Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ethan Moreau joins the Leadership Cavalry

Remember that stuff I wrote about how the draft won't impact the Columbus Blue Jackets this season?  Well, this development will.  Or, at least, it should.

One of the nasty little truths about the 2009-2010 Columbus Blue Jackets is that our young team was pretty much rudderless when the team went south on Ken Hitchcock.  There are plenty of reasons why that could be, but one factor was that Michael Peca wasn't in the room to keep the very young skilled players - the kids - in line.  He smoothed over some of Ken Hitchcock's rougher edges and - despite not having the "C" on his jersey - was credited as a major factor in keeping the locker room focussed through the stretch run.

Despite playing in 71 games in 2008-2009, Peca only had 22 points (4 goals, 18 assists).  He had a -6 rating.  He wasn't a top-six forward.  But his value to the team was cemented in 2009-2010, when the incredible early start to the season evaporated into a morass of poor play and piled up losses.  No one was there in the locker room to crack the whip with the kids.

So general manager Scott Howson traded away Jason Chimera to grab a "Michael Peca-style" (my words) player, Chris Clark.  Clark was the Washington Capitals' captain when the trade took place, and it was his job to help fill the locker room leadership void.  This, of course, is almost impossible to do as a mid-season trade.  You need a training camp at minimum to get to know your teammates, develop chemistry, learn the personalities.  Clark had none of those advantages.  Sure, he put up a whopping 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points in 36 games for the CBJ (7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points overall in 2009-2010).  But that's not why Scott Howson is paying him $2.6 million a season.  Clark's role is to be a veteran leader.

Apparently, Chris Clark is not enough.

The Dispatch on why the CBJ won't be players in free agency

Aaron Portzline at the Dispatch nails the current state of financial and contractual affairs with the Columbus Blue Jackets - the real ones, not the pretend ones suiting up for developmment camp today - in this Puck Rakers piece:
Howson has committed himself and this franchise to this group of players. Not just verbally, but contractually. With the expected moves this summer, they'll be less than $9 million under next season's salary cap ($59.4), with goaltender Steve Mason and right winger Jake Voracek due new contracts by next summer. 
Until it all fell apart this past season, Howson was lauded for the moves, both locally and nationally. It was held up as proof that players wanted to be in Columbus for the long haul, and a sign that the franchise was ready to be a perrenial playoff club. He freely acknowledged he was following the Cleveland Indians model from the 1990s under former Tribe general manager John Hart. 
The point is, it is not possible for Howson to lock down his core into the distant future one summer, and then be a free agent gangbuster the next. It's one or the other, and he has staked the Blue Jackets' future -- and likely his own in Columbus -- on the club's young core.
Must read material.  In fact, I had a blog post almost identical in style in me - now, I'll just suggest you read this and save me the heavy lifting!

Monday, June 28, 2010

On that Jared Boll extension

Word has come out via the Dispatch that the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jared Boll's agent are working on a long-term extension to avoid arbitration for the restricted free agent.

Readers of this blog know that I'm a really big fan of General Manager Scott Howson.  But this one, however, has me baffled.

First, you have to consider his statistics:
  • 2007-2008: 75 games played, 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, +/- of -4, 226 PIMs, 8:01 avg. time on ice
  • 2008-2009: 75 games played, 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points, +/- of -6, 180 PIMs, 8:54 avg. time on ice
  • 2009-2010: 68 games played, 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, +/- of -8, 149 PIMs, 7:12 avg. time on ice
So, coming off his worst year for points, plus-minus, avg. time on ice and PIMs (remember, he's a "fighter" so more PIMs theoretically is good), Boll is in line for a long-term contract?  Is this bizarro world?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Johansen pick

As I understand it, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson tried his darndest to trade back, grab some more assets and still pick Ryan Johansen.  That didn't happen, so Howson drafted Johansen anyway.

Even the casual CBJ hockey fan knows that the Jackets desperately needed a top line (premier) center.  (Or a top-pair defenseman, or perhaps a development goalie...)  So what did we draft?  A center.

