Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ludicrous speed

We interrupt the offseason frenzy in Columbus Blue Jackets Nation for a brief housekeeping message...

Blogger just wrapped up the month of June - I think that it's on Greenwich Mean Time or something - and I am surprised stunned floored to report that June 2011 was the highest traffic month on the blog by a country mile.  With 17,544 page views, the Dark Blue Jacket blog crushed the previous best month ever, January 2011, by nearly 1,500 pageviews.

What makes this even more jaw-dropping to me is that the Columbus Blue Jackets didn't play a single game in the month of May.  In fact, they haven't played a game since April 10...yet June ends up being our biggest ever.

More credit than he would admit goes to my writing partner in crime, Gallos, who covered for me as I struggled through my final quarter of my Masters program (April, May and the front half of June) and finally graduated.  Not only did Gallos keep the home fires burning while I was functionally AWOL, I've noted that Gallos' posts are the ones that consistently garner the most reader comments and feedback.  More power to my man - Thank you, Gallos!

Lastly, thanks to all of you.  I'm glad you like the blog, or at least consider it worth scanning before going back to doing whatever it is you do.  Keep reading, keep letting Gallos and me know your thoughts, and - like the two of us - look forward to a great 2011-2012 season for the Columbus Blue Jackets!

Carry The Flag!

The free agency "sneak preview sale" hits Columbus

Tell me you've never seen one of these sales before, and that it doesn't
feel like the dance that Scott Howson is doing with James Wisniewski.
After Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson traded a 2012 7th-round draft pick to Montreal for the rights to defenseman James Wisniewski (turns into a 5th-rounder if Wiz signs with Columbus), we now have learned that Wiz and his agent came down to Columbus to meet with Howson and check out both the team and the town.

This whole process is somewhat odd - the trading of picks for the right to talk with a guy who's going to be an unrestricted free agent in a matter of days.  Good for Howson for keeping the downside low in case this doesn't work out.

Stepping back, though, doesn't this feel like the "preview sales" that you get emails for every now and then?  The ones where the store says, "50% off sale from Friday through Sunday, 'preview sale pricing' for our most special customers on Thursday"?  Well, it does to me...and it feels like Howson bought his way into the preview sale with Wiz.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A message to CBJ fans from Scott Howson

(OK, so it's not a real message.  But still, everyone take a deep breath...this offseason has a long way to go!)

On free agency

The objects of most every defense-desperate GM's eyes,
both Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff appear to be out of
the NHL free agency derby before the July 1 opening day.
I'll admit it - when it comes to this offseason "hot stove" activity like the draft and free agency, I'm largely a passive guy.

In the case of the draft, it's for two reasons: 1) I've never seen 99% of those kids play, so I don't know who's REALLY any good (at least in my estimation). 2) I just can't muster the necessary enthusiasm for kids that I won't see on NHL ice for - what? - 3 years, if at all.

Free agency is a similar beast to me.  The National Hockey League is so big, with such a huge schedule, that there's no way a guy who's only followed the sport closely for roughly 3-4 years can judge other teams' talent with any accuracy.

Oh yeah, then there's the whole "lock 'em up before free agency opens" thing, which takes players that fans drool over for months off the table before the free agency signing period starts.  So why spike the blood pressure for guys your team won't have a chance to get (outside of trades, granted)?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Room at the Inn - Carter and Nash a Good Fit on the Top Line

Rick Nash 
Our colleague at Light the Lamp has suggested there may not be room for Rick Nash and Jeff Carter on the same line, in a post during early euphoria on the Carter acquisition.  I highly value LTL's opinion, but it often conflicts with my own opinion.  That folks, is where perspective comes from.

Rick Nash has been going it alone, lo these many years.  From my perspective, one of the problems with our team last year was a lack of shooters.  Everyone seemed content to make a pretty pass to Nash.  Then they would lean on their sticks, and watch to see if Nash could turn it into a goal, 1 on 3.  The amazing thing was that sometimes he did.

Carter is a shooter.  And that will take huge pressure off of Nash, and I think allow him to create.  But what if LTL is right?  What if there is not enough puck to go around?

Perhaps we should look at the numbers, eh?

