Sunday, October 31, 2010

Passing the puck

In reading different blog analyses of the past couple of games, I've seen a couple mentions of the Columbus Blue Jackets' questionable passing during games, especially the long transition passes from the defensemen to the forwards to ignite fast breaks.  I'm gathering that some commenters think that the inconsistent-to-poor passing is a big contributor to the CBJ's - ummm - inconsistent performance.

I'm not sure if this should be taken as a positive sign, but perhaps the most time in the off-day practice that DBT and I attended was spent on just this topic...long passes by defensemen.  In fact the whole practice was basically passing drills - and special teams work.

So is it good that Scott Arniel and his staff recognize this as an issue that demands attention, or is it not good that the team isn't picking up what the coaches are teaching in practice?

Game 10/Colorado: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets lost, 5-1, in apparently convincing style to the Colorado Avalanche last night.

I was out of town and missed the game.  Strangely, I couldn't find it on XM satellite radio, either.  Thus, I was limited to periodic text message score updates from Google.

By the sounds of it, it appears that my life may be better for not having watched that particular game.  Hey, it's an 82-game season...and the CBJ are still above the playoff-qualifying line.

It also appears that Scott Arniel is trying to get to the heart of the matter in recognizing that the Blue Jackets may not have sufficient will to overcome adverse circumstances.  Now would be a great time for the $7.8 Million Man to step up and start kicking a little tail, both on and off the ice (and help us in the fanbase appreciate why he's captain instead of the likes of R.J. Umberger).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Game 9/Edmonton: My take

The Columbus Blue Jackets fended off the Edmonton Oilers and a handful of squirrelly referees to take the game, 3-2, in an overtime shootout.

Rick Nash and Nikita Filatov scored on the only two shots needed in the shootout (Steve Mason turned aside the first Edmonton shot, and the second shot pinged off the side-bar.)  Nash coming up big in the shootout is something that CBJ fans are accustomed to, but the Filatov game-winner is special.

Nikita Filatov must be able to feel like he can smile again -
for the first time in a while.  (Flickr photo by OhioFamily)
Just yesterday, DBT and I watched Filatov cleaning up pucks after practice.  It seemed humiliating, watching him schlepping a five-gallon bucket around the ice.  He was not looking chipper.  Surely, it was not the highlight of his time in professional hockey.  So to see him put in a position to win the game, and then win it - you could see the stress melt away for just a moment.  Good for him.  It's a needed confidence boost for a talented young player.  Let's hope he keeps building momentum, both on the ice and in his head.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Best. Birthday. Ever. (Courtesy of the Blue Jackets)

The Dark Blue Toddler and I took the trek down to Nationwide Arena for one of the off-day open practices, and I was pleased to see roughly 20 Columbus Blue Jackets fans in the stands.  One who stood out was the "Birthday Boy" - sporting his white CBJ sweater and a birthday hat - who was in attendance with his dad and step-mom.

Mase's stick from a CBJ practice = Best. Birthday. Ever.
The young man was well-positioned to catch the action (and there was a lot of action, as the team was working on breakout passes for much of the practice), and the team sure noticed him.  Steve Mason flipped his practice stick over the glass, Chris Clark tossed him a puck and another puck popped over the ice in the course of practice.  From a "fan at practice" perspective, he totally lit up the stat sheet.

His father, Woody, recognized yours truly and my wandering soul of a son.    He introduced DBT and me to his son, Tyler, who was sporting an ear-to-ear smile since Mase literally dropped his birthday present in his lap.  Without question, Tyler was celebrating his tenth birthday in grand style.  As his father offered in an email after practice:
My 10 year old birthday boy, Tyler, told us on the way back to school that today was the best day of his life! What a blessing it is to have this franchise in town and to have players who genuinely seem to care about the fans. Tyler is a CBJ lifer—he was less than six weeks old at his first game, the Sanderson OT winner against Boston in year one.
From one father to another, that is Living The Dream.  Woody had more to share, however, in his email.  Here are his eloquent thoughts on how his boy, born in the CBJ's inaugural year, has grown with the team.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Perhaps the strangest marketing effort ever

I received my weekly "Flag Bearer" email from the Columbus Blue Jackets today, and among its reminders of upcoming games and unique ticket packages was a solicitation for the new CBJ third jersey, the actual content of the section reprinted to the left.

This totally baffles me.

I appreciate the CBJ wanting to keep the element of surprise and congratulate them on locking this jersey design down tighter than any team in the NHL has done.  Not a single leak.  When that jersey is worn on the ice, it'll be a total surprise for fans inside and outside of the arena.  If that's what the Jackets management wanted, they got it.

At the same time, I had the exact same reaction to this solicitation as I had to the flyer soliciting third jersey orders with my ticket package mailing.  Considering that we're talking about a purchase that will likely run north of $100, there is no way in hell that I'm going to pre-order it without having an inkling of what the jersey looks like.  I don't know any colors, logos, anything.  All I know is that it's going to use the same Reebok Edge jersey that the rest of the NHL uses, and that it will have a cannon motif as the main logo.  That's nowhere near enough for me to make a pre-release purchase.

