Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 24: Vancouver

Vancouver 4 - Columbus 1
6-15-3, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The dreaded West Coast Road Trip opened tonight in Vancouver, with the Columbus Blue Jackets falling to the host Canucks, 4-1, in regulation.

1. YAWN - 10PM start times suck.  They just suck.  It is cruel and unusual punishment for the NHL to force Eastern Time Zone teams to play in the Western Conference.

1a. DRINK 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM - That being said, I am amazed at how many Blue Jackets fans were drinking beer...and whiskey...(and grain alcohol?)...instead of coffee to make it through this game.  You'd think that more would be working off an I.V. drip of coffee to stay awake.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running the Gauntlet

Simon Kenton runs a Shawnee Gauntlet - by Steve White
The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a rough year so far.  With a horrendous start under their belt, they have managed to play consistent competitive hockey for the last 6 or 7 games.  One would hope at this point that the third annual 'December Swoon' was moved up to October, and they have that out of their system.

Regardless of their record to date, the next three weeks were always going to tell us a lot about the team we have.  If they can consistently play the kind of hockey they have been playing, and garner a good many of the points laying out there, they will have done so under trying conditions, and against very good talent.  For Christmas, we should get a pretty good assessment of how good of a team we really have.

I'll get into the Ohio History part of the whole thing later on.  For now, all we need to know is that the gauntlet starts on the second to last day of November.  Just how long the gauntlet is remains to be seen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The past week: DBJ's take

It's taken a few games, but Jeff Carter appears
to be getting in the groove with his linemates
and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
I've now had a chance to watch condensed versions of three of the four games played by the Columbus Blue Jackets - I'd have watched the Buffalo game, but GameCenter Live hadn't made replays available yet as I finished writing this.  And I watched most of the St. Louis game.  Thus, I believe that I've seen enough to build some impressions.

First, it looks like the team chemistry is indeed improving.  This is especially important in the top line, where Jeff Carter pretty clearly needed to find his groove (but let's be clear - this still is a work in progress that has been set back by Carter's broken foot).

Next, coach Scott Arniel's bizarre offensive scheme has been dialed back and players actually appear to be playing defense.  The irony of this adjustment is that the Blue Jackets have been scoring more as a result.  Well, when not playing against a Ken Hitchcock team - but that's more of a statement about Hitch Hockey than about anything Arniel did or didn't do.

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 23: St. Louis

St. Louis 2 - Columbus 1
6-14-3, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
Ken Hitchcock brought his streaking St. Louis Blues into Nationwide Arena and, after grabbing a one-goal lead, locked the game down and added two standings points at the expense of the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1 in regulation.

1. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ - Yes, it was Hitch Hockey.  Yes, it was slow moving hockey that largely was played from faceoff circle to faceoff circle, punctuated only by the occasional breakaway.  Some will stick up their nose at this "boring" brand of hockey, but let's face facts: IT WORKS.  It wins games. If your team plays this type of hockey, you are watching your team play into April and May.  Right now, I'll take that over "exciting" hockey.

A Cautionary Tale...Do You Want to be Denver?

No no, silly. I'm not confused. I don't mean the Avalanche (what is the plural of avalanche anyway? Avalanchi? Avalanches? Seems awkward). But allow me to present a brief comparison of our beloved Blue Jackets to the Denver Broncos. Allow me to tell a story...

Last season was a disappointment so the Denver Bronco's have been a team that is looking to make an impact. They start a player, Kyle Orton, in a key position that the coaches and team leadership deem to be "the best". They've got some good minds involved in that decision-including the legendary John Elway. The hopes and dreams of the team are seemingly tied to this player. All eyes are on him. That doesn't go well. No wins. Hopes are dashed, fans are frustrated? Kyle Orton? Yeah. Booed when he steps on to the field of play. And then, the fans calls are seemingly answered. A much ballyhooed back-up, in the form of Tim Tebow, comes in to that key position, regardless that his skill may not be what it needs to be for a long term impact with the team, (Elway publicly says Tebow is not the solution for quarterback) and suddenly the team is winning! The players rally around his leadership! Eureka! Orton is waived. The problem is seemingly fixed! All is right in the world. Until next year...

If you can't guess, the players that I see as interchangeable in this story are our own Steve Mason as Kyle Orton and Curtis Sanford and Tim Tebow.

Let me be clear on two very important things
1. This is not about bashing Sanford. I - as much as anyone - am thrilled to have a goalie in net who can help build confidence within our team, play confident consistent hockey, and help bring home the wins. I like him. We need him. I want him around. As Dannie at Strait Jackets pointed out, Sanford is a quality addition to our roster. The team is clearly responding to him and that means something.
2. This is not about bashing Mason. While Mason is not having a great year, I still can't put every goal on him and he is still the youngest #1 goalie in the league clocking in at 23 and has bore the brunt of being really the only solution at goalie for a while.

What this IS about, is that regardless of how this goalie situation shakes out for the 2011-12 season (I am still quite anxious to see what Dekanich brings to the table) as people who care about our team and our franchise, we need to be cognizant of the fact that Sanford is not, cannot be, our long term, franchise goalie solution. This is a goalie that other NHL franchises were not fighting us for, and age is not on his side. He is good, no doubt, but we need to respect and applaud his accomplishments for us with context.

