  It's not Hitch hockey.

4a. I honestly believe that the Rangers were physically weak.  The Jackets didn't capitalize.

4b. From 97.1 The Fan's sports journalist LoriSchmidt: You know it's one thing when Detroit makes the Blue Jackets look this bad. These are the Rangers!

5. From PuckeysMom: Mason allows 4 goals... Garon allows 3 goals... Lundqvist allows 4 goals, yet Lundqvist is a god.  Go figure.

5a. From jackets4life: The post has as many saves as Garon. Yikes.

6. From Fox Sports Ohio's raycrawford at the 2nd intermission: if this keeps up.. cbj will have lost just 2 in regulation in last 11.. will have been outscored in those loses 16-4.

7. Did R.J. Umberger make the trip from Nashville?  I don't think I've ever missed him so completely in a game.

7a. From puckeye: Is it a good or bad thing to not notice Paulson?

8. Kudos to the goal scorers:  Derek McKenzie, Jared Boll, Kristian Huselius and Jake Voracek.

8a.  It should be noted that Jared Boll had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick - a goal, an assist and a fight (two fights, actually!).

8b. From CBlueJacketFan: My picks for tonight's 3 stars:  Boll, Boll's left fist, Boll's right fist.

9. Rick Nash flopped on Broadway.  Glad it was one night only.

9a.  The Captain had 5 shots and a +/- of -4 on the night.  Ouch.

10. From DamonChristen: One word....Suck

10a. From seppesai: re: tonight's game-- at least it wasn't a conference game.

10b. From seventyeight: All I can say is *SIGH*

10c. From LeeAuer: Well, we rolled over, woke up, and got it going with momentum for tomorrow vs. Montreal

10d. From LoriSchmidt Well, at least it's been a couple minutes since the Rangers have scored...

NEXT UP: Tomorrow in the Bell Centre against Les Habitants.  At least this loss won't stink too long...
Photos from Yahoo! NHL.

Western Conference playoff race, 22 November edition

Sorry this is late.  Blame Ohio University and whomever decided to put the end of the fall quarter immediately following Thanksgiving.  Someone should be fired for that scheduling blunder.

But back to bread and circuses...

So what's the bigger story in the West this week - that Colorado is (as many expected) coming back to the pack?  That the San Jose steamroller continues on, stretching its lead?  Perhaps that Chicago has gone on a ridiculous tear since the return on Johnathan Toews?  That Columbus quietly jumped into the top tier of teams in the entire NHL for points accumulated in the month of November (just behind San Jose)?  That Calgary, my early season pick (with San Jose) to be in the conference final, is playing like garbage?  Lots happening, and it's happening in the wild, wild Western Conference.  

The magic playoff-qualifying bar rose another 4 points this week, from 22 to 26.  There are NINE teams clustered around that 26 point number, anywhere from 25-29.  Only two teams - San Jose and Chicago - are outside of the pack (on the positive side).  Read me now, believe me later - it's going to be a dogfight to the end.  If you're not tops in a division, there's a very real chance that you could choke away a playoff berth.  

BIG POINT WINNERS OF THE WEEK: Chicago (no surprise) and Nashville (WHAT?), each with 6 points.  Don't look now, but the Preds are knocking on the door of playoff qualification.  They've shaken off their very slow start and are kicking serious butt under Barry "I don't look like Dark Blue Onesie any more" Trotz.  

BIG POINT LOSERS OF THE WEEK: Half of the Western Conference!  Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Vancouver all racked up a very unimpressive 2 points each.  Looks to me like we're starting to see a separation between the playoff "haves" and "have nots".  1 week is an indicator, 2 weeks is an inkling, 3 weeks is a trend.  Let's keep an eye on this, eh?

Tonight's Playbill

It's New York, baby!  Time to take your star turn on Broadway!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 21: Nashville

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets, jumped out to an early lead against the Nashville Predators in the first period but seemed to be swimming in molasses for the rest of the night, collecting penalties like they were this year's hot Christmas gift and eventually losing in the shootout, 4-3.  Here are the highlights:

1a.  With 27 points, the Jackets sit in the 6th seed in the NHL's Western Conference and only 3 points behind the division leading (and #2 seed) Chicago Blackhawks.  