Now, I'd perhaps think differently if the CBJ put a significant discount on the pre-sale jersey orders.  (Like 25-50%)  But they're not.  As best I recall, they're charging full freight for these sweaters.  Sight unseen.

Nah, I'll wait for Thanksgiving and see what they come out wearing.  I'm a fan, not a lemming.

Game 8/Philadelphia: My Take

In front of just under 12,000 boisterous Nationwide Arena fans on a Monday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets took it to the Stanley Cup finalist Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in regulation.

With 8 games under their belts, the CBJ have 10 points and are sitting in 8th place in the Western Conference standings.  That's right, if the playoffs started today, the Blue Jackets would be dancing.  Not that you care, but the first round matchup if the playoffs started today would be against the first-place Nashville Predators.  Imagine that: CBJ-Preds in best 4 of 7.  Talk about epic.  (And just watch heads explode across the entire National Hockey League.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Game 7/Chicago: My take

The Columbus Blue Jackets, coming off a stinging defeat at home against Calgary on Friday night, regrouped and beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday at the United Center, 3-2.

Let's start off with perhaps one of the most gratifying parts of the evening - two-thirds of the "kid line," Jake Voracek and Derick Brassard, hooking up for a goal in the second period:

The third part of that line, Nikita Filatov, wasn't a part of that action - it was captain Rick Nash instead.  As part of the shakeout from Scott Arniel's measured postgame statement of discontent, every one of the four forward lines were shaken up in order to simultaneously generate offense and smack some sense into the complacent.

For one night, at least, Arniel's gambit seemed to have worked.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Picking up the pieces

Not seeing the game live, let's start this blog post discussing the outcome of the Columbus Blue Jackets - Calgary Flames game from last night with some expert analysis:

Again, I'll let coach Arniel speak to the specifics of the Calgary matchup as the game won't be available on GameCenter Live for another 24 hours.  When he says this in response to a question from The Fan's uber-reporter Lori Schmidt, though, watch out:
“I try not to put too much into last year and year’s past,” Arniel said. “I wasn’t here so I don’t 100 percent know what happened. But I’m learnin’ here. I’m seeing things. I’m starting to learn some things about this team, and some of them I really don’t like.”
After seeing the press conference video, reviewing the boxscore and reflecting on the above comment, I do feel like I can comment intelligently in this area.  The larger themes that Arniel addresses are those that Blue Jackets fans have been discussing for some time.  It's not just's's last season's epic's so much more.

Welcome to Columbus, Scott Arniel.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Must Win" v. "Should Win" - DBJ's perspective

For those who have been actively following the Twitter activity of the Columbus Blue Jackets fan base and bloggers (not to mention the blogs themselves), you've probably noticed a little dialogue on the matter of whether the Blue Jackets are facing "must win" games at this point of the season.  Some, like Lee Auer of The JacketsBlog suggest that a game like tonight against Calgary is a "must win":
People who read this blog or follow the Jackets in general will think I’m crazy after this statement… This is ANOTHER must-win game. The Flames are a team that the Blue Jackets need to assert themselves on, especially at home, and that’s not even considering that the Flames have a goaltender making his NHL debut.
Our resident CBJ blogger/attorney, Jeff Little of The Hockey Writers, takes issue with the term (to be clear, this dialogue was extracted from the prior game):
...maybe semantics, but "must" means mandatory -- cannot succeed without it. This is a "should" win, no doubt.
It's a small thing, the question of "must win" games as opposed to "should win" games. However, it opens the door to discuss what really constitutes a "must win" within the context of an 82-game season. So permit me to take a shot at the question.

Game 6/Calgary: MIA

The non-hockey life of the blogger living in an 82-game season crashes home tonight on The Dark Blue Jacket blog.

I'll have to pass on tonight's Columbus Blue Jackets game - which is an intriguing one, seeing as the Flames are doing their darndest to avoid an early-season tailspin and probably aren't the happiest bunch after losing in Detroit last night.

As for the Blue Jackets, our boys are are still trying to find themselves while simultaneously working through a rough patch of injuries to Ethan Moreau, Kris Russell, Anton Stralman and Mike Commodore.  And then there are the Scott Arniel media mind games, not ruling out putting replacement Kyle Wilson in on the second line in place of Derick Brassard.  Don't forget that Steve Mason is really playing pretty well. (And I hope he holds up as his blue line is crumbling around him!)

As for me, I'll be at the Schott on a Date Night with Mrs. DBJ to see Roger Waters and his Bleeding Heart Band perform "The Wall" live. Anyone even close to my age will recognize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...I never thought he was going to tour the show again.  And to have it in Columbus - wow.  How cool is that?

So carry on, everyone, and let me know how the game went in the comments.

(Actually, this post also recognizes that I completed my DBJ Wish List of NHL jerseys this week with a 1998-2006 Flames "flaming horse" jersey from eBay.  Another win!)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CBJ draft-related trade option surfaces

Among the other blogs I follow is, an Edmonton Oilers blog that - among all sorts of other good insight and analysis - is following the progression of "Oil Change," a TSN documentary/reality show that chronicles some of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans maneuvers of the Oilers and their leadership in the leadup to the 2010 National Hockey League Draft and, eventually, through the 2010-2011 season.