And what do we know about said center, you ask?
Puck Rakers: Johansen is not going to be Rick Nash's center in 2010-11. He'll be given a chance to impress at development camp and training camp, but he's almost certain to go back to junior next season. He has two years of junior eligibility remaining, and it's quite possible he uses both years.

Central Scouting (courtesy of The Cannon): He has good on-ice vision and also angles well on the forecheck. He has the intelligence to play power-play as well as penalty kill. He can be shifty and has the ability to beat a defenseman one-on-one. Once he fills out and gains more strength he could turn raw talent into a valuable center at both ends of rink. He has displayed nice playmaking capabilities and this should continue at the next level.
 (I added the emphasis in both cases.)

So we have immediate needs, and we draft a longer-term prospect.  Which makes sense, as the kid is only 17 years old.

I'm pleased that the 2013-2014 pipeline is filling up, but we still need help now.  Johansen could be incredible, but - barring a miracle - he's not going to impact what I see at Nationwide Arena this fall.

And that's why I'm much more interested in the forthcoming trades and/or free agent signings than the draft.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My $0.02 on the draft

Not a ton of time to type, so I'll get straight to the point.

First, the NHL draft is about projecting 3-ish years down the road and figuring out what you need to fill gaps at that point.  These are raw (high school age, largely) kids who are going to go back to juniors (like John Moore, Steve Mason, etc.) or, if they're really good, the AHL.  Sure there are always a small handful of players who actually go straight from the draft to an NHL roster, but that group is so small as to be statistically insignificant.

This makes the NHL draft very different than, say, the NFL draft where a team's draft is a bust if the top 3 rounds' players don't make the roster.  Also different than the NBA draft where, at only 2 rounds, the first-rounder is pretty much expected to step in and play a lot of minutes.

In the NHL, the draft is all about development.  Which makes the whole hoopla surrounding the draft kinda silly - except for the fact that it gives Columbus Blue Jackets fans an excuse to engage in serious puck talk in the middle of the offseason.  And I like that excuse.  Even though I can't do it this year.  (Damn you, Ohio University!)

So let's look ahead and think about what the Columbus  Blue Jackets really need in the 3-ish year window.  It seems that General Manager Scott Howson has restocked the cabinet with defensemen - enough that one or two of those wet noodles will stick to the wall and be productive NHL players.  We could stand to be a little deeper at forward, with a need to improve general depth up and down the organization.  Forward depth would be helped dramatically if a certain petulant Russian would get his rear end back to the States...but I digress.

My opinion on this draft: We need a good goalie.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Dark Blue Jacket CBJ draft party comparison

So, you're planning to go downtown tomorrow night for the great summer fun that is the NHL Draft.  And you hear that there are a couple different parties going on.  And you have no idea where to go to get your Columbus Blue Jackets fix.

Worry not, you poor, lost soul.  I've taken the guesswork out of this tough choice and put it into a simple table form for your reviewing pleasure:

DBJ's NHL Draft Party Comparison

Columbus Blue Jackets
Draft Party
The Hockey Writers 
NHL Draft Live Webcast

Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
R Bar Arena, Columbus,
6PM - 9-ish PM
(The R Bar is open at 10:30AM for lunch, though, so why not make a day of it?)
No cover, but have an ID certifying
you are over 21
Free in the Nationwide Arena garage
Use the Nationwide Arena garage and walk the .1 mile
VERSUS draft feed on the big screen augmented by local discussion simulcast on 1460AM "The Fan"
Live webcast featuring noted CBJ journalist/bloggers including The Hockey Writers' CBJ man, Rick Gethin, and prospect guru, Christopher Ralph; Ten Minute Misconduct's Jeff Little.  Guests will be brought in throughout the entire first round.
  • Free 10th Season T-Shirt for the first 500 fans
  • Free Public Skate in the Dispatch Ice Haus from 5PM - 7PM
  • Street hockey on the arena floor for kids
  • Locker Room tours
  • Food and beverage specials
  • Merchandise and used equipment sale
  • Prizes given away throughout the night
  • Investigate/purchase 2010-2011 ticket packages (and choose your seats)
  • Hang at Columbus' premier hockey watering hole with some of the Blue Jackets' hard core fans
  • Eat fine pub food
  • Drink adult beverages
  • Watch every imaginable event on the many TV's (and most likely the VERSUS draft coverage, which I guess would be on mute)
  • John Moore (6-7PM)
  • Derek Dorsett (7-8PM)
  • Antoine Vermette (8-9PM)
  • CBJ broadcast personalities (if you catch 'em walking by)
Ummm...R Bar management? 
Lots of people.  Lots of families.  Lots of stuff to do.  Lots of chaos.  Lots of lines (if last year was any indication).  Lots of excellent memories and up-close experiences.
Lots of cameraderie.  Serious
hockey talk with knowledgable peeps.
If you have kids, bring 'em.  If you're in a shopping mood, bring a credit card.  If you want to eat (and it's not a short event), bring cash.  If you want autographs, bring something for the guys to sign.  And, no matter what, bring a camera. 
Bring your ID.  Bring your credit card.  And, if you want to keep up with the talk, bring the latest copy of The Hockey News or a mobile internet device that will enable you to rattle off the name of the CBJ's second captain in less than 3 seconds.  (Seriously, the folks are really cool with the noobs.  No fear is warranted.)
While hockey fans of all ages are welcomed and will not feel ill at ease, this is a family-oriented event.  It's also a terrific way for the uninitiated to learn more about the great CBJ ticket packages. 
Adults only (not in an obscene's just that the event is being held at a bar), and especially for the serious CBJ fan who's looking to connect with other serious CBJ fans. 
Not that I know of.
Log onto the live webcast and take part in the live chat.

Now for my personal opinion: Because the two places are a whopping .1 mile away from each other (and accessible via a pedestrian bridge), I'd try to hit both if I did not have any children in tow.  The Nationwide event is really quite fun, even for adults, but the R Bar is an experience in and of itself.  

Sadly, I won't be able to attend either this year...but I fully expect to hear stories of revelry and awe for the rest of the summer from those who do go!  Have fun, be safe, and CARRY THE FLAG!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Your summer CBJ fix is on the way

Got this email from the fine folks at Fox Sports Ohio:

On FOX Sports Ohio

Follow the Jackets’ offseason moves July 1 at 7:30pm

CLEVELAND, OHIO – FOX Sports Ohio and the Columbus Blue Jackets are excited to announce a new summer program, Blue Jackets Live – Summer Special, presented by Toyota Direct, premiering Thursday, July 1 at 7:30pm.

This 30-minute show with FOX Sports Ohio Blue Jackets broadcasters Ray Crawford, Bill Davidge, John Michael and Jeff Rimer will bring Blue Jackets fans up to speed on their team’s off-season news.

The show features interviews with the Jackets’ new Head Coach Scott Arniel and General Manager Scott Howson. Rimer will also talk to the Blue Jackets first round pick at the site of the NHL Draft, which will be held June 25-26 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

Tickets! Get yer tickets!

The Columbus Blue Jackets released their 2010-2011 schedule yesterday, and one thing crossed my mind: Pity the poor ticket sales representatives. This is a lousy economic environment to be selling entertainment right now, especially for a team that is not at or near the top of their game.

As background, I was witness on Monday to a ticket sale that I've never seen before in my lifetime. After over ten years of mediocrity in coaching (sometimes not even mediocre, Coach Willingham), recruiting and on-field performance, the University of Notre Dame's football program may have hit rock bottom. The school that has sold out every home game since 1973 apparently is dealing with plummeting season ticket and alumni  demand for tickets, leading to a public sale for all 7 home games.  Only once in my life do I remember just one game went on sale to the general public.  But all seven??  Even scarier for the Irish, you could buy huge blocks of tickets for some games - up to 20 tickets together for some games!  (Oh yeah, ND raised ticket prices this year, too, not the brightest of moves under the Dome.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

10th Anniversary Logo video montage

The logo is solid (nothing we haven't seen before), but I really like this video.