Scott Howson continues to have work to do on the goalie front. I, for one, still have many active questions: can/will Mase respond when he has a strong back-up with whom he can change off games (instead of going 8 games in a row)? Is Dexshow better than Mase? Would Mase ever be a good back up or is he too expensive? How much more gas does Sanford have in the tank?

You see, like the Denver Broncos, right now we have the good fortune to happen upon a guy who is making a difference. And I do love Curtis - I love how he's playing, I love the energy he brings to the team, and I most of all love the wins ;), but the opening for a franchise goalie remains just that right now, OPEN.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stranger in a strange land

(a.k.a. "What in the world have you done with my crappy hockey team?")

I'm back in Ohio, fresh off a week of near-debilitating sinus pain quality time with family in the desert Southwest.  The turkey was good, the little cousins got to play and the Dark Blue Mom is healthy after all.  (Don't ask.)  So let's try to quickly catch up...

First and foremost, thank you to the ever-growing Dark Blue Jacket blog team for covering in my absence.  Gallos offered the post-game "5 Thoughts" and did it better than I have done, I might say. His "Regarding Brassard" appears to have been timely, seeing as Brass still hasn't found his way into a meaningful place on the roster.

And then, permit a long-overdue welcome to our DBJ newcomers.  No better way to welcome your friends to the board than by saying, "I'm outta here for a week!  Have fun!"  Somewhat akin to tossing your loved ones to the wolves.  But of course, Greg and Alison showed exactly why I was giddy to have them join our merry band.  I mean, come on.  "The Power of 2"? "The Dark Side"?  This is great stuff.

But now, let's get to the subject of this blog - the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Dark Blue Jacket's 5 Thoughts on Game 22: Buffalo

It was Vinny Prospal's night!
Congratulations to Vinny Prospal for playing his 1000th NHL game.  To put that in perspective, our franchise has not yet had 1000 games.  A significant achievement for Vinny, and I am proud that he accomplished this milestone as a Columbus Blue Jacket.

And now, on to the five thoughts on the game:

1. Vinny's Night - It was fitting that Prospal's 1000th game would come on game 22, his number, and that his teammates would respond with a very solid effort.  During the bad times of our horrible start, it was often that Vinny's play was the only bright spot, and it seemed like he was an important catalyst to turning this thing around. What a consummate professional, and it was a stroke of luck that allowed us Jackets fans to truly experience Vinny.

The team will present him with the traditional silver hockey stick for 1000 games prior to the December 17 game against the Tampa Bay Lightening, an organization where Vinny played nearly 500 games.  It is fitting that Vinny's old mates would be in the barn for this celebration.

2. Consistent, Solid Play - The CBJ have been turning in some very solid efforts, on a very consistent basis.  Home/Road, with lead/playing behind, they seem to have found their groove.  The whole lineup is contributing, and the effort is tangible across the board.  Very nice to see.  This was especially evident last night at the beginning of the second period.  Even though they had a two goal lead, they clearly still had their foot on the gas.  What is fueling that ......?

3. The Sand Man - Curtis Sanford continues his very strong play in goal.  He really shut things down, and was especially solid in a couple of Buffalo flurries of shots early on in the game.  He has a 1.27 GAA and a save percentage of .950 according to NHL.com.   These are sparkling numbers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Live Long and Prospal

Vinnie, vidit, vicit
Tonight will be the 1,000th game in Vinnie Prospal's long and winding road through the NHL. There is also a a 67% chance that he will register his 700th career point in tonight's contest against Buffalo (based on the fact that he has scored a point in 14 of the Blue Jackets' 21 games this season).

To put those accomplishments in the proper perspective, let's look at the Blue Jackets career leaders in these categories. Rick Nash leads all Blue Jackets, past and present, in games played at 613. In other words, he's only 61.3% of the way to accomplishing what Prospal will tonight. Who is second among all Blue Jackets players? David Vyborny at 543. And third place goes to Rusty Klesla with 515 games.

In terms of points scored, Nash again leads all Blue Jackets, past or present, with 503. Vyborny is second with 317, not even half of what Prospal has done so far. And you would never guess who is third, because you would probably never guess Nikolai Zherdev, who stands at 181 points.

These are milestones the likes of which fans in Columbus have never had the chance to stand and acknowledge, nor will they anytime soon. And that is why I am going to try like all heck to go to Nationwide tonight. Our hats are off to you Vinnie Prospal! Well done, sir. May you live long and Prospal for years to come.

Update: Dannie at Strait Jackets has designed a very cool tee shirt to celebrate Vinnie. Check it out,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 21: New Jersey

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers from the gang here at the Dark Blue Jacket!  We really appreciate that you take the time to read our work.  And now the Dark Blue Jacket's 5 Thoughts on the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.

