Friday, October 7, 2011

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!)

1) Last year, the biggest story of the offseason was the team’s ticket woes, and the team’s box office struggles were well documented. With all the excitement this offseason, including the likely resolution of the arena issue, do you think the Blue Jackets will see an immediate bump at the box office?

Dark Blue Jacket: Immediate? No.  But could there be a lot of CBJ tickets under the Christmas trees of Central Ohio?  Sure - IF the team gets a nice early start.

Gallos: Probably not the immediate bump. A couple of wins early would really help. There is a buzz in town, some winning and the buzz will snowball into attendance.

Cody: Immediately, I think so. Consistently, probably not. The jaded fans will want to make sure these are not the Jackets of Christmas-past; however, I think the die hard fans "gotta see it live" more than ever. The arena deal aspect is interesting because those who do not support the arena deal will probably not count their losses and show up to the rink on game day, bitter but paying. Instead, I think the Jackets will initially see an increase in sales that correlates to the utter-maniacal need for live hockey that the fans are feeling right now. With wins (shocker) the rest will return.

Rick Nash, with Scott Arniel in the background
2) Scott Arniel is making a point of having two systems – his preferred “high energy” style, and the more conservative, defensively oriented approach for nights with heavy travel, back to backs, etx. After spending so much effort to build a roster to play the high energy style, can they still be effective in the lower tempo system?

DBJ: I believe the question should be: Can the Hitchcock holdovers unlearn Hitch Hockey?  Methinks the veterans won't forget that approach any time soon.  And perhaps wake up with night sweats from the experience.

Gallos: I wonder how much of this is a snow job. Our roster is now ill-equipped for a 'hang on' style. As long as we are pushing the puck, we will be okay. If we go 'low tempo' i.e. 'praying we don't lose' we'll lose. Our guys need to figure out how to shut a game down with a lead. An improved power play will help this. But as far as playing a 'low tempo' I don't think so. Think more like the 4-corners stall in basketball. Possession is the key. I have a feeling we will find that this 'other system' is a lot like the 'prevent defense'. It prevents winning.

Cody: This is a great question. When I hear "lower tempo system," I immediately think about Hitch's trapping style, but that isn't necessarily the system that Arniel is going to implement, then again it could be.

3) Who do you see as this year’s big breakout player, and why?

DBJ: The Dark Blue Toddler will wet his Big Boy Bed for a month if I don't say Ryan Johansen.  Seriously, The Johan looked pretty smooth on the preseason ice.  Calder-worthy?  Not so sure about that.

Fedor Tyutin
Gallos: I'm already on record with Cam Atkinson.

Cody: My vote goes to Fedor Tyutin. My reasoning is quite possibly as flawed as last years power play but here is why I think Toots Ma’Goots is going to have a breakout season: In Tyutin’s first year in Columbus he reached a career high in goals and points (9-25-34) and has declined in point production since. While watching Tyutin in the exhibition games, I felt like he seemed to be more in charge, more comfortable, and more of a threat. My argument is because of his nice-new contract, his new defensive partner, and another year of maturation, Tyutin is set to breakout as a leader and point producer.

Rick Nash got Jeff Carter and Fedor Tyutin got Wisniewski. I think both of those players (Nash, Tyutin) will be the beneficiaries of Howson’s lauded off-season acquisitions.

4) Kris Russell: Put up or Shut up time? Is his slot on the team at risk to the growing crowd of talent in Springfield, or does the James Wisniewski suspension give him some breathing room?

DBJ: When your most notable performance since a jaw-dropping goal in the 2009 playoffs is a featherweight bout in the preseason with Carolina's Jeff Skinner that Skinner is on record as describing by saying, "It wasn't much of a fight. More of a wrestling match I guess. ... They thought it was pretty funny. I don't know if I did a better job making them laugh or pumping them up," you're at risk regardless of the other roster goings-on.  How many chances can this guy get?

Gallos: The growing crowd of talent is a risk to everyone. See Brassard, Derick. Some of our more mature youngsters (Russ, Brass) are unused to this level of competition, so there will be a bit of an adjustment. In that regard, I guess the Wiz suspension will help. But its a long season. Russell is a known quantity. He's not going anywhere. It won't take more than a couple of nights in the box to bring out the best in him. Arniel has shown he'll sit anyone, so that's also a known. I think he is going to be better than people think.

