Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Consider the alternatives

Still not sure what CannonFest is all about?  Click on this link for a recap of last year's festivities.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Slap Shots Summer Special

There's still 18 days until CannonFest, so let's all applaud Fox Sports Ohio for helping fill the gap:

On FOX Sports Ohio

Follow the Jackets’ offseason moves with this 30-minute special.
Premiering This Thursday, July 28 at 9pm

COLUMBUS, OHIO – FOX Sports Ohio and the Columbus Blue Jackets are excited to announce a new summer program, Blue Jackets Slap Shots Summer Special, premiering this Thursday, July 28 at 9pm.

This 30-minute special will bring viewers up to speed on their team’s off-season news as host Ray Crawford guides fans through the Jackets’ busy summer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Columbus lost...and gained

With the offseason talent acquisition period largely concluded for the Columbus Blue Jackets with the signing of Vinny Prospal to take Kristian Huselius' top 6 forward slot, I figured it was time to figure out what type of scoring production went out the door.  In the same vein, it's worth checking out what was gained - and then comparing to see whether there was any improvement in scoring ability.

Why am I looking so closely at scoring, you ask?  Simple.  The Blue Jackets didn't score nearly enough last season.  Now it's easy to blame some of the lack of production on now-departed assistant Bob Boughner, but at least some of the blame goes to the whole "LOFT" issue.

So let's take a look, with the recently-departed on the left-hand side and the newly-acquired on the right:



Chris Clark
Jeff Carter
Jan Hejda
Radek Martinek
Sami Lepisto*
Vinny Propsal
Ethan Moreau
James Wisniewski (NYI)
Andrew Murray
James Wisniewski (MTL)
Craig Rivet*
Anton Stralman
Scottie Upshall*
Jakub Voracek
Kyle Wilson
Nikita Filatov
*Trade deadline acquisition

Wow.  Goal scoring potential increases by over 100 percent per game, and assists by roughly 50 percent.  That's no small potatoes.  Of course, we have to keep in mind that the guys coming in aren't slotted to be scrubs, and GM Scott Howson let a lot of scrubs go.

Also, the stat differential is largely attributable to Jeff Carter coming to town (The goal differential between Carter and Voracek alone is staggering), but it doesn't look like any of the now-gone defenders could hold Wiz's skates.  I mean, Wiz appears to be better from a scoring perspective than Hejda and Stralman combined.

Could the talent level on the Blue Jackets really be improving?

(NOTE: Edited to include Nikita Filatov's CBJ stats.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beware the East Coast Hockey Hype Machine

I suppose I'm a skeptical guy by nature.  I've been around the block enough times to have seen fads come and go, to have seen "the next great thing" turn out to be that much sliced Velveeta.  I've seen hype.  Lots of hype.   Some of it's actually panned out.

And I've seen the hype-makers.

With all due respect to our kind friends in the media world of the National Hockey League - you know, the folks who largely have desks in and around New York and Toronto - I'm going to suggest that a boatload of hype comes out of the East.

Let's look at the evidence:
  1. The New York Rangers
  2. The New York Islanders
  3. The New Jersey Devils
  4. The Toronto Maple Leafs
Four Eastern Conference teams.  One qualified - barely - for the Eastern Conference playoffs last season (and won a whopping single game in the first round before getting eliminated).  Yet, if you followed the Big Time Hockey Media, you'd think that they were all Stanley Cup contenders.  (Well, OK, not the Islanders. They're out on Lawng Ize-land, so they almost don't count.)  The teams get the benefit of the doubt, and their players are larger than life.

CannonFest 2011: Live The Dream

And if there was any doubt about the transformative power of CannonFest on a hockey fan's life, check out this heartfelt testimonial.

Go ahead.  Mark your calendar.  Live the dream.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Now's your chance

The Columbus Blue Jackets are making their big push with the public this week, and people who are on the fence with this team should stand up and take notice.

