Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wiz...was coached?

Follow the bouncing Twitter ball...

Yesterday: @treeddispatch #CBJ defenseman James Wisniewski will throw out the first pitch at Tuesday night's Reds game. He also will shag some fly balls.

Today, roughly 2PM: @aportzline Fox Sports Ohio's Jim Day, who used to work on #CBJ TV broadcast team, will have #CBJ D James Wisniewski in booth tonight, top of the 3rd.

Eh?  Jim Day?  Conducting a hockey interview once again?  Hmmmmm.....

Time to get to work.

The Stanley Cup, The Week of Champions, and I

Nationwide Arena prepares for its first NHL playoff game

John P. McConnell to Aaron Portzline

Pretty interesting comment by PMac.   I found it a thoughtful comment, and have been thinking about it a lot.  Producing a winning team is something that is on the organization.  Producing a winning environment is on....gulp...me???

Rewind history to Game 4 of our only playoff appearance.  Prior to the game, I vowed not to get cheated as a fan.  I went to that game with my swag strapped on, ready to cheer long and hard and loud no matter what happened.  That was a funny game, because when the team got behind, the crowd refused to give in, and got more pumped.  You could almost see the players kind of look at each other, say 'what the h___?', and then relax and get after it.  To pretty good results actually.

Which brings me to the Week of Champions, December 8 to December 17.

Mission accomplished...?

Columbus Blue Jackets fans want their TV hockey in high-definition.
This season, they'll get 98.7% of it that way.  (And one game will be blacked out.)

Fox Sports Ohio press release first, commentary to follow...


Ohio’s leading regional sports network to televise 79 Blue Jackets games in HD 

COLUMBUS, OHIO – FOX Sports Ohio and the Columbus Blue Jackets announced today the 2011-12 telecast schedule as the network has increased its coverage to carry 79 regular season games, all in high definition.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

THIS. Revisited.

An organization without a coherent strategy is an organization
that is less likely to succeed.  Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets
appear to be getting their strategic house in order.
Back in March, I had a hard time expressing my joy at the fact that Columbus Blue Jackets owner John McConnell was going to force a bottom-up scrubbing of his franchise.  From a ticket office that has had their share of operational challenges to a personnel staff that appeared to have no consistent vision for their roster moves and - even more troubling - talent development, the Blue Jackets appeared well past ready to take a necessary step back from the day-to-day grind and ask the hard questions like, "What the heck are we doing here?"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Get your ticket pre-sale codes HERE

Just follow this link.

Yes, it's the link to the Columbus Blue Jackets ticket office page.  Sign up for a ticket package, and I'm sure they can get you a pre-sale code.

Let's be fair to the Blue Jackets and the people who shelled it out in a prior demonstration of financial support for the team.  Don't cut in line.

And for God's sake, don't give your codes to fans of other teams.  It only makes the arena experience that much less enjoyable for the rest of us.

Also, as Matt Wagner so appropriately wrote, "Folks, if you don't know the person asking you to share your code? DON'T. I'm not even worrying about visiting fans so much as I'm worried about scalpers and those who simply want to take advantage of your goodwill. Why risk it?"

Circulating pre-sale codes is not cool on many levels.  I hope the CBJ have learned their lessons from prior incidents and have appropriate protections to guard against abuse of these codes.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Johansen quandary (Part I)

Where will Columbus' wunderkind center
fit into the roster?  And is a roster spot
right now in his best interest - and the
club's - over the long haul?
Interesting Tweet from The Dispatch's Tom Reed the other day:
[Columbus Blue Jackets] coach Scott Arniel said if Ryan Johansen makes team he will play center. He won't be shifted to wing.
Because the obvious place for Johansen to continue his development - the American Hockey League - is off-limits, this is worth considering on a couple of levels: What it means to the roster, and what it means to Johansen.

As for the roster, the open speculation of Johansen on the 2011-2012 CBJ roster by Arniel officially marks the opening of the "Depth Chart Engineering" season.  Do you have your permits in order?