Makes you want to watch some hockey, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It starts NOW (2011 Stanley Cup odds)

Here's today's line for 2011 Stanley Cup championship odds per - not that I endorse gambling, although I dabbled in it for the first time in Vegas back in March and enjoyed watching the West Viriginia Mountaineers' perpetual failure against the spread.

The entire NHL, with current odds, is listed after the fold.  I've got a few really poorly-informed thoughts as well.

Jeremy Roenick says it all

This is perhaps the purest expression of competitive passion that I've seen in a long, long time.

To want the Cup so badly and never get  Good for Roenick for showing his emotions for everyone to see on national TV.   His moment embodies why hockey transcends other sports.

As Jeff Little tweeted, "You don't see ex-football players misting up at the thought of not hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Only in hockey . . . good stuff."  Indeed it was.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The one post in which I say Don Cherry is onto something

The Kingston Whig-Standard offers their "hometown boy" article on the ascent of Scott Arniel to the head coaching position for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  A very nice piece, punctuated by some love for Kingston's other star player, Scott Howson:
"It was a dream to play in the NHL and it's been a dream to get back as a head coach," said Arniel, a member of the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame, along with his granddaddy Jimmy. 
"It's something I've been aspiring to for the past 11 years. Still, when the opportunity came I wanted to be sure I aligned myself with the right GM," he added, referring to former Kingston Canadian Scott Howson.
Pleasantries accomplished, the article morphed into a commentary from Don Cherry that, surprise-surprise, I kinda agree with...

Scott Howson on XM Home Ice today

[UPDATE: Light The Lamp has the interview available in MP3 format.]

On a lark, I tuned in to listen to Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson talk with Don LaGreca and E.J. Hradek on the noon-hour "NHL Live" show.  I didn't record or transcribe the appearance, but my memory is still kinda fresh.  So I'll take a stab at sharing the knowledge.

By and large, his comments weren't extraordinary.  He's excited about Scott Arniel, pumped about the draft.  But does anyone really say anything of value in these radio interviews?

Actually, they do.

First, Howson did not appear to discount the possibility of trading down.  He said that the number one and two picks (Hall/Seguin) were pretty well etched in stone.  But then, there's about 9 slots that are up in the air.  That says to me, "Make an offer, and I'll listen."

The Blue Jackets coaching search: Winners and Losers

The long-running saga that was the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching search has now ended, and it's now time to render judgement on the many goings-on since the end of the season.

As always, this blog is just my opinion.  If you don't like it, don't read it - or block my Twitter account - or whatever.  As Martini Hockey suggests, "Hockey commentary is not meant to be filtered. Raise a little hell, y'know?" So I'll do just that!


The Columbus Blue Jackets: As I've been saying all along, Scott Howson lined up a stable of four strong candidates. While each had their own combination of x's and o's and personality, any of them would be worthy of a head coaching job in the NHL.  They got one of the four.  Win.

Scott Howson: This is a man of his word, which carries him a lot farther in the league than some would think. He said he had a plan and executed that plan. He waited when he had to and moved nimbly when he could. Where process adjustments were necessary along the way, he made them. First-choice coach or second-choice, it really doesn't matter when all four candidates would make great coaches.  And he stayed tight-lipped throughout, which in the end is best for the Blue Jackets.

Scott Arniel: If you knew you weren't the top choice but badly wanted to coach the CBJ, would you (1) sulk and pass on a call from Scott Howson or (2) jump at the opportunity? Wisely, Arniel chose door number two and, in the process, made him a Columbus guy in a way that being the first choice could not have done. This man wants to be in Columbus. (And why wouldn't he?)

The CBJ blogging community: If you haven't been under a rock this off-season, you've noticed that the blogging community has been getting much better integrated.  We've built a community of knowledge that started with cross-links and quickly moved to the short-order, shared research project that was the Coaching Candidate Challenge. That's right, it took the blogosphere to do the legwork that helped tell the CBJ fan base about the four coaching prospects.  And it wasn't just one blog that did it all...there were a lot of us involved!

