Monday, October 31, 2011

The emperor has some sweet threads

Courtesy of Fox Sports Ohio, here are some post-game comments from Columbus Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel, captain Rick Nash and goalie Steve Mason.  Pay close attention starting at about the 1:25 mark:

<a href=";src=SLPl:embed::uuids" target="_new" title="Jackets after win">Video: Jackets after win</a>

Nash said it: The players appear to have thrown it all out on the ice for their embattled coach and general manager in the past two home games.  In many ways, the emotion (at least as perceived from the fan side) for the Anaheim game was similar to the win against Detroit: A) Heavy external stimulus hits the locker room - for Detroit, it was J.P. Mac's pregame locker room speech and general manager Scott Howson's "Bill Walsh" blog post; for Anaheim, it was the Dispatch blog post about a potential replacement of Howson and Arniel with Craig Button and Ken Hitchcock; B) Players rally and go kick some butt out on the ice, handily winning the game in the process.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 12: Anaheim

Columbus 3 - Anaheim 1
2-9-1, 5th place in the Central Division, 15th place in the Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the Anaheim (once Mighty) Ducks to Nationwide Arena tonight and pounded their way to a 3-1 win, Columbus' second win of the 2011-12 season.

1. Let's get to the elephant in the room faster than Fox Sports Ohio did tonight: The rumored shakeup both behind the bench and in the front office clearly has shaken the roster.  Captain Rick Nash, never one to offer a meaningful quote after a game, shared that the team had a players-only meeting prior to the game prep meeting and also gave about as forceful a defense of Scott Arniel and Scott Howson that he could.  By my estimation (and Jeff Seaman's), someone (or someones) in that locker room REALLY doesn't want to play for Ken Hitchcock.

Do I want Scott Arniel to get fired?

I wrote this post back on October 21 and chose not to post it because the notion of firing the coach was, in my opinion, still far-fetched. That's not the case any more. So rather than rehash stuff that I've already written, I'll share what I wrote back then. The only big difference between then and now is that the Blue Jackets indeed did win a single game.

"It's terrible news. It's terrible news, it's terrible we couldn't play better, and the coach had to be fired." 

Scott Arniel addresses the media after being
announced as the newest
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach 
Yesterday, I offered a simple comparison of the Columbus Blue Jackets coaching records of Scott Arniel and Ken Hitchcock that I found online.  For giggles, I tossed in the interim coaching record of Claude Noel.

An anonymous reader offered this reaction: coach. Next step, turnover roster to fit coaches system (2 years). Continue losing, fire GM, who then fires that coach, to get his guy, and turnover the roster.  
Honest to God, I didn't mean for that to be the logical conclusion.  My intention was to raise the spector that Arniel could expect Hitch's fate if he didn't get things back on the positive side of the ledger.   There's a big difference between "The numbers say that Arniel should be fired" and "The numbers aren't in Arniel's favor right now."


What Would Hitch Do?
Columbus Blue Jackets Civil War Logo

With the ominous sounding post over on Puck Rakers that big changes could be coming to Nationwide in reference to the terrible start, one could ask, what would a new coach 'cough' Hitch, do to get out of this mess?

Here are some thoughts on that:

  • Put the best penalty killer in the NHL, Rick Nash back on the PK.  You play your best people on the PK.
  • Team defense.  Everyone plays defense.  All defense, all the time.  We can only score two goals.
  • Make the other D-men turn around, get the puck low in the o-zone and cycle the thing for a bit, instead of forwards launching shots from the top of the circle (its ok Wiz, you are supposed to launch those shots!).
  • The veterans know how to play this game.  RyJo, its time to go back to juniors.  Unless you can really impress Hitch with your D.  (BTW RyJo, your task in juniors is to learn how to carry a team.  We may need it in the future)
  • Hitch tried to play the up tempo game in the NHL when he first came up.  It didn't work.  So he adapted.  Coach Arniel hasn't really had a chance to adapt.
  • There are those that say Hitch hockey is boring.  Reflecting on his status as winningest coach in franchise history, how boring is losing?
Don't think that I'm happy this is happening.  I'm not.  But you are your record.  This can't continue.  Perhaps this is a move of desperation.  If you are not desperate now, what are you?


Saturday, October 29, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 11: Chicago

Chicago 5 - Columbus 2
1-9-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost, 5-2, to the Chicago Blackhawks in regulation at the United Center.

1. Allen York got his first start in goal tonight (suggesting that at least the coaching staff is going 'all in' for Sunday's game against Anaheim.  York saw 37 shots tonight, stopping 33 of them.  Not embarrassing for a rookie start for a guy who probably thought he was going to spend the season backing up in  Springfield - never mind getting a start in Columbus - but obviously not good enough to steal a game.  Not that he had meaningful help from the CBJ defense at clutch moments, like the many Blackhawk breakaways.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Purge of Youth is almost complete

Do you understand what's going on with the latest roster shuffle?
Me neither, but I'll take a stab at trying to decipher this one.
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel mentioned last night that he shortened his bench in the middle of the second period to those who were "running."

Apparently "running" means allowed by law to run to the liquor store, as Ryan Johansen (19), John Moore (21 on November 19) and Max Mayorov (21 - OK, he could've survived getting carded...but play along now!) sat on the bench for much of the second half of the Buffalo game while David Savard (turned 21 last week) was munching hot dogs in the press box.

At the same time, "Veterans" (term used loosely, as many of those "veteran" seasons were spent in the AHL) like Aaron Johnson (28), Cody Bass (24), Alexander Giroux (30) and Derek Dorsett (24) were kept out on the ice in the losing cause.  Is it safe to say that none of these four distinguished themselves more than the four kids listed above?