Monday, June 27, 2011

On professionalism and Jeff Carter

With new star center Jeff Carter is still licking his psychological wounds on the Jersey shore, the Columbus Blue Jackets apparently have dispatched team president Mike Priest (Oops.  Guess it's team owner John McConnell.), general manager Scott Howson and head coach Scott Arniel (or is it Rick Nash?) to track him down and make that elusive "first contact" with our newest Blue Jacket.  Whatever it takes in this star-driven world, I suppose.  [UPDATE: I now understand that it was Howson, Arniel and Nash who were on the jet.  Which makes the above cartoon that much less funny.  Ah well.]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

DBJ's 2011 CBJ draft recap

The sun has set on another National Hockey League draft, and I again find myself having a hard time getting jazzed about 18-year-olds that we won't see in Columbus for three to four years.  That being said, the Blue Jackets were busy...meaning that it's time to review and comment.  After brief review and fleeting consideration, we have two larger themes to discuss.

Taking Out the Trash...AGAIN

Yup, the Howson Sanitation Co. rides again.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this graphic would get
so much use in just two years.
Our intrepid General Manager appears to have had a big change of heart regarding his prospects, trading two of his four first round picks away.  Out goes the happy-go-lucky yet maddeningly plateaued Jakub Voracek and the perpetual KHL flight risk, Nikita Filatov, both expensive early first-round picks.  That means that only defenseman John Moore (of the -18 plus/minus in Springfield last season...ugh) and junior-level megastar Ryan Johansen are still in the CBJ organization as Howson first rounders.

Are Voracek and Filatov BAD hockey players?  Hell no.  They just couldn't display enough on-ice skill and performance to overcome the perceived (and, in Filly's case, demonstrated) flaws in both their games and heads.  Voracek was hell on wheels between the goal lines, but he wasn't filling out his game to the point that scoring chances consistently became goals.  Filatov couldn't/wouldn't play the physical style that the CBJ and NHL demand - and when he tried, he got clobbered.

Filatov Irrelevant for the Future of the CBJ

Matt Calvert with RJ Umberger at practice
Nikita Filatov has magical skill.  I remember watching him in practice once near the end of training camp last year, taking passes out near the blue line, and calmly inserting one timers into the top corner of the net.  Unbelievable.  But you never seemed to see that skill come out in a game situation, except the night long ago when he scored his hat trick.

At the end of the day, Filtov was done in by the work ethic and competitive desire of Matt Calvert.  There is only so much room on an NHL team for an undersized skill player.  When you have to choose between one who evidences hustle and desire at every turn, and one who views the NHL as an entitlement, you are nearly always going to choose the former, all other things equal.  But, things weren't equal.  Matt Calvert played better at the NHL level, as is evidenced by their comparative stats from last year.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Introducing the "Blue Jackets Pucks and Stuff" blog

The Nikita Filatov-signed
puck that started all of this
Building on a highly entertaining afternoon of Twitter-related reminiscing over obscure ex-Columbus Blue Jackets who signed memorabilia for us, I've started a new weblog, Blue Jackets Pucks and Stuff.  If you've got a photo of a puck, jersey or gloves and want to share with the world, email me at darkbluejacket [at] sbcglobal [dot] net and I'll post on the new blog.  Background stories are encouraged and will be posted as well.

So go ahead, grab your camera phones and get those pucks, sweaters and gloves immortalized in digital glory!  All in good fun!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is this a good time to talk about my man crush on Bieksa?

I am on record in this space as seeing Kevin Bieksa as one of the D-men available in free agency that could affect our LOFT tiers.  If we got ONE free agent who would positively affect our team, I think it would be this guy.  Free Agency, here we come!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Closer strikes: Welcome, Jeff Carter!

Averaging over 57 points and nearly 77 games a
season over his 6-year career, 2009 All Star center
Jeff Carter offers Columbus - and Rick Nash -
a proven player to anchor the top scoring line.
The long rumored "Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets" trade finally went down this afternoon.  Per TSN's Bob MacKenzie, Columbus' consideration was winger Jakub Voracek and this year's 1st rounder (8th overall pick) and 3rd rounder.