Was Scott Howson offered 30-year-old scorer
Simon Gagne for the number four overall pick?
Episode 2 just aired.  Among all of the other goodies about things Oil-related, check out this nugget related to the Columbus Blue Jackets:
...a scene with [Oilers GM Steve] Tambellini reporting to [Edmonton owner] Daryl Katz on some discussions that [Oilers President of Hockey Ops] Kevin Lowe was having with Scott Howson. One would have thought the general manager would lead those discussions but who knows. Tambellini discusses a move that Howson has available to him - he can acquire someone from the Philadelphia Flyers for the fourth overall pick. They don’t want to say who they’re discussing, so they just loop some audio over his name. It’s hilariously obvious. Plus, when Katz follows it up by laughing that Howson won’t take on $5.5MM, you can be pretty certain he’s talking about Simon Gagne.
Wow. Simon Gagne would have been an interesting pickup for the Columbus Blue Jackets. I'm not entirely certain that I'd give up the Johansen pick for Gagne, but the mind wanders when thinking about what could've been. The instant gratification component of Gagne in the CBJ lineup this season is deliciously compelling.

We all pretty much knew that Scott Howson was shopping the CBJ's first round pick hard, but I don't believe that we learned the substance of any possible trades.  Now we have an inkling of what was in play.  It doesn't affect anything related to this season because no trade was consummated, but the backstory sure is interesting.

Back to your regularly-scheduled CBJ regular season...

Do we FINALLY have a new 3rd jersey leak?

(Image from Icethetics)
Having been totally wrong on the new third jersey design - embarassingly so - I've been gun-shy on any speculation post-CannonFest.

The Icethetics blog, however, unearthed a gem on a youth goalie mask.  The mask is the graphic to the left.  Check out the logo on the forehead.

Is THAT the centerpiece logo of the long-awaited new Columbus Blue Jackets third jersey?

We've been told that it will have a cannon motif, and this one has two cannons.  It's got the now-signature star from uniforms past, and it shares the red and blue color scheme with other logos (yet it shockingly passed on the neon green from the hockey stick of the original logo!).

On the presumption that it IS the new third jersey logo (here we go again...), I'll simply say that I'm encouraged - but withholding judgement.  It is not abhorrent.  It has potential.  However, it doesn't knock my socks off.  That's the world of aesthetics for you - some people like it, some don't and some can't muster any passion either way.

The logo does, however, intrigue me as to the design of the full jersey.  Perhaps the crew at Fort Knox Nationwide Boulevard will release a preview soon?  Please?

[UPDATE: From the comments, it looks like we have a potential false alarm.  You'd think I'd learn...]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Game 5/Anaheim: My take

(Yeah, I went there with the graphic.  It was either that or George Parros' mustache.)

In an oddly satisfying game, a banged-up Columbus Blue Jackets squad beat a banged-up Anaheim Ducks squad, 3-1, in regulation.  The CBJ could reasonably be expected to beat the Ducks.  The JacketsBlog called it a "must win," an assertion with which I initially agreed until The Hockey Writers' Jeff Little tempered the language to be a "should win."  "Should win" -- I like that.

The CBJ should have won tonight's game, and they did.

A modest suggestion: "Thank You."

As I wrote this (technical issues at Blogger delayed the post), the Columbus Blue Jackets were scoreless against the Anaheim Ducks in front of an announced attendance of 9,802 at Nationwide Arena - one of the lowest attendance figures in CBJ team history.  Sure, it's a Wednesday night...but it's the fifth game of the season and one wouldn't think that the fans have given up on the CBJ so early.  Of course, a 5-2 blowout loss in the home opener - the score was much better than the on-ice performance by the Blue Jackets - did nothing to help the situation.

So here we are - the 10th anniversary season, and the team of the hour is playing to a lot of blue seats.  What to do?

Funny you should ask, for I would like to offer a suggestion.

"Paging Mr. Richard Nash"

Rick Nash has not yet had a "three stars"-worthy performance this season.
Time to step it up?  (Photo courtesy of Danielle Browne)
Four games into the season, it's a little early to make grand statements about what type of season a given player is having or will have.  I'll submit, however, that it's never too early to draw conclusions about the performance of a given player to date.

And in this case, it's safe to say that Rick Nash has had better starts to his seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It's been somewhat clear to the casual observer (of which I am one now, seeing as I'm often running around chasing a toddler instead of focusing like a laser beam on the games as they're being played) that the CBJ captain has not been the prolific on-ice performer that we are accustomed to seeing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On open practices

Open CBJ practices allow an entirely new generation of fans to develop.
Letting the little kids in every now and then isn't THAT big of an imposition.
As I've learned (and appreciated firsthand in the preseason), the Columbus Blue Jackets have made a point of opening their practices to the public.  It is perhaps the ultimate public relations move: Those who can't afford to go to games get a chance to see their local National Hockey League heroes in person.  In addition, those of us (and I count myself now among "us") who have very young children who would not be able to make it through an entire game in a small chair have the opportunity to get exposed to hockey while being able to crawl around the stands.  As you know, I'm a big fan of open practices - and not just because Ryan Johansen gave The Dark Blue Toddler his practice stick.