Seriously, Let's think about the roster as it stands: At center, you've got Jeff Carter, Derick Brassard, Sammy Pahlsson and Derek MacKenzie.  (There's also Antoine Vermette, not too recently a decent center in his own right, but he appears pencilled onto the wing for now.)  Now it's entirely possible that a Johansen roster spot could be spent up in the press box (more on that later), waiting for an injury to juggle the lineup.  Another possibility is that Johansen replaces one of the four CBJ centers in the lineup.  While there are four lines, each with a center, I honestly don't see four realistic openings for Johansen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wherein I rant about the NHL-CHL "No AHL for you!" agreement

The player development potential of the
AHL is retarded by a private
agreement between the NHL and the CHL
I'm working on a piece (two now, actually) regarding the ascendancy of Ryan Johansen to the big leagues, and this little tidbit clearly will influence what and how I write my material.

At the same time, I want the Johansen posts to be about him and his place in the Blue Jackets, so I'll segregate this information in a separate post and link to it later.  (Apologies for the bad form of re-posting four entire paragraphs worth of information, but this is meaty stuff that takes a little while to sort out.)
There's a good bit of confusion about the rules surrounding junior players because they're not in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, something everyone can access. The rules are in a private agreement between the NHL and CHL (Canadian Hockey League, made up of the QMJHL, OHL and WHL). A lot of people think the AHL has a rule that someone has to be 20 to play there. Common misconception. It's not a rule made by the AHL. If it were up to them, they would take everyone over 18. Officially that's the AHL's policy in fact. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blue Jackets Fan Fest, from the perspective of a CannonFest organizer

The Columbus Blue Jackets today announced "Fan Fest," which is free to the public and will take place on September 9 from 4-9PM at Nationwide Arena.  More info from the announcement:
FanFest will feature over 20 players in attendance signing autographs and interacting with fans, open skating and other on-ice activities, question & answer panels, street hockey, kids' activities, food and drink specials, music and more. Players scheduled to appear include Rick Nash and newly acquired players Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. 
The event will also offer fans the first chance to buy 2011-12 single game tickets available exclusively at the event...
A few thoughts on what I've seen/read:

1) The idea of giving fans all these incentives to come down and get excited about the upcoming season right on the cusp of training camp is a fantastic marketing move.  It's philosophically right in line with what we've been doing at CannonFest for the past two years.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Figures Don't Lie, but Liars Figure - The Defense

Fedor Tyutin at practice last year
Owwwooooooooooo!  Good Golly Miss Molly!  What was that!!??  Oh yeah.  The dog days of summer.  When hockey news is slow, slower, and slowest.

Contrary to popular belief, that was not me in the dentist chair this morning.  The girl knows how to ply her numbing agents.  Nonetheless, I decided to stay home with my numb face, and later aching jaw.  So since I wasn't at work, and needed something to do, I figured I should start crunching some numbers.  

Since the addition of Jeff Carter seems a sure fire boost to the offense, I decided to take a hard look at the defense.  With only four players returning from last year, this unit is getting a big overhaul.  The burning question is, did it get any better??  With that degree of change, how would one tell?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fighting, Tragedy, and Passion

With the recent death of another hockey player, those who love the game of hockey are thinking deep thoughts.  We love the passion of the game.  We root for the underdog who has scrapped and clawed his way into the game with pure toughness.  We are appalled that this may end up in mutilation of the player.  This is not what we want.

As Columbus Blue Jackets fans, we are all too familiar with the underdog role.  As an organization, we struggle to try to rise above that, and often don't do well when other teams refuse to treat us as an underdog (something we have earned at times over the years, see Hitchcock, Ken).  I love Jody Shelly.  The thought that the niche he has carved out in hockey means he may end up like Derek Boogaard frightens me.

But I am not against fighting.  So I think it is time to change some rules to increase protection of the players.  The trick is to do it so that you preserve what is good in the game.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Grand Army: DBJ's 2011-2012 season preview

Perhaps the most harrowing moment for yours truly at CannonFest was the question, "When does this year's 'Time to Step Up' series start?"  Without question, that series was the most grueling experience I've had with this blog.  "Time to Step Up" makes the CannonFest marketing barrage feel like a cold glass of lemonade enjoyed from the perch of a tall rocker on a warm summer night.  I'm telling you, "Time to Step Up" was downright painful at times.  Seriously, YOU try finding enough to write about Tomas Kana...and 30-odd other players, coaches and personnel staff.