Rick Gethin: If you're the guy who writes what Puck Daddy calls "the definitive piece on Arniel," you're a winner. Rick - and The Hockey Writers - also wisely laid low during the entire process, letting the rest of us (major media included) spout off without knowing what we were really talking about. (Also, I now owe Rick an RBar pizza.  He bet on Arniel, I took the field.  Wise man, that Gethin...)

The Blue Jackets' blue line: I can't help but think that, with the exception of Kris Russell, they were panicking at the thought of being asked to implement Guy Boucher's manic scheme.  Arniel apparently likes his defense stout, which is more up our alley.

Steve Yzerman: He let Scott Howson do the legwork in extricating Guy Boucher's emotions from the Montreal organization and then struck at the eleventh hour. What an opportunist.

Jeff Little: More and more, Jeff is becoming the go-to man for perspective on what's really going on in the minds of the CBJ front office. His perspective on the coaching search also cooled the passions of many a CBJ fan throughout the process. Read his words carefully, folks, as there's a lot to what he says.

Claude Noel: A great coach, a classy guy and, in the end, a true company man. Some team is going to make him a permanent head coach someday, and they will be very, very happy that they did.  I'm genuinely sad that it didn't work out for him in Columbus.

Todd Sharrock: The CBJ PR chief finally can stop saying "No comment" in his sleep. Poor guy...this was a long process!

Losers after the fold....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Scott Arniel's introductory press conference

If you haven't watched it in its entirety and consider yourself a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, let me suggest you stop what you're doing and invest the time right now:

Thanks to the Blue Jackets for posting (and for making the video embeddable).

You saw my thoughts earlier...what are your impressions?

Howson, Dorsett on the Arniel hire

Let's whet your appetites.  First, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson on Scott Arniel's hire:

Now, forward Derek Dorsett, who has faced Arniel's Manitoba Moose team while he played for the CBJ's AHL team:

The Blue Jackets' twitter feed is promising actual press conference video soon...

Quick thoughts on the Arniel introductory presser

The Scott Arniel press conference just concluded, and I'll embed (or at least link to) the video as soon as its available. I did watch the press conference, though, and here's what I took in while chasing the Dark Blue Toddler around...

1. He says all the right things.  There's a level of competitive polish in Arniel that screams "professional" at the viewer.

2. He doesn't care about the outcomes for the other candidates.  There are 30 head coaching jobs in the NHL, and he's got one of 'em.  I kinda like that in a competitive leader.  You need a little, "I'm going to win, period" in your top dog.

3. He said that he had Columbus circled as the place he wanted to be.  That's solid.  If he is to be believed - and why not? - then he may have been our backup choice, but we weren't his.

4. The local Columbus tv guys can actually ask a hockey question - let alone find Nationwide Arena?  Who knew?

We're off to a good start to the 2010-2011 season!

The revolution WILL be televised

Got an email from Fox Sports Ohio:
Tune in to FOX Sports Ohio or visit today at 3pm for live coverage of the press conference announcing the Columbus Blue Jackets’ new head coach. Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson will introduce the fifth head coach in franchise history.
Good for FSO, and for those of us who watch live events online only because we can't see them on TV!

I'm genuinely excited to see this presser.  Less of the "circus exhibition" wonder and curiosity that would have been a Boucher event, more of a "let's hear what the coach has to say" excitement.  Arniel's a solid hockey guy, and Howson knows how to pick his talent.  Should be good.

I got the news today

So I turn on my PC this morning, open up my email, and what's in the inbox?  Look for yourself:

(Scott and me, we're tight like that.)

So we have our coach - it's official!  Can't wait to see the introductory press conference at 3PM today.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blue Jackets are negotiating with Scott Arniel

Again, so says The Dispatch.

Before I address Scott Arniel, let me get this off my chest: Thank God for Rick Gethin and The Hockey Writers.  Working in tandem with Matt Wagner at The Cannon and me, Rick took the Scott Arniel part of the DBJ Coaching Candidate Challenge and came up with a couple great articles to explain more about Arniel, his background and his coaching style - which you can find through the links to the left.  Quite literally, if it was not for Rick, we wouldn't know anything of substance on the man.  That's right, there was zero newspaper or other major media coverage on him beyond the "horse race".  So let's offer some kudos where they are deserved!