The deal is full of few surprises for those closely following the CBJ:
  • As mentioned, it was pretty much common knowledge that Carter was at or near the top of Scott Howson's most wanted list.  
  • Voracek, while talented, never ascended to the level of elite talent that Columbus needed - at a position where the Blue Jackets' cup runneth over.  Beyond that, he was known to be close with exiled CBJer Mike Commodore, training in California with Commie before the disastrous 2009-10 season.  It would not surprise me if there was just a bit of guilt by association, making it easy for the club to move Voracek.  Remember, Voracek was a restricted free agent this offseason, and the CBJ only tendered the minimum required offer.  That doesn't show a lot of love or investment on Columbus' side.
  • The first round pick did indeed turn out to be a deal sweetener.  Or Jake was.  Ah well, not important now.  
  • The third rounder was perhaps the biggest surprise to me.  If that's what was needed to make the deal happen, so be it.  You gotta give to get.

Amateur hour at the CBJ ticket office

The Columbus Blue Jackets held their 2011-2012 season schedule announcement show at 2PM local time.

The Columbus Dispatch posted a full schedule article - complete with schedule analysis and quotes from General Manager Scott Howson - at 2:17PM.

While both parties had ample time to prepare their work to present to the public, the Columbus Blue Jackets ticketing department did not prepare.  As I type, there are no partial season package option offerings posted on their website.  This, despite forcing partial season ticket holders to show up tomorrow morning at a time selected by the CBJ to select seats for our packages or, as CBJ Vice President of Ticket Sales & Service Bob Sivik wrote in his June 10 letter to those of us who have already paid our fare for the upcoming season, "In the event you do not elect to attend the Open House or send someone on your behalf, you will be assigned a random seat location in your seating category following the conclusion of the event."  So I've given the CBJ my money and, even though I don't know what my options are right now, still have to show up tomorrow and pick my package and seats.  Madness.

Congratulations, Claude Noel!

After his cup of head coaching coffee in
Columbus, Claude Noel finally will
realize his dream of being a full-time
NHL bench boss.
It appears that Rogers' Nick Kypreos is right: Claude Noel will receive the promotion from head coach of True North's 2010-2011 AHL team, the Manitoba Moose, to head coach of their as-yet-unnamed 2011-2012 NHL team.

As Columbus Blue Jackets fans know, Noel was an assistant under Ken Hitchcock and then succeeded Hitch as interim head coach to finish off the 2009-2010 season.  Claude was a finalist for the full-time job in Columbus, but that went to Scott Arniel.

It was during that coaching search that I was fortunate enough to devote some serious time into researching Noel's hockey coaching life, and I liked what I saw.  A lot.  While I won't go as far as to say that he was my favorite candidate when compared to everyone else (I suppose I, too, was entranced by the possibility of getting wunderkind Guy Boucher from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs), Noel came across as being a solid person and a really good coach.  Sure, he was blessed to have Nashville's draft-centric feeder system at his disposal as head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, but you can't overlook that he took the Admirals to the AHL Calder Cup finals twice, winning once.  In a town that desperately needs winning hockey, Noel conclusively demonstrated that he knew how to get it done.  Combine that with the winning record that he cobbled together as CBJ interim coach with a virtual AHL roster, and I was satisfied that Columbus would do just fine with Noel at the helm for the long haul.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 8th pick

Interesting times around the Columbus Blue Jackets world right now.  At least from a public relations perspective, the laissez-faire personnel approach of the last couple seasons has been replaced by a fresh attitude of activity this time around.  Whether that attitude is genuine or not is something I can't judge right now - the proof is in the pudding, as they say.  If the CBJ emerge from July 15 -after the draft and two weeks after the opening of free agency - with a meaningfully different roster than which we see right now, then perhaps the feeling is indeed legit.  (And none of this "It takes two to tango" excuse-making, folks...when there are 30 teams in the league, with half not qualifying for the playoffs and all but two not making the Stanley Cup Finals, there are plenty of suitors.)

Nothing more perfectly symbolizes the "make it happen now" philopsophy than the virtual neon sign at Nationwide Arena suggesting that the 8th overall pick in Friday's NHL entry draft is open for bidding.  That's right, NHL, if you want a solid second-tier draft position, pick up the phone and call Mr. Howson.  He'll listen.

Honeymoon, revisited

CBJ fans will now be treated to "Social Howson."
Not to be confused with "Anti-Social Howson," mind you...
In the Department of Ironic Yet Certainly Unrelated Occurrences, I note that my piece on the original Columbus Blue Jackets honeymoon with its fanbase (complete with the subtext of "What happened?") was swiftly followed by news out of CBJ Central that General Manager Scott Howson will be both Tweeting and blogging (here's his first post).

