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.

5. Blue Jackets fans in Sweden clips.  Not to be ageist, but the clips only highlighted older fans.  Where were the younger folks who are so active in the Jacket Backers?  I talked to them at CannonFest, and they were going to Stockholm!

6. Ray Crawford.  Boy, he's polished up a lot in the course of a year.  He serves as emcee for the remarkably fast-paced program and does it well - walking the viewer from segment to segment while not overpowering the clips that he introduces.  Fortunately for Ray and the fans, he steers the show from the Fox Sports CBJ studio, not from his couch like when he was hosting the "Best of CBJ" games during the last Winter Olympics.  The cardigan and mulled cider look might work in a tradition-laden hockey community like Montreal or Detroit, but it just ain't right for a young, vibrant team (and hockey town) like Columbus.  Keep the blazer on, and stay in the high-tech studio.

Looking ahead, a few thoughts:

1. I hope that Fox Sports Ohio can find a few "guaranteed" time slots for showings of each episode.  I know that it's hard to have days and times locked down for canned shows like this when your bread and butter is live sporting events, but it would do wonders for those of us with Tivo's and DVR's.

2. I also hope that Crawford can intersperse studio interviews with CBJ "experts" like the Fox Sports Ohio broadcasters or their in-house blogger, Eric Smith.  Maybe the Dispatch guys or a visiting broadcaster.  Just seems like there's a whole component with such a nice studio that could be exploited.

3. It would be fun to see a quick rundown of activity in the minors as well, with a brief highlight or two out of Springfield and Fort Wayne.  Today's CBJ prospects are tomorrow's CBJ stars, and a show like Slap Shots should help smooth the way for fans to get acclimated with these fresh faces.  Nothing so lengthy as to detract from the big club, but perhaps 60 seconds running through the scores from the prior week with a "wow" video highlight from each club.  That would be cool, and Crawford is really good when he rolls through the highlights.

4. I gather that the Slap Shots team is profiling Antoine Vermette next week, presumably with the same level of treatment given to Arniel and Nash.  Let's hope that they read Matt Wagner and my pieces on Vermette before doing any new interviews.  The guy's a legit number one center, and I'd love to hear his perspective on this whole charade of a debate that he's not, and that Nash deserves better.

All in all, Blue Jackets Slap Shots is a very promising show that gives the Blue Jackets the coverage that they deserve - from all angles.  I'm looking forward to seeing this show develop and grow.


  1. Good work, Tom, I hope your suggestions get to the producers.

  2. god, Ray Crawford sucks.


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