Friday, October 1, 2010

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.

Next, the faceoff problems of Derick Brassard.  Brass has a lot to prove coming into this season, and this is the last thing he needs.  Eric Smith at Fox Sports offers a well-considered analysis of how Brassard's problems on facoffs could cascade into all sorts of roster shuffling - I recommend that you check it out.  Simply stated, Brassard is carrying a salary cap hit of $3.2 million through 2013-2014.  We cannot have a player of that "value" simply being unable to perform in one of the prime roles for his position.  I know Scott Howson gambled a little in tying Brassard up to a long-term deal after Brassard wrecked his shoulder in the fight against Dallas cheap-shot artist James Neal...right now, that gamble isn't looking too good.  But there's time, and Brassard appears to be a character type of kid who will try his darndest to perform.  I just hope that the skill in inside him...

Jake Voracek scored again last night, so it's settled.  Barring injury, he's going to be a stud this season.  And everyone will know the entire ABBA catalog by the time the Blue Jackets start the playoffs.

My 09-10 CBJ MVP, Fedor Tyutin, also grabbed a goal...which is probably more significant on an individual player level than any of the other goals that Columbus scored last night.  Tyutin, by most accounts, has not had the best training camp and probably is not ideally suited to play the Scott Arniel puck-possession game.  He appears to be better off in the Hitchcock system.  That being said, square pegs can be pounded through round holes over time -- and I'm sure there will be moments over the course of the season where Tyutin's shutdown ability will be useful.  (But the fact that Moore, Savard, Guenin, Holden and Clitsome are still in camp is not lost on me...and I presume that so many defensemen are sticking around only is in part due to the fact that the CBJ are playing 3 preseason games in 3 days.  Perhaps performance of the Hitch-era blue-liners isn't up to snuff?)

Word is that young defenseman David Savard really looked great last night.  Wish I could've seen him on video.  Any thoughts from the commentariat?

Now for a couple of other considerations:

First, the Blue Jackets debate over the value of an "energy line" versus a third scoring line. I've been on record for a while that the NHL's "instigator rule" is crappy and takes the meaning out of fighting in hockey. If you can't fight to defend your teammates, why are you doing it?

And it's pretty clear from the brawl - errr - display of hockey talent in front of thousands of impressionable young minds who got free tickets in Pittsburgh that Scott Arniel's boys, top to bottom, can stand up for themselves. I mean, if Rick Nash and Jake Voracek are willing to skin the knuckles, do you really NEED a "fighter"?  I say no, so why not toss another skilled line out there and keep piling on the goals while keeping time on ice minutes from reaching grotesque levels for any player?  If nothing else, it'll keep the legs fresher longer into the season - and might cut down on late-period, fatigue-based penalties and even injuries.

This, of course, necessitates a roster shakeup at the bottom.  I'm not skilled enough to do the roster engineering that I see being done by others around the web, but it's safe to say that any repositioning of the fourth line won't be fun for some players.  Sorry, guys, times change and sometimes it's best to move on.  Ex-CBJ players are doing well all over the league (Torres and Malhotra in Vancouver, Zherdev and Shelley in Philly, etc.), so it's not a stretch to say that you'll find homes otherwheres.

Second, and last, the whole Sweden trip.  I know it's an honor for the CBJ to be selected to start their season overseas (probably a reflection on their anniversary season, seeing as so many of the teams going overseas to start the season are wearing anniversary patches), but it appear to be putting a tremendous crimp in the Blue Jackets preseason.  Especially as the new coach is trying to install his culture and system at the same time.  Case in point, we're in the midst of three preseason games in three days. We still have 38 bodies in camp to survive this stretch and our opposition in Stockholm, the San Jose Sharks, have had their cutdowns and are already over there!  The whole thing is just a big distraction in my book - I'm hoping the Jackets grab at least one win and get back quickly.  Let's get this whole thing past us and get on with the real season.

1 comment:

  1. I caught most of the replay last night and the CBJ looked pretty impressive. There will definitely be some growing pains as guys figure out the best way to get the puck up the ice (watching Dorsett constantly lose the puck in the neutral zone on admittedly tough passes from the defensive zone wasn't fun) but last night was an encouraging sight.


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