Matt over at The Cannon thinks that these developments could be a sign of "another sign of the potential stresses between the Blue Jackets and the 'traditional' media in the form of the Dispatch that has been pointed out more and more this season," and he could very well be right.  I'll take a slightly different point of view and suggest that this represents an effort by CBJ marketing/PR folks to rebuild some of the emotional bridges that have frayed between the team and its fanbase.  Social media allows the user to connect, directly, to people who are hungry to feel like they're a part of something beyond themselves.  It also offers the user the ability to remove some of the filters that media - traditional and otherwise - force on public figures, which may be where Matt was coming from, but I think that the visceral connection is that important to the team, especially considering that season ticket sales apparently will be lucky to hit 8,000 this season.

The Blue Jackets can't recreate the magic of the inaugural season.  That's a one-time opportunity, and it appears to be an opportunity lost at this point.  They can, however, use the tools at their disposal to build (mend?) fences between themselves and their community of supporters.  Bringing their top hockey executive into the community of interest is a significant way to do just that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Howson pre-draft presser thoughts

Scott Howson may have his man as head coach, but
his comments suggest that there are a lot of other
holes to fill on his team's roster.
Matt over at The Cannon was cool enough to post today's Scott Howson pre-draft press conference in its entirety.  Rather than circumvent his hard work - which includes commentary of his own - I'll simply offer you the link and encourage you to watch and read.

As for my thoughts, I'll pass on the Todd Richards stuff as I've made my opinion clear elsewhere on this blog.

Once you clear that matter out of the way, you then have this jumble of draft, free agency, trades and the roster.  I  don't think that one can set up walls between these issues because they are all so inextricably linked.  If you draft a player, that means you didn't trade the pick - which means no roster slot will need to be made (only the top one or two overall picks are projected to be NHL-ready).  But because there was no trade, that means the free agent market is more important to maximize.  Or perhaps you look at trading more existing roster assets.  It's a jumble - see what I mean?

Who remembers the honeymoon?

In reading the most recent periodic Dispatch chat about the Blue Jackets, the beat writer had an interesting exchange with one of his readers:
[PortiesMaloneGate] AP, you and Arace mentioned in Cannon Fodder that some of the front office staff don't necessarily understand the bond that existed between this market and the first few teams, It almost seemed like you guys stopped short of further going down that rabbit hole... I understand if you cannot name names but can you provide some clarity to those comments? 
[Portzline] It's a feeling, and it's held by far more people than just me and my esteemed colleague. I've talked to former players who hear people in Columbus talk about establishing roots with fans and getting the market off the ground, and that leaves them flummoxed. The roots were here, they note, but the years of losing and an increasing detachment between the organization and the fan base, has led them to wither on the vine. There are very few people left now who fully understand how special those first few years were, the love affair that existed between the players and the fans and the city. It's common to hear visiting media say "It's a shame" when they come to town and see the building. They remember what it used to be.
I find this very interesting, largely because I literally wasn't in Columbus during this "what it used to be" period. When I followed the NHL, I wasn't following the CBJ. Thus, I have zero perception of what this magic "honeymoon" (my term) period was like.

CBJ hire Todd Richards as new assistant coach

So says the TV voice of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jeff Rimer.

Ah well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Howson 2.0

The Dispatch posted an article, "Reshaping the Jackets," that certainly is worth a read.  It doesn't offer anything new or different to those who are in the Columbus Blue Jackets blog/Twitter world, but it does a nice job summarizing the current state of affairs going into Friday's NHL Entry Draft.  I'd classify it in the "must read" category, especially considering the slow hockey news world post-Stanley Cup Finals.

It also lays out an interesting perspective not on the roster per se, but rather on CBJ General Manager Scott Howson.  In essence, the article suggests that Howson, in the third year of his 2008 teardown/rebuild of the CBJ - you know, the one that contributed toward propelling the Blue Jackets into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the only time in the team's existence - has been forced to put aside his post-2008 patience and return to the riverboat gambler mode of that offseason.  Interestingly, the gist of the article was confirmed this morning on WTVN's "Sunday Sportstalk" when Howson himself confirmed to Dave Maetzold with regards to trades leading up to the Draft,

"We'll talk about anybody but Rick Nash"

As it should be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bitterness, Jealousy, and Fort Zinderneuf

Fort Zinderneuf of Beau Geste fame
I was thinking a bit ago that we are in a hockey desert right now.  Little bits of news are like oases in the desert.  They whet your throat, but its not enough.  Flyers get rights to Bryzgalov.  Clitsome re-signed.  Dribs and drabs that keep you going, but its not enough for a righteous hockey indulgence.