It sure looks like Arniel has turned away from the kids.  Toss in that Cam Atkinson (who was producing a little in Columbus, along with his -4 plus/minus in four games) and Matt Calvert (who wasn't producing) were shipped off to Springfield earlier.

(Non-CBJ) Post-game presser goodness

I caught a couple of terrific post-game comments from last night and had to share.

First, Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers, who let in four goals on ten shots in contributing to a 9-8 Flyers loss to Claude Noel's Winnipeg Jets:

Keep in mind, Bryz was perhaps THE free agent signing of the off-season, dropping his John Hancock (or Nicholas II, Boris Yeltsin, or whomever the Russians consider important) on a nine-year, $51 million contract. After 8 games played, Bryz has a 3-4-1 record and a 3.45 Goals Against Average. YOW.  And you thought that the Blue Jackets had goalie issues...

That's the negative.  Who to offer the positive, you ask?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 10: Buffalo

Buffalo 4 - Columbus 2
1-8-1, 5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets went up to Buffalo hoping to create a two-game winning streak and came up short, 4-2, against the Sabres in regulation.

1. With the exception of the second period Vinny Prospal goal and a period of time immediately following, there just didn't seem to be any spring in the CBJ's step once again tonight.  Chemistry looked off, the team looked a step slow once again.  How long will it take for this team to get its groove?

A brief conversation

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Is Community Awareness at an All Time High?

How many people mentioned the BlueJackets win to you today?  Let's face it.  They know you are a die hard fan.  I would say more than a dozen mentioned something to me at work today.  A solid third of those were people who were only tangentially aware that I was a fan, but they were aware.

In a totally different environment, Mrs. Gallos encountered the same thing.  People who might not ordinarily take notice, took notice, and said something, especially after last nights improbable win.

With the Arena deal moving through government, the amazing moves that management pulled off over the off season, and the absolutely brutal start (followed by a captivating win!), I think its fair to say that community awareness of the Columbus Blue Jackets is at an all time high.

Do you agree?  How many people said something to you today?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 9: Detroit

Columbus 4 - Detroit 1
1-7-1, 5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Western Conference
The winless Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Detroit Red Wings tonight and...won their first game of the season, 4-1.  It was the first regulation win since March 12, when the Blue Jackets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2.

As Mrs. DBJ posted on Facebook, "And that sigh of relief you're hearing from C'bus is the sound of the Jackets getting off the schneid. :-)"  True dat.

In so many ways, this was a "Bizarro World" game against what we Blue Jackets fans had been forced to see thus far this season.  Up was down, left was right.  Winless...became a rather convincing win.  And there's more...

The fork in the road

With tonight's season debut of suspended top-line defenseman James Wisniewski, the Columbus Blue Jackets have played all of eight games in their 82-game National Hockey League season.

A little visual irony to lighten the mood of what
surely will be a "weighty" blog post. 
In Wiz's absence, the team has not won a game and only accumulated a single standings point.  Not that Wiz's absence is the sole factor in the Blue Jackets' faceplant out of the gate, but surely it's a contributing cause.

Regardless, let's work on the presumption that it will take 98 standings points to get to the playoffs.  That means that the CBJ need to pick up 97 points in 74 games, or 1.31 points per game.

As a point of reference, that 1.31 points per game works out to a 108-point pace over all 82 games.  Last season, the Vancouver Canucks (117 points) were the only club in the entire league to play at or above a 108-point pace.  I think that puts the magnitude of the challenge ahead in proper context.

Now, let's add a layer of complexity to the situation.  The Blue Jackets are now a salary cap team, meaning that they have committed (more or less) the maximum amount allowable to player salaries, bonuses and buyouts.  They literally have next to no flexibility on the salary front, further constricting their ability to make roster adjustments on the fly.  (UPDATE: Make sure you read the comments below for additional clarity on this matter.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Ottawa game: Was it really a $64 million roster?

If you look at - and you should, as the money component of the National Hockey League is at least as, if not more, important than the on-ice component when general managers consider rosters - you'll see that (as I type) the Columbus Blue Jackets are now a salary cap team.  They're sporting a combined salary cap number of $65 million (with a little over $3 million in Long Term Injured Reserve cap relief).  Once you add in bonus monies ($2.5 million and remove the LTIR relief), you're looking at the third most expensive roster in the NHL.

Never before have the Blue Jackets opened up the checkbook like this.  Problem is, never before have they opened the season 0-7-1.

This combination is lethal.  To spend like drunken sailors (compared to prior seasons) yet not win a single game?  To only have a single point in the standings?  Pathetic is putting it nicely.  We're talking disaster...CBJmageddon.

I'm not going to sugar coat the on-ice performance.  And while I think that Scott Arniel still had more than enough firepower to beat the likes of Eastern Conference cellar-dweller Ottawa, I think it only fair to reframe the discussion to reflect reality.

My point is, the CBJ are paying out $65 million in salaries, but they're not icing a team worth $65 million.

A bit of a surprise: Hope on concussions

As Gallos alluded, I watched the Notre Dame-USC game last night.  While the game wasn't quite as traumatic as the end of the Columbus Blue Jackets-Ottawa Senators game turned out to be, the broadcast featured a surprising and rather cool public service (read: school marketing) piece by the University of Notre Dame.

Keep in mind that this was during a football game, and Notre Dame's marquee sport (for now) is football...but don't overlook the fact that the NHL's Sidney Crosby also gets a video mention:

Proud alumnus chest-pounding aside (but rest assured, it's happening), I think that this scientific development in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries is fantastic stuff.  Same for the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which I've referred to repeatedly throughout the life of this blog.