1. Family Comes First - Enjoy the family today if you have the opportunity to do so.  Both the DBJ and I missed the game last night due to family obligations, he being out of state, and I attending my daughter-in-law's birthday dinner.  So I surreptitiously followed the game scores on my phone and through Twitter.  Let's just say that the last time I had a family dinner during a game, they were down 2-0 before we even walked into the restaurant (against Philly, ugh!).  To see the game tied 0-0 after one period was a pleasant surprise.  To see that they finished tied 1-1 in regulation before I got to the car was even more pleasing.

2. Consistency - The team seems to be playing a very consistent brand of hockey.  They only gave up one goal prior to the skills contest, and only took three penalties.  I know it is frustrating for Derick Brassard to be sitting in the press box, but if I were Scott Arniel I wouldn't be tinkering too much with the line up.  On that same vein, we have seen pretty consistent line combinations, which breeds chemistry over time.

3. The Sand Man - Curtis Sanford continues a strong run of play in goal.  He now has a sparkling 1.33 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a Save Percentage of 0.946.  These are excellent numbers.  He is getting here with a cool, efficient brand of goal tending, so it seems as if it is possible for this to continue.  We will see how he does as the games begin to mount.  For a 32 year old goal tender being resurrected from the minors, it may take a while before he gets tired.  I couldn't be happier for this guy, and wish him all the best.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Power of 2.

Well hello there friends. Happy to see you all here! [Gulps at number of eyes reading this post]. If we've yet to be acquainted, my name is Alison and I'm thrilled to be one of the newest contributors here at Dark Blue Jacket. If you want to get to know me better, you can certainly check out my Blog and/or follow me on Twitter. Suffice it to say that I remain as one of the ever-faithful optimists pulling for our team - hopefully as a voice of the fans and as a constant devotee of Mr. Derek Dorsett.

But enough about me (well not really, but I digress ;) ), as Blue Jackets fans, the number "TWO" has weighed on us heavily this year...first, we sign, and then rapidly lose early in the season, our new #2, Radek Martinek to concussion, and before the season begins, we lose Huselius, #20, to a torn pectoral (and, um, yeah, OUCH!).

And then a whole new kind of TWO came to weigh on us all as we grew the illustrious reputation of being the "Columbus Blue Jackets - they of the TWO goal game". We couldn't score more, in fact often, we couldn't score less. We scored exactly TWO. Oh, and yeah, in case you hadn't forgotten, seeing as how two goals doesn't really guarantee many victories, nor many gains of TWO points, thus TWO also became the winning streak barrier. Win one, lose one...or lose eight. This was our modus operandi.

I hated the number two.

Monday, November 21, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 20: Calgary

Curtis Sanford Third Jersey Pads
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT - The Dark Blue Jacket, in its long commitment to public service would like to warn the public that Curtis Sanford's Third Jersey Pads have some real WOW!! factor.  We would not want anyone to be un-prepared for this.  And now, back to our regularly scheduled program, the Dark Blue Jacket's 5 thoughts on tonight's 4-1 win by the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Calgary Flames.

1. The Eraser - The CBJ are not a dramatically better team than they were four games ago.  But Curtis Sanford erased many of those mistakes with a great deal of aplomb.  I really liked the way Sanford controlled the pace of the game, and shut things down by gloving the puck when things got too hairy.  Well done Curtis! You are instilling a confidence in the team that is palpable.  I saw mistakes by veteran centers (Carter) and young defensemen (Nikitin) erased by Sanford.  It is now time to start the Masterson discussion.  Please pardon me for a moment while I rant.


Rant complete.  Thank you for your patience.

The other thoughts after the jump.

The Dark Side (11/20/11)

First of all, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to DBJ for inviting me to join the writing staff. I'm thrilled, honored and  excited. This is the first of what is intended to be a weekly stew of ramblings, musings, insights and outsights, with a pinch of genaeral nonsense. It more or less named itself when DBJ asked me if I wanted to come over to "The Dark Side". Here I be.

Most everyone knows by now that the Blue Jackets were finally able to get off the schneid with the overtime win against the Predators, more specifically a seventeen game schneid of winlessness in Music City dating back to 2006. But buried in the joy and elation were a couple of mini-schneids from which we were able to be ejected. Umby broke a nine game goal scoring schneid, not to mention a streak of six games without a point. Jeff Carter registered his first goal as a Blue Jacket, a schneid that lasted 8 games, and he too ended a six game point scoring drought. And last but not least, The Wiz scored his first goal of the year ending a schneid of 10 games. And what a goal it was. 

Anyone who has been down near the ice at Nationwide when the Wiz has teed one up from out by the blueline says essentially the same thing: his shot is as heavy as a flatbed of lead rails. When it misses the net and hits the end board, the only thing louder at Nationwide is the cannon. As far as Blue Jackets fans are concerned, the shot that went Wizzling past Pekka Rinne's left ear on Saturday night to win the game might as well have blown through the back of the net, through the end boards, out of the building and landed in Lot A outside of Nationwide. It killed The Streak, and it is safe to say it would have killed anything else that got in its way. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Regarding Brassard

Brassard in a post-practice shooting drill
Derick Brassard has not had anything like the season he wanted for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  He's been all over the place, from top line center to fourth line winger.  To say he's had a rough start to the beginning of 2011-12 is to say that he is in the same boat with a lot of other Blue Jackets players.