Yeah, yeah, the Stanley Cup playoffs are on.  Game 7 looms.  Look.  The games have been entertaining.  And Raffi and Manny give a little reflected glory to the CBJ.  I like Tim Thomas' 'chutzpah' (sp?).  But I came out of the regular season carrying way, way too much baggage to truly enjoy the playoffs.

Its such a shell game.  Really.  We fired the coach who would have a given us half a chance to win in a Stanley Cup playoff, which is Hitch.  You are watching two teams play no holds barred Hitch hockey in this final.  If the refs called the regular season the way they call the finals, Hitch would still be coach.

Which gets down to my issues in this hockey desert.  Bitterness and Jealousy.

Pre-Game 7 thoughts

OK, so it's time to have some humble pie.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this Stanley Cup Finals series would go to seven games.  I didn't think that Boston had the wheels to keep up with Vancouver.  I didn't think that Boston's forwards would be able to penetrate the Vancouver defense and Roberto Luongo.  I didn't think that Boston's defensemen, while talented, would be able to keep the Vancouver forwards in check to get to Game 7.

And while I liked Tim Thomas, I never thought that he would dominate this series as he clearly has.  In fact, I consider it a crime if anyone but Thomas gets the Conn Smythe Trophy (Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP) - regardless of who wins in Game 7.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


DBJ, modeling his Ohio University academic garb over his
CBJ game-issued #54 Jon "Nasty" Mirasty jersey.
Pardon the ridiculously self-serving nature of this post, especially after Gallos' kind words, but you only get to celebrate like this just a few times in your life.  College graduation, marriage, childbirth...and now, the Masters Degree - after 18 years away from academia.

Not just a Masters Degree, mind you.  A perfect 4.0 GPA.  A "Most Outstanding Student" award for my program.  In the vernacular, I ran the table.  (Now, where's the Cup that I get to hoist?  Oh crap, I gotta play hockey to do that?)

Putting it in Columbus Blue Jackets perspective, the past two years for me have been about making it happen when I needed to.  I knew when to shut out the distractions and bear down on the studies.  I understood when it was time to let up, too, and enjoy life - like going to see the Blue Jackets play!  But I stayed focussed and never took my eyes off the prize.  The effort paid off.  The boys in Union Blue could learn a lot from that approach.  In the end, it results in WINNING... something that we CBJ fans would like to see a lot more of.

I'm going to get back in the swing on the blog in the next couple of weeks.  I have some family obligations to attend to, not to mention catching up on a few overdue "housekeeping items."  And, of course, the Dark Blue Toddler demands copious amounts of attention.  I'm aching to get back into the blog - and my gratitude to Gallos for keeping the home fires burning knows no limits - but you know how things are.  Especially in the off-season...where the latest news is that the League of Ex-Captains is being jettisoned, something that barely requires a mention.

Back soon!

Coll-edge Grad-Jur-Wates! Will Work for $$!!

Carmen Ohio at OSU graduation today.
This weekend was graduation weekend in Ohio.  The Dark Blue Jacket walked at the Ohio University (my alma mater), and the Eldest Son Gallos walked at The Ohio State University.

A big Dark Blue Jacket congratulations to all the college graduates in Ohio this June (or May if you are on semesters!)  These folks are going forth armed with the ability to create the things that our society will need to survive in the future.  Best of luck to all of you.

And of course, here on the Dark Blue Jacket, it means a lot.  It is to be hoped that the DBJ will have more time to devote to producing his thoughts on the wonderful sport of hockey.  We have all missed his writing ability down the stretch, much as a hockey team must fight to overcome a key injury down the stretch. In such situations, other players who are naturally lower in the line-up are forced to step up.  This is the situation I have found myself in, trying to step up for someone who is better at this task than I am.  And, as the readers of this blog have found, it ain't always pretty.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Arch City Army Chant Saved!! Whew!

Puck Rakers is reporting that Grant Clitsome has signed a two year deal worth $2.4 million, $1.1 million the first year and $1.4 million the second year.  A fan favorite, Clitsome showed some offensive spark for the CBJ down the stretch last year.  Because of his age, he was eligible for free agency, which he avoided by signing this contract.