Game 8: Ottawa - Post-game shock and awe

Fox Sports Ohio posted this compilation of post-game media comments from Ryan Johansen, Rick Nash and Scott Arniel (and they're allowing embedding of video now, which is way cool):

<a href='' target='_new' title='Blue Jackets fall to Senators 4-3'>Video: Blue Jackets fall to Senators 4-3</a>

I missed the game - had to watch that "barnburner" of a college football game between Notre Dame and USC last night - but I suppose that if the Columbus Blue Jackets' captain is speechless, I'd best stay that way, too.  At least for now.

Many thanks to Gallos for perhaps the most fitting game recap of the season thus far.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Sorry folks.  I'm up tonite for game recap, since the DBJ is watching his alma mater.

I just don't know what to say.  Other than having Grant Clitsome playing a 1-2 defensive role is probably going to turn out this way.  

Wiz ain't the answer, but he's an upgrade.

Jackets manufacture a loss in the last 40 seconds or so.

Don't know what to say.

Scott Arniel: Then and now

A Tweet last night from Eric Smith ("Scott Arniel is aging right before your eyes. Tough to watch.") inspired me to pull up some comparative video.  First, an interview just before Arniel's first game as coach (October 2010):

They Must Learn to Hate Losing More Than Anything

- Ken Hitchcock, Former Coach of the CBJ 
Old logo, to keep it step with the rest of things!

In the waning days of his coaching stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ken Hitchcock uttered the title phrase regarding his players, many of whom remain the core players of today's team.

After a solid start, best in franchise history, his team had imploded in December, and spiraled out of control.  The fans were calling for the coaches head.  Sound familiar?

Remember folks.  We're not talking about Wiz, Carter, or Prospal.  We are talking about Nash, Umberger, Vermette and Brassard here.  The core players.  And this is what the Hall of Fame coach uttered about his players, as he viewed the handwriting on the wall for his coaching job - These players must learn to hate losing more than anything else.

There are real reasons why the core of this team has not learned this lesson.  But it this team is ever going to have the long term success they want to have, they have to learn to hate losing with a burning passion.  We are in the middle of that learning process right now, and it really doesn't matter how many games they lose, or whether or not we make the playoffs this year.  It matters that the core of this team learn to hate losing more than anything.  Because that is the pre-requisite for becoming a successful franchise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 7: Detroit

Detroit 5 - Columbus 2
0-6-1, 5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Western Conference
The 0-5-1 Columbus Blue Jackets went north (and west!) to Detroit, emerging with yet another regulation loss at Joe Louis Arena.

As I said, " it possible to continue to preach patience with this squad if you predicted the Blue Jackets would make the playoffs?"

As for the game:

1. Rick Nash had red sweaters blanketing him for most of the night.  This isn't illegal; in fact, it's a wise defensive scheme considering where the CBJ are at right now.  It's amazing that Nash was able to do anything all night (zero official shots), notching an assist on the Brassard goal.  At the same time, it's baffling that the rest of the Blue Jackets couldn't capitalize on the Wings' preoccupation with Nash.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Will the CBJ Ever Recover from the Firing of Dave King?

At What Price Stability?
Ken Hitchcock at Training Camp This Year. 

Disclosure.  I am a huge Ken Hitchcock fan.  You ever listen to the guy talk?  You learn about the game of hockey every time he opens his mouth.  This guy has forgotten more about the game then I have ever known.

Disclosure.  I disagreed with the firing of Ken Hitchcock.  On the same principles, I disagree with the notion that Arniel is replaceable over the short term.  On the same principles, Dave King never should have been fired.  Therein lies the problem.  We lack organizational stability.  How can the players buy into a system if they know the guy will be gone every time there is a losing streak?  Who do they listen to?  How do you buy in to a transient?

We have met the enemy, and he is us!  We as fans have to have the collective chutzpah to survive this disastrous start.  Have I experienced this before? Yes! (think Zherdev)  Has there been cumulative damage to my psyche??  Emphatically so.  As a group are our fans in the same boat?  Yup.  Undoubtedly.

Why?  Why should we endure this intolerable pain??  Because that is the path to organizational stability, something we have never had in Columbus.  And we will not succeed significantly in the NHL until we get there.  And the most graphic examples, and best comparable teams are a big part of our 2011-12 pain fest.  Minnesota and Nashville.

A simple comparison

Courtesy of Twitter's IBleedUnionBlue, I stumbled upon this short and sweet comparison of the Columbus Blue Jackets' current coach and the former coach that's still on the payroll.
  • In the last 28 Blue Jackets games, Scott Arniel has a record of 3-17-8 while Ken Hitchcock was 8-16-4.
  • Arniel has coached 88 games with the Blue Jackets thus far. His record is 34-40-14. Hitchcock's last 88 games resulted in a record of: 35-38-15.
We know what happened to Hitchcock.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm measuring my words here

OK, this whole 2011-2012 thing isn't going so well.
Random thoughts, questions, observations as we sort through the carnage of an 0-5-1 start:
  • The folks at XM Home Ice suggest that, with one standings point accumulated in six games, the Columbus Blue Jackets are out of mulligans and now have to play hockey at a 104-point pace to get to the 98 points projected for the 8th place seed in the Western Conference.  Yeah, a 104-point pace.  In the Western Conference.  With this team.  Gulp.
  • In light of the above, is it possible to continue to preach patience with this squad if you predicted the Blue Jackets would make the playoffs?
  • Didn't you used to be R.J. Umberger?
  • With a goal and a terrific defensive protection of the empty net in the last 3 minutes of last night's game, Kris Russell seemed to shake out of a two-plus year slumber.  Wonder if the new Russell will stick around.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 6: Dallas

Dallas 3 - Columbus 2
0-5-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost in regulation, 3-2, to the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena.