Now, every coach runs his team - and their practices - in their own way.  Ken Hitchcock, and the coaches before him, apparently held most of the team's practices in the Ice Haus, the practice ice attached to Nationwide Arena.  Scott Arniel, however, likes to hold his practices on the actual Nationwide main ice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Minnesota's post-CBJ bag skate: Should we be flattered?

In case you didn't see, the Columbus Blue Jackets rebounded from a Friday night drubbing at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champs by flying up to the Twin Cities (in "The State of Hockey" - a cool moniker if there ever was one) on Saturday and pulling out a win against the Minnesota Wild.

What I didn't know/care about was that Minnesota has had all sorts of side issues this year.  Minnesota is currently 1-2-1, losing to Carolina and Columbus in regulation, losing again to Carolina in a shootout, and beating Edmonton.  None of these teams, my friends, are world-beaters (and that sadly includes Columbus right now).  Then, catching up on the part of the game that I missed on GameCenter Live, I note that the pregame mentioned Wild coach Todd Richard's "Use your [expletive] brains" comment to his team.  Then the Wild failed to sell out Saturday night's game for the first time in the team's 10-year history.  These are not good signs.

Now the Wild, in their first year under GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Richards last season, started the painful transition from clutch-and-grab and went to the post-lockout puck-possession game last season.  They wound up in 13th place, only 5 points ahead of a Blue Jackets team that took 6 weeks off last fall and got Ken Hitchcock fired as a result.  The Jackets made the move to the same mode of play this season with a markedly more prepared roster than the Wild, despite what some folks would have you believe.  In my opinion, that's why the Blue Jackets, in their 4th game of the new system, could beat the Wild, who are in their 86th.

Anyway, Richards appears to be on the hot seat already in Minnesota, a sign of the "What have you done for me in the last 5 minutes?" culture that dominates our short-attention span world.  And he's feeling the pressure.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Game 4/Minnesota: My take

After concluding my viewing of the Columbus Blue Jackets' trip to the Twin Cities (where they commemorated the Minnesota Wild's first non-sellout ever by getting them booed off the ice in the first period and eventually beating them 3-2), I had the occasion to watch Hockey Night in Canada's "NHL Hotstove" (presented by Garnier Fructis shampoo, an odd pairing if there ever was one).

The talking heads who represent some of hockey's intelligentsia were having the standard talk about big player signings, NHLPA stuff, etc. and then started discussing the fact that over the last week, both the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings have been so plagued by injuries and are so close to the salary cap that they were unable to dress the minimum required number of players for games as required by the NHL salary cap.  They literally cannot afford to pay an extra player to suit up.  So what do they do?  Modify the CBA?  Get the NHLPA (who has a vested interest in seeing the largest possible number of players in the league) to look the other way?

No, one media guy said.  Why not simply eliminate the fourth lines on every team?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Game 3/Chicago: My Take

OK, so there apparently ARE days where it's better to be stuck in class than in Nationwide Arena.  When your beloved Columbus Blue Jackets get shellacked by a depleted Chicago Blackhawks squad, 5-2 on 40 (!) shots, this probably fits the bill.

I was only able to catch just a few minutes of actual action, so I can only go off what I've seen on Twitter and the scoresheet.  Perhaps that allows me a little necessary distance to discuss this rationally.  For had I been in the arena, I probably would get a tad strident.  So let's step gently through this minefield and try to understand what happened.

The home opener!

After all the wait, all the previews, all the predictions, a mid-summer pow-wow and an odd side-trip to Sweden, we're finally here.

Opening night for the 10th Anniversary Season of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

CBJ Blogger Roundtable: Bonus edition - Springfield callups

Just when you thought the Columbus Blue Jackets blogger roundtable had concluded its business...

Savvy readers would have recognized that a ninth question had not yet been posted.  Well, it's up now!  Run over to Waiting for Next Year to see what the College of Blogging Cardinals suggests about potential callups from the AHL Springfield Falcons.

And that's it for the roundtable....Carry The Flag tonight!

CBJ Blogger Roundtable: Part 5 - Season predictions

We're wrapping up the Columbus Blue Jackets blogger roundtable in anticipation of the home opener tonight!

Check out The Hockey Writers, where the motley crew offers their predictions for the season for the CBJ.  Playoffs?  Rankings?  Seedings?  It's all there.  

Finally, The Cannon hosted the first installment of the now-four part series.  This blog posted the second part.  The JacketsBlog had episode three.  Jackets Required was number four.

Are you excited yet?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

CBJ Blogger Roundtable: Part 4 - Media predictions and Rick Nash

Want some more Columbus Blue Jackets blogger roundtable goodness?

Then head on over to Jackets Required, where the crew gathers to discuss the potentially uninformed "big media" predictions of another year of purgatory for the CBJ.  In the back half, we tackle what removing CBJ captain Rick Nash (UPDATE: from the penalty kill, of course...thanks, Matt!) will mean to his scoring.

Once again, The Cannon hosted the first installment of the now-four part series.  This blog posted the second part.  The JacketsBlog had yesterday's episode.