Long story made short, "Time to Step Up" isn't going to happen this year - at least from me.  Gallos, you're welcome to knock yourself out.  Other CBJ bloggers, go for it.  But not DBJ.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blog redesign

Something I've wanted to do for some time but have been waylaid by other matters (school, graduation, vacation, family time, CannonFest, etc.) has been a blog redesign.  While the Warhol-esque graphics were fun - and that lime green icon sure grabbed eyes on a Twitter page! - let's face it: It was time for a change.  Since switching from the Mad Men characters and style to the Warhol look, did the Columbus Blue Jackets win even a single playoff game?  No.

But hope springs eternal, and the influx of talent this offseason has led me to double down and try again.  So we're going with a more weathered look this time, more in tune with the Civil War roots that the team has embraced.  I intend to replace the header graphic at some point, but that's a bit more involved than I have time for tonight.  (However, Blogger's new design tools made this redesign remarkably easy to pull off in a couple of hours. Kudos to our internet overlords at Google for that small blessing...)

I hope you like what you see, and let me know if something looks REALLY off so I can fix it.  I'm especially interested in whether the expanded width of the template still fits horizontally in people's screens.  Outside of those technical fixes, expect to see this look at least through the 2011-2012 season.  If we don't win a stinkin' playoff game this year, maybe I'll change it again...

"Act like you've been there before"

One of the lines I so hate to hear out of an announcer - or a fan, for that matter - is "Act like you've been there before."  This line, of course, comes immediately following a score by a player.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Make it so

The post-CannonFest afterglow has rightfully focused largely on the two Tom "Skraut" Larrow Columbus Blue Jackets fan videos (which I embedded in my CannonFest 2011 recap post).  This makes sense, as the videos themselves are really, really well done.  They also serve as a quasi-tangible "takeaway" from the day in that those who attended can share the video links with those who weren't there to see it in person...and those who didn't make it are afforded a taste of the excitement.

Now word is out from Ryan Holtmann at the Blue Jackets that the team is, well, I'll let you see what he said:
We're looking into the licensing with the NHL, but at the very least we are planning to put [the videos] on BlueJackets.com.
This is fantastic news, and for all the right reasons:
  1. The videos are labors of love from a Blue Jackets fan.  Look at the little promo graphic to the right and check out the stats for the amount of footage reviewed to assemble the pieces.  These two videos represented a TON of effort.  The Blue Jackets didn't commission this work.  They didn't ask for it.  Tom simply did it because he believes in the Blue Jackets and loves hockey.

CannonFest 2011: Coming of age

It's hard to describe the feeling, but bear with me as I try.

The CBJ's Todd Sharrock speaks to CBJ bloggers
just before CannonFest kicks off.
It's about 1:45PM.  Columbus Blue Jackets Vice President of Public Relations Todd Sharrock (with able support from Manager of Communications Ryan Holtmann and Executive Vice President of Business Operations Larry Hoepfner) has been holding court for about 30-40 minutes with CBJ bloggers.  He clues us in on a few things that the team has in the hopper for those of us who find joy in writing about the CBJ, listens to some of the thoughts that we offer, and wraps up.

Now, I'm standing in the corner, basking in the neon glow of the CBJ beer sign that Greg May rustled up for a marquee raffle item.  From my vantage point, I can't see the main entrance to the bar area at Buffalo Wild Wings.  So as we disperse, I finally get the opportunity to peek around the corner.

The room is already full.  15 minutes before the "advertised" CannonFest start time.

Photo courtesy of Chuck at The Cannon Report

My jaw drops.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"What IS CannonFest?" - A primer

Considering "only" 100 people made it out to last year's CannonFest, there has been an undercurrent of "What IS this thing?" rumbling throughout the social media spaces.  As a public service, the Dark Blue Jacket thus offers this compilation of pictures (and words) to better explain the concept in the hopes that readers far and wide recognize what a good time CannonFest is and rework their Sunday schedules in order to attend...