And we can look forward to the 'wide ringing with the cheer "Get Some, Grant!".  You're welcome grandma.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Closer

Unable to close the deal with his number one choice for CBJ head coach,
Scott Howson brought in his number two, Scott Arniel. 
Mrs. DBJ loves her TV series, that's for sure.  One of her favorites is a show called "The Closer".  The protagonist, played by Kyra Sedgewick (who offers a Georgia accent that is so perfect that you would swear she has peach juice in her veins), is the assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and inevitably makes the crescendo of every episode the point where she and the villain du jour square off in the police interrogation room.  Through shrewd use of evidence, verbal sparring and often pure conviction, she more often than not gets her man (or woman) behind bars by the end of the hour.  Of course, the joy is in the hunt and the banter that ensues while she circles the villain, waiting to pounce with the kill shot (metaphorically speaking, of course).

I've been thinking about that show through the frame of the Columbus Blue Jackets over the last couple of weeks.  Columbus runs a mighty lean hockey operations department and it's safe to say that if something gets done with the Blue Jackets on the coaching/scouting/personnel front, it's going to happen with Howson's blessing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Coach Better Be Enough - Flyers Acquire Rights to Bryzgalov

Boy is The Cannon hot lately.  With Puck Daddy springing the news that the Flyers have acquired the rights to Iyla Brygalov, it now looks very much like something will have to give on Philly's roster, due to salary cap concerns.  This may make The Cannon's prediction that a trade for Philadelphia Center Jeff Carter might be in the offing look like solid gold.  Everyone who has read this space knows I've been pushing for the acquisition of Brad Richards in free agency.  But realistically, Carter comes in at 66 points vs the 73 I predicted for Richards, and he's 5 years younger, and can probably be acquired cheaper.  Sooo, maybe they have something there.

Well done lads, keep it up!

As far as goal tending for the CBJ, the acquisition of new, full time, goal tending coach Ian Clark will need to play dividends.  If you ever wondered how important the goal tender is, this Stanley Cup match up really emphasizes it.  But we won't be acquiring Bryzgalov, so Mason needs to work out.


Changes at the Draft Table; Rome suspended 4

Puck Rakers is announcing the Don Boyd, head of hockey operations and Bob Strumm, in charge of pro scouting have been let go.

I wonder how Strumm evaluates of Brad Richards?

We've fired coaches, we've fired GM's.  We've even fired announcers.  These guys are the remaining constants, and their body of work does not recommend them.  Maybe its time to poach some guys from people who seem to be able to evaluate talent well.  Say, umm, Detroit.

Aaron Rome was suspended four games for his late hit on Nathan Horton.  Its about right.  They are both out for the rest of the playoffs, and start anew next year.  Rome's hit was late.  As the DBJ's twitter feed noted, Horton spent an awful lot of time admiring his pass.  Both players share responsibility for it.  At what point does Rome assume responsibility for Horton's failure to see what is in front of him.  Rome certainly could have rocked his world without taking the head.  He went for the big hit.  Under the circumstances a hip check could have been just as devastating, but left the head alone.

Its justice time throughout the league.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nice goal!

I can't help but marvel at Alexandre Burrows' overtime goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Drives to the goal, drags the likely Vezina winner out of position, sneaks around the back of the net and past the man-mountain known as Chara, keeps the puck all the way to a wraparound goal.

Not too shabby. That, Blue Jackets forwards, is how you finish.

Brad Richards, Ver. 3.0 - Move the second round pick

You may be shocked to find that I am obsessing a bit on this Brad Richards free agent thing.  It is the one move that really makes our team better.  And its only one move, but it doesn't cripple us.  It will be a lot of money, and a lot of term, but there should be reasonable return on investment.  Some creative contract structuring, and if can be very good for us.

Look, I'm no dummy.  I recognize that we need to upgrade our defense.  If we want to upgrade our defense to the point we can just sit there and say, 'hey, we got a darn good chance of making the playoffs', we need to sign both Kevin Bieksa AND Christian Ehrhoff.  The thing is that both of those players COMBINED scored 72 points in the regular season.  Both are top tier defensive free agents this year, and the competition for signing them is Detroit.  Brad Richards should be good for about 73 points.  He is only one guy, and the competition for signing him is going to be Toronto, where he has already said he doesn't really want to go (See Ver. 2.1).  To substantiate this, check out this Larry Brooks article over on Kuklas Korner, kindly forwarded by someone on the Dark Blue Jacket's twitter feed.