As for Arniel himself, he sounds like another great option for Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  His system isn't revolutionary like Guy Boucher's (but Boucher's is largely unproven at the NHL level, making his whole candidacy a risk), but what I like about Arniel - based off of what I've read from Rick's pieces as well as some back-chatter - is that he knows how to coach.  And teach.  And get lesser players to play better.  And win.  Arniel has an AHL Calder Cup under his belt, remember.

I am not disappointed in the least that it appears that Scott Arniel could become the next head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The guy's clearly got talent, and a positive resolution to contract negotiations - especially in light of not being Howson's first choice - means that he really wants to be here in Columbus.  This team - and this town - can use that vote of confidence from a winner like him.

[UPDATE: Per the Columbus Blue Jackets' Twitter feed, it's done.  Press conference tomorrow at 3PM.  Welcome, Coach Arniel!]

Guy takes a pass

(Pardon me while I get my last look at my Guy Boucher graphic.  I really liked how that turned out.)

After a whirlwind weekend of public speculation over what the parties involved surely hoped would be a private dialogue, it appears that Guy Boucher has walked away from negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets and will not be the team's next head coach.

My take: Hiring Boucher represented the biggest risk Howson could have taken.  From his past record with other teams, it's very possible to presume that Boucher could have taken the Blue Jackets to incredible heights in a short period of time.  At the same time, Boucher has a unique system that apparently has not been tried much in the NHL (beyond some tinkering by Dallas' reprehensible coach, Marc Crawford).  If it didn't work, and if Boucher started getting real frustrated with that lack of success, what would he do?  Where would he turn?  He's a younger man (38) and has not tasted coaching failure.  It's not too hard to see such a scenario turning sour real quickly.  But that's not an issue any longer as Boucher is out of the running.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Guy Boucher is the choice?

So says The Dispatch.

Boucher, by far, is the riskiest of the four coaching options.  He's the youngest choice, runs a system that hasn't been tested in the NHL to any degree and has no direct experience in the NHL.  He also apparently is an incredible motivator and hockey mind, working wonders with both Drummondville (QJMHL) and Hamilton (AHL).

High risk, high reward?  Regardless, the upcoming season is going to be fun to watch...

[UPDATE: And The Dispatch says Boucher passed on the offer.]

Friday, June 4, 2010

How secure is Scott Howson in Columbus?

The [Toronto] Globe and Mail offered their take on The Hunt for Guy Boucher and offered this take on some of the back-channel issues that are being considered by Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson's Hamlet:
Our spies report that one of the factors that may weigh in Boucher’s decision is term of an eventual contract, and the long-term situation of Columbus general manager Scott Howson, whose contract expires next year and reportedly contains a clause that allows either he or the team to walk away this summer. 
If neither exercises the option, Howson will be extended through 2013. 
Boucher, being a smart guy, would probably prefer not to suddenly find himself working for a new GM.
This actually is a matter for not just Boucher but any potential coach or free agent who is looking at the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Who wants to sign up for a Howson-guided club only to see Howson bail out of town?  I was unaware of this clause and - presuming it's true, as I have no reason to think it's not - am now facing what I think might be my deepest, darkest fear for the future of the CBJ: That we could lose Howson just as things are finally hitting their stride.

Who is this Claude Noel?

Perhaps the most quickly dismissed of the four Columbus Blue Jackets coaching candidates is the team's current interim head coach, Claude Noel.  And the fan media has stepped up considerably in meeting the DBJ Coaching Candidate Challenge, with the exception of anything to summarize the background and approach of the man who's been under our noses all along.  So consider this my attempt to balance the scales, a follow-up to my Defense of Claude Noel (and Scott Howson), if you will.