Which is part of the reason I am writing this post.  Because in reality, it is about player development.  And the message I am trying to send here is that what Brassard is going through now is a normal part of player development.  Unfortunately for Brassard, the lack of talent at the center position has delayed this moment for a couple of years.  But its a necessary part of the growth process.

Let's reflect for a moment what we expected of Derick Brassard.  The year he came up to the NHL he showed great promise before his injury (2008-09).  Coming back the following year, it was hoped that he would hold down the number 1 center job in his first full year in the NHL since we didn't re-sign Manny Malhotra.  Number 1 lottery pick overall Sidney Crosby may have been able to do that, but Brass was 6th overall.  A player like that should be not be expected to hold down a number one center job in his first full year.  That takes an extraordinary talent, not just a good player like Brass.  But such was the Blue Jackets need.

Enter Jeff Carter.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 19: Nashville

Wiz cranks 'em up in practice.
Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Nashville Predators 4-3 in overtime, breaking a 17 game losing streak in Nashville dating back to April, 2006.  James Wisniewski drove a slap shot past Pekka Rinne of Nashville in overtime for the game winner.  This means Ryan Johansen no longer has all of the Game Winning Goals in the 2011-12 season.

1.  Taking another step - the last few games have seen a slow building of some cohesive play.  It was good to see them get rewarded for playing a pretty good game. The top line got on the board with a couple of goals, the second line got a goal, and the defense scored to win it.  Balanced scoring across the team.

2. Live Long and Prospal - Ok, I am totally ripping this off from a Jacket Backers sign that was tweeted going on the bus to Nashville.  But it doesn't seem like a coincidence to me that the line that Vinny Prospal is playing on is all of a sudden doing well.  It worked on the second line, now its working on the first line.  The top line scored (Carter) and Prospal also scored.  What a great addition to the team.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving break, plus a little extra

"If I wasn't so hungry, I'd make a comment
about how we all look like Calgary Flames fans."
Just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be taking the next week to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family from far and wide.  As such, I'm guessing that I won't be on the Inter-tubes much at all until the family crunch eases.

But the holiday does give me (yet another) opportunity to get up on a soapbox: Don't let this dismal NHL season get in the way of your holidays.  The holiday season is special, and it's time to spend quality time with family and friends.  (Even your younger brother, the Red Wings fan, who will make you cheer for the Wings over the Bruins on Thursday.)  If that quality time involves getting to a Blue Jackets game, all the better.  But if it doesn't, that's fine.  Cherish those important relationships and bonds, first and foremost.

If I'm around next week, that's great.  If not, it's because I'm practicing what I preach.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

One other little nugget: We're going to be adding another voice to our Stable of Joy here at the Dark Blue Jacket blog very soon.  If you hang around in the "#CBJ" section of the Twitter-verse, they'll be a familiar name.  Regardless, I'm thrilled and think you'll enjoy yet another distinct and intelligent opinion on our favorite NHL hockey club.  If I understand correctly, their first DBJ blog post will come in the next week or so.  Can. Not. Wait!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 18: Boston

Boston 2 - Columbus 1 (shootout)
3-13-2, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
With fathers in tow, the Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to the Gahhhhhhh-den in Boston and took the host Boston Bruins into the shootout before falling, 2-1.

I feared a Bruins beat-down was coming, but it never materialized.  Is this progress?

1. I could write just one thought tonight, "Curtis Sanford was a stud," and end it at that.  His contribution was that significant.  He stopped 26 of 27 in regulation and then another 4 in overtime before giving up a couple in the shootout.

1a. In fact, let's call it like it is: Sanford, an AHL journeyman and number three on the Blue Jackets' depth chart in goal, played well enough to give the team the win.  He should be given the starting nod until he loses in actual game play.  This is both a reward for a goaltender who clearly worked his butt off and also puts Steve Mason on notice that his play has not been acceptable.

DBJ's 24 hours of Rick Nash

The Jackets' captain is on the hot seat
this time around
It seems like everywhere I've looked for the last day or so, I've seen nothing but Rick Nash.  

It's the strangest thing, akin to that time when I was thinking of buying a certain type of car and - BOOM! - all I see out on the road are cars of that make and model.  They surely were out there before I got the itch, but my senses were heightened to notice them, I suppose.  Same goes for Nash; ever since he and his first linemates Jeff Carter and R. J. Umberger played perhaps the worst hockey I've seen from a first line this season, if not for months or years, against Minnesota the other night, I've been ruminating over Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets' locker room leadership role in The Lost Season of 2011-12.

Here are the posts I've been reading - some directly related to Nash, some a tad less so, but all discussing critical issues related to the Columbus Blue Jackets that Nash should be impacting:
I'm not going to cite chapter and verse out of these pieces - they're all well written, each in their own way - but I'll try to synthesize what I'm reading in the hopes that it might add a little to the discussion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are the Coaches Working Hard Enough?

A $62 million payroll watches a coach talk to a grease board
Or more importantly, are they working smart enough?