In short, the CBJ have as good a chance as anyone to sign Richards.  We are not nearly as competitive for the top, offensive defensemen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Could we really pay too much for Brad Richards? Ver 2.1

Re-iterating a post made earlier on the Dark Blue Jacket, one has to ask one's self if we really could pay too much for Brad Richards.

This guy has said in the past that he would consider Columbus.  It gives Nash a peer on the top line.  There will be times when he is injured, and the young players (Brass and RyJo, I'm talkin' to you) will have to step up.

Four years.  Nash money.

Last few years - 72 points, 80 points, 56 points, 74 points.  Play golf handicapper, drop the high and the low take the average, and you are talking a 73 point player.  +1 last year.  You want to help our defense?  Plug the middle.  Make a line that other teams fear.  Save some of the freakin' wear and tear on Nash, because teams will not be able to concentrate on him.

Move your LOFT tiers.  Make the CBJ a better team automatically.

We are now in competition with Detroit for a puck moving, power play quarterback defenseman.  Looks like my man crush on Bieksa will go unsatisfied.

Make this team better Howson.  On July 1, sign Brad Richards.  You can get this done.

Building our defense is going to be extremely difficult through free agency, and very, very costly.  It would help almost as much to upgrade our center core, shove everyone down a level in the lineup, and give young Brass a bit more time to develop.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY (sorry to shout) GIVE BRASS A TOP TIER CENTER TO LEARN FROM!!!  That in itself is worthy of a significant investment.  If its important for Brass how important would it be for Ryan Johansen to have a top tier centerman to learn from??  The potential return on that investment is huge!

Funny thing about that learning.  Michael Peca was supposed to be a great face off man.   Manny Malhotra was a 55-56% face off man before Peca came, but improved to a 58-59% face off man after practicing with Peca for a year or two.  How much is it worth to have Brass practice with Brad Richards every day??

Most importantly, this type of deal has an air of 'doability' about it.  This guy considered Columbus before.  He is not looking for a crazy atmosphere.  This is a guy that might like Columbus.  And I think Columbus would like Brad Richards.

Think about him on the power play.  Ummmmmm.  Now wipe your chin.

Do this Howson!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Commissioner Bettman's 2011 "State of the League" address

If you're at all interested in the goings-on in the National Hockey League, this is pretty much an annual must-watch. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The cautionary tale

I wasn't going to write about the demise of the Atlanta Thrashers (who are now moving along to Winnipeg), largely because I have never really cared about that team.  Sure, I was at a white-out night where the Blue Jackets beat them (and I got a t-shirt while wondering what the big deal was about that Kovalchuk guy).  But past that, I just didn't care.

But then I read this surprisingly powerful and poignant piece on Bird Watchers Anonymous (thanks for the tip, Matt), and my perspective changed.

The story of the Atlanta Thrashers comes perilously close to the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  A ten-ish year old team with only one playoff appearance.  Way too many head coaches over that span.  Dwindling attendance.  To me, the only thing that meaningfully differentiates Atlanta from Columbus at an organizational level is that Columbus has had stable ownership over its history.  Atlanta hasn't been so lucky.

DBJ's Stanley Cup prediction

Never mind that:
  • The Winnipeg deal is finally out in the open...yet no realignment until next season - what's up with that?  (Oh, and good luck on your season ticket drive!)
  • Certain people in certain quarters of Columbus are wiping aside tears of joy that Kevin Dineen finally got himself an NHL head coaching job - and because it'll be in Miami, it'll provide all the anonymity Dineen can handle...and more!  (We don't want the poor man to feel uncomfortable, you know...)
  • Columbus has eschewed monsoon season for 90 degree heat
  • Yours truly wrapped up the writing component of his academic career yesterday (graduation on the 10th!)
...There's still a Stanley Cup Finals to START!  (Maybe Mrs. DBJ has a point...this season DOES run a tad long.)

Thus, it's time to offer my prediction for the last few games of the 2010-2011 NHL season.  And kick myself for not betting on Vancouver to hoist the Cup when they were at 12-1 odds.