Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome back to Jason Chimera - One of the Good Guys

Former Blue Jacket Jason Chimera is back in town
tonight with the Washington Capitals
Tonight's New Year's Eve game against the Washington Capitals signals the return of forward Jason Chimera to Nationwide Arena.  Chimmer was not just a strong character guy on the ice but also walked the walk in the community.

Most Columbus Blue Jackets fans know the story of Ryan Salmons, a local teen who valiantly fought cancer until his passing at age 19 in 2009 (retrospective video).  They know that Scott Howson signed Salmons to a genuine NHL contract for a day in an impressive show of support for the young man.

What fans might not know is that the friendships developed between the Salmons family, Malhotra and Chimera last to this day.  Both players regularly check in with the family and, to quote Ryan's father Brad, "They have become family!"  Same goes for Howson, who makes a point of including Brad at Blue Jackets Foundation events like Black Tie Blue Jackets and the annual Foundation golf outing.

2011: The Blue Jackets' Annus Horribilis

Even Her Majesty would agree
that 2011 stunk for the CBJ.

Annus horribilis is a Latin phrase meaning "horrible year", or alternatively, "year of horrors". It alludes to annus mirabilis meaning "year of wonders".

Although cited by the Oxford English Dictionary as being in use as early as 1985, Elizabeth II brought the phrase to prominence, in a speech to the Guildhall on 24 November 1992, marking the 40th anniversary of her Accession, in which she described the closing of the year as an "annus horribilis."
1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis.

First off, please accept my apologies.  The end of the year got away from me.  Family in town, a quick Christmas trip out of town and helping create Christmas for a two-and-a-half year old saw things just move faster than I could handle.  I've been able to write the game recaps (well, the ones that my compadres didn't write) and occasional commentary posts, but the whole strategic approach to designing an end of the year blog post or two - well, it didn't happen.  Thus, I've been working on this post - concept to execution - for only a day or so.

Having a strict deadline (like the dawn of the new year) sometime forces one to scrap a detailed commentary and focus on the crux of the issue.  It sure did in my case!  In trying to encapsulate the year, I threw everything else aside and focused on that which is most important for a professional sports team - the wins and losses.

Friday, December 30, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 37: Dallas

Columbus 4 - Dallas 1
10-22-5, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled down to Big D and beat the host Dallas Stars, 4-1, in regulation.

1. MILESTONES - It was the end of a six-game losing streak.  It was the first road win in regulation in the 2011-12 season. And it was the CBJ's 10th win of the season.  So a bunch of monkeys fell off the team's back.  Let's not raise the Cup yet, but it is nice to not have those hanging over the team.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room

What is the role of a minority owner?
Had a good laugh at a couple of knuckleheads sitting at their keyboard the other day.  One of the blogs with a more national readership had noted that the CBJ were having a less than stellar year (I can't find the link, incompetence is my only excuse).  And these guys got on the comments and said essentially "blow the whole thing up, and the next city who gets them will have something to build from".  Which for someone who is sitting in front of a search engine is a pretty stunning admission of ignorance and laziness.  In this article, the Columbus Business Journal notes that the last step in the agreement to purchase Nationwide Arena, approval by the Franklin County Commissioners, was achieved, and the whole deal is moving forward.  Bad news to the knuckleheads who want to issue their opinions on the CBJ without doing any work.  There isn't going to be any next city.  This is our problem to deal with and we have to find our way out of this mess.

One thing I keep forgetting as part of this whole picture of a disastrous season and the apparent apathy by management and ownership towards changes to attempt to rectify the disaster; that is the role of the new minority owner.

I'm not saying...I'm just saying

I caught this gem from the CBC's Elliotte Friedman, who offers "30 thoughts" every week:
12. Had a really interesting conversation with a player last week. He was saying his (struggling) team needed an identity. Then, he went on to list some teams that did have one. "You know that Boston is going to pound you and make you pay physically. You know that Chicago is going to dare you to try and skate with them. You know that Vancouver is going to try to get you to take penalties and make you pay on the penalty kill. And you know that Detroit is going to turn the other cheek while winning all of the one-on-one battles." Then, he added, "We need to be more like the Red Wings."
Does that conversation sound familiar? (And my link doesn't account for the consistent rumble on the topic coming out of the Dispatch or, to a lesser degree, some of the other Blue Jackets fan blogs.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The "A List"

Another week, another A-List. And, yes, let's suffice to say that this past week was a little...rough. So here's some things to be somewhat happy about.

1. Jeff Carter's Hat Trick. For one 20 minute period versus Nashville, we reveled in some glorious hockey - and the star of that period was Jeff Carter. I'll say it - whenever a player has a hat trick, we should celebrate it.

2. The Holidays. Aside from the obvious time with family and focusing on hopefully the important things, we got a little break from the sturm and drang of this season of CBJ hockey and come Monday, we were ready for more.

3. Steve Mason. In Tuesday's game vs. Calgary, Mason delivered a quiet, yet consistent, effort for 65 minutes. He had quite a few quality saves when the defense let him down and, I took the opportunity to watch him in isolation during a couple of Calgary possessions. He seemed more calm and controlled in net. Nice to see.

4. Ryan Johansen. the JOHAN (and yes, we asked him, he prefers "Johan" to "RyJo") is showing some signs of progression once again. Two goals against Nashville, and some quite aggressive play against Calgary made him someone to stand out while watching games. Watching him play - and knowing his age - gives me hope for the CBJ and that keeps me from going completely postal at times.