I attended practice on Veteran's Day, as I had the day off of work.  Given the circumstances, it is understandable that the practice was pretty dirge-like early on.  As things wore on, some of the natural ebullience of guys like Vinny Prospal began to take over, and some spirit was added to the practice.

One thing really struck me though.  At the beginning of practice, a coach drew up the drills on a grease board.  Really?  This is the NHL boys.  Did you not have that figured out before practice started?  These feelings I had got pricked by the content of the Columbus Dispatch's weekly chat, hosted by Aaron Portzline.  In the chat he was discussing the pace of a Vancouver Canuck practice that he had observed, and how the team had discussed the practice prior to coming out on the ice, and ran a very fast paced practice.  You mean they were prepared?

I have two points to make.  One is about acoustics.  The other is about communication.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 17: Minnesota

Minnesota 4 - Columbus 2
3-13-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The reasonably well-rested Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the road weary Minnesota Wild into Nationwide Arena tonight and - ever the gracious hosts - lost to the Northwest Division leaders, 4-2, in regulation.

1. As mentioned the other day, this was an important "measuring stick" game... to see if this squad (NOW THAT THEY'RE HEALTHY!) would finally live up to the expectations that the fanbase had throughout training camp.  Suffice to say, they didn't register too high on the hype-meter.  I think we're in for a very long season.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Part VI: The Dark Blue Jacket's Definitive History of the CBJ

Hitchcock working the Blue Jackets bench.
Hitchcock Retrospective

Now that Ken Hitchcock has accepted a job with the St. Louis Blues, it is time to take a look at the legacy Hitch left for the Columbus Blue Jackets organization.  First and foremost, Hitch remains the winningest coach in franchise history, a status that is unlikely to be threatened any time soon.  In addition, he left the legacy of the only playoff appearance in franchise history.  

While we might have debated this issue in August, in the crystal clarity of hindsight, it now appears that the CBJ are past the high point that was the Hitchcock era, and must now rebuild to find those heights again.  As a glass half full kind of guy, I don't think we are that far off from being there again.  On the other hand, there are some real lessons lying out there in the retrospective, that I am not sure we have learned as an organization yet.

As a disclaimer, I am going to note that at the time, I agreed with most of the moves I am going to dissect as potentially wrong later in the post.  I am looking with 20-20 hindsight, and could not perceive these things at the time.  Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it (Santayana).  As a fan, I don't want to repeat the past, in spite of the evidence in front of our eyes in 2011-12.

A measuring stick game, and other thoughts

Jeff Carter is back.  Wiz is free from "time out."
The season can start now.  Oh, wait...
When perfectly reasonable and rational people were getting red in the face over the 2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets, shouting "IT'S NOT WORKING" into the night, the stock answer from the terminally patient generally started out with "You can't make any such statement because the roster as envisioned hasn't played together in a single game yet."  Putting aside the abject silliness of such a statement - this is the National Hockey League, for pete's sake...people get hurt all the time and good teams have depth and/or coaching acumen to compensate for injuries - we now can have this discussion on the playing field suggested by those who appeared to be satisfied with a 3-12-1 start and a season that was trending toward 29 standings points after 82 games.

Jeff Carter is back.  James Wisniewski is back.  Jared Boll is back.  OK, Boll's return isn't as monumental, but he was slotted into the roster.  The only player of note who isn't back and was expected to contribute is Mark Dekanich.  I also acknowledge that Kristian Huselius is still out, but he wasn't expected to play again until the holiday season, hence the signing of Vinny Prospal.  (And then there is the purge of the kids and the backfilling with the likes of Letestu, Nikitin, Bass, etc.  The roster will never look like what was originally conceived - which further emphasizes my point about how silly the above retort is.)

Anyway, the roster finally is coming close to looking like what general manager Scott Howson and head coach Scott Arniel envisioned come October 7.  That means that it's time to put on the spectacles and see what our ninjas have come up with.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Right Stuff

Family Night vs the Jets
This family was sitting behind us at the game Saturday night.  This is what it is all about, families coming out on Family Night to enjoy a hockey game.  The Nachos were pretty popular.

Another young person had a pretty big night, one Ryan Johansen.  Yes, I know other rookies have scored more goals.  But tied with a club high 5 goals with Vinny Prospal, young Ryan has ALL 3 Game Winning Goals for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011-12 to date.  This type of thing ought to be getting him into the Calder Trophy discussion.

Its interesting  RyJo seems to be growing more and more comfortable with the NHL game.  He is a strong forechecker, and defense is credible.  He's going to have his ups and downs, and he'll have some bad games this year.  But this guy is growing up in front of our eyes, and is progressing rapidly.  Its a good idea to have him on a line with Vinny Prospal.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 16: Winnipeg

Columbus 2 - Winnipeg 1
3-12-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed back former interim head coach Claude Noel and Noel's Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets tonight at Nationwide Arena with a 2-1 win in regulation.

The team decided to show up tonight, so I'll get back to the whole "5 thoughts" thing.