Always a good read...well, except for my pithy statement about Rick Nash. Enjoy!

Slap Shots: Fox Sports Ohio pipes in; What do you think?

To the readers who wonder whether Fox Sports Ohio actually reads the blogs to learn what the people are saying, I can only share my experience.  I had to take care of some business this morning and returned to an email from Kate Buddenhagen, FSO's Communications Manager.  In it, she clearly let me know that she read my review of the new FSO "Blue Jackets Slap Shots" show.  More pertinent to CBJ fans, she also said:
In regards to your first suggested note, I wanted to let you know that we do have a guaranteed time slot for the show. Fans can catch the new show every Monday at 6pm. Replays will also run during the week surrounding Blue Jackets games.
So set your DVR's, everyone. And that includes you, too, Cleveland-area fan.  "Slap Shots" isn't just a Columbus thing.

Now that it's confirmed that FSO is checking in on us, let's share our additional thoughts and ideas for the show in this thread.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DBJ's Blue Jackets Slap Shots review

I just wrapped up watching the first installment of Fox Sports Ohio's new, weekly half-hour show, "Blue Jackets Slap Shots."  My expectations were low for this first effort (Everyone deserves a honeymoon, especially on a venture like this where it takes time to find an editorial voice), yet Fox Sports Ohio put together a package of clips and stories that really was quite good and with a quality that makes me want to come back for more.

I watched the show with the laptop on my lap, so I jotted down notes as I was watching.  Here's what I saw:

1. An 8-minute Scott Arniel and Rick Nash combination interview/profile.  I think that this was the only totally fresh piece in the entire show outside of Ray Crawford's studio shots, and it was extremely well done.  Perhaps most notable is that it offered the longest commentary from Rick Nash that I've ever seen.  Great mutual admiration society talk from Arniel re: Nash, and Nash re: Arniel.  There was no better way to open up this series than with the two most visible faces of the franchise.  Excellent "candid" pregame and game camera footage.  The insight on Steve Mason from both Arniel and Nash was fantastic and gives CBJ fans hope for the season ahead. I'm loving hearing the words straight from the guys' reporters' filter.

2. Get to know the Jackets segment...maybe a minute or two.  Quick cuts of a handful of players talking about their best hockey memory.  This looks remarkably like footage from an intermission last season.

3. New Blue Jackets Slap Shots graphics.  Nice, clean, forward-moving.  Not entirely cut from the standard Fox Sports cookie cutter, yet not jarringly out of place.

4. Blue Jackets in Sweden clips.  This looks a lot like a compilation of the Sweden video clips posted on, which I don't think is all bad as many more people will get a chance to see the work on television than online.  These are all well done, with a nice combination of Sweden travelogue, Blue Jackets "behind the scenes" footage and some good hockey coverage - both on ice and in the locker room.  I also like how they showed a replay of the play where Commodore got screwed on the boarding call...good hockey broadcast journalism without unnecessary 'homer' commentary.  They just showed the video, and there was no boarding.  Just saying, NHL.

CBJ game ops upgrades on the way

The fans have spoken, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are listening:
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced today that Ana Jackson is the newest addition to the team's cast of in-arena personalities that entertain hockey fans during home games. Jackson, a Columbus native and former television news reporter for NBC4 (WCHM), will share in-game hosting duties with veteran arena host Mike Todd, starting with Friday's home opening contest against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

You say poorly conditioned, I say sloppy

Scott Arniel is using the media to talk to the refs, the league...and his team.
(Photo from The Hockey Writers)
Interesting utterances out of the new Columbus Blue Jackets head coach yesterday.  Scott Arniel was quoted by the Dispatch as saying,
"I don't want to get in trouble (with the NHL) here," Arniel said, "but I looked at all (16) penalties (on film). There were some interesting calls that I didn't think were penalties. I think some of that is carryover from last year and years past. We've been a team that's high in the amount of minor penalties that we take. Sometimes your reputation precedes you." [Emphasis added]
Before I take this too much further, The Dispatch's writer in the Puck Rakers chat today suggested that it might be a little gamesmanship on Arniel's part - letting the league and the referees know of his displeasure at being plagued with ticky-tack fouls that have followed them throughout the preseason and across the Atlantic.  I can subscribe to that theory.

I also think, however, that Arniel is using his honeymoon period to the hilt.  He's recognized issues that he does not like - cultural, coaching, whatever - and is attacking them full-on.  To this end, he's not just suggesting that the refs blew a bunch of calls (and he DID do that) but instead is going further to suggest that his own squad has a roster as a sloppy/lazy/pre-lockout playing bunch.

Yeah, I said it.  Arniel called his team out.

CBJ Blogger Roundtable: Part 3 at The JacketsBlog

The Columbus Blue Jackets Blogger Roundtable continues today at The JacketsBlog, where the "Who has more to prove?" question is raised and team leadership is discussed.

Don't forget, The Cannon hosted the first installment of the now-three part series.  This blog posted the second part.

Lots of voices, lots of opinions.  And two correct ones.  (Joking!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Games 1-2: My Take

Game 1: San Jose Sharks 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2
Game 2: CBJ 3, Sharks 2 (OT)

Is is OK to say, "Thank God, it's over," in relation to the Columbus Blue Jackets' NHL Premiere games in Stockholm against the San Jose Sharks?