5. The Fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You all made the list AGAIN. But legitimately so. We don't even have 10 wins, but almost 17,000 (seventeen thousand!) of us showed up Tuesday in potentially poor weather to cheer on our team. Regardless of how you got your tickets, you thought it a good use of time to show up. DH and I had the opportunity to sit next to a great fan from SEATTLE, who, for his Christmas present to his ENTIRE family, bought them Blue Jackets tickets. And good ones at that. The guy also drives up to Vancouver whenever the CBJ are there to support the team. That's dedication my friends. And it deserves mention.

New Year's lies ahead...I dare to hope we can clear the 10 win bar by January 1. Those New Year's Eve games have always been fun, and I hope this year is as well and that it brings us a win!

Glass Bangers,12/28/11


I was thinking of putting this on a separate post, but it's more like an announcement for a new means of continuing dialogue between fans.  That, and I'm going to keep this survey up on the right-hand column for a least until the All-Star Game or perhaps when changes are made that render the survey moot.

State of the Blue Jackets

Note that you, my dear readers, are permitted to add "Yes/No" questions to the survey.  I make this observation with the caveat that I intend to utilize editorial discretion to delete questions as I (and I alone) deem fit.  So keep your additional questions germane to the state of the team, and keep them clean.  


Recently, HockeyBuzz's Eric Smith posted a link to the video of the introductory press conference for Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel with the acompanying Tweet: "Remember this when hopes & confidence was high?"

Heady times, indeed.  In fact, Smith's comment conjured in my mind what I consider to be the high water mark for the Arniel coaching tenure - the first-ever road trip sweep of Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose in October 2010.  Remember this nugget from the Dispatch guys at Puck Rakers (no longer available on their site, so I rely on HFBoards for the quote):
When Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel learned it was the first-ever regulation win in San Jose -- from video coordinato Dan Singleton, who's been in place from Day 1 -- Arniel deadpanned: "What have you guys been doing for 10 years?"
Now you know, coach.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 36: Calgary

Calgary 2 - Columbus 1 (shootout)
9-22-5, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Calgary Flames tonight at Nationwide Arena and now have two more shots to get 10 victories before the end of the calendar year after losing to Calgary, 2-1, in the shootout.

1. THE ARENA DISTRICT IS AWESOME - Thanks to an unexpected free ticket windfall from Mrs. DBJ's employer, the Dark Blue Jacket family took in an enjoyable evening in the Arena District.  A pregame bowl of spaghetti (Dark Blue Toddler's favorite restaurant food) at Buca Di Beppo, then off to Nationwide Arena for the game.  Mrs. DBJ walked over from work to meet us at the restaurant, we had a great family dinner, walked maybe 40 yards across the plaza and then took in an NHL hockey game.  On a Tuesday night.  In Columbus, Ohio.  How cool is that?

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 35: Chicago

Chicago 4 - Columbus 1
9-22-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The National Hockey League returned from Christmas break on Monday night, and the Columbus Blue Jackets picked up right where they left off.  The CBJ lost, 4-1 in regulation to Chicago at the United Center.

1. With 22 points in 35 games, the Blue Jackets are trending toward 52 points over 82 games.  That will be the lowest in the NHL since the 2000-2001 season, when the New York Islanders posted a 52-point season.  That's right, the worst team in 11 years.  By comparison, the Blackhawks have 50 points already this season.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Glass Bangers, 12/26/11

I'm back from Christmas travel, not so rested but remarkably ready to dive back into the remainder of this Columbus Blue Jackets season.  It's funny - even with things as lousy as they've been, I've missed hockey over the past couple of days.


Perhaps the most CBJ-germane thing to come from the holiday break was the weekend's National Football League action.  Specifically, the Detroit Lions qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1999.  Think about it: A team whose unofficial motto is "Nothing since 1957...but we're working on it" can't even sniff the postseason for a longer period of time than the CBJ have been in existence, and they made it back to the promised land.

Of course, I've long since been pushed away from rabid Lions fanhood by the inept Matt Millen and have since found hockey, which really is a more interesting sport to follow on a number of fronts.  I still carry a soft spot for the Leos, though, and am very happy for the team and its fans.  If time permits, I'd love to explore the lessons that the Blue Jackets could learn from the Lions vis a vis turning a franchise around.  Because if anyone knew how to lose in the 2000's, it was the Detroit Lions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday joy from the Dark Blue Jacket

I'll be off the grid for the weekend - holidays and all - so here's a gift for all of you.

(Actually, it's a re-gift...the same thing I offered you all last year.  But perhaps it's needed this year even more than last.  Plus, I love it and have no problem making it an annual tradition on the blog.)

Despite this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, let's remember that hockey is a great game to watch and play.  With that in mind, I hope you enjoy this great little short film:

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Dark Side - 12/23/11

CBJ fans, it is time to confess your sins and repent. At some point, somewhere in the cursed history of this franchise, we as fans did something very wrong. We committed a cardinal sin, or perhaps a litany of them, that has truly pissed off the Fan Gods. Either that or we are stuck in some kind of time warp. Like the movie Groundhog's Day. Either way, we have to figure out what we did wrong and fix it.

Losing games the way the Blue Jackets have been losing games just doesn't happen to professional sports teams very often. It's bad if it happens once or twice in a season. When it happens multiple times inside of 40 games, in an increasingly unbelievable manner as it did Thursday night in Nashville, it's time to start thinking outside the box. Actually, it's time to start thinking about calling in an exorcist, but before we go to that extreme let's at least try a group act of contrition. Let's try, each and every one of us, to look deep inside, admit our transgressions and seek forgiveness. I don't know what it was that could have been so heinous to deserve what we have been subjected to this season, but it must have been bad. Really bad. And I think we need to fess up, face the music and ask for a do-over.

I will go first. I was at a game on March 20, 2003 when Tyler Wright had a hat trick. When he scored his third goal I found myself deciding if I should throw my prized CBJ hat, my 50 Mission Cap, toward the rink. We were 22 rows from the ice, behind the goal with a big net to clear, and I really didn't think my hat had a snowballs' chance in hell of making it. I didn't throw. While I was calculating the odds, my brother and my dad faithfully heaved their hats iceward. They landed about five rows in front of us, but they didn't care. I will always remember the Look of Shame that they cast upon me. Until now, I have never recounted this horrible fangression, except at every game I have since attended with my dad and my brother since they won't ever let me forget it. I now confess, in public, that I was wrong and I ask the Fan Gods to forgive me.

There. I don't know if that is going to help the Blue Jackets fix what ails them or prevent them from losing inside of ten seconds anymore, but I feel better. I feel free. Somewhat embarrassed, but free. I encourage all fans to make your confessions and ask for forgiveness, right here on the blog, in the comments below. Hopefully, whoever it was that really screwed the pooch will read this, admit their sin(s) and be forgiven. And the exit doors from hell will be cast open.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

DBJ's 4 thoughts on Game 34: Nashville

Nashville 6 - Columbus 5
9-21-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost, 6-5, to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena tonight.

1. You can't discuss the magnitude of the disappointment over this loss without celebrating the incredible first period.  After a scoreless first 12 minutes, Carrie Underwood's beau scored on Curtis Sanford and unwittingly opened the Columbus floodgates.  Jeff Carter dropped a first period hat trick on the Preds in just over 3 minutes of play.  A natural hat trick was interrupted by a choice Ryan Johansen goal.  The CBJ skated off the ice at the end of the period with a 4-1 lead.  That 8 minute span may have been the best such period of time in a hockey game I can ever remember seeing.  I'm not kidding - it was THAT good.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sea Change

Nationwide Arena
Today, the Franklin County Commissioners voted to approve their portion of the deal to purchase and operate Nationwide Arena.  While the final paper work still needs to be signed, all the pieces are in place for the deal to proceed, and they anticipate closing the deal in late January.

Of interest to us as hockey fans is what this means for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The team gains a significant new minority owner in Nationwide Insurance.  They are kicking a significant chunk of money into the pot right off the bat.  And, most importantly, the team is signing on the dotted line to stay in Columbus for 29 years, or until 2039.  The Columbus Blue Jackets are now an institution in Columbus.  While it is clearly the responsibility of the Hockey Organization to put a winning team on the ice, their presence is no longer tenuous.

With this change, the whole situation with regard to the team is stabilized for the long term.  The franchise has been strengthened organizationally in a substantial fashion this year, even to the extent of being the prime beneficiary of a league re-alignment.  All this allows for a change of approach for the hockey operations part of the organization.

The "A List"

Hello, friends! Alison here. In a season where we are grasping for positive news, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring with a (dare I try) weekly bit talking about some good stuff going on in CBJ-land. Hopefully, this will cover things that are happening on the ice, but we'll talk other stuff too.

So without further ado, I bring you this week's "A-LIST", with a dose of holiday cheer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Phil Esposito's Team

Rick Nash, The Captain
This last weekend I had an opportunity to listen to Craig Patrick talk about some of the experiences in his career.  Fascinating stuff.  As hard as it is to deal with what is going on with the team these days, it is well to consider that this gentleman is going to have a real impact on the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, but it is going to take some time before we see it.  His impact will be on long term direction.

However, I think his immediate impact is somewhat related to this anecdote he shared with the audience.  I have tried to check my facts, but my memory is imperfect, so anyone else who heard him tell this, feel free to offer your impressions.

Craig Patrick became the General Manager of the New York Rangers in late 1980.  The Coach at the time of his hiring was an old friend, Fred Shero.  As Patrick told the story, he asked Shero about the team's identity.  His response was "It's Phil Esposito's team".  At this time, Esposito was at the end of his career, and as Patrick related, his age was starting to show.  Patrick related a conversation where he said "Fred, you're going to have to quit playing Esposito so much".  Shero's response was "If I don't play Esposito, I'll get fired".  Patrick's response was "If you keep playing him, you'll get fired too".

Sure enough, later that year, Shero was fired, and Craig Patrick became the Coach of the New York Rangers. As Patrick related, he did not play Esposito as much, and the upshot of this was a.) Patrick and Esposito did not get along real well, and b.) the next year, Esposito retired.

So what does this mean for the Blue Jackets?  It probably has occurred to you where I am going with this.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 33: St. Louis

St. Louis 6 - Columbus 4
9-20-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
In the second night of a very full weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to St. Louis and lost, 6-4, in regulation to the host Blues at Scotttrade Center.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

1. WORST: The goalie - Steve Mason, playing for the second straight night due to Curtis Sanford's morning back spasms, stopped 28 of 33 shots tonight.  Combine that with last night's outing, and you have a goalie who 1) can't get it done, 2) does not have the confidence of his teammates, or 3) both.  Either way, it isn't good...because Sanford might be good enough to help the CBJ avoid utter disaster, I have not seen enough from him (and the team in front of him) to do more than just that.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 32: Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay 3 - Columbus 2
9-19-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets' almost-but-not-quite coach, Guy Boucher, brought his Tampa Bay Lightning in to Nationwide Arena and left with the regulation win over the host Blue Jackets, 3-2.

1. Congratulations, Vinny Prospal - The most enjoyable part of the evening was the pregame ceremony for Vinny Prospal, who played his 1,000th NHL game earlier in the season.  At 36, Prospal is the team's leading point scorer - leading captain Rick Nash by four points.  Not only is he productive, but he's a leader in fact if not in jersey letter.  In fact, Derek Dorsett went out of his way a few games back in the radio postgame show to single out Prospal as a player that he's learning from and modeling himself after.  A terrific guy to have around, indeed.

Craig Patrick

RyJo and Dorsett practice face-offs with Dan Hinote
I had the opportunity to attend this morning's Columbus Blue Jackets Season Ticket Holder Open Skate, and had the pleasure of shaking hands with Craig Patrick after the Q and A session.  We are very, very lucky to have this guy associated with the franchise.

The significance of the photo at the right will become clearer later in the post.  But for the moment it is important to know that Ryan Johansen and Derek Dorsett spent most of the practice working on things together.  Passes for one-timers, face offs, and in the other skating and passing drills.  If RyJo can pick up on Double D's 'motor never turned off' playing habits, it will take him far in his career.  He couldn't be hanging with a better person.

Following the morning skate, there was a session with Jeff Rimer and Bobby 'the Chief' Taylor, an announcer for the Tampa Bay Lightning  in which they swapped a bunch of stories about Taylor's years playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, which was the era of the Broad Street Bullies.  Very entertaining stuff.

Following that, the new Senior Hockey Adviser, Craig Patrick was introduced for a Q & A session which was very enlightening.

Welcome to Columbus, Guy Boucher

Who am I kidding?  This post is just an excuse to use this graphic.
It took a year and a half, but Nationwide Arena will finally be graced with the presence of coaching wunderkind Guy Boucher.  Yup, the man who spurned Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson at the altar succumbed to the siren call of Steve Yzerman (and perhaps no income tax?) brings his Tampa Bay Lightning into Columbus tonight at 7PM.

Unlike last season where Boucher's Lightning made plenty of noise in the Stanley Cup playoffs, this season's edition isn't playing quite so well.  Tampa is in 13th place in the East with 28 points (only six points above the last-in-the-NHL Blue Jackets).  Boucher's innovative 1-3-1 trap was openly mocked on national television, too.  It's been a rough haul, apparently.  Is Boucher still a coaching genius?

I haven't followed Tampa enough to know what ails them in any detail, but this has the potential to be an inspired game from both benches.

Go Jackets!

Friday, December 16, 2011

DBJ's take on the Turris rumors

[CAUTIONARY NOTE: If you don't like reading about trade rumors and wild speculation, stop right here...because that's all this post is.  Consider yourself forewarned.]

Rumors are swirling that the Phoenix Coyotes are taking offers to trade centerman Kyle Turris.  Turris, as you might recall, held out of the 'yotes camp from the start of preseason through November 22, 2011, when he signed a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $1.4 million.  (He wanted $3-4 million per year.)

Phoenix's Kyle Turris, third overall draft pick in 2007,
is rumored to be on the trading block.
The highly touted Turris, drafted 3rd overall by Phoenix in the 2007 NHL entry draft out of the University of Wisconsin, was part of the youth movement that doomed the coaching career of Wayne Gretzky.  He put up 20 points in 63 games in 2008-09, then was shipped with other "young core" players back to the AHL for the entirety of the 2009-10 season when coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney chose to go with inexpensive veterans (something I personally thought was wise and continue to think would be a prudent course of action in Columbus).  He returned to the Coyotes roster in 2010-11, playing 65 games and notching 25 points.  He has no points thus far in the six games played for the Coyotes in the 2011-12 campaign.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 31: Los Angeles

Los Angeles 2 - Columbus 1
9-18-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Los Angeles Kings, complete with interim coach John Stevens, and lost a mind-numbingly poor game on all fronts, 2-1.

After a brief respite, the Jackets are back in the sub-basement: 15th in the West and 30th in the league.

1. Thanks, refs - The first goal by L.A. should have been waved off.  The King offensive player was bouncing around the crease like a pinball.  See for yourself:

Absolute crap non-call by the refs.  Of course...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Evaluating the Coach

Scott Arniel - Head Coach
I have really struggled about how I feel about Scott Arniel this year.  We have watched coach after coach get fired this year in the NHL, most with .500 records or better, while the Columbus Blue Jackets  sit pat in spite of being in last place (though today we have climbed to 29th of 30 teams).

At this point, I have to throw out a stick tap to the rest of the blogging team here at the Dark Blue Jacket for helping me to process these issues in some sort of positive fashion.  The Nashville game was an insanely good time!  It was extremely entertaining, and we pushed them all over the ice.  For 58 minutes.  Dang.  I was really 'disturbed' (you are welcome grandma) following the game, and promptly wrote a diatribe calling for Coach Scott Arniel's head.  Courtesy intervened at that point, and the knowledge that I was dragging a bunch of other people down that path without their consent was a real issue.  So the 'publish' button was not pushed.  Two days later the 'delete' button was pushed.

Why delete a really slick post calling for the ouster of the Head Coach?  Certainly his record demands it.  Might be good for traffic on the site.  But maybe its not that easy.

Glass Bangers - 12/14/11

Welcome to the first edition of what will be a sporadic feature on the Dark Blue Jacket blog.  There occasionally are a few items here and there that pile up and, while not necessarily being worthy of a blog post of their own, probably demand attention from yours truly.  Light The Lamp has "This and That," I have "Glass Bangers."  So be it.


First, why the name "Glass Bangers"?  It stems out of last night's "5 Thoughts" game recap, where I shared that some of our friends from Canada apparently are offended at the fact that some Blue Jackets fans bang on the glass during the games.  One of the comments from that post confirms that the glass banging became a topic of scornful conversation amongst Canucks fans as well.  While I won't say that I haven't noticed it both in the arena and on TV, I have not found such behavior offensive in the least.  Just comes with the territory in Columbus.


I'm still buzzing over Steve Mason's impressive outing from last night.  I know it was only one game, but the way he battled through his cramps, the Vancouver offense and his own inner demons was remarkable.  He stopped 30 of 31 shots, a .968 save percentage.  WOW.

Blue Jackets fans have been harsh in the past on Mase, and rightfully so.  There have been times where his play probably wouldn't be good enough for the AHL, let alone the NHL.  But last night, the 23-year-old (yeah, he's only 23) was up to the challenge.  Welcome back!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 30: Vancouver

Columbus 2 - Vancouver 1 (shootout)
9-17-4, 5th in Central Division, 14th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Vancouver Canucks on Season Ticket Holder "Free Food Night" and lulled the visiting Vancouver Canucks into a food coma, pulling out a 2-1 shootout win over the defending Western Conference champs.

With the win, the Blue Jackets no longer are the worst team in the NHL.  At least for one night, that honor goes to the Anaheim Ducks.

1. Ummm...Vancouver kinda sucked tonight - What a strange, strange game.  For the life of me, I cannot understand how a team with as much firepower as Vancouver can play such a listless game.  I spent most of the evening wondering when the Canucks were going to get a spark and go on a tear.  Never happened.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Hey Ladies! the place I'm callin' out to ya! Too early for Beastie Boys? Nah...never too early. And its never too early to talk hockey. If you know me, I'm one of those fans who's always trying to get us all together in the name of I wanted to be sure to share with you something pretty cool that the Blue Jackets have put together. Its called "Hockey 'n' Heels". Scheduled for January 14th, 2012, this is a night out to go to a hockey game, learn something about hockey, listen to Coach Dreamy, Dan Hinote, Scott Howson and others, oh and chillax with the girls. And, the seats seem pretty sweet - located in the lower bowl!

In all seriousness, once one learns the game of hockey, its much more enjoyable - and this gives girls the opportunity to start with the basics - or increase your level of knowledge - about a game that's a heck of a lot of fun. Got a question you've never wanted to ask your hockey-obsessed friend mid game? Want to know when its icing and when its not? Want to understand why they called a ridiculous penalty on Derek Dorsett versus the Bruins? Well all except that last one can be addressed at this event! (Sorry, still bitter.)

Not a girl? Already feel you know enough about hockey? Well, if you're trying to get your girl friend, or girlfriend, more interested in the sport, this might be a great holiday gift (or tool of coercion to get her to more hockey games!) I mean, tell her that at the very least, there is food and drink!

If you're interested, click on the ad below and it will take you directly to the Blue Jackets site to order your ticket. However, if you already have tickets to that night's game (like I do) and/or you'd like to tag along with me and some of our other twitter gals, feel free to comment here (or hit me up on Twitter) and I'll keep you posted as to the details and what the ticket office can do for those of us who already have tickets to that game.

I hope to see a lot of you there!!!

Another One Bites the Dust

Maybe you saw that Terry Murray was fired as coach of the Los Angeles Kings yesterday. Maybe you also saw that Murray was 13-12-4 this season and only two points out of a playoff spot. Could you imagine a coach with that record ever getting fired in Columbus? Neither can I.
On some level, Terry Murray must be a bad coach.
Fans in Columbus have yet to experience that level.

Murray was 499-383-89-41 as a coach in over 1000 career NHL games. Impressive, yes. But not good enough for LA. Moreover, the dude needs just one more win to hit 500, but the heartless cads in the LA front office couldn't wait to show him the door and tell him not to let it hit him where the good Lord split him. If he would have posted that record in Columbus we would be buying $1 cotton candy from vendors on Murray Street after the games.

Meanwhile, we seem to be stuck here in Columbus with a guy that has coached us to six regulation wins in his last 51 games. I know, I know. There was Wiz's suspension, and injuries, blah, blah, blah. The problem is, when you coach a winner or at least a team that thinks of itself as a winner, you don't get to use those things as excuses. In fact, you might get fired for even trying to make excuses. When you coach for a winner, those things don't matter. Winning matters. And apparently, sometimes that isn't even enough.

Some teams raise the bar on themselves, like the Kings did yesterday. Other teams, like the Jackets, seem content to be just sitting at the bar. Try to understand how the Kings could fire a coach that is 13-12-4 so far this year and you will begin to understand how far the Jackets are from being a winner.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Long Climb to Respectability

Sergei Federov as a Blue Jacket
Now that it has faded from view a bit, I'd like to discuss the hiring of Craig Patrick as a senior hockey adviser for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the context of the franchise's history.  In the early years, I remember well that we had a roster of secondary players that was never able to generate the crazed and desperate energy of the inaugural squad.  We had drafted Nash and Zherdev, but they were young, and relatively unproven.  Then, after the lockout, early in the 2005-06 season, the trade for Sergei Federov was consummated.  This guy just oozed hockey respectability, and as such was a real addition to the roster.

After the 2005-06 season, Adam Foote was added to the roster as a free agent.  These guys were real, honest-to-goodness, hockey names, that carried instant recognition.  You will notice, of course, that the early steps towards respectability came through the acquisition of known players.  This, however, did not translate to success on the ice.  Thus, the franchise needed to make its next step towards respectability, the acquisition of Coach Ken Hitchcock.

Popping The Question

As promised in the prior post, there was one more question that needed to be covered.  Actually, there were two - I forgot to mention that the trade for Nikita Nikitin yielded the largest applause from the season ticket holders, though Howson was very non-committal about signing him for a longer term once his contract expires at the end of the season.  And I mention it here instead of the other post because it helps add to the discussion I'm about to have.

Remember, if you will, a line from yesterday's post...NESN's Jack Edwards saying, "Edwards said many complimentary things about the CBJ, most notably that they appear to finally have settled on an identity in the last couple of years." That last part of the sentence made my ears perk up.

An identity?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

DBJ's incomplete recap of Saturday's Morning Skate

For whatever reason, the Columbus Blue Jackets invited partial season ticket holders to Saturday morning's skate and Q&A session.  That expanded invite list included me, so I gratefully accepted...and dragged along Joe from The Cannon Report.  And had I been able to type faster and avoid all of my family obligations, I might have actually put this on the blog before the Boston game.  But I didn't, so we're all left to wonder what could have been.

The morning included four components: 1) Tim Horton's coffee and hot chocolate on the house, 2) The morning pre-game practice, 3) A brief session with Fox Sports announcer Jeff Rimer interviewing NESN's Bruins play-y-play man, Jack Edwards and 4) A Rimer-moderated Q&A with Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson.

In fairness to all concerned, I know that The Gold Standard for recaps of this nature is Matt Wagner over at The Cannon.  Understand this about Matt: He has a mind like a steel trap.  He can recall chapter and verse of everything done on the ice in a given game, or every question and answer offered in a session like Saturday morning's.  I tell you that to tell you this: I am not Matt.  What you will get from me is infinitely less complete.  But I try.  That, and Joe took good notes that he posted on I'll be cribbing off of him.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts about Game 29: Boston

Boston 5 - Columbus 3
8-17-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
In front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena, the Columbus Blue Jackets put up a fight - literally and figuratively - but ended up falling to the visiting Boston Bruins, 5-3, in regulation.

1. Put on your Big Boy pants - When your team takes on the Bruins, you know what they're going to face.  They're going to see a rough, tough, physical bunch of bullies who need to be popped in the nose before they retreat back into their shell.  Now, however, they can hide behind the aura of the Stanley Cup and enjoy the referee calls that come with it.  You know this is coming.  It doesn't matter which arena you're playing in, these are the champs and they're going to take full advantage of it as they manhandle your boys.

Friday, December 9, 2011

DBJ's Columbus Blue Jackets first quarter MVP (and runner-up)

It was a brutal opening quarter of the 2011-12 National Hockey League season for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  As such, it was downright hard to find anything or anyone really worth celebrating.  However, it's still important to recognize that which is valuable on this lift it up as an example.

So with that, I'm going to offer a most valuable player for the first 20 games...and a runner up.  If you've seen my past MVP's (like this one, or this one), you know that I don't pick the obvious choices.  I don't think this round is any different.  So let's get on with it...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 28: Nashville

Nashville 4 - Columbus 3 (overtime)
8-16-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
Fresh off a .500 road trip, the Columbus Blue Jackets owned the Nashville Predators for 58 minutes and 24 second before collapsing.  The Blue Jackets eventually lost in overtime, 4-3, at Nationwide Arena.

While the outcome of the game was terrible, I had a great time during that first 58-plus minutes and will focus the majority of my attention on that.  I'll save the most pertinent thought regarding the outcome for last.

1. A Rocking Good Time (for 58 and a half minutes) - If you ever get an invite from Greg May to join him at a Blue Jackets game, drop whatever you are doing and run - don't walk - to Nationwide Arena.  Once again, Greg and I had an uproariously good time.  From our outstanding vantage point on the game, directly behind the glass on the attacking side in section 109, we had a terrible vantage point of half the game (the half played at the other side).  We more than made up for it on our end, joining the fun-loving crowd around us in expressing our deep admiration for the Nashville Predators.  (And those guys behind us were expressing their deep admiration for the CBJ Ice Girls, but that's a discussion that won't be held online.)  Point is, Greg has an awesome sense of humor and perspective on the game.  I have not laughed that hard in a long, long time.

1a.  Messin' with Sasquatch - It started in warmups, where the Preds were taking shots into the net directly in front of us.  As the team filed off to the locker room, only a couple Preds were left...including this Yeti-like character named Brian McGratton.  Seriously, he was something like 7 feet tall and furry.  And he couldn't hit an empty net if he tried.  Anyway, we decided to play a little with him.  Greg made a box out of his fingers and pressed 'em against the glass.  "Shoot here," we goaded him on.  McGratton saw us screwing with him, a la the "Messin' With Sasquatch" commercials ("Want a ride?" <drives away> "Sohhhh-reee....").  And wouldn't you know...

Do you see the water spray arching around "He hit here"?  Dang, that was close.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Help Is On The Way: Blue Jackets Hire Craig Patrick as Advisor

Fix arena lease. Check. Reduce west coast travel through realignment. Check. Find somebody who knows a lot about hockey to help build team into a winner. Check.
Craig Patrick: Photo of white horse
not available at time of press.

The Blue Jackets continued their Extreme Makeover today, but not in the manner that many have been expecting. Instead of replacing anyone in the front office, the Blue Jackets added to it today in a big way, announcing that Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup champion Craig Patrick has been hired as a Senior Advisor for hockey operations.

According to the announcement:
"Patrick, 65, will be responsible for advising the general manager on trades, free agent signings, as well as evaluating Blue Jackets prospects playing for the club's minor pro affiliates - Springfield Falcons (American Hockey League) and Chicago Express (ECHL) - and the collegiate and major junior levels."
In making the announcement, GM Scott Howson was at his understated best:
"I am very pleased to add Craig to our organizationn making the announcement," said Howson. "He possesses a wealth of experience, having won two Stanley Cups and two Olympic medals, including gold with Team USA in 1980. His insight and knowledge will be invaluable to the Blue Jackets."
This is clearly a big move by the Jackets and one that should help the team immensely. There will be more thoughts to come, but for now here is the link to the announcement.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts about Game 27: Montreal

Columbus 3 - Montreal 2 (shootout)
8-16-3, 5th in Central Division, Tied for 14th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets closed out their four game road trip at the Bell Centre in Montreal with a 3-2 shootout victory over the host Canadiens.

1. Climbing out of the sub-basement - The glacially slow recovery from the disastrous start to the season continues, with the Jackets grabbing four out of a possible eight standings points on this roadie.  The 14th place Anaheim Ducks are in the first period with the LA Kings as I type, but the CBJ now have 19 points...putting them in a tie with Anaheim for 14th. To the best of my knowledge, the Jackets haven't been out of 15th place since Game 4.

Dear Jackets Fan...Why So Blue?

Well everyone else has posted their thoughts on the realignment so I figured I would join the rest of the cool kids and throw in my two cents.  Of course I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that my (much smarter!) colleagues here at DBJ have already offered some food for thought, first Gallo's initial recap and then some words from DBJ himself.

I was surprised, quite honestly, last night to watch the reactions on Twitter. So many of us have griped about the late starts, long (and expensive!) travel demands and tough opponents that it was a bit shocking to see so many come out saying we got the short end of the stick, or that we're no better off in the "B Division" (and clearly the problem is we're not in the D [DD!] Division) than before. The opinion seems to be dominating that we are "in no better position to make the playoffs than before".

But here's the deal...there is no shortcut to success.

Monday, December 5, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on the forthcoming realignment

Gallos dropped the realignment news on this blog a little earlier, leaving me with an opportunity to offer some opinions on what has happened.
Your reconstituted National Hockey League
Graphic from Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy
1. The Columbus Blue Jackets will save a lot of money - A home-and-home exchange with every out-of conference team (22 games x 2 = 44 games), followed by every other game inside of the conference means that travel costs drop.

NHL Realignment - Columbus Stays in The West

Today, the NHL Board of Governors decided on a new organizational plan for the NHL according to TSN.  This the new four conference alignment that has been discussed in many sources   One of the clear benefits of this plan is the decision that each team in the league will play a home and home with every other team.  This means that all the star power of the NHL will be coming through every arena in the league, and is nothing but a good thing for the NHL.

In the four conference alignment, the Atlanta Thrashers moved west as the Winnipeg Jets.  That leaves the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Central Division of the Western Conference with Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg. The Central Division remains a murderer's row. The only consolation is that the rest of the league has to come through it too.

From the TSN Article:

The existing Northeast division would be expanded to include the league's two Florida-based teams, making a conference of: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Meanwhile, the existing Atlantic Division would gain two teams for a seven-team conference including: Carolina, New Jersey, the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.
The Central Division would be modified to form a conference of Mid-Western teams including: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.
The three Canadian teams from the Northwest Division would join a proposed Western Conference including: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
The realignment is aimed at evening out the travel schedules for all NHL teams with each team playing teams outside their conference twice per year, once at home and on the road.

In the playoffs, the plan is for the first two rounds to be within Division, 1 vs 4, 2 vs 3, with a total re-seeding done with the winners following the first two rounds.

The bottom line is that the CBJ need to learn to win within their Division.  I'm not sure the road to the playoffs got any easier.


Brass, Commie, Calvert and Claude

Derrick Brassard in a post-practice shooting drill
I've been mulling these topics over for several days, the whole situation, and the discussion concerning Derrick Brassard, of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  In a previous post on this subject I opined that some of Brass' struggles this year were a normal developmental stage, that had been delayed by the dearth of talent in the franchise.  The more I think about it, the more I think some of that is definitely true, which we will explore later in the post.

Late last week, Brassard's agent issued a statement calling out Coach Scott Arniel for Brassard's situation. For the whys and wherefore's of Brassard's Agent's comments, I highly recommend this excellent post over on Ten Minute Misconduct, and the commentary which follows.  This really puts the whole situation in a current context in the NHL.  What I want to do in this post is to explore the similarities between what is happening to Brassard and someone who was absolutely and unquestionably relegated to Scott Arniel's doghouse, big Mike Commodore.

I got a pretty unique opportunity last year, a chance to have a chat with Mike.  This occurred following a childish and petulant outburst in this space (long since retracted).   In our conversation I later characterized this to Mike as a rookie mistake, which was a pretty apt description. He was gracious about my failings, for which I was grateful.  He IS a pretty big guy.  But he had a pretty rough experience at the hands of Arniel, and I think his experience is pertinent here.  So I'd like to discuss his experiences as they might relate to Brassard,without rolling Mike under the bus.  I would like to affirmatively state that he refused to criticize any coach in any way.  This was wise on his part, as hockey is a pretty tight community and that stuff gets around.  Mike Commodore would not comment on Scott Arniel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

DBJ's lingering thought about Game 26: Edmonton

I know we're still a day away from the final game of the Columbus Blue Jackets' Canadian "road" trip in Montreal, but I can't get Friday's Edmonton game out of my head.  And no it's not because the CBJ gave up an inexcusable five goals in the third period.

Nope, it was the overall impression that the Oilers left me.  Surely it was in part because Mrs. DBJ had the TV remote and a DVR that came close to overflowing due to our being out of town, which forced me to watch the game on my computer.  My feed was pixellated garbage - worse than the "waxed paper" look that standard definition telecasts offer on a high-def screen - which rendered my Scott Arniel Lineup Bingo card useless (that and the fact that Jeff Carter was scratched while occupying a square in the middle of my board) because I couldn't make out the jersey numbers.  In many ways, the game kinda felt like I was watching a real-life version of Iriz Pääbo's animated short, HA'Aki:

I mean this in the best possible sense.  Rather than locking in on a player or players (because it was pointless), I sat back and observed the flow of the game.  The bright blue and orange jersies of Edmonton scurried around the ice like waterbugs against the less forceful white, blue and red sweaters of the CBJ.  It was the type of game that Scott Arniel, he of the "unlimited pasta bar offense" of tossing caution to the win and chucking wet noodles - errrrr, pucks - on goal and hoping that some of them stick in the back of the net.  But above all, it was nothing but motion...pushing the puck up the ice, with fast break after fast break coming from Edmonton.

And that's when it hit me: The way that the Oilers were playing was the way that Blue Jackets apparently want to play.  Unlike Columbus, however, Edmonton had the personnel to pull it off.  So it goes deeper than just execution.

The Dark Side (12/4/11)

Things That Make Me Go Hmmmm...

1.  Why did Scott Arniel run Curtis Sanford out there in Edmonton on the second night of a back-to-back roadie? On top of that Sanford had already started eight straight games and, arguably, had started to show some signs of fatigue. The bottom line is there aren't many NHL teams that ask their starting goaltender to pull back-to-back duty on a roadie. 

Some might suggest that Sanford isn't necessarily our starting goalie. If not, isn't that even more reason to sit him in Edmonton and go to a fresh and rested Mason? And if he is our starting goalie, then why treat him like a rented mule? It's a safe assumption that Arniel has no plans to use Mason any time soon. If he does, wasn't Edmonton the perfect time and place to do so?

It makes sense to go with the hot hand. Maybe Sanford is a rented mule and Arniel will have to ride him for long stretches this season. But the dude is going to need a break at some point. So why not Edmonton, on the second night of back-back road games, in a different time zone, after what had to be an exhausting game, physcially and mentally, the night before in Calgary? Desperate times call for desperate measures. But there's a fine line between desperation and panic. Panic is no good (unless it's Widespread Panic of course). 

2. Why did Arniel put Kristian Huselius on the first line in Edmonton? Or I guess the real question is why wasn't Vinnie Prospal on the first line. Kristian who? I vaguely remember him. Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that Huselius is back. Depth is rarely a bad thing. But how about a little game action before throwing him up there? Why take Nash and Prospal out of their comfort zones? And why take most everybody else out of there's as well? On the road. With no time to practice with these lines.

3. Why do the Blue Jackets seem like a completely different (and really, really bad) team in the third period on a lot of nights? It's been a recurring theme this season. The game at Edmonton might be Exhibit A. Despite the fact that Sanford was starting to show signs that he was horse-whipped, literally and figuratively, and despite the fact that it looked like Arniel really was playing lineup bingo, the Jackets entered the third period with a 2-1 lead (yes Alison, thanks to Derek Dorsett). Jackets fans were elated.

And then, rather quickly, Jackets fans were deflated. It really seemed like it was over when the Oilers scored two goals in the third to take the lead, but then we had to watch them score three more.

What is the root cause of these seismic shifts in momentum? Is it lack of heart and desire? Is it lack of skill? I don't think so, or we wouldn't be able to look so good in the first period.  Is it conditioning? If so, we must be the worst conditioned team in the league. Also, how can an entire team of professional athletes start sucking wind individually at the exact same time, the start of the third period. It must be something else.

When it comes to breaking down hockey, I'm admittedly an amateur. But is a degree in hockey theory even necessary here? In any other sport -- football, basketball, soccer, capture the freaking flag, it doesn't matter -- when a team, that was early in a game effectively executing their game plan, suddenly becomes ineffective at executing their game plan, especially when it happens after the player's have emerged from an intermission period, isn't it the coach's fault? Which brings up another question, doesn't it? Hmmmm....

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 26: Edmonton

Double D
The Columbus Blue Jackets fell tonight