Cody: Kris Russell: Y U NO CARPE DIEM? I think Russell puts up this year, but even then will it be enough? For the past three seasons Russell has added only one point to his total while playing more games each year. Russell really needs to have a breakout year or step it up in the playoffs to stay if he hopes to keep his roster spot. I mentioned the playoffs, not because I’m advertising the Jackets in the playoffs (Jackets for the playoffs!) but because Russell really did step it up in the playoffs in 2009. In the four games played in 2009, Russell lead all defensemen and was third overall in scoring for the Jackets. Russell went 1-1-2 with an even plus/minus. There are players who really step it up in the playoffs and I’m sure we have one or two on our roster, but with the Jackets’ limited postseason appearances it’s almost impossible to know.

5) Who do you believe is making a bigger push to crack the roster this season: Mayorov, Johansen, or Atkinson? Do you think more than one of them might crack the opening night lineup?

DBJ: In fairness to those who actually had to make a prediction, I'll abstain on this one.  However, one can't help but be impressed by the push that all three made and the resulting shakeup in the roster.

Gallos: Well this is the cheater answer. We know it is Atkinson.

Cody: I am predicting Mayorov, Johansen, Atkinson, and Savard make the team’s opening night lineup. You heard it here first. I’ve saved them seats at the DBJ kids table.

David Savard
6) Does the injury to Mark Dekanich put Scott Howson behind the gun if Mason struggles early? Do you think Curtis Sanford is the likely backup, or is Allen York looking more and more like the guy?

DBJ: If Mason struggles early, and Sanford (the likely temporary backup) proves to be AHL-worthy as the preseason suggests, I foresee massive panic alarms going off at Nationwide Arena.  Scott Howson, in my opinion, has staked his job on being able to get Steve Mason to perform at something close to rookie season level.  Do you think new goaltending coach Ian Clark knew what he was getting himself into?

Gallos: Allen York needs a full season in the AHL. We got Curtis Sanford for just this reason. A veteran goal tender. I think Sanford will surprise people. If Mase tanks, Sanford is not the answer, for sure, but he's good to give Mase a night off. I don't think Mase is going to tank.

Cody: Arniel didn’t think York would handle the “big show” in Winnipeg and let Sanford play the whole game. This seems to be the reason Sanford is starting the year as Mason’s backup. Dekanich’s injury could very well come back to haunt Howson later in the season. This is one case where I think a conditioning stint in Springfield could make sense. Nonetheless, the entire Jackets nation should be putting up plenty of strong drink and chicken wings to Jobu, hoping that the Dexshow will heal as quickly as possible.

Todd Richards
7) Where do you see the team’s revamped power play this season? Above average? Average? Or back in the basement?

DBJ: If everyone's healthy and a little chemistry develops, it'll be a potent bunch.  New assistant Todd Richards was able to make Minnesota's power play reasonably effective, for pete's sake.  Minnesota!

Gallos: Against Minnesota I saw power play movement that I haven't seen in Nationwide Arena since Ray Whitney walked out the door. I think the power play is going to be above average, and will really change the dynamic against teams that try to punch the CBJ out of games. You take a dumb penalty, we make you pay. Top 15 power play.

Cody: The power play couldn’t get much worse than it was last season. Therefore, I anticipate a much-improved special team this season. Todd Richards has shown he can assemble a good power play before and he should be able to put one together with the players here in Columbus. I would be thoroughly surprised if they get worse. With the addition of Todd Richards, Wisniewski, Prospal, Carter, andprospect development, I’ll say the Jackets’ power play will be above average this year.

Ryan Johansen and Radek Martinek, among others
8) With the continued development of players like Atkinson, Calvert, Kubalik, Johansen, and Mayorov, is this team finally ready to roll multiple scoring lines?

DBJ: Either that or provide Howson with the ability to hoard draft picks.  The kids won't wait forever in Springfield, you know...

Gallos: I think we had better. That's how our roster is constructed. Keep in mind that last year we rolled one scoring line, so using the term 'multiple' is a little disingenuous. I choose to interpret the question as 3 scoring lines.

Cody: The timer has gone off and the Jackets are ready to serve up multiple scoring lines.