1. I think that I've figured out what's killing me when I watch this team.  There's ZERO flow.  All too often, we see something resembling this:
  • Player 1 sets up and passes to Player 2, who's standing still to ensure that he receives the pass.  
  • Player 2 then has to build up a head of steam to get the puck out of the defensive zone, fending off the inevitable challenge from the opposition who's laying in wait.  
  • Presuming Player 2 gets past the defender, he advances past center ice and slows to set up for his pass.  
  • Having had time to set up shop, the defenders form a Berlin Wall that Player 2 has to overcome.  
  • Player 3 now tries to advance into the offensive zone, but he, too, has to make it past the Berlin Wall and pray that Player 2's pass crosses through with just enough lead that he can do something with the puck when in the zone.  
  • Presuming Player 2's pass makes it past the Berlin Wall and Player 3 isn't offsides, Player 3 then stops cold and sets up for a shot, which the goalie can see coming a mile away.  
And you wonder why this team can't score?  I'm going to pray that this is a function of the lack of cohesiveness on this squad, but then the question raises itself: "How long until these guys DO get cohesive?"

So it's come to this.

Dear Columbus Blue Jackets:

It's come to this.  I'm not particularly proud at this moment, but I'm going to take this step if that's what is required.  Because I've had enough of this early-season silliness.

Nope, don't like 'em one bit.  But if wearing it gets the CBJ a win,
I'll wear mine.  (via
I'm going to wear your expansion era sweater on every gameday until you win a flippin' game.  

You see, you're 0-4-1 right now.  That's the worst season-starting record in team history.  Worse than the 2000-2001 expansion team.  So if you're going to play like an expansion team (even more stunning to think considering the level of talent on this squad), I'm going to have to wear that goofy expansion sweater.  

No, I don't like wearing Stingers on my shoulder.  I don't like watching the Dark Blue Toddler, who's into letter recognition, stare at the chest logo of stick, star and center line ribbon and not understand that it's supposed to be a stylized "CBJ".  And I don't even want to start talking about the fact that this sweater has neon yellow-green on it.  A pro hockey sweater.  With neon.  Ugh.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Get off my lawn

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert was sent down to the CBJ's American Hockey League minor league team, the Springfield Falcons, this morning.  In five games, Calvert was credited with a single assist and no goals while averaging under ten minutes per game of ice time.  This, following last week's demotion of forward Cam Atkinson (4 games, 1 goal, -4 plus/minus) to Springfield.  The Purge of the Youth is on.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Jackets 4 Points Out of Playoffs with Only 77 Games Remaining!!!

Jeff Carter - This dude is going to be scary good this year.
We've tried the whole 'winning early' thing.  It didn't work the last two years.  We (myself included) demanded that the team be blown up.  Sometimes it is good to be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

While flu shot backlash remains a distinct possibility, the simple fact is that with all new D-pairings, and the forward lines completely jumbled from day 1, anyone who realistically expected anything else than what we have seen was even more excessively hopeful than I usually am.  I certainly HOPED for better, but the reality isn't terribly surprising.

Keeping last years start in mind, you know,' the best start in franchise history', you also have to remember that there were games in which our beloved CBJ were absolutely shelled.  Hearken back to the first Calgary game last year.  Our guys with' the best start in franchise history' were absolutely skated off the ice by a mediocre Calgary team.

The 2011-12 CBJ, the proud owners of the worst start in franchise history, have NOT been skated off the ice by anyone.  The have been competitive, and have lost their games by special team dysfunction, a shot bouncing off a rookies a** with 40 seconds left to tie a game they essentially won, and blown defensive assignments leading to easy goals (Please shut the back door when you leave!).  But they have not been blown out of any games.

And much has been made about our top line clicking.  I don't think these guys are clicking well at all yet.  They keep missing passes, whiffing on shots.  Once their timing gets down, we'll get an idea of what this top line can really do.  Which is my point.  We haven't seen what this team can really do yet.

Wherein DBJ desperately looks to rationalize this mess

Do YOU have a better explanation?
I, like so much of the Columbus Blue Jackets fanbase, am stunned at the (lack of) performance of the CBJ this season.  I know that the preseason isn't supposed to be taken too seriously, but it sure seemed like this team had much more potential than they have displayed thus far in the regular season.

What's even more amazing is that the team's collapse was so sudden.  The third period and overtime of Wednesday's Colorado game, the Dallas's like the team collectively shifted into neutral.  Remember, the second period against Colorado actually looked pretty good.  So what gives?

I've been wracking my brain, and here's the best I can come up with (in a mindset that stubbornly refuses to accept that the team's talent, chemistry and coaching can't be so bad as to fall off the cliff en route to an 0-4-1 start):  Flu shots.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 5: Dallas

Dallas 4 - Columbus 2
0-4-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
In front of a whopping 8,305 announced attendance at American Airlines Arena, the Columbus Blue Jackets lost their fifth game of the 2011-12 NHL season to the Dallas Stars, 4-2.

Yeah, I blew an evening watching this one, and I'm lacking in humor.  Let's go straight to the five thoughts:

1. The Blue Jackets had 15 shots on goal.  Not in a given period - in the entire game.  4 in the 1st, 6 in the 2nd, 5 in the 3rd.  Inspired offensive hockey, indeed.