2. The story of the night was the incredible number of penalties that the Jackets took in the 3rd period.  And they were perfectly spaced, too....2:34, 5:39, 9:48, 12:38.  To the Jackets' credit, they killed all 4 penalties.  However, they were losing their legs by the time that the second of the penalties was killed off.  It was just a matter of holding on for dear life through the rest of the game - with a little lift on a game-ending power play to keep it interesting.

2a. Penalty --> fatigue --> sloppiness --> penalty.  Rinse, repeat.  It isn't rocket science.

2b. Considering the fatigue factor - probably the worst I remember seeing out of the CBJ - the Jackets were fortunate to get a point.  Nashville could have very easily pounced on them, scored on a power play or two and ended it.  That didn't happen, which speaks to the grit and character of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

3. The positive story of the night was the performance of Steve Mason.  When his defensive support failed him (and the penalties forced the team to play short-handed), he came up with save after save...and some of the very impressive kind.  45 saves on 48 shots is a LONG night, and Mase held up.

3a. I'm not ready to say that he has his groove back - I've more or less resigned myself that he's going to have a yo-yo type of year - but, for one evening, he was darned close to dominant.

3b. I'll take it a step further. Mase stole the point for us last night, one the CBJ really didn't deserve to get.

4. R.J. Umberger got two goals on the night, both in the 1st period, including this wild stickball shot:

4a. R.J. is perhaps THE unsung hero on this team.  He is selfless and versatile, meaning that Hitchcock plugs him into every situation on nearly every night.  Center the first line?  Sure.  Winger on the checking line?  No problem.  Sit in the crease and take a pounding on the power play?  Okey dokey.  And he never complains (at least publicly), just goes where he's asked and does a bang-up job wherever he lands.  I was thrilled that he got the two goals last night and only wished he could've pulled out a hat trick as reward for his contributions.

4b.  Does the fact that the Jackets "won" the day with the Neal suspension and the Umberger goal mean that we've turned a corner in the minds of the folks in Toronto?

5. Mad props to Derick Brassard, who worked his tail off, got two assists and didn't give up all night long.  He's a talent, I tell ya...

6. I love Anton Stralman's shot from the point....

7. Where in the world was the first line? Especially Rick Nash.

8. Poor Jared Boll got speared in between the legs.

8a. Male hockey fans across Ohio curled over in sympathy.

8b. The witty wordsmiths amongst us got to play with Jared getting it in the "Bolls." Sigh.

9. Strangely I don't hate Nashville. I don't like 'em, sure. But I respect the hell out of 'em. They always give the Jackets a tough, tough game.

9a. I think that my respect in the Preds is rooted in the fact that I think that Barry Trotz is an incredible coach. To do what he's done over the life of that franchise is nothing less than miraculous. Does he have his boys ready to play or not?

10. I'll be crossing my fingers that the Jackets can regroup and rest up to finish the road trip. Such a long night, with all of those penalty kills, can take a little while from which to recover. Let's hope Hitch gives them adequate rest.  If we're rested and ready, we can definitely get three if not more points from the Rangers, Habs and Sens.

Next Up: Monday night in Madison Square Garden.  Maybe Nash was resting up for his command performance on Broadway...?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Taint

James Neal of the Dallas Stars was suspended for two games by the NHL for his blatantly cheap shot on the Columbus Blue Jackets' Derek Dorsett.

Not that the Dallas Stars didn't circle the wagon around their young forward.  Check out what ethically and legally-challenged Dallas coach Marc Crawford had to say:
"He's not a mean player," Crawford said. "It looked like he was trying to hit the other player. He got overanxious on the hit."
"Nobody likes to see anybody get hurt," Crawford said. "I know James didn't mean to hit the guy that way."
Yeah, Neal's the victim...a boy scout.  And Crawford doesn't like to see people get hurt (Was he laughing at the Bertuzzi hit on Moore or wasn't he?)  At the same time, the article also showed that Crawford has mastered the understatement:
Crawford said Neal, 22, has to learn to be in better control of where he is on the ice.
True dat.  He also might want to be in better control of what he does on the ice as well.