I never had a good feeling about this whole trip.  Too much travel (and jet lag), a screwy preseason schedule to accommodate playing in Europe, so many potential distractions, inability to move/claim players my mind, opening the season this way was a recipe for disaster.

To be fair, the team wisely used the time as a chance to do some team bonding and apparently made the most of it.  (And, like most CBJ fans, I got a kick out of how Mike Commodore was apparently goofing around with Derick Brassard all throughout the trip.)  And perhaps the most valuable aspect of the trip was the international exposure that Columbus received.  It seems as if the local sports folks got that - for the sake of central Ohio's economy, let's pray that the local economic development folks did, too.

As for the games, the CBJ largely looked like a team that was learning a new system -- against one of the top teams in the league.  Oh, we were?  Huh.  Who knew?

Watching games with mobile young'uns running around as I was means that you get bits and pieces and often miss a spot here and there.  But as I saw it, that was the Jackets play on the ice...bits and pieces of solid execution and a few spots where they were lost in the Lutfisk.

Blue Jackets Slap Shots takes to the air

From Fox Sports Ohio, this should be of interest for everyone who's not subscribed to DISH Network:

Premieres Tomorrow, October 13 at 6pm

In preparation for the first Blue Jackets’ televised game on FOX Sports Ohio, their home opener on Friday, October 15, the network features a new show, Blue Jackets Slap Shots, premiering tomorrow, October 13 at 6pm.

Blue Jackets Slap Shots is a week-in-review show that will bring back interviews and highlights as the Jackets battle through the 2010-2011 NHL season. This first 30-minute show, hosted by FOX Sports Ohio Blue Jackets broadcaster Ray Crawford, will offer Blue Jackets fans a chance to revisit the top moments from the Blue Jackets’ season start in Sweden. Throughout the season, the show will look back at the Jackets’ previous week as well as open up the archives to peer back at some of the moments and memories of the 10-season history of the Columbus franchise.

Following the premiere on October 13, fans can catch a new show every Monday at 6pm. Replays will also run during the week surrounding Blue Jackets games.

I'm not expecting the world from this show, at least at first as Crawford and his team get their sea legs, but I'm downright thrilled that Fox Sports Ohio is putting the effort into extra coverage of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Almost makes you think that we have a major league sports team on our hands!

CBJ Blogger Roundtable: Part 2 - Filatov and Stralman

The Columbus Blue Jacket Blogger Roundtable continues here at The Dark Blue Jacket  today, and I'm fortunate to host my blogging buds in a discussion of Nikita Filatov and Anton Stralman.

Don't forget, yesterday saw the roundtable discussing the ticket sales issue as well as the preseason spike in penalties and their impact on special teams over at The Cannon.

But here's today's takes:

QUESTION #3: Is Nikita Filatov this season’s breakout player, or do you see another Jacket taking a big step forward?

DBJ (that's me): All signs point to Filatov, but don't overlook Jake Voracek. Jake's still finding himself, but he is an absolute beast when on top of his game.

Dan Parker, Waiting for Next Year: I think Filatov will do enough to show he belongs on this team, but my break-out player this year is Jakub Voracek. Once the crushing weight came off of his back under Claude Noel, I think we saw a glimpse down the stretch of the player Jake can be if he's allowed to let his talent take over. I've been advocating him seeing time on the top line with Nash and Vermette, because I think the combination of he and Nash would be hard to stop: two power forwards with skills and a skating, responsible, face-off winning center. I think Jake can score 30 goals this season if he's healthy and Scott Arniel lets him loose.

Mike MacLean, The Cannon: I think the team needs Derick Brassard to be the breakout player. Anything substantial from Filatov is a bonus this season as far as I'm concerned, but Brass needs to take the next step in a big way. He's a scoring line center and for the team to succeed they need to scoring lines producing.

Lee Auer, The JacketsBlog: Absolutely. Filatov has shown that he has come to play this season during the pre-season. I am beyond excited to see what he can bring all season long especially if he realizes he has to play both ends of the ice. He could quickly become a better two-way player than some of the stars of the NHL who only do it on one end of the ice.

Top Shelf, Jackets Required: I think Filatov will be the breakout player for the year. If the preseason is any indication, the little Russian seems ready to open the flood gates on scoring. He appears to be working hard and not saying much to the media. These are things that will go a long way toward mending the fences with his teammates. The other player I'm hoping breaks out offensively is Voracek. We all know he has the size and effort, but if he develops a real scorers touch, he could be a star.

Red Dog, Red Dog Rambling: I think your breakout player of the year is Voracek (Russell get's my honorable mention), but Filatov is going to make some noise. He's beginning the year in the top 6 and I think he'll end it there. In between may be a bit of a roller coaster. I don't expect long stretches of bad play, just not the kind of production we saw in the preseason for a full 82.

Jeff Little, The Hockey Writers: Filatov is perhaps the most naturally gifted player on the ice for the CBJ. As he gets some confidence, it will only improve. He could have a 70 point year. Voracek I expect to continue the natural progression, and I think Brassard will naturally benefit from the openings the whole line creates. Frankly, I think both Stralman and Russell will have big years.