First, the Blue Jackets formally introduced their big two new roster additions, Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, to the media today and the ticket package holders tonight.  Here's the afternoon press conference:

The Blue Jackets then held a conference call with ticket package holders this evening with GM Scott Howson, Carter and Wisniewski. I'd seen the presser, and the call came during dinner, so I chose to eat with Mrs. DBJ and the Dark Blue Toddler.  (Sorry, you gotta have priorities...especially in the off-season.)

The franchise relaunch - and I think it can be considered a relaunch - continues tomorrow (Thursday) from 5-8PM at Nationwide Arena, where the Blue Jackets AGAIN will hold a "Select a Seat" open house for potential ticket package holders to scope out the arena and pick the seats that best work for them.  Beyond's the splash graphic from the CBJ's website:

Three bonafide roster stalwarts for autographs.  Free swag.  Cheap eats.  Kids stuff.  Not too shabby.

Considering that you can buy 6-game packages where you select the games for $99 per seat (not per game, per seat for all 6 games combined), there's nothing but upside for the potential ticket package holder.  It's a ridiculous value.  And it gets better for partial season ticket packages, really it does!

I'm not sure how I can say this best, so let me try this:  Columbus fans have been dissatisfied with what they've seen on the ice.  Fans have stayed away.  The Blue Jackets have clearly noticed.  They've made the effort to step up their game with the new stars and roster additions at all levels.  If you are remotely inclined to get some tickets yet still find yourself on the fence, now's the time to jump in.

Enjoy the party, everyone!  Carry The Flag!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Look good, do good: Hockey Players Union bracelets

On advice from now-Detroit Red Wing Mike Commodore via Twitter, I picked up one of these bracelets online from the Hockey Players Union:

Pretty cool idea...take a hockey skate lace, chop it into bracelet-sized pieces and attach a snappy button to seal it up.  It looks sharp - I have a white one - and is much more distinct than the legion of silicone bracelets that are out there.

Beyond that, there's the cause that's being served.  The Hockey Players Union says,
We have a goal to unite the entire hockey population and raise funds for underprivileged children wanting to play hockey by giving the profits from every product sold towards the cause.

CannonFest returns for 2011!

Not sure what I'm talking about?  Here's a link to last year's recap.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Offseason fun with graphics

Lucky me...the Dark Blue Toddler decided to take a nap today (no longer a given on any given afternoon), so I found myself with a little time to work on a graphics project I intended to do during this offseason...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Handle with care

The Juice won't be loose until sometime
around Thanksgiving at the earliest
If you haven't heard by now, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Kristian Huselius tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights and will be out of commission for 4-6 months.

Is it the end of days?  Should we CBJ fans be looking over the edge of the LeVecque Tower and wondering if life is really worth living now that The Juice will not be with us until 2012?  I mean, really...what do we have to live for?

These are tough times, to be sure, and they're especially hard on a fanbase that's been through the emotional roller-coaster since Douggie MacLean told us that draftee Rusty Klesla was the second coming of Bobby Orr.  At age 18...or 13, or whatever he was.  Yeah, we're downright bi-polar after 10 years of this stuff.  Yet we keep coming back for more, which means that we need to embrace our madness and figure out how to work with it.

As a result, the Dark Blue Jacket blog offers this brief outline on how a normal, diehard CBJ fan might be handling the loss of Kristian Huselius.  As a context, we'll use Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' model outlining the five steps of grief (or dying).  This respected process has helped many a person work through the complicated feelings involved in dealing with crushing disappointment and loss.