Honestly, I wasn't going to post anything on this until I read Columbus Dispatch CBJ beat writer Aaron Portzline's on-the-record comments from Dorsett himself:
"I know what kind of person he is; I know his intention. There was no intention to slow down. I'll remember this."
Dang.  Them's fightin' words from Double D.  And that's worth commenting on.

There's a big difference between what Dorsett does and what Neal did.  Dorsett is a sandpaper guy.  He plays hard, sometimes within eyesight of the edge of the rulebook.  He fights as needed within the accepted rules of hockey.  He takes his major penalties and moves along.  But he doesn't take cheap shots.  He's a man about his work.

Neal, however, now has The Taint.  The hearing today has labeled him as a cheap shot artist.  He now has a record (as Puck Daddy reminds us), and life will only get more miserable for him if he pulls that crap again.  It won't be 5 games, it'll be more like 5 or 10.  You see, the NHL discipline policy weighs past discipline when doling out punishment.  If you've been bad in the past, you'll get hit progressively harder and harder with the book.  It's a shame, really, as Neal is at the front end of what could be a promising NHL career.  He's going to have to carry this burden for a long, long time.

So keep your nose clean, Neal.  Watch the cheap shots, and perhaps take a page out of Adam Foote's Guide to Hockey Health and develop a 24-hour flu bug whenever you have to play Columbus.  Because there's this guy, #15, who's dying to meet you - man to man.  You know, the way you weaseled out of last night in the first period.

UPDATE: Portzline's article in today's Dispatch is a must-read for CBJ fans...powerful stuff.   For example:
Neal's hit "is something I'll always remember," Dorsett said. "There's that saying you take numbers and save them for a later date. I will remember."

10 Thoughts about Game 20: Dallas

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets played a complete game and undressed the Dallas Stars, 4-1, in front of 417 fans at the very attractive American Airlines Arena.  Here are your highlights:

2. Just sit back and ask yourself, "If I caught a puck in the mouth, lost two teeth and had part of my jaw crushed, how long would it take for me to get back in the swing of things?"  For Raffi Torres, the answer is ONE WEEK.  ONE FREAKIN' WEEK.  Good God, he's not a man, he's a monster.  No one should be able to do that.  He should be convalescing in a hospital or something, sucking his calories through a straw.

2a.  Not Raffi.  Dude only put in 9:33 of ice time and notched his ninth goal of the season.  I am awed.  He is twelve times the man I am.  For that, let's shout the cheer:

2b. I'm not sure that there's a bright side to his hellacious injury, but allow me a somewhat tasteless attempt:  I now can differentiate Raffi from Fox Sports Ohio's John Michael.

2c. Oh yeah, Raffi had a stomach bug, too.  Just add it to the legend.

3. to say this delicately?  Dallas is a bunch of cheap-shotting, weak-ass punks.

3a. First amongst the Punk Brigade is James Neal, who backed away from Derek Dorsett in the first period and then viscously boarded Dorsett later in the game, sending him sprawling onto the ice with a presumed concussion.

Neal has a hearing on Friday with the NHL and deserves every game that he will be suspended.  It's a shame that he had to get ejected; he would have provided plenty of schadenfreude moments throughout the rest of the game.  Jerk.

3b. The rest of the team is ill-tempered, too.  Do they just have something against teams that are better than them in general, or is resentment that Columbus now has the one coach that got them a Stanley Cup?  I mean, even Marty Turco got in on the Rick Nash fight.

3c.  (Rick Nash got in a fight.  Cool.)