Matt Wagner, The Cannon: Filatov is an insane offensive talent, but don’t sleep on Antoine Vermette. He put up a career year when he had the chance to play with Nash for a full season, and he might just break his own record – don’t forget that he was second on the team in overall scoring last year, and he wasn’t that far behind Nash…

Monday, October 11, 2010

CBJ Blogger Roundtable week begins

So many questions are circulating as the Columbus Blue Jackets kick off the 2010-2011 season...and who better to answer them than the cadre of CBJ bloggers?

Matt Wagner at The Cannon circulated 10 questions among 8 Blue Jackets bloggers...and we'll be rolling out the answers as follows:

Make sure you check out all of the blogs to see what everyone says...and get ready for the home opener on Friday!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

DBJ on Facebook

As we continue to expand across Teh Internets, Facebook is the next frontier to be conquered.  Note that you can check out the Facebook feed in the left-hand column (Twitter on the right).  Now I just have to figure out how to cross-post blog entries on Facebook...

To kick it off, here's the feed itself:

Make sure you "like" The Dark Blue Jacket on Facebook to keep up with the latest!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blue Jackets affiliate with CHL's Fort Wayne Komets

Announced early this afternoon, the Columbus Blue Jackets have signed an affiliation agreement with the Fort Wayne (IN) Komets of the newly-reconstituted Central Hockey League. (CBJ announcement; Komets announcement)  Under the agreement, which is only for 2010-11 and will be reevaluated by both sides at the end of the season, the Komets will be the sub-farm team for the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.  I would presume that it means that last season's affiliation with the Gwinett (GA) Gladiators of the ECHL is replaced by the Komets agreement but have not read anything to that extent.

From a practical point of view, this affiliation is not earth-shattering to the Blue Jackets.  The Komets are on record as suggesting that they will receive one forward and one defenseman from Springfield before the home opener in Fort Wayne on Saturday, October 16 (Tickets still available!).  Word is that Springfield currently has 11 defensemen in camp - so a Fort Wayne allows the CBJ to keep their longer-term prospects from getting buried on the Falcons' bench.

At the same time, I love the message that this affiliation sends.  I have plenty of personal background with the Komets and know the owners, the Frankes.  (See that Turner Cup in the photo?  I've got my picture with it. So, yeah, I'm just a tad excited by this move.)  Suffice to say that the Franke brothers are pro sports entrepreneurs par excellence, and they have constantly made the moves necessary to keep their franchise not just viable but strong over the boom and bust periods of the 20 years that they have owned the franchise.  The Frankes are very hands-on owners and only do what is best for their team, even going as far as to build their own minor league when the need arose.  They would not have jumped in with the Blue Jackets (not having any affiliation since 1998-99, when they were tied to the Florida Panthers) without significant due diligence - which signals to me that they think highly of the CBJ.  No small endorsement.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Man down! Man down!

Readers of this post may have wondered if I was going to go into the hit that Rusty Klesla took in the "friendly" against Malmo, or perhaps even if I was going to discuss the "tweak" that Kris Russell felt in his knee that kept him out of over half of the game yesterday.

Nope. My laptop is in the shop.

As such, my ability to scan blogs and media articles, as well as my ability to write online, is severely curtailed.  I was already stuck with a mountain of schoolwork and a weekend out of town (NHL opening night?  Pshaw!), but this laptop issue pretty much is the nail in the coffin.

I appreciate your support and readership, folks, I really do.  And I wish I could be in the mix over the next few days as the season opener is an exciting time.  Barring a miracle (and I'll know by the end of the day), I'm going to have to shut it down until the laptop is returned.

Not that there isn't stuff for you to do through this blog while I'm on hiatus:
  1. You can read any of the fine blogs linked in the right-hand column of this page.
  2. You can check out the Dark Blue Jacket shop, where readers have already checked out the nearly 400 items and picked up purses, iPhone skins, Blue Jackets flags (surely to be carried) and sweet NHL Premiere/Stockholm t-shirts.  I'd honestly be surprised if there is a more thorough selection of Columbus Blue Jackets-licensed gear anywhere else on the web.  
  3. You can buy Columbus Blue Jackets game tickets and get excited to see the Boys in Union Blue live.  Never a bad thing, and it's always a good time to get tickets.
See?  It's not so bad.  Plus, I'll be back as quickly as I can!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time to step up: End of training camp

After the Columbus Blue Jackets' 4-3 win over the (hapless) Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night, the team boarded a 757-200 at Port Columbus airport and made the flight to Stockholm, Sweden to open the 2010-2011 National Hockey League regular season against the San Jose Sharks.  And with that, training camp and the pre-season functionally ended.

Sure, the CBJ will play an exhibition game on Tuesday at 1PM EST against the Malmo Redhawks, but it's hard to consider that game as an NHL-caliber pre-season game and thus won't be counted in my statistical analysis.  The game could have merit related to individual performances, player injuries (getting hurt, coming back from injury) or chemistry developments, not to mention the rumored yellow and red jerseys.  But let's keep it in perspective - it's not NHL competition, and it's not an NHL game.