CannonFest beverage specials offer arena style - for less

You've seen the incredible CannonFest food specials at Buffalo Wild Wings, now check out what Greg May and his crew have concocted for beverage specials!

It's the closest thing to the hockey season without being hockey season.  Come share the joy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You've always wanted one...and you can win it at CannonFest!

Another incredible raffle for Hockey Beats Down (cancer) courtesy of Superior Beverage's donation:

A genuine Columbus Blue Jackets neon beer sign..here's more from Full Mental Jackets' Greg May with the scoop on this particular giveaway.  Unbelievable.  CannonFest is going to be one incredible time, that's for sure!

Help Hockey Beat Down cancer...and win!

Permit me to offer a quick apology/explanation: I've been on vacation for the past 7 days, returning to Ohio late yesterday afternoon.  So - yeah - I had about four blog posts in the can and simply scheduled their release while I was having fun in the sun.  (The Tom Reed tribute was written after I got home, though.)  Thus, it's very safe to accuse me of mailing it in, because...well...I was.

But I'm back now, and we're three days away from CannonFest!  Like all great events where things come together in the closing hours, we've had a couple developments that deserve mention.  You know, for the three DBJ readers who are still on the fence about joining in the fun on Sunday.

The first big development is that the Jacket Backers' raffle of nifty stuff related to the Columbus Blue Jackets will be going to support Hockey Beats Down, a local effort to fight cancer.  What a terrific cause, and I'm excited that CannonFest is aligned in this way.

Lastly, the raffle itself.  Greg May has been working overtime to procure a couple outstanding raffle items that might interest everyone.  Here's one...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Congrats, Tom Reed!

Word is on the street that the Dispatch's Tom Reed has been picked up by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer for the Cleveland Cavaliers beat.  While I can't let this moment go without reminding poor Tom that he's going to Cleveland, and to cover a team that's locked out for the foreseeable future and one that plays basketball at that, I am genuinely pleased for him.  Seriously, put the playful snark aside.  I really am happy for Tom.

In the years that I've been a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, Tom Reed has emerged as my go-to writer at the Dispatch for some terrific coverage of the team, its minor league system and the many personalities behind all of it.  Reed's been the (apparently) number two Blue Jackets writer at the Dispatch, not to mention an (apparent) backup writer for the Columbus Crew MLS beat.  How to put it best?  Reed writes damned good copy.

Beyond that, Tom's been a terrific Twitter acquaintance.  Can't ask for more.  Gonna miss that.  Which is saying something as I've never met the man in person.

So now he's on to the "bigs" - to be on a major league sports beat at a top American newspaper.  Columbus' loss is Cleveland's gain.  

Good fortune to you, Tom Reed...if you're in town on Sunday, swing by CannonFest and I'll buy you a beer.

Time for the CannonFest food specials

You gotta love Greg May.  Not only is he a great Columbus Blue Jackets fan and blogger at Full Mental Jackets, not only is he perhaps one of the finest game-watching partners in town (I mean, "Drinks on Goal"?  Come on!)...he also happens to own Buffalo Wild Wings in Grandview!

So when it's time to bring Blue Jackets fans together, Greg rolls out the red carpet.  He's pulled together his two best specials and will be offering both for CannonFest 2011 attendees.  Can you not afford to come?

We hear that there's a beverage special to come as well...

Monday, August 8, 2011

CannonFest: Your CBJ preseason Tweetup

While I'm a frequent user of Twitter to communicate with other Columbus Blue Jackets fans - and other hockey fans, for that matter - I've never participated in a "Tweetup".

Or so I thought.

The Wiktionary defines Tweetup as:
A real-life meeting organised on the social networking site Twitter.
WAIT A MINUTE.  That's CannonFest!  I mean, go look at the recap of last year's CannonFest and tell me that doesn't meet the letter of that definition.