3d. I suppose that this violently erratic behavior should be expected.  Marc Crawford is their head coach, after all.  Remember, Crawford was the whack-job coach of the Colorado Avalanche that melted down on Scotty Bowman and the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Sadly, I can't find the video of Crawford shrieking like a banshee at Bowman, but here's the precipitating stuff:

He also allegedly ordered the Todd Bertuzzi hit in Vancouver that knocked Dennis Moore out of hockey and apparently still is working its way through the courts.  Here's the ESPN guys' take at the time:

My point is, this appears to be Crawford's modus operandi.  If you can't win, fight.  If you fight and can't win, fight more.  If that still doesn't work, take some cheap shots.  Classy.  Great hire, Dallas.  

3e. The beauty of all of this is that the barrage of Dallas penalties lost them the game.  Huselius' second goal and Torres' goal in the second period were 20 seconds apart, and BOTH were power play goals.  It's the sign of a good team when you refrain from punching back (too much) and instead just keep putting the puck in the back of the net.  You keep slashing/boarding/hooking/brawling, we'll keep scoring.  

4. 2 more goals for Kristian Huselius.  That makes 4, I believe, for Juice since he returned from injured reserve.  If he can keep up anything close to this pace, 1) He might catch Raffi Torres (hee hee) and 2) He might justify his cap hit and compensate for his middling-to-poor defensive play.

4a.  It must be fun to be so totally in control of a goalie as Huselius was tonight with Marty Turco.  "Turco....I OWN you." Juice made another drive later in the game and nearly scored again.  I think I saw Turco's knees shaking.  

4b. OK, maybe I was a little harsh on Juice for the defensive play.  He did, after all, grab a puck and make a short-handed goal through his smart defensive positioning and aggressiveness.  (Can we see that more often?)

5. Speaking of goalies, Mason looked much more like the Mason we like.  Good saves, reasonably strong rebound control, command of the crease.  Outings like this make me cautiously optimistic that Hitchcock is managing his two goalies the right way, giving Mason the right breathers of proper duration.

5a. Hmmm....Hitchcock managing the development of a young superstar.  I thought he couldn't do that?

6. The Captain gets his 14th goal of the season with a 'never say die' crash of the crease after Turco bobbled a rebound.  (What an awesome photo.  Take a moment and soak that in.)  That's our man!

7. Nikki who?

8. Surprise Fox Sports Announcer of the Game: Ray Crawford!  His postgame highlights/recap was inspired...classic homerism boosted by a shot of "5 Hour Energy."  He called 'em like they were - yes, a Fox Sports announcer used the words "cheap shot" (and repeatedly tonight!).  Crawford offered a needed casual fan-style enthusiasm in his presentation that has been lacking in game coverage since Danny Gare got the boot.  

9.  I found myself admiring Derick Brassard tonight.  Sure, it was the return trip to the place where his season ended (at the hands of James Neal, no less), and that probably is why my eye was drawn in his direction.  But, in the bigger picture, he's having a tough year.  Despite that fact, he's still trying.  Hard.  I saw him drive and press and try to make plays.  He's going to get past this speed bump and be a fantastic center for Nash (and....Voracek?) for many years to come.

10.  I love a game when Good Beats Evil, when Crime Doesn't Pay.  

Next up: Saturday night in Nashville to take out Darth Vader.  Should be interesting as the Preds won tonight in a shootout and might think that they have a little momentum (but they only beat an Eastern Conference team, so go figure).  All I can say is, I'm glad that Dark Blue Onesie doesn't look like Barry Trotz any more.  That kid was giving me the chills.  

(Photos from Yahoo! Sports - NHL; graphics were created by the Dark Blue Jacket and may be used with permission)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Raffi's back!

According to the Columbus Dispatch, clutch goal scorer Raffi Torres is off the injured reserve, and we can presume that he will play versus Dallas tonight.  This is a huge boost to the Columbus Blue Jackets' "sandpaper quotient" and will make the CBJ that much harder to play against.

Torres is a warrior, plain and simple.  He lost two teeth against Detroit and will have to play with a modified helmet to protect his mouth, as you can (kinda) see from this video interview of Raffi (and Tommy Sestito):

It's just incredible that he's coming back so quickly. He's one tough customer. Welcome back, Raffi!