I did a mid-preseason review after the first four games, and let's continue it with the last 4.  It's a mixed bag, to be sure, but I think I can offer some spots for optimism.


Team Total Shots Total Goals Conversion % Shots/Game Goals/Game
10-11 CBJ - Full Preseason 247 25 10.12% 30.88 3.13
10-11 CBJ - Preseason games 5-8 112 13 11.61% 28.00 3.25
10-11 CBJ - Preseason games 1-4 135 12 8.89% 33.75 3.00
09-10 CBJ 2,338 214 9.15% 28.51 2.61
08-09 CBJ 2,490 217 8.71% 30.37 2.65
09-10 Washington Capitals 2,693 313 11.62% 32.84 3.82
09-10 Pittsburgh Penguins 2,688 249 9.26% 32.78 3.04
09-10 Phoenix Coyotes 2,502 211 8.43% 30.51 2.57

The obvious area for excitement is the conversion percentage - the percentage of shots that become goals. The Columbus Blue Jackets started the preseason with a conversion rate that, while not horrible, wasn't going to set the hockey world's hair on fire.  In the back half of the preseason, however, the conversion percentage hopped up a few points and rivaled the percentage of the most prolific scoring team in the NHL last season, the Washington Capitals.

Friday, October 1, 2010

NHL fans' TV frustrations continue: 5 principles to make it right

As Kukla's Korner said, "Last Year it was DirecTV, this year it's DISH Network."

As budgets get tighter and content producers are looking for more and more to satisfy their profit goals and rights fees, the tensions between the networks contracted to bring us the National Hockey League and the cable/satellite companies that carry that signal into our homes is bubbling over with increased frequency.  Just look at it:

  1. Last year, DirecTV and Versus had a stalemate that kept Versus off DirecTV customer screens until March 15, 2010.
  2. MSG and DISH Network are at loggerheads, so DISH customers can't watch Buffalo Sabres games in that market.
  3. Fox Sports Ohio was dropped by DISH last night.  Blue Jackets fans who have DISH are outta luck.
  4. And then, you have those of us in the Insight Communications world - we can't get Insight to carry the NHL Network or NHL Center Ice!
I'm sure there are more points of contention that I could highlight, but the message to fans is clear: We are pawns in a money game between the content creator/distributors and the utilities that actually give us our TV signals.  And it stinks.  

Post-Minnesota thoughts (Plus 2 more)

So the Columbus Blue Jackets squeegied the Xcel Energy Center ice with the Minnesota Wild last night in what appeared to be, more or less, a battle of NHL-caliber rosters.  Surely not as exciting as the scrubs pulling out the shootout win at Nationwide this past week, but one has to remember that this is a town that revels in the glory of a (mind-numbingly boring) 70-3 Ohio State football win over MAC cellar-dwellers East Nowhere State.  So a wire-to-wire dismantling is good for the fine folks of Columbus.  Kinda cleanses the pores, if you will.

As for the game performance, I was like everyone else and had to listen live on radio.  (And I have Insight for my cable now, meaning I didn't get to watch the replay on NHL Network because...Insight doesn't carry NHL Network.  Sigh.)  My impressions, like nearly all of those who have offered online commentary of the game, thus is filtered through the eyes and words of George Matthews and Bob McElligott.  Fortunately for CBJ fans, George and Bob are pretty good at calling a game - especially once one gets used to George's awesome play-by-play quirks.  (But Bob really doesn't need to do John Madden impressions.)  I've found that I more or less agree with a lot of what they're saying, so let's take their impressions as gospel.

Sounds to me like the Sammy Pahlsson-anchored third line will be shifting from a liability to a strength this season.  Pahlsson has his game on, perhaps spurred the addition of Ethan Moreau.  Moreau also appears  to be playing well (despite my lousy call from the other Minnesota game).  Both guys had goals and assists.  This bodes well going into the regular season, but coach Scott Arniel hopefully will take caution with whomever he pairs with those two as to augment - and not break up - the chemistry that is growing.

82 in 10? Not quite. (But all is not lost)

Fox Sports Ohio published their list of games to be broadcast in high-definition today, effectively finalizing the Columbus Blue Jackets television schedule. And while we're not going to see 82 in 10, we have a better package than past years and a deepening commitment to the Blue Jackets out of Fox Sports that should be encouraging for all fans of our boys in Union Blue.

First, it's wise to remember this clip from the 82 in 10 post:
As for FSO and the Blue Jackets, we've seen the following numbers of games broadcast in hi-def as follows:
  • 2006-2007: 20 games
  • 2007-2008: 25 games
  • 2008-2009: 40 games
  • 2009-2010: 50 games
Looking at the posted schedule of high-definition games, it appears that Fox Sports Ohio has raised their bar to 67 games.  Adding 17 games to the high-def side of the ledger is no small feat.  Now, only 8 of their games are not in HD:
  • 1/14 v. Detroit 
  • 1/25 v. Anaheim 
  • 2/4 at Detroit 
  • 2/16 v. Los Angeles 
  • 3/4 at Calgary 
  • 3/9 v. St. Louis
  • 4/3 v. St. Louis 
  • 4/8 at Nashville