And you thought that goaltending was easy?

Check out this gem from The Goalie Guild:

As if we needed any more tangible proof that goaltenders are nuts. Poor, poor Mase.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Making up for lost time

It's been an interesting day-plus in DBJ-land.  Fresh off the euphoria of one of my Coolest Games Ever from a strictly fan perspective (great seats, cool friends, hard-fought game), I was smacked in the face by a cold glass of water called reality:
Coach Arniel running through his system with
the Columbus Blue Jackets once again today.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets were 0-3-1
  • Over a third of the team had yet to register a point - even a second assist, which means that you touched the puck sometime last week
  • The team is Oh-fer the season on the power play (currently 0-20)
This was very tough to take, and - honestly - hard to reconcile with the experience I had on Wednesday night.  (Which goes to show you - your game watching experience can be greatly enhanced by hanging out with great people like Matt, Greg and Alison.)  Especially when you peel back the layers and see that it's not just the "new" half of the roster that's scoreless.  It's Blue Jacket veterans like R. J. Umberger (he of the $23 million contract extension and a $4.6 million cap hit), Antoine Vermette ($3.75 million cap hit), Marc Methot ($3.0 million) and Derick Brassard ($3.2 million cap hit).  These guys have been around the block and performed under coach Scott Arniel's system last season.  They've been rewarded for past performance by general manager Scott Howson.  And none of those guys have put a single scoring point on the board in 2011-12 thus far.  

Anyway, my continued analysis led me into the darker blue recesses of my Dark Blue Mind.  And it was getting close to time to blog in anger.  But then I took in practice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 4: Colorado

Colorado 3 - Columbus 2 (Shootout)
0-3-1, 5th in the Central Division, 14th in the Western Conference
In the only game of the season not to be on television of any sort, the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Adam Foote-less Colorado Avalanche at Nationwide Arena tonight and lost, 3-2 in the shootout.

This was a bit of a "split personality" game for me.  I had the pleasure to attend the game not just with three fantastic bloggers (Alison of Heart of a Jacket, Greg of Full Mental Jackets and Matt of The Cannon), but in seats that placed my hiney three rows behind the Blue Jackets bench and three seats off of their tunnel. I've never attended a game in seats that were so close to the ice and so close to the team.  As I tweeted right after sitting down, "This is nuts."  And it was all night long.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The realignment band-aid? Or just laziness?

While we're at it, why not realign this way?  [Rolls eyes]
TSN's Bob McKenzie is reporting (as presented by Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy) that the NHL is gathering steam for a realignment "plan" that would swap spots between Detroit and Winnipeg only when they meet to realign the league in December.  In this approach, Winnipeg moves to the Central Division while Detroit slots into the Southeast Division.  And that would be that.

Puck Daddy offers up all sorts of reasons why this is a really dumb way to conduct a realignment, and I agree with him.  Detroit has just as much a logistical claim to being in the East as Columbus in my book (Shut up, Nashville.  We didn't put you in the Central time zone.), but the notion that Detroit would be in a division with Washington, Carolina and the two Florida teams for the foreseeable future is silly.  Let's be honest: Swapping Winnipeg for Columbus is a stretch of common sense as well, but Columbus is that much closer to the Southeast.  A larger realignment would be more logical, but logic and the National Hockey League rarely intersect.

Of course, this is all speculation.  However, McKenzie is a pretty solid journalist, and he won't report something that doesn't have legs.  Thus, we have to presume that the Winnipeg-Detroit/Southeast-Central swap is a going concern.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Committed to #Vinning

No wins yet, but Vinny is doing his part.
The Jackets arguably had the best offseason of any team in the league. Columbus filled two of it's biggest holes in the lineup by acquiring Wisniewski and Carter. They also upgraded the wing by signing Vinny Prospal who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players on the team. Vinny loves to score and you can never go wrong there. Finally, the Blue Jackets and the City of Columbus made significant progress towards fixing the arena-lease issue. Combine all of these things with the surprising surge of young players making the team from training camp and you will have a fan base that is [!!!] ready to start the season. Unfortunately for Jackets and us fans, none of the offseason changes alone are worth points points in the season standings. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 3: Vancouver

Vancouver 3 - Columbus 2
0-3-0, 5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets improved by light years over their lackluster performance on Saturday night against Minnesota.  Sadly, they were playing the defending Western Conference champions tonight and lost, 3-2, to the Vancouver Canucks at Nationwide Arena.

For those who are new to the blog (and judging by traffic counts this season, there are a lot of you), here's how my DBJ recaps operate:  I don't do game recaps.  There are plenty of good sites and blogs that can tell you what happened and when.  Go check out the "Blogs/News" tab at the top of the page.  I offer a brief handful of thoughts and impressions in true blog fashion.  Generally five, but don't be surprised if I toss in a bonus one or two if something was particularly compelling.