UPDATE: According to Puck Rakers, Raffi missed the morning skate with the stomach flu. Terrible news! Hope he's feeling better soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My $0.02 on Filatov

As we know, Nikita Filatov will be playing for CSKA Moscow for the balance of the 2009-2010 season.  And many good bloggers and journalists have had their say, offering words of wisdom on the matter.  Before offering my less worthy thoughts, I'd like to suggest that DBJ readers take a look at the following:
There are other commentaries, granted, but this grouping appears to have covered the waterfront on the many issues involved.  (Also, Rick Gethin of The Hockey Writers is working on something.  He does good work; I can't wait to read his piece when it's ready. [UPDATE: Here's the post.])

Yet another "Filatov loan"

The Dark Blue Jacket family is pleased to announce that, after serious and meaningful discussions with family leadership, we are loaning my signed Nikita Filatov hockey puck to my bedroom door, where it will serve as a doorstop for the balance of the 2009-2010 NHL season.  We have agreed to reconsider the role that the puck plays in our household at the end of the season.  I very much hope that it will return to the plastic puck display case that sits in our office/rec room next season.

This is a bittersweet moment.  We have high expectations for the puck.  It's just not happening as soon as we had hoped, but that's OK.  The puck is only a year old and probably needs some time to find itself.

We have not had any offers for the puck, nor have we marketed it on eBay.  At this point, we're interested in seeing how it performs as a doorstop and will reevaluate as the need dictates.

The Filatov puck's intention from the start of the season was to hold a position of prominence next to our other sports memorabilia for the duration.  It had a certain level of frustration at not being able to meet those expectations.  After the glow of the first-round draft pick wore off and all of our friends and relatives had a chance to see the puck, it settled into a position on the shelf where it really didn't get that much exposure.  Once it was pretty clear that if the puck wasn't going to be able to keep that level of prominence on our shelf, it let us know that it was going to look for other opportunities around the house.

Mrs. Dark Blue Jacket expressed optimism at this new role for our puck.  "We've needed a doorstop for some time," she remarked, "and I fully support my husband and how he handles the sports memorabilia.  I make suggestions to him on how to to organize our collection of pucks, baseballs and football helmets, and he makes suggestions to me on which acquisitions make sense for our family.  I appreciate his willingness to put the puck in harm's way for the betterment of our family.  I only hope that Dark Blue Onesie doesn't gnaw the sharpie ink off.  He's cutting a tooth, you know."

The Dark Blue Jacket family will hold the rights to the puck for the indefinite future.  The family was unwilling to comment on rumors that whether a Tommy Sestito-signed puck will take the Filatov puck's place on the shelf.  "Now's not the time for such speculation," Mrs. DBJ said. "Let's just be happy that our puck finally has found a place that fits its skill level."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Twittering with Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov about Filatov

As we learned that Nikita Filatov appeared to be going to Moscow ("on loan"), something that was confirmed both by the Columbus Dispatch and the Columbus Blue Jackets - not to mention CKSA Moscow, the obvious question arising in the CBJ Nation was, "What the #$@#!!! happened?"

As with any disagreement, there are at least two sides to every story.  The Jackets, represented by Scott Howson, went on the record with the Dispatch and in its own release as linked above.  He also held a press conference to discuss the matter.  Because Howson has been so far out in front, I can't realistically expect that coach Ken Hitchcock will comment publicly.

Filatov, however, has only spoken thus far to Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov, who posted pieces of his interview with Filatov at Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog.  (I follow Chesnokov on Twitter just like I follow many, many other people.)

The interview itself was unspectacular.  Filatov, having been interviewed by SovSport over the summer, has shown himself to be an extremely disciplined interview who is smart enough not to burn any bridges.  He says the right things about Russia when interviewed by Russian media.  He says the right things about Columbus and America to American media.  Some day, he'll tell all and we'll figure out what's really going on in his mind.

Today's Chesnokov interview was fascinating, however.  Filatov stated that, "At the end of last week I told them that I want to come back [to Russia]."  And it was entirely chummy, although Puck Rakers suggests that at least one CBJ player urged him to stick it out in Columbus - a point Filatov disputes in the interview.