And this year only promises more of the same.  Hope you can make it, because it's a lot of fun and a great way to scratch that hockey itch in mid-August!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

None shall pass

It's been a while now since Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson introduced his two prime acquisitions of the 2011 offseason, Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, and I've been mulling this over in my mind (largely because CBJ-land has been so quiet since!).  Before I jump in too far, permit me to reacquaint you with the event:

Now read what HockeyBuzz's Eric Smith had to say about the juxtaposition of the two:
Carter is 6-foot-3 and a slender build at around 200 pounds and looks like a golden Labrador where you know he's athletic and is graceful but also he's thinking and analyzing the situation all the time.

Wisniewski on the other hand is listed at 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds and the look of a pit-bull. Still athletic but will growl and bite you and ask questions later.

Looks can be deceiving but with these two, the look seems to fit their personalities too.
You can read more of Smith's perceptions in the piece, which I enjoyed, but that's where it hit me.  I think I have more of an affinity for defensemen than forwards.

Let's be clear here, though.  There are plenty of kinds of defensemen. Some, like Washington's Mike Green, appear to be more along the lines of a recovering winger than a true defenseman. Others are exclusively "puck movers," more inclined to look for the breakout pass or sprint with the puck to set up the offense.

Me? I like my defensemen stout. I like them with a snarl. I like defensemen who have the attitude that screams, "None shall pass."  Maybe it's a lingering affinity for Hitch-hockey, maybe not.  But who cares?  I like my defensemen with a dash of spit and vinegar.

I liked Mike Commodore in his time on the ice in Columbus. When Commie was on the ice, he had that demeanor. He might be a great conversation off the ice, but on the ice...well, none shall pass. He would push, plug, swipe, whatever it took. You could see that it pained him when he let someone by him - there's some professional pride for you - and it hurt worse when someone scored on him.  No better way to make up for it than with a well-placed hip-check...

In the same vein, I like Fedor Tyutin. (Of course, anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I like Tyutin.) He's another robust blue liner, one who's slowly discovering his offensive side but needs no help clogging lanes and crushing the opposition to the boards.  Or maybe the open-ice cobweb-clearer...

So here's my thing with Wisniewski: I haven't watched him play much and readily admit that I need to do more.  But watch a clip compilation like this and tell me that his play isn't oozing with that "none shall pass" attitude:

Wiz isn't the biggest defenseman in the world - no towering tree like a Zdeno Chara - but Smith called it when he labelled Wiz a pit bull.  I'm thinking he was onto something...a pit bull with a bit of a snarl.

But it gets better.  Wisniewski apparently has a killer shot from the point, something that also is badly needed in Columbus.  As proof, I'll offer this clip package:

Pit bull attitude and a shot.  That's a lethal combination.  I think I'm now finally starting to see the player for whom Scott Howson opened up the proverbial McConnell wallet.

These are only impressions.  I'll probably try to catch a game or two of his before the season starts, but the real proof of my hunches will come on the ice this fall.  I've got a good feeling about Wiz based off his presentation in the presser and the few clips that I've seen, and boy do the CBJ need what he apparently has to offer.

If he delivers, I may have to break down and get some CBJ swag with a player's name/number on it...James Wisniewski's.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All three CBJ fan groups attending CannonFest 2011

One of the great surprises of last year's CannonFest, to me, was the Jacket Backers.  Those folks are one organized lot, and that organization, combined with their teamwork and enthusiasm, helped make the day as enjoyable as it became.  Talk about an awesome bunch of folks; I cannot say enough good things about what they've created over the years.  So when the organizers of CannonFest 2011 plotted out this year's activities, getting the Jacket Backers on board was a top priority.

Julie Maurer, the Jacket Backers' president, tell me that they'll be out in force again for CannonFest 2011.  They again plan to raffle off a host of CBJ items for charity, the exact items to be determined closer to the 14th.  I can't wait to see what they have up their sleeves this time around.