Very early season musings

The coaching Man of the Hour in Columbus,
goaltenders coach Ian Clark
In looking over the first couple of games, I've had fleeting thoughts that don't necessarily warrant entire blog posts (right now) but might be worth considering going forward:
  • In the "Don't Set the Bar Too High" department, I'm happy that the CBJ didn't get blown out at home on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd against Nashville.  They probably bought themselves some time with the ever-fickle locals as a result.  
  • Could CBJ Assistant Coaches Brad Berry (defense) and Ian Clark (goaltenders) kindly report to Nationwide Arena?  The NHL 2011-2012 season is underway, and your players need coaching.  Badly.
  • To be Mark Dekanich right now is to be a study in anticipation and frustration.  Steve Mason's performing OK-to-poorly (with no comment on the defensive help Mase may or may not be getting) with a painful .870 goals against average.  And when Mase is pulled in game two for AHLer Curtis Sanford, DexShow has to be thinking, "If I wasn't injured, that would be ME!"  Let's hope that either Mase gets his game together quickly or DexShow is ready to roll once he returns.  At this point, I don't care which.  (Or that GM Scott Howson doesn't have to give up too much in the trade market to get a consistent goaltender...)
  • I can understand how the CBJ would have trouble getting the puck into the offensive zone against Nashville, especially when Nashville locked down after going up by one goal.  But Minnesota? Minnesota?  Ack.

Shanahan on the Bouchard suspension

Seeing as we put the Wisniewski suspension video up, I suppose it's only fair that we put the Bouchard video on the blog, too, as it involved a Columbus Blue Jackets player.

Since when did Shanny stop issuing suspensions and push that responsibility off on the "Department of Player Safety"?

How's that pausey reflecty thing working out for ya?

OK, so we're two games into the season.  It hasn't started like anyone hoped.  I apologize for missing the games, but family matters (and my annual live fix of Fighting Irish football) got in the way.  I also got a look - from afar, but a look nonetheless - at the soon-to-be-opened ($50 million!) Compton Family Ice Arena, which already appears to be lining up as the Cathedral of American College Hockey.  It's a VERY impressive looking facility, almost looming toward the football stadium as if to say, "You'd best notice me."  And seeing how Notre Dame's hockey program is doing by comparison to its football program, that's a reasonable statement to make.

But enough of my alma mater.  We have NHL hockey to discuss, and that means the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That's not the dirty play I intended!

Matt Calvert and RJ Umberger at practice
Big stick tap to Light the Lamp for publishing the reaction of the Wild fans and media.

Let's compare James Wisniewski's excuse: 'I was defending myself';


Pierre-Marc Bouchard's excuse:  I meant to slash Calvert on the hands, but he lifted my stick!

No matter how you cut it, that is a dirty play with intent to injure.  The slash to the hands has been an area of focus for officials for the last few years because it has only one intent, to injure a player, ESPECIALLY if that player does not even have the puck.

I don't care if he has a 9 year career of unpunished, er, clean play.  That is a dirty play any way you examine it. And from now on, he is a repeat offender.

There's only two ways to police this stuff.  Either the Shanahammer does it, or you need to revoke the instigator rule and reserve a roster spot for an enforcer.  Given the events of this last summer, the league has opted to police the game itself.

Eliminating the slash to the hands, much less to the face, will not diminish the game we love.  It will eliminate dirty play.  Check the rule book.  Its always been that way.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bouchard gets 2 games; Wiz won't fix this.

James Wisniewski during training camp.
The NHL has announced that Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be suspended for 2 games for his high stick on Matt Calvert.  In my last post, I called Shanny out.  Maybe three-fourths of my call out was satisfied when the league  reviewed the play, the remainder when they concluded that supplemental discipline was necessary.  The number of games was pretty irrelevant to me.

In these last two games, the ability of our defense to actually play defense could be questioned.  Our group seemed to be extremely vulnerable to odd man rushes, and were caught flat footed many times in Minnesota.

The first point I wanted to make is that we didn't hire Wiz to be a shut down defenseman.  While it is definitely likely that Wiz would help our 0-11 power play, the only thing he brings to the odd man rush situation is closing speed.  So I am concerned about the defense and am tempted to rant about it being the same lame defense as last year.  But the purpose of this blog is to provide some perspective.  And after a deep breath and some thought today, I'm not sure the rant is appropriate.

The schedule makers gave us a good schedule to start 2010-11.  I think they got even in 2011-12.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Out: Wild 4-CBJ 2

the Columbus Blue Jackets logo
Out hustled, out shot, out hit, out skated, out coached, vastly better goal tender play, adds up to another loss for the CBJ.  The search for continuity continues, and the power play is now 0-11.

The Minnesota Wild came out in their home opener flying, against a Blue Jackets squad playing on the second night of back to back games.  The difference was stark, as the Wild got behind the Blue Jackets defense repeatedly.  Steve Mason was hung out to dry in the goal, with another early goal being scored from the top of the crease.  And, once again, Mason was outplayed by the opposing goal tender, who some how managed to make the big stop.  Nicklas Backstrom played a dogged game, repeatedly making the big saves.  It must be said however, that Backstrom was not called upon to make the types of saves that Mason was, as the Minnesota goals were beauties.  It wasn't the CBJ's night.

By the way Shanahammer.  I'm looking at you.  The head was the 'principal point of contact' on Bouchard's brutal high stick of Matt Calvert.  And it certainly caused an injury, as the trail of blood on the ice would indicate.

The Opener - Nashville 3, CBJ 2

Hopes for an Undefeated Season Crushed

Radek Martinek on the opening drape
What's that you say? No team has ever gone undefeated in the modern NHL?  Not even the Redwings, or the Penguins?  Oh.  Well that's not so bad then.

Ok, on a more serious note, on the the re-cap.  The Nashville Predators rolled into town with a solid team that went deep in the playoffs last year.  The Preds are built on solid defense and outstanding goal tending, and we saw a healthy dose of that last night as the Predators beat the Blue Jackets 3-2.