If you personally are disaffected by the Huselius injury, please remain understanding that your fellow fan may be deep into a personal meltdown.  Knowing the signs might be the difference between having a buddy cheering the CBJ at your side this season and witnessing yet another lost soul sit on the couch for yet another 10:30PM start in Vancouver while muttering things like "Goal scorer's goal" and "Thank you, Jim Day" into their applesauce.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spreading the CBJ blog love

Two quick notes:
  1. If you don't read Matt Wagner's daily installments of "Shrapnel" over at The Cannon - here's the latest - you're missing out.  With wry wit and incredible restraint, Matt presents links covering the last 24 hours in the blogosphere, Twitter world and the "big boy" media.  It's largely Columbus Blue Jackets-related, but he's not bashful about including other big stories from around the hockey world.  Must read.  Every day.  
  2. As a good CBJ fan who happens to blog, John at Light The Lamp has had his share of dark days in writing about the Columbus Blue Jackets.  His latest post, "Bury Me With My Guns On," is a 180-degree turnaround...a hopeful discourse on the offseason turnaround of the CBJ organization from top to bottom.  By and large, I share his change in impression about what's happening on Nationwide Boulevard.  Let's hope that our hope turns into reality in 2011-12. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

82 Games. In High Definition. This Season. Why not?

During the last offseason, I spent some time looking into the world of television broadcasting for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  ("82 in 10": Part 1, Part 2)  It wasn't the most productive exercise, seeing as neither the Blue Jackets nor Fox Sports Ohio wanted to share any meaningful information about their contract to broadcast CBJ games in the "regional" market (in this case, the market served by Fox Sports Ohio).  In case you didn't know, that market includes Ohio and parts of Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York:

Coverage maps are interesting (and the fact that SportsTime Ohio only is carried in Ohio - and not all of Ohio, I gather - and Western Pennsylvania probably explains why STO hasn't been able to get into the CBJ broadcast game), but I'll suggest that most diehard Blue Jackets fans largely want three things out of their television coverage, regardless of who carries the games: 

1) Competent on-air broadcasters

SB Nation's Derek Zona - an apparent hockey-watching masochist - watched samples of every regional broadcast team and ranked them for our reading pleasure.  I largely agree with his four-star assessment of Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge.  While they are not my favorite broadcasters on the face of the earth (Give me Daryl Reaugh or Darren Pang, thank you!), I find them better than the majority of the broadcast teams out there.  They offer a professional, if not slightly starch-collared, approach to presenting hockey.  I'd like a little looser presentation, perhaps a tad more "fun" for the local fans, but that's a personal opinion.  Overall, it's hard to complain about those two guys.  Especially when you've had to sit through what other teams' fans are forced to endure.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Realignment talk: Those silly owners!

I suppose I should have seen this coming: While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his crew at NHL HQ are as tight-lipped as humanly possible about anything dealing with prospective changes to the world of professional hockey in North America, the owners that sign his paychecks....not so much.

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold was the one to spill the beans on this occasion, talking up the possible 2012 NHL realignment:
Our division would include the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets… maybe not depending on if they go east or west. I am all in favor of that. I think that is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team.

We’re all Central Division now. All of our teams, except for Columbus, all of our teams will be Central Division. We’ll play less teams in Canada. We will play every team home and away at least one time.
So the issue of Columbus to the Eastern Conference appears to still be an open issue.

And while I suggested that the NHL realign according to longitudes, it's looking like they're talking about realigning according to time zones (more or less).

Many thanks to Mr. Leipold for being so candid.  I bet Bettman is thrilled.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Subliminal messages

Fascinating times, this draft/free agency period.  Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson is on his way toward rebuilding the team in honor of Rick Nash's 27th birthday (OK...).  While the players keep streaming in, the moves themselves suggest to me that Howson and his CBJ cohorts are engaging in a multi-dimensional game of chess that, if the team is successful, could have much longer lasting impact than the casual CBJ observer might suspect.  By and large, I'd suggest that these "subliminal messages" will help the Blue Jackets over the days ahead.
  • The Jeff Carter trade: The Blue Jackets send winger Jake Voracek, the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft and the CBJ's 3rd rounder to Philadelphia for the 2009 All Star center.
    • Message: "Win. Now. Baby."  James Wisniewski suggested that the Carter trade was a significant factor in his signing.
    • Message, Part Deux: "If you can perform, you stay.  If you don't, we'll find someone who will."  That's a powerful message to the roster holdovers, especially as Howson traded one of his own first rounders this time and not one of Doug MacLean's.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Defense Rests

Fedor Tyutin at practice
According to Puck Rakers the Blue Jackets today signed Radek Martinek formerly of the Islanders to a one year contract.  The 34 year old Martinek should add the 'stiffness' that Howson wants to add to the defense, and that was sorely lacking down the stretch last year.