In fairness to those who are dismissing his candidacy for the full-time coaching job, there is a fundamental logic in suggesting that if he was the coach of choice from the outset, he would have been hired by now.  The problem with that logic is, Scott Howson said that he was going to let Noel coach out the string and then conduct a full and thorough search for a permanent hire back when Noel was appointed as interim bench boss.  And Howson has once again proven to be a man of his word.  It may very well be that Noel ends up being the CBJ coach next year, but no one will say that Howson wasn't thorough - and that he took a long, hard look at the alternatives before sticking with his man.

In researching for this piece, I forgot how little Howson knew Noel when he promoted Claude from the assistant coaching position to the top spot for the balance of 2009-2010.  A couple of games after Noel was promoted, the Associated Press' Rusty Miller drafted this fantastic piece on Noel, his style and the impression he was making on Howson.  Howson really didn't know Claude at all...

Ben Berry interviews CBJ triathlete Tyler Wright

Columbus Blue Jackets aficionado Ben Berry has a blog, Becoming Timberman, which chronicles his triathlon obsession.  So it comes as no surprise that he interviewed Blue Jackets development coach (and former player) Tyler Wright about Wright's upcoming Ironman Canada effort on behalf of the Hats for Heroes charity work that he does with the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation.

The interview offers some interesting tidbits about the challenge of getting ready for such a grueling event...and even offers a little insight into Wright's back and forth with the team:
BT: It was reported by the Dispatch that you’ve taken some ribbing from current CBJ players, some of whom have put money on the line on how well you’ll do. As development coach, have you challenged any of the guys to come train with you as a way of firing back at them?

Tyler: The guys have been great. Derek Dorsett just got a road bike, and Jared Boll is looking at getting one. It’s a big difference between training for an 82 game NHL season and training for an Ironman, so they have to be careful. But I’ll probably at least get them out on the bikes to try and judge their fitness levels. It’s true that Commie (Mike Commodore) and I have a wager going, and I might have to bring my goal time down to bring in some more money for the cause.
Nice interview, Ben, and good luck to Tyler in the Ironman Canada!  (Better you than me!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Boucher on CBJ inquiry: "It's Flattering"

So says the Columbus Blue Jackets head coaching candidate himself.

He really said nothing of consequence in this cat-and-mouse episode with the press, so I'll just offer you the Google-translated link of the RDS story and call it at that.

Yet more on Boucher's system

One of the great things about building a network of online friends is that folks start looking out for you.  Take Kathy K of the Hab It Her Way blog, who referred me to this article in yesterday's edition of The (Montreal) Gazette which summarizes Columbus Blue Jackets head coaching candidate Guy Boucher's system and coaching style from a player attending the Montreal Canadiens' development camp, which is going on as I type:
Boucher believes in pushing the puck forward during a game at all times. There's no circling behind your net to set up a rush and players are encouraged to dump the puck out of their own zone at the first opportunity.
"I've seen a lot of good systems. (Former Canadiens assistant coach) Clement Jodoin had a good system in Rimouski, but I think Guy's system is good. The puck is always going forward. We make sure the puck never stays in our zone."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More Dineen, Arniel background information

The DBJ Coaching Candidate Challenge continues rolling along, and we're finally getting some real perspective on the people behind the CBJ coaching search!

I've gotta hand it to Matt Wagner at The Cannon and Rick Gethin at The Hockey Writers.  Those guys know how to dig around on Scott Howson's Columbus Blue Jackets head coaching candidates.  They reached out to hockey experts in the coaches' current towns and uncovered some excellent background information on who these coaches are and what they bring to their hockey clubs.  Both of their articles are rather thorough examinations of their subjects.

First, Wagner's "The Man They Call Dino".  (Excellent use of the nickname, Matt!)  Matt, too, contacted Chris Roy at the Maine Hockey Journal (who by now has to be wondering what's up in Columbus!) but also Dan Hickling, Portland Pirates beat writer for the York County Journal Tribune.  Big takeaways for me come not from the quotes from his sources but instead from his commentary:
It's not surprising that someone who played 18 years in the league as a hard charger and leader of men (Captain in Philly, Hartford, and Carolina, and arguably should have had the title in Columbus over Lyle Odelein) would demand hard work and know how to light a fire under his players, but it's interesting to see both the positive and negative side effects. While I doubt that the team would be risking a team-wide "tuning out" as Ken Hitchcock suffered, it still would be a possible concern for the front office should Dino get the nod.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CBJ Coaching Challenge update

Just a quick note on my challenge to CBJ bloggers and media to actually give us some substance to consider about the four candidates to coach the Columbus Blue Jackets over the days ahead...