The game was really pretty equal in many respects.  The new look CBJ has really upgraded the forward position, but our defense without Wiz remains a work in progress.  The contrast between the teams was pretty stark.  The CBJ are still adjusting to all the new faces, which is normal.  The Preds looked like a team that was used to playing with one another.  On paper our forwards are better than theirs, but their defense is better than ours.  At the end of the day, the winning goal was scored on a defensive gaffe that allowed a Nashville shooter, Matt Halischuk fire an unchecked shot from the top of Steve Mason's crease with 39 seconds gone in the third period.  That ended up being the deciding goal.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oh Captains, My Captains

Word has come down regarding the assignment of the Columbus Blue Jackets alternate captain "A's" for 2011-2012.

Rick Nash stays as CBJ captain, but how to divvie out the rest of the "A's"?
Rick Nash, of course, will retain the captain's "C".  R.J. Umberger gets a full-time "A".  Antoine Vermette, Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski will then rotate the other "A".

It's not a huge matter, a symbolic one at that, but the fact that the Blue Jackets feel compelled to share the wealth when it comes to player leadership like this is telling.  Simply put, there are more talented veterans (to accompany the rush of talented youngsters!) on the roster.  Thus, there's a need to recognize the leaders who have been through the wars.  Though I admit a fondness for assigning Umberger the full-time "A".  Not only is he durable enough to wear it every night, he clearly has a special stature in the Blue Jackets lineup.  As for the rest, show 'em the respect that they surely will earn this season.

Nice problem to have - that of having more talent than available leadership slots - and a clever solution to spread the wealth around.  Now, bring on Nashville!


And thanks to Skraut for this incredible puck drop:

Go Jackets!  Beat Predators!

The CBJ Blogger "little kids" Roundtable

So The Cannon's Matt Wagner says that he sent me his now-annual preseason Columbus Blue Jackets  questionnaire via email, and I believe him.  However, it appears that Yahoo! Mail (host of my DBJ email) appears to be in the midst of a shooting war with Gmail - and Matt's email never reached yours truly.  Nor did his multiple reminders.  Thus, Yahoo! has effectively pushed the Dark Blue Jacket bloggerati to the dreaded season-opening holiday "little kids table".

Thanks to Yahoo! Mail - who clearly needs to learn to play in the sandbox with Gmail - 
the Dark Blue Jacket squad has been relegated to the kids table for this season's Blogger Roundtable.
You know the little kids table, that spot where all of the rugrats and the one token chaperone adult family member sit in tiny folding chairs at a going-to-collapse-at-any-time play table, just out of earshot from what's happening at the adult table? Where the turkey and gravy flies at cousin Chip as much as it goes down the gullet?  Yup, Yahoo! plopped us right there, next to the entire Springfield Falcons squad.  We might as well be Derick Brassard on the fourth line.  Or a league-wide NHL writer forced to predict that the Blue Jackets will make the playoffs.  The indignity.  Thanks, Yahoo!.

Ah well.  While all of the other CBJ bloggers were pontificating all week long, we stole their stuffing and green beans.  Given another couple of days and but for some CBJ blogger's proclivity with the fruits, we'd have had their cranberry dressing.

Oh, and let's formally welcome Cody to the DBJ blog in true little kids table style.  You want some mashed potatoes, dude?  Here ya go.... [splat]

Putting the mirth aside, here are the Dark Blue Jacket bloggers' responses to the questions posed at the CBJ Bloggers Roundtable.  Lastly, despite the kidding, many thanks to Matt for being persistent and passing them along on - what? - four different occasions?  (Twelfth time's the charm, Matt!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Adding depth down the middle

A new Columbus Blue Jackets season brings all sorts of new faces to the scene.  From the four youngsters who are taking the Blue Jackets roster by storm to the many veteran players who are new to the squad through free agency and trades, we're looking at nearly half of the team being new to Central Ohio.

The Dark Blue Jacket, Gallos and the league of CBJ bloggers
welcome Cody to the writing scene with all the pomp
and circumstance we can muster. (And a few cold cuts.)
The fresh faces in the locker room are joined by fresh voices in the fan blogging community.  Check out the links provided in the "Blogs/News" page to see the latest and greatest from the CBJ bloggerati, some of whom are getting their online skating legs right quick.

One of the joys of working on this blog is sharing ideas with other writers. We've had some good ones over the years (I can't believe I'm looking at the Dark Blue Jacket blog in terms of years!), and I am continuously blessed to be accompanied by Gallos. His Definitive History of the Columbus Blue Jackets, for instance, should be required reading for every Blue Jackets fan.  I'm telling you, the man has been in Blue Jackets Nation since the start and is an encyclopedia of Columbus hockey knowledge.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Power is taken, never given

(also known as "The post wherein I have a sampling of crow")

It takes talent and skill to get to play on NHL ice...and even more
to stay there.  That the Columbus Blue Jackets have four rookies
on their opening night roster is astounding.
The title of this post is attributed to many a politician, but the sentiment can be used to describe roster spots in a professional sports training camp as well as an election.

You just don't see veterans say, "Y'know, kid.  You're trying so hard, here.  Take my spot in the roster."  It doesn't work that way.

Professional sports, from the player perspective, is a cut-throat business.  You work like mad to get on top and then spend the balance of your career fending off those who have designs on your place on the ladder.  There's always someone younger or newer coming your way - there will always be more supply of players than available roster spots, which forces players to play through injuries, fight when they don't want to and take on other uncomfortable roles simply to keep their spot (and their big-league paycheck flowing in).

Which brings me to that plate of crow sitting in front of me.

