Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Game 80/Dallas: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets opened up their final road trip of the season with a 3-0 loss against the Dallas Stars.

Disclosure: I didn't watch the game.  The Notre Dame (my alma mater) women's hoops team was playing for the NCAA national championship, and Mrs. DBJ and I watched that instead.  While the outcome was not that for which I had hoped, I gather it was a much more competitive game than the CBJ-Stars game.

As for the Blue Jackets, I DID follow the game on Twitter...and here's my take from what I observed...
  • The game was somewhat boring, with both sides playing uninspired hockey.
  • The Stars sat on a 1-0 lead for most of the game.
  • Just about every CBJer got dinged up.  Russell broke his ankle.
  • Dorsett got jobbed on a call that, instead of a goal, gave him 2 minutes in the bin for goalie interference.
  • Arniel pulled Garon, and the CBJ promptly gave up two goals.  As one Twitterer said (and I paraphrase), "Arniel gave the Dallas fans free chili."  Well played.
  • Steve Mason and Rick Nash are still out.
Seeing as I didn't get to see the game, I don't think I have much more that I should say about it.  At the same time, the Nash injury is interesting to me.  So let's talk about that.

Nash last played in Game 76 against the Florida Panthers.  The team was eliminated in Game 77 against the Washington Capitals.  I watched the Florida game and didn't see any particular event that caused an injury, so I'll suggest that it's possible that Nash was playing hurt for at least a little while.  

The 2010-11 season, from a team perspective, has gradually seen dwindling returns for the club vis a vis the playoffs.  When the team is eliminated (or perhaps all but eliminated, as they were against Washington and Florida), management tends to start thinking ahead.  Players are functionally trying out for next season's roster.  Coaches are using the games to scout their players against top-flight opponents.  Promising prospects (like Kubalik and Mayorov) are promoted and given a chance to go under the microscope.  Now, with Russell's injury, I wouldn't be surprised to see David Savard get the call from Springfield.  Why not give him a couple games to show off?

But what about Nash?  He has nothing to prove.  He's the captain, he's the star, he's one of a very, very small handful of players whose jobs are 99.9999999% certain (I never say never, but it would take a Herschel Walker trade for me to trade Nash if I was Scott Howson.).  There's next to no benefit to playing him while wounded when there's nothing on the line.

So why not shut him down and let the coaching staff see who steps up in his absence?  I'm not saying that was the thought process for the decision to put Nash on the shelf, but it's plausible.

So it's now audition time.  Since Nash has been out, the CBJ have played 4 games - all losses.  They've scored 8 goals, 7 of which were in the first 2 of those 4 games.  The supporting cast is having a really, really hard time getting it done and showing that they're not necessarily the depth players that a playoff-caliber team needs to succeed.  Yes, that's a blanket statement - the forwards, defensemen and goalies all apply.  This is very telling stuff for the coaching staff and management.

Outside of R.J. Umberger and maybe Derick Brassard and Antoine Vermette, who can you say has pulled their weight in Nash's absence?  Anyone?  Nash is known at least among CBJ faithful as demonstrably raising the play of the people surrounding him.  Absent Nash, many (Vermette probably is the poster child for this) fall back to earth.  I'll suggest that you're seeing this happen right now.

Two more games.  Let the auditions continue.  

(And don't be surprised to see Nash take the ice against Buffalo.  I have no insider knowledge, but he seems to be the type of guy who will play hurt to make a positive gesture for the home fans.)


  1. aaahhhh!!! You stole my Nash theory!!! LOL but seriously - this is EXACTLY what I have been thinking...there was that players only meeting which basically served as a challenge "prove yourself or your out...or at least expendable" And Nash is sitting intentionally to make them prove it. :)

  2. A&M/ND was not only more competitive than CBJ/Stars, but it was much more entertaining than Butler/UConn!

    I thought the Dorsett call was bogus, too, until Portzline posted the pertinent rule. Hated it, but it was the right call.

    I agree, Nash will suit up at least one more time. The offense without him is pathetic. I would consider only RJ to have stepped up in his absence.

  3. When it comes to players pulling there weight I'd like to point out that Jared Boll as not taken a single shift off all season. He always plays with a ton of effort. Needs more coaching, but gotta love the guys work ethic!

  4. re: Boll and effort/heart/etc.
    Same stuff we have heard since 2001. "They are giving it their all" "Gotta love the heart"

    It just doesn't cut it anymore. CBJ haven't even been competitive for a month. They don't have the skill level, have nothing to trade to get the skill level and have few prospects that can step up to provide the skill level that is necessary to be successful in this league.

    I'm thinking of changing teams & sports. Chicago Cubs, anyone?

    As for the Nash theory - that wouldn't surprise me. If it was a challenge or a test, offhand I would say that to a man they have failed miserably.


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