Activity is starting to pick up.  The Hockey Writers posted a piece with some information on Manitoba's Scott Arniel.  The crux of the article is right here (but go check out the real thing for the videos):
Players who have served time under Arniel have had good things to say about their coach. Jason Krog noted that Arniel was “very innovative with his coaching and the systems we play,” and also said, “He doesn’t limit creativity. I think guys respect that.” Nolan Baumgartner said, “He knows his stuff and his biggest strength is how he can teach the systems that he puts in place.”
Eric Smith of HockeyBuzz has loaned himself out to Fox Sports Ohio and offers this piece on Guy Boucher.  Here's a taste for you:
Boucher is the youngest of the candidates and the most inventive when it comes to his style of play. His 1-3-1 style is very unusual when it comes to the NHL. The way he plays it isn't done at all as he puts a defenseman on the left side of the 3 players instead of the middle. He will take risk so that he can find reward. To put it to you short and sweet, he is the opposite of former head coach Ken Hitchcock.
The only bad thing that you will hear about the red hot coaching prospect other than a lack of experience is that most have said that he is extremely arrogant. As I have never met the man, I can't say if this is over stated or not. Howson will want a very confident coach behind the bench as long as it doesn't cross the line.

Who is this Kevin Dineen?

Almost as soon as it was announced that Ken Hitchcock would be replaced on an interim basis by Claude Noel as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the name "Kevin Dineen" entered the dialogue about Hitchcock's permanent successor.  It came from fans, from bloggers, from professional media members, from "hockey insiders" across the league.  Dineen was the presumptive favorite to take over as bench boss for the Boys in Union Blue.  That hasn't changed in many (most?) of these minds, too, although CBJ general manager Scott Howson's holding up the entire hiring process to interview Guy Boucher seems to have opened some minds to Boucher's candidacy.

(Side note: Claude Noel still gets nowhere near the respect his pedigree and performance as interim head coach demands, in my opinion, and Scott Arniel is functionally unknown to those watching the Blue Jackets - a crying shame in both cases.  I remain convinced that any of the four candidates would make an outstanding head coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets, with each coach having their own attributes.)

Any reader of this blog knows that I feel that the fan/media dialogue over the potential coaches of the Columbus Blue Jackets has taken place without much actual substance to back up assertions (something I've challenged fans, bloggers and media alike to address though Howson may now be too far along for all but the full-time media to conduct any research).  Absent any meaningful points of comparison, Dineen perhaps has had the greatest advantage in this "horse race" discussion due to the sense of familiarity that Blue Jackets have with him as a part of the roster from 2000-2003, and then as a Player Development Coach for the Jackets for two seasons.  I don't think it's an overstatement in Dineen's case to say that he fits the role of "favorite son" in this four-candidate pool.  Such status carries people a long way in the general dialogue, especially in a community with as storied a college athletics program as the Ohio State University's.  Columbus loves its alumni, and such a warm feeling between fans and living legends isn't limited to the Buckeyes.  We still have soft spots for (most) ex-CBJers as well.

Problem is, the Kevin Dineen of 2010 isn't the same one that left Columbus in 2005.  He became the head coach of the Portland Pirates, an AHL affiliate first of the Anaheim Ducks and then the Buffalo Sabres.  He's developed a coaching style all his own, with his own way to manage the x's and o's - not to mention the personalities in the locker room.  And I hadn't seen any discussion of this from anyone thus far.

Simply put, who is this Kevin Dineen?  What's he like today?  Are the attributes that he brings to the table what we as Blue Jackets Nation need in our next head coach?