And that's it.  Right?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

One of the great things about this digital age is that you can communicate directly with the people helping make the news - the reporters.  So I saw Chesnokov's Tweet that the interview was going to be posted, and then he posted this:

"Just for the record, I am standing by the player in the Filatov mess."

An interesting statement considering that the interview was all babies, puppies and roses (with the exception of a little venom directed toward Ken Hitchcock).  So I queried him:

"What's to stand behind? That Filatov is a square peg being pushed through a round hole? He's a bad fit. Period."

We went around and about over whether the player should adjust his game to the team, or whether the team should adjust to the player...perfectly reasonable, seeing that he already stated outright that he was on Filatov's side.  So I tried to sum up my point, which is rooted in the fact that I really don't think that Filatov will ever play in Columbus again (that his ability to stay at the pro level in Russia gives him all the leverage for an NHL return, but that's another topic for another post):

"We agree much more than we disagree. I just think that Filatov should have asked for a trade instead of going to the KHL."

His response floored me:

"What makes you think he didn't ask for a trade?"

WHOA.  If Filatov asked for a trade and was shot down, then that opens up all sorts of issues.  Did he want to go home and get playing time and play in the World Juniors like the public relations folks would have us believe?  Or did he ask for a trade to satisfy his goal of being an NHL star (just not in Columbus), get shot down by Howson and accept the loan to CSKA Moscow just to get out of town?  BIG difference.  So I asked for a clarification.

"Did you ask him? If not, please do."

A fair response - just trying to get the whole story out there.  What I got back, however, was silence.  So I prodded his response:

"Waiting for a response to this question... @dchesnokov Did you ask him? If not, please do."

His eventual response was telling:

"he didn't want to answer some questions."

DOUBLE WHOA.  Implicit in that response is that Chesnokov asked and Filatov refused.  If Filatov had not asked for a trade, he apparently was given an opportunity to make a categorical denial.  He passed.  And Chesnokov did not report this.  So I pressed:

"What other questions did he not want to answer? Not telling both sides of the story is advocacy journalism."

Though a blog, Puck Daddy holds itself out as a legitimate news source.  (Dark Blue Jacket, however, does not - this is a source of commentary and is inherently biased.)  Chesnokov was tossing out complaints during our dialogue that the Columbus Dispatch and other mainstream media sources were not appropriately crediting his work.  So the advocacy journalism claim strikes at the heart of being a legitimate journalist.  Either you tell both sides of the story, or you don't.  You're legit, or you're not.  Chesnokov clearly was getting annoyed:

"I really don't feel like getting in the middle of this. Learned a few lessons."

Sorry, pal, you're not getting off that easy.  My reply:

"By not telling the entire story (including the non-answers), you ARE in the middle. And Filatov suffers for it."

He then promised an update to the Puck Daddy article, which was posted roughly two-plus hours after the original interview.  Chesnokov posted the following, which apparently represents comments from a second interview after Howson's press conference:

Tell me, why didn't you request a trade and decided to go to the KHL?
I thought this would be the right thing to do. First of all, for me. And also as a matter of respect to Columbus as an organization.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?  It's still a bit of an enigmatic response, making the presumption that Filatov did NOT request the trade - especially considering the earlier Tweet from Chesnokov, "What makes you think he didn't ask for a trade?" that implied he may have.  Filatov played along, though, so we have to assume this is a fact.  There may have been other unanswered questions, however, and we can only hope that the three additions to the interview represent that group.  (And Filatov answered those three....hmmmm....)

This was an odd afternoon, indeed.  I appreciate that Chesnokov had the professionalism to update his interview.  I hope he was fully forthcoming with Filatov's answers and non-answers.  Sadly, his professed support for Filatov makes me doubtful.  And we'll probably never know the complete story.

In case you're interested, the entirety of Tweets by both Chesnokov and me during the time period in question is posted after the fold.  I didn't edit the texts in any way, nor did I alter the timelines of the things may seem a little out of order.  That's the asynchronous world of Twitter for you.  Enjoy!

Scott Howson press conference regarding Filatov

Here's the presser held by Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson addressing the Nikita Filatov loan to CKSA Moscow:

I'm listening to it as I post. Probably will have more on it soon.

Celebration in Moscow - Filatov returns

Pulled directly from a Babelfish translation of the CSKA Moscow website (first sourced by Twitterer kirsij) and offered without any editorial comment (but I cleaned up the HTML code in the interest of optimizing the page):

Nikita [Filatov] returns in the TsSKA (Central Sports Club of the Army)!

The hockey club of the TsSKA (Central Sports Club of the Army) reached the understanding about the signing of contract with extreme attacking Nikita [Filatov] (19 years, 183 cm, 83 kgf). Agreement is calculated to the end of season 2009-2010. In the native club that attacking will come out under the 29-[ym] number.
Nikita [Filatov] is the graduate OF [SDYUSHOR] of the TsSKA (Central Sports Club of the Army). In 2007 [Filatov] it was selected under the total 6th number on the glass rod [NKHL], what is record for the graduates of the hockey school of Moscow line soldiers. In its first season after the ocean it was noted hairs -[trikom] in the match from Minnesota Of wild. In the composition of [yuniorskoy] team Russia [Filatov] he became the champion of peace, while in the composition of the youth composite country - by possessor of silver and bronze medals.
Season Command And G P [O] Sh +
2007 Team of Russia [YUCHM] 7 4 9 5 6
2007-2008 TsSKA (Central Sports Club of the

5 0 0 0 0
2007-2008 TsSKA (Central Sports Club of the Army) -

34 32 34 66 90
2008 Team of Russia [YUCHM]18 6 3 6 9 29
2008 Team
of Russia MChM
7 4 5 9 10
2008-2009 Columbus Of blue Of jackets
8 4 0 4 0 3
2008-2009 Syracuse Of crunch AHL 39 16 16 32 34 0
2009 Team of Russia MChM 7 8 3 11 6
2009-2010 Columbus Of blue Of jackets
13 2 0 2 8 0

Statistics is the play off
Season Command And G P [O] Sh +
2007-2008 TsSKA (Central Sports Club of the Army) -

11 14 9 23 28 0

10 Thoughts about Game 19: Edmonton

1. In a strange, strange game where each period had a distinct theme, the Columbus Blue Jackets literally fought the Edmonton Oilers to a draw in the 1st, ruled the second, rallied back in the third and won in the shootout, 3-2, with Jake Voracek putting the CBJ over the top.  Your highlights:

1a. With 2 points from the win, the Jackets jumped ahead of Detroit into 6th place in the Western Conference.

2. Where did all of this truculence come from?  It was like both teams were just itching to pound on someone last night.  Is there bad blood from the last game?  Did Edmonton realize that their smaller, faster lineup wasn't going to get past the big boys in Ohio, so they tried to fight their way out?  Odd, odd stuff.

2a. Blunden-Stortini - Not so good.

2b. Sestito-Strudwick - Much better. The Game Ops staff even got into it, offering a little "Spirit of Radio" by Rush in the background.

3. On the Game Ops front, did anyone notice that Canadian rock bands got some serious airplay last night?  Triumph ("Fight the Good Fight")?  Rush ("Spirit of Radio")?  And these were pretty old songs.  Perhaps Game Ops trying to make our Canadian visitors feel welcome?

4. I still really like Stralman's shot.  (He scored last night.)

4a. On the subject of Stralman, hats off to him and the CBJ management for quick thinking to get Anton's girlfriend, and their children, through immigration.  I'm not sure I would want to get married in my apartment, let alone have CBJ staff as my best man and maid of honor, but you do whatcha gotta do.  (Neat article, too.)

5. Matthieu Garon was solid in net, giving CBJ fans (and players) a wonderful sense of security as Steve Mason goes through his growing pains...and back pains...

5a. Someone Twittered to me last night that Mase's back might be this year's version of the mono situation of 2008-09.  Mase tries to gut it out, can't and goes on the shelf for a while.  Makes sense.  (Wish I could attribute that theory...)

5b. Give Garon massive props for his handling of the shootout.  That performance tells me we have 2 starting quality goaltenders.

5c.  Calder Cup be damned, go with the hot hand and start Garon on Thursday night.  Let Mase heal his body, get some Dave Rook coaching and just relax a little.  This platooning goalie thing could be good for the youngster's development while impressing upon the veteran how much we need him.

6. CBJ TV color guy Bill Davidge was remarkably restrained last night.  Not feeling well?

6a. The imp in me enjoys Bill's periodic needling of Jeff Rimer.  At the conclusion of the game, the mention of Rimer's wedding anniversary was well-meaning and classy.  

6b. Broken record: If Fox Sports Ohio wants to see how to do NHL hockey right, they should watch NESN (Boston Bruins) and Comcast SportsNet Chicago (Blackhawks)...and take copious notes.  

7. Syracuse Cruncher gets 4:58 of ice time and 5 minutes of penalties...and Hitch says, "Tommy played well tonight.  I was happy with Tommy."  Ummm...what gives?  He was OK in limited action, but not comment-worthy.

8. Antoine Vermette was a great acquisition by Scott Howson.  He's a great center - a playmaker, a scorer and a tough guy who can play Hitch hockey.  And he got a goal last night as well!  

9. Filatov.  Woo boy.  Not sure what to say about this one.  I thought it seemed odd that Tommy Sestito got the call-up from Syracuse without a precipitating injury to a CBJ player (Torres, maybe, but....), even going as far as to start thinking along the lines of trading Filatov.  (That was not well received.)  Regardless, this rough patch has apparently turned ugly and will require some shrewd thinking by Howson.

9a. First, we need to establish that the CBJ own Filly's NHL rights through 2012.  That means if he wants to play in the NHL any time soon, and he has said so, it'll be because the CBJ got what they wanted.

9b. Second, we need to consider that he's potentially going back to play in the KHL for a team in Moscow.  (They have like 23 teams in Moscow, so I don't care what the name is.)  That means that Moscow has more to do for a 19-year-old than Syracuse, and that the KHL is filling an equivalent role to the AHL for Filatov's pre-NHL hockey development purposes.

9c. Howson has to look at this situation as it is.  Hitch clearly doesn't like Filatov's play, age, deodorant, or something else.   The kid isn't playing Hitch hockey like Hitch wants.  So he won't get playing time in Columbus, but Filatov won't play in Syracuse.  What to do?  Risk sending Filatov to the KHL and maybe never seeing him again?  (With no formal agreements between the KHL and NHL, Filatov could just sign a big - and tax-free - contract in Russia and ignore his NHL contract.  It won't get him to the NHL but could scratch his hockey itch quite well.)  It's not like he hasn't been approached before.  Jeesh - scary stuff for a GM who used a top draft pick on the kid.

9d. Considering the bad fit for Filatov in the world of Hitch-hockey, and considering that Hitchcock doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon, I suggest that it is worth exploring the possibility of giving Filatov the Gilbert Brule treatment and let him get a fresh start with another team while stockpiling with more conducive talent or draft picks before losing him - potentially forever - to the KHL.  Might scoring-scarce Boston be willing to part with one or both of the draft picks from the Phil Kessel trade to Toronto, for example?

9e. To be clear, Hitch and Howson have been largely on the same page regarding talent acquisition for the CBJ.  This is one of the only times where we really have a case of square pegs and round holes.  Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill and suggest that there are deep divisions in the Columbus Blue Jackets hierarchy, but let's also hope that the two gentlemen make the Filatov experiment a learning lesson for how they need to stay on the same page.  

9f. Still, who wouldn't pay a couple of bucks to be a fly on the wall when those two are talking about Filatov?  

10.  I really liked how the defense played last night.  They bent a little bit but pretty much dismantled the Edmonton fast break, forcing Edmonton to play their game.  That's powerful stuff.  

Next up: The big road trip starts in Dallas on Thursday night.  The Stars have quietly put together a decent season, currently sitting in the 8th slot in the Western Conference - only 2 points behind the Jackets.  Should be a good one.