There's a couple of different ways to look at this.  My buddy Bill reacted as follows: (ed. note, this is a classic!)" $2.2 million pissed away!  I knew Howson couldn't go the whole season without wasting money on some old fart.  Was he a former captain?"

That is certainly one take on the signing.  On the other hand, if you are a defenseman in Springfield, the fact that Martinek typically plays about 70 games a season says one thing: Opportunity!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Only Game (Pro) in Town

Classic Chinese Lock, Symbolic of the NFL & NBA
Writing today from deep in the heart of enemy territory, Nashville Tennessee.  I was reading an AP article by Rachel Cohen in the Tennessean about the NFL and NBA lockouts.  And reflecting what a season of opportunity it is this autumn for the NHL, and more specifically, for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  No NFL football this autumn in Cleveland and Cincinnati means a great deal of opportunity for the CBJ to grow its presence in this state.  Winning is an absolute must to be successful.

We have seen in the last 10 days or so the organization take steps to address their lack of 'skill to score' as Scott Howson puts it.  This is the same thing as LOFT, but a little more subtle.  One of the main points I wanted to make here, is the ball is rapidly shifting back to the fan's court.  If we want this to be a successful team, the fans need to be able to make Nationwide Arena rock, even when the chips are down.

Which means its time to start buying those season tickets.  Especially if you want to get one of the 'Standing in the Breach' t-shirts I'm gonna design.  But that's for later.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

All eyes turn to...

In light of what I've seen thus far from the free agency signings and trades for the CBJ, here's your season. 

Steve Mason.  In my mind, it begins and ends with Mase.

The offense appears to be getting better (provided everyone stays healthy).  The's an incomplete picture, seeing as there is one NHL-quality roster spot still open, but it seems like the quality is improving.  But can you really say that Steve Mason has starting-quality competition in the likes of Mark Dekanich or Curtis Sanford?  I say no, which makes Mason the key to the playoff kingdom this year.  

Light a candle that he - and new goaltending coach Ian Clark - can get it done.

Friday, July 1, 2011

CBJ does Biz with Wiz- LOFT!

Thanks to my buddy Bill for title!  Today the CBJ added James Wisniewski to the roster in a bold pre-Free Agency move, trading for the young offensive defenseman (with a gritty upside) by obtaining the rights to talk from the Habs with a 5th round pick.  Scott Howson closed the deal prior to the start of Free Agent frenzy.  This young defenseman's numbers compare very favorably with the prime offensive defenseman on the open market Christian Ehrhoff.  This move has a distinct impact on the LOFT tiers of the CBJ.   We are a better team today then we were yesterday, a statement we could make after the Jeff Carter with a straight face.  We can do it again.  It is a new day in CBJ land.  Tiime to take a look at our new LOFT tiers, a concept courtesy of Light the Lamp.

One last thought before free agency opens up

Photo from
Mrs. DBJ isn't much of a Blue Jackets maniac like me, but it would take hiding in a cave to miss that the CBJ traded for Jeff Carter.  When she mentioned the fact to her boss, a ticket package holder, she commented on how Carter had gone into his shell (at the time).  His words were profound:
He'll get here, and he'll love Columbus.  They all do.  
I won't say that EVERYONE has loved their time in Columbus, but - by and large - most do.  Many ex-Blue Jackets still live in the area.  That's telling.

Any individual that the Blue Jackets are looking at for free agency needs to take a minute, open their eyes to reality and see that Columbus is one impressive situation.  The community, the facilities, the emerging's all there.

You'll love Columbus.  They all do.