1. Tangentially related to the game was this morning's Season Ticket Holder morning skate and Q&A with Scott Howson and some guy who talked about Winnipeg.  Matt Wagner at The Cannon was there and offers a detailed summary.  It's absolutely, positively must-read material if you're a serious Blue Jackets fan. (UPDATE: Alison at Heart of a Jacket has another great recap as well.  Apologies for missing it the first time around...) I'll offer my quick thoughts and leave the rest to your interpretation:

1a. Head coach Scott Arniel is Scott Howson's lodestone.  Howson apparently said when talking about Arniel, "The way Mr. Mac and J.P. McConnell run their businesses, you hire the best people and you give them a chance."  That, to me, is code for, "I'm not allowed to fire him."  So if I had to guess (and this is a guess, nothing more), the only way Arniel is gone before this season ends is if Howson is gone with him.

Tale of Two Cities

James Wisnieski adds mobility and a shot to our defense
Well, maybe four.  But that doesn't make nearly as good a title because I wouldn't be plagiarizing from a classic.  But I digress.  Back to hockey.

In today's Columbus Dispatch, Aaron Portzline published an interview with Claude Noel, former Columbus Blue Jackets interim coach, and now coach of the Winnipeg Jets.  In this interview, Coach Noel said the following:

“I would have liked to have been given the opportunity to keep the job, because I felt like I had a leg up on that situation, Noel said, referring to the chronic losing in Columbus. “I knew the situation deeply, to its core. They felt that would be a disadvantage. It came up three or four times in my interviews, and I disagreed every time. I still disagree.
“I knew that team. They may not have liked the music I was going to play. But we were going to give them the music. It might not have been pleasant. But I feel I knew what was at the core of what it would take to get that team going in the right direction."
These statements really took my aback.  After all, the DBJ and I have been debating this kind of thing over the last day or so in a flurry of text messaging (I really need a new phone).
Holy Darkness Batman!!  What could this deep dark secret be??

Friday, November 11, 2011

Team in turmoil: A DBJ compendium

What started with so much hope and optimism at training camp has...turned into this: 2-12-1.
Like so many in the Columbus Blue Jackets Village (I'd suggest we call it CBJ Nation, but I'm not sure the fanbase is large enough), I'm beside myself over this team's 2-12-1 start to the season.  So many of us honestly believed that the pieces were finally in place, that this season was the beginning of something great.

That has proven not to be, and we've been going through this mess for a month-plus now.  Gallos and I have explored plenty of issues with this club over that period on this blog, and here's a handy selection of our thoughts, in no particular order:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Body Language

Mason making a save in Training Camp
Players Don't Believe Anymore

Hockey is the ultimate team sport.  You all have to be playing the same system.  The coach tells you what to do, and if you are a good hockey player, you execute that system in the belief that it will ultimately produce victory.  Unless, of course, you are a Columbus Blue Jacket player.  Then you know, in your heart, that what the coach is selling is not going to win.

I was at tonight's game.  I have watched R.J. Umberger and Rick Nash play in lots of games.  They had no spark tonight.  They had no fire.  And it's because they don't believe.   They are experienced pro hockey players, who have beaten very good hockey teams in their tenure in Columbus.  And they know in their hearts that what Scott Arniel is selling just isn't good enough.  They know that the NHL coaches like Quenville can see right through this. They don't say this.  That would mean that the coach has 'lost the room'.  They don't dislike Arniel.  They just know they are not going to win.

As an organization we have staked our future on Scott Howson's vision.  In true Blue Jacket fashion, we have looked him to be a guy to 'take a step' as a short cut to systematically building a team.  Scott Howson has some definite strengths.  Judging defensive talent is not one of them.  Wiz is fine.  Carter is fine.  These are some truly good moves.  But a good defense knows that when a guy is all alone in the low slot, that it is a problem. But we seem unable to defend the good scoring areas.

Its one thing to give up prime scoring chances if you are getting the same thing on the other end. But our shooters are launching from the top of the circles, their shooters are shooting from the low slot.  I know who I am betting on.

DBJ's thoughts on Game 15: Chicago

Chicago 6 - Columbus 3
2-12-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference

Despite a four-day "training camp" that supposedly was to tighten up the defense and return the
squad to something closer to the scheme that delivered Steve Mason a Calder Trophy, 
Mase still allowed
a host of soft goals.  But he was not the sole source of blame tonight...there was plenty to go around.

Three Blue Jackets somehow land All-Star nominations

In a shocking move, the National Hockey League announced that forwards Rick Nash, R. J. Umberger and Jeff Carter would be placed on the 2012 NHL All-Star Game ballot.

Combined, the trio has 5 goals, 14 assists and 19 points through 14 games.  By comparison:
  • Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs has 11 goals, 11 assists and 22 points through 15 games.
  • Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers has 9 goals, 10 assists and 19 points through 15 games.
  • Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals has 5 goals, 14 assists and 19 points over 15 games.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The (re-) transformation is complete

Word out of Columbus Blue Jackets camp is that in the course of just over one month, the team has almost completed a transformation from the up-tempo, high-powered scoring machine that was promoted since Scott Arniel was hired as head coach in June 2010.  That crowd-pleasing yet ultimately fruitless approach to on-ice play quickly morphed into amorphous discussions of "grit" (accompanied by a purge of the team's promising youth)...and finally evolved into a, well, let's allow coach Scott Arniel to explain...with deciphering offered by the Dispatch:
"...we have gone back and put a lot of emphasis on the guys without the puck, on clogging the center of the ice."