Another CTE case hits hockey

It came out tonight that the late, former Buffalo Sabre star Rick Martin, part of the "French Connection" line of the 1970's, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

What makes the Martin development so significant is that he wasn't a "fighter".  He just played hockey.  As the article says:
“Rick Martin’s case shows us that even hockey players who don’t engage in fighting are at risk for CTE, likely because of the repetitive brain trauma players receive throughout their career,” said CSTE co-director Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and professional wrestler who co-founded the Sports Legacy Institute to advance the study, treatment and prevention of brain trauma in athletes. “We hope the decision makers at all levels of hockey consider this finding as they continue to make adjustments to hockey to make the game safer for participants.”
Continued news like this is eventually going to rock the foundation of hockey, from the National Hockey League on down into pee-wees.  Hopefully the powers that be learn the right lessons and keep the sport great while making it safer for those who participate.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guess who's coming to dinner?

[UPDATE: It's clear from looking at the ongoing comments to this post that I've unintentionally delved into Sheldon Souray to Columbus "never let the truth get in the way of a good story" territory.  As readers of this blog know, I never intend to present rumor or innuendo as truth and make efforts to correct misstatements.  And I'm more than man enough to admit when I'm wrong on the fact, like I am apparently in this blog post.  Curiously, I've made assertions about Arch City Army members getting personal seat license privileges without paying for PSLs before and have never been corrected on this point until now.  Regardless, I apologize to ACA for the inaccuracy.  

I would further modify or delete this post outright except for three things: 1) From the comments, it appears that the ACA, as a more-or-less broker of CBJ tickets, is taking extraordinary efforts to ensure that their members fully utilize group member-purchased PSLs.  This is unique and noteworthy...and my post, as edited, could be construed to discuss this development. 2) The comments section has turned into a bit of a rap session about the group, and I don't want to shut that dialogue down unless the ACA guys tell me to.  3) I stand fully behind my "CBJ management likes the Arch City Army" assertion and think that message deserves to be driven home.

So there you are.  With nothing further, enjoy my imperfect blog post.]

Tonight's one the great "membership has its privileges" nights in the Columbus Blue Jackets season - the annual season kickoff at the Columbus Zoo.  To get a sense of what you (and I) are missing, here's the video from last year's party:

Now, this is an exclusive affair with one big requirement for entry: You have to have a CBJ Personal Seat License.

Well, that's until this year.  

This year, PSL holders were joined by...get this...members of the Arch City Army.

Fire The Cannon comes to DBJ

Quick housekeeping note: Eric Smith (along with co-host Lori Schmidt of 97.1 The Fan) has been putting out a weekly podcast, Fire The Cannon, for some time.  I'm pleased to note that the DBJ blog now hosts an instant link to their puck talk in our side column.

The first podcast of the season will be broadcast live on October 6 at 7PM, and I believe that each show will be available through our side player until the next show is live - not to mention every show is archived at the Talk Shoe site.  Eric promises a fully-packed show, and he rarely (if ever) under-delivers on his guarantees.

Give it a listen!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Forgetting Nicky(s)

Cam Atkinson on the first day of Camp
Tis the Season for Bold Predictions: Cam = Calder

Since it is the season for reckless predictions, I thought I would go ahead and make mine.  My predictive track record for any thing remotely positive is dismal.  My predictive record when I am spewing bile at those I dislike (see Predators, Nashville) is even worse.  The lesson, of course, is that spewing bile is not a good idea.  The crow you eat at the end is even worse.

But I love guys flying below the radar.  I notice that Puck Daddy hedged his bets, and gave 'the field' a bunch of guys like Cam Atkinson 3/1 odds to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, same as he gave Brayden Schenn.  I am not going to hedge my bets that much.  Cam Atkinson is going to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Thus, I am counting on your collective forgetfulness to not rip me terribly next April, for a bad prediction.  And of course, to win an award like the Calder Trophy you need to have a little luck.  It remains to be seen if Cam has that kind of luck.

But he's got a shot at this achievement because I think he is going to make us forget about the Nicky(s), Nickolay(i) and Nikita respectively.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pause and reflect

The Columbus Blue Jackets made their latest (and last, barring the miraculous return from injury of any of a host of players, an unexpected trade or some other odd occurrence) round of training camp cuts on Saturday, which more or less firms up their roster for opening night.

The Columbus Blue Jackets badly needed an overhaul after limping to
the finish line over the past two seasons.  Did it finally happen?
Back in April, at the conclusion of what can charitably be called a disappointing 2010-11 season, I said with a very straight face:
It's time to blow this roster up. 
I'm sick of moral victories. Enough of the ribbons for effort. Everyone is not necessarily a winner. I want to see our forwards put pucks in the backs of nets. I want to see defensemen who make it hard for the opposing forwards to get shots off. I want to see goalies whose dominance demoralizes the other team. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

AT&T U-Verse drops the NHL Network

As of midnight last night, AT&T pulled the NHL Network from its U-Verse television service. Of course, it had to happen right at the beginning of the NHL regular season.  And talk about dumb luck - I just switched to U-Verse a couple of weeks ago!

The Death Star sez: "No NHL Network for you!"
Here's what AT&T had to say:
We have tried to reach a fair, long-term deal with NHL Network in order to continue delivering this channel to U-verse TV U450 and Sports Tier customers. Unfortunately, it appears that as of midnight EST, Oct. 1, NHL Network will no longer be available on U-verse TV because we will no longer have an acceptable agreement to carry the channel. We are always open to considering a fair and detailed proposal from NHL Network. 
U-verse TV customers can continue to watch their home team and other teams play on NBC, Versus or on their area’s local regional sports network. These networks are delivering over 100 games this season, which is more televised live NHL hockey games than ever before.
The NHL and NHL Network apparently had nothing to say publicly on the matter.