But wait!  Over the past season, two more fan groups formed.  One, the Arch City Army, literally stormed Nationwide Arena and turned all sorts of heads with their playful, soccer-style "hooliganism" (term used in the most positive light possible).  The other, Reclaim Our Barn, formed on Facebook to work to ensure that Nationwide Arena once again becomes one of the most feared arenas in the National Hockey League...for all the right reasons.

So why not invite all three to join in the fun?  Guess what?  They're all going to be at CannonFest, and they want to meet you!  So...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fox Sports Ohio announces pre-season programming

[DBJ note: Looks like FSO is raising their game as they enter the last season of their current contract with the Blue Jackets.  Win for the fans!  Now, what about broadcasting every game in high-def?  And why no preseason game broadcasts?]


Vote for your favorite Jackets Showcase Game on FOXSportsOhio.com. The top 4 will make the air!

Columbus, OH – Columbus Blue Jackets fans won’t have to wait until Opening Night to enjoy Blue Jackets hockey. As the team gears up for what will be an exciting 2011-12 season, FOX Sports Ohio is helping fans get ready too by featuring special Blue Jackets programming throughout the month of September in a “Countdown to Face Off.”

In the “Countdown to Face Off,” FOX Sports Ohio will feature replays of some of the best Blue Jackets games, as voted on by fans, as well as a Summer Tour road show, the Blue Jackets Slap Shots Summer Special, and a Morning Sports Report Special. A complete listing of the “Countdown to Face Off” schedule is below.

Ohio’s leading regional sports network will telecast four Blue Jackets Showcase Games. FOX Sports Ohio has gathered a list of nine of the best games in Blue Jackets history. Among the nine are the highest-scoring game in club history, the Jackets’ most lopsided win, the game that clinched their first playoff appearance, and a last-minute win secured when Rick Nash scored “the Goal”. The top four games, as voted on by fans via FOXSportsOhio.com, will make the air, with the first game on Monday, Sept. 5 at 6pm. For a complete list of the nine potential Showcase Games and to vote for your favorites, visit www.FOX SportsOhio.com/pages/countdown_to_face_off/. Fans can vote as many times as they choose until August 19.

FOX Sports Ohio further prepares for the start of the Jackets’ season with Blue Jackets Slap Shots Summer Special. This show is a replay of the production that originally premiered in July and picks up again on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6:30pm. The half-hour special takes a look at the team’s off-season player moves, from trades to the draft and free agency. Click HERE for more details about this program.

How do the Columbus Blue Jackets spend the off-season? Dave Maetzold and the FOX Sports Ohio crew take to the highways and byways of Canada to find out on Blue Jackets Slap Shots – Summer Tour. This four part series, premiering Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 6:30pm, is an all-access pass to the Jackets that every fan must see! Covering over 2,000 miles of the Great White North via minivan, this show will take fans to Quebec for a tour of Quebec City with Antoine Vermette. The road show then rolls into Ontario to check in with defensemen Marc Methot and Grant Clitsome in their hometown of Ottawa, catches up with captain Rick Nash at his cottage in the Muskoka region and has some fun with Steve Mason and his friends in the Toronto-area.

FOX Sports Ohio rounds out its “Countdown to Face Off” programming with Blue Jackets Slap Shots - Morning Sports Report Special, debuting Thursday, Sept. 8 at 6:30pm. In this 30-minute program, FOX Sports Ohio/Blue Jacket play-by-play commentator, Jeff Rimer, sits down with Nash, 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee Dino Ciccarelli, and Stanley Cup champion and national NHL analyst Ed Olczyk. Taped in late June as part of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission’s MORNING SPORTS REPORT event, the show highlights some of the discussion that took place in front of a live audience.

[Schedules after the fold...]

CannonFest: The Skraut video cometh!

If you haven't been following Skraut's Twitter feed, he's deep in the skunkworks at work on his next preseason Blue Jackets fan video...

As if you needed a better reason to come to CannonFest - because great wings and drinks combined with great hockey talk with friends new and old wasn't enough - check out Skraut's 2010 CannonFest premiere...

Blue Jackets - Requiem For a Season from Skraut on Vimeo.

Clear your schedules, because CannonFest is a really good time for Columbus Blue Jackets fans.