9) I’m borrowing a question overheard many times online: The defense can certainly score more than last year – but are they better?

DBJ: I can't give a complete answer until Wisniewski returns.  Which means that they will only be 90% better than last year at best - seeing as Wiz is missing 10% of the regular season.  My man Fedor Tyutin will have to play epically huge to help cover for Wiz's absence.

Gallos: I think the D will be better. I think the D will miss Wiz. This is not a shut down group, but it should score enough extra to offset the defensive weakness. Though I don't think they will be any worse defensively than last year, and will be better able to get themselves out of trouble. AND, the group is much deeper this year.

Cody: I think they are better. I think Methot and Martinek will be an effective shutdown pairing and, based on the preseason play, Tyutin seems to have stepped up his game.

10) How do you feel the lack of James Wisniewski and Mark Dekanich for the first 8 games is likely to affect the team on and off the ice?

DBJ: The loss of Wiz will hurt much more than Dekanich as the team will be forced to patch up its blue line right out of the gate, but I think the Twitter-loving fans will benefit from having DexShow on the shelf.

Gallos: I look at the loss of Wiz as no different than if he incurred an injury. Its only a tenth of a season, and if losing any given player for 8 games decides the season than our depth is terrible. That's what I like about this team. Its depth, and that is what it takes.

In the year we made the playoffs, Howson manufactured depth with the acquisition of Jason Williams in January, and the acquisition of Antoine Vermette at the trade deadline. This year I think we have that kind of depth in house. Case in point is the injury to Dex. Sanford is there to step in, which was why we got him in the first place. Savard is there to step in for Wiz. Prying him out of the lineup might be harder when Wiz comes back.

So my point is that I don't see the lack of Wiz and/or Dex as dramatically affecting team results over the long term. Same with Boll.

Cody: There are a lot of grand expectations for Wisniewski to produce points season and by missing the first eight games he has already taken a big step to not meeting those expectations. Wisniewski being suspended is just bad news anyway you look at it. It’s time lost producing points, creating in-game chemistry, leaving your mark on theopponents (literally and metaphorically), and you have to think it plays a role in how the team practices.

Dekanich had the big challenge of acclimating himself to the NHL and his injury has hindered his ability to do that as soon as everyone would like. He lost preseason experience and time lost in practice. When he does return there is a good chance this loss will play a part in his performance, but it’s his job to perform and I think he will be working hard toward his goals (err, saves).

The off ice impact is hard to anticipate. Hopefully both players are watching carefully to gain a finer understanding of Arniel’s system and the teams play, working to increase the team's presence in the community, and last but not least maintaining the rank on Call of Duty 4.

It started at training camp...when will it end this season?

11) Finally, the all important question: Where do you see this team finishing this year, and who will be the biggest impact players?

DBJ: I'd like to say with confidence that the playoffs are a given, but I'll need about 15-20 games to say that (would've been 10, but the Wiz suspension forces me to look longer term).  If forced to say, I'll say that the CBJ will be fighting for the last slot with another surprise team from last year's non-contenders.  My hope is that they'll be jockeying for playoff positioning come March, but that's a wish more than a prediction.

As for impact players: Nash is an obvious one (but I was surprised that he was so low-key during the limited preseason that I saw), Wiz & (of course) Tyutin.  You can't overlook Big Russian Bear.  Lastly, if Steve Mason stays out of his own head and plays as unspectactularly solid as he did in the preseason, he'll win more than a few games for the CBJ.

Gallos: Make the playoffs I think. The biggest impact player is going to be Rick Nash, relieved of the burden of carrying the whole team, and he is going to explode. Carter will be the big beneficiary and will also have a good year. The tandem leads the charge to the playoffs. The chemistry will come, be patient. Watching Carter in preseason, he is hardly out of second gear. This is a player who has another gear to use in March. Nash, Carter and Prospal emerge as a dominant line in the NHL. Gallos wipes the drool off his chin.


Cody: If I may side step this question, I see the Jackets finishing the year on a plane heading to San Jose after beating Washington at home in Nationwide Arena. The biggest impact player will be the pilot of that plane, Rick Nash, with the help of his co-pilot Jeff Carter. (Seriously though, we’re going to the playoffs.)

1 comment:

  1. I think it is your lucky charm. I love the design of it , it look so nice.


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