The key, for now, is to slow the tempo of the opponent and stop the barrage of rushes faced by a young and banged-up defense and struggling goaltender Steve Mason.

Are the Blue Jackets "on the brink of collapse"?

A reader dropped this Huffington Post link on me this morning via Twitter and asked me for my thoughts.  Because some questions can't be answered in 140 characters (though we try, oh do we try...), I thought it would be best to try a response here on the blog.

So let's start with what I presume to be the premise of the question: "Are the Columbus Blue Jackets on the brink of financial collapse?"  (Or, for that matter, are any of the other professional sports teams listed in the article?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Letetsu Joins Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired forward Mark Letetsu from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 4th round draft pick in 2012 according to TSN.  The upshot of this trade is that the Penguins will actually pick BEFORE the CBJ in the first round as a result of the CBJ losing the lottery.  Seriously folks.  Its been going that way.

The Body's Capacity to Heal

My Brain Hurts!!!
The Quest for Organizational Stability is Easier if I Don't Have to Watch Them Play

Its been several days since our beloved Blue Jackets were shellacked by the Philadelphia Flyers.  The horror is starting to fade, and I am able to read Scott Arniel's name with out the gut reaction that he should be fired.  The history of this organization is replete with gut reaction firings, so it is definitely taking a new and different approach to this 2011-12 disaster by not firing someone.  This has the upside of contributing to organizational stability, which has been discussed here and on Ten Minute Misconduct.  (Side note: its worth  reading the latest salvo over there as well.)  But focusing on these thoughts is difficult when writhing in the pain of 13 goals for them, and 3 for us.

So I am finding that this gap between games has had a calming effect on me.  There is a morbid, strange part of me that wants to see if these guys can turn this around in any way, shape, or form.  I've watched dead seasons before, and at that point all you want to see is competent hockey, regardless of the outcome.  And, my thoughts are coalescing around my 'Fail for Nail' jersey.  Hmm, should I let tact creep into the design?  And, I have to confess its nice to be watching other teams get blown up on TV, instead of us.  So I am enjoying this respite, before I gird my loins and jump back into the fray with the 'hawks arrival on Thursday.  I'll be ready by then, I think, and we will see what our guys can do.  Maybe we'll even be able to get on the internet!


Monday, November 7, 2011

DBJ's "If you were a tree..." open mike post

Sometimes stuff comes along that you just can't make up.  But maybe someone else made it up, and that's their problem.

If you were a tree, prospective pro hockey coach,
what kind of tree would YOU be?
Columbus Blue Jackets fan tweeter Puckeye found this gem from SportsNet's Jeff Marek, listed under "Things I learned this week":
While they were interviewing for the head coaching position (ultimately won by Scott Arniel), one of the questions the Columbus Blue Jackets asked each candidate was, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"
One can't let this rich vein go unmined, especially when the team is 2-11-1 and there is next to nothing worthwhile to report.

(Oh, I'm sorry.  Jared Boll is back from injury and Jeff Carter is skating in practice.  As I was saying...)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Farewell, Hitch

The winningest coach in Columbus Blue Jackets history and the man
who helped steer the CBJ into the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ken Hitchcock
is now off to coach the St. Louis Blues.
Word has come from all across the inter-tubes that the St. Louis Blues have hired former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock as their newest head coach, replacing AHL coaching call-up Davis Payne.

I'm genuinely happy for Hitch as he was surely chomping at the bit for another shot at an NHL roster.  The NHL, a faddish bunch if there ever was one, has gone overboard in the promotion of AHL coaches and kept qualified veteran coaches on the bench in the opinion of this writer.  Sure, some AHL coaches turn into good NHL coaches, but it's nowhere near a certainty.  Payne (with his jaw-droppingly bad, firing-worthy 6-7-0 record) was one such failed experiment.  Not everyone can be Dan Bylsma (with or without Crosby and Malkin, as he's proven he can win either way), that's for sure.  And guys like Hitch know how to coach, and they know how to win - on the biggest stage.

The Hangover, Part 2

Oh, God.  This again.
I'll admit it.  I took the easy way out yesterday.  But I didn't know what else to write.  I mean, why summarize a game that was a car wreck within the first two minutes of play?

So let's start with an admission: I didn't see the first period.  I was stuck driving around Columbus.  I did, however, have the game on XM - but I had the volume turned off so I could talk to the rest of the DBJ family.  But the XM screen was on, and the score was 2-0 by about 7:17PM.  I vividly recall saying to Mrs. DBJ, "I can't believe this.  The game doesn't START at 7PM.  They're singing the National Anthem at 7PM. And 2-0?  By quarter after 7?"

It was that type of night.  But that was last night, and this is a new morning.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

DBJ on Game 14: Philadelphia

Philadelphia 9 - Columbus 2
2-11-1, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
Thanks to the folks at HFBoards for unearthing this perfectly appropriate graphic.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why the CBJ Cannot Afford to Waste the 2011-12 Start

Do the names Toews and Kane ring a bell to you?  2006 and 2007 entry drafts respectively.  In those years the Columbus Blue Jackets finished poorly.  Why did Chicago get those guys, while we got Brass and Jake?  They out tanked us.  Why did the Oilers get all those number one picks!  They out tanked everyone.

The Columbus Blue Jackets organization CANNOT afford to waste a 2-10-1 start.  Folks, the path to the holy land has been laid down, the path to a number 1 or number 2 pick.  We, the fans, did not want it to be this way.  Clearly, the ownership did not want it to be this way, they spent big jack ($$!) on a team that has yet to take the ice.  The coaches, under a fire storm of criticism, did not want this.

But it may be the best thing that ever happened to the organization, if we are willing to look at the long term for once in our hockey lives.  The CBJ have laid down a start so brutal that it will be very difficult for other teams to lose down to our level.  We need to stay the course.  After the jump I will lay down the steps that it is imperative for the organization to follow.  This WILL be painful fans.  But look at the Oilers today.  Number one picks make a difference.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 13: Toronto

Toronto 4 - Columbus 1
2-10-1, 5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Western Conference
The Toronto Maple Leafs made a rare appearance at Nationwide Arena and the Columbus Blue Jackets were ever the gracious hosts, giving up the first four goals in less than 30 minutes of play, handing the game to the visitors, 4-1 in regulation.

1.  Try sugar-coating this mess.  Try.  I dare you.

The Toronto game

An old hockey card kinda like this
kindled the fire of hockey love
in yours truly's little heart
One of my earliest hockey-related memories was of getting a pack of hockey cards back in the mid-late 1970's.  I might have been six or seven at the time.  I think that one of the cards was of Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  My memory is a little vague on the year, and the player, but the team is unmistakable to me.  It was the Leafs.

I recall being so intrigued by this card.  (Remember, I was no older than 7!)  First, it was hockey.  Not baseball, not football.  Hockey.  There was this big guy, flying on the ice with a stick in hand.  So different.  Then the city.  My little worldview was still shaping, so the idea of a team from Toronto - a funny-sounding city from a foreign country - playing teams from America fascinated me.  Lastly, the team itself.  The "Maple Leafs".  They had the name of the team on the front of their sweaters!  And leafs all over them!  I'd seen nothing like it.  (And then dad flooded the backyard so my brothers and I could flounder around on the ice with our poorly-utilized sticks and skates all winter long.  Good times.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Practice report: The dawn of Movember

When the Dark Blue Toddler and I went down to practice today, we totally forgot about the Movember mustache-growing taking place on NHL rosters.  We made a quick recovery, however, and got to work hunting down mustaches.  In fact, DBT and I found a couple early adopters amongst the Blue Jackets...

The Dark Blue Toddler, ever vigilant, looking for mustaches!

The DBJ Wayback Machine: Ryan Johansen

Every now and then during a long season, you need to separate the personal from the organizational.  I'll suggest that the retention of Ryan Johansen on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster is one of those times.

Early attempts at fashioning a Dark Blue Jacket
Wayback Machine proved fruitless.  Science has
improved, however, and we now can take you back!
CBJ general manager Scott Howson announced that Johansen would be retained on the NHL squad for a tenth game, meaning that the first year of his three year, entry level contract will be activated.

In shorthand, Ryan Johansen made it.  And that's pretty cool.

In celebration of this exciting moment, I'd like to fire up the (retooled) DBJ Wayback Machine and highlight one of my favorite blog posts out of the over 800 on this blog, the recap of the Dark Blue Toddler and my visit to last season's training camp...and our chance encounter with Ryan Johansen.  The little man, now two-and-a-half, still talks about Ryan Johansen to this day.

Click here to read and hopefully enjoy: Ryan Johansen + Dark Blue Toddler = BFF

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The (intertwined) days of reckoning

Ryan Johansen's future apparently hangs
in the balance at the same time as
the future of the Columbus Blue Jackets
Word is coming out of Nationwide Arena that we may hear today regarding the decision on whether to keep rookie phenom Ryan Johansen on the Columbus Blue Jackets roster.  "The Johan," or "RyJo" (has anyone asked him what he prefers?), has played in his ninth NHL game; a tenth game would activate his entry-level contract and burn a year of that three-year deal in 2011-12.  Should he be sent back to major junior hockey, his three-year deal would not start until next season.  Johansen also would carry a salary cap number of $1.945 million for this season.

As many suggest, a decision on Johansen's NHL status should be made with his and the CBJ's best interests in mind.  As I've mentioned, Johansen's best interests might not always coincide with the Blue Jackets'.  However, it's honestly rather tough to figure out the CBJ's position right now.  For more on that, let's go to the Dispatch:
Sources indicated to The Dispatch late Saturday that the Blue Jackets have begun preparing for the possible firing of general manager Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel should the horrendous start not get turned around quickly.

Club president Mike Priest vehemently denied reports that he had discussed a return to coaching by former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, or that he had reached out to former NHL executive and current broadcaster Craig Button as a potential GM candidate.


“Let me be clear here, though,” Priest said. “Everybody understands that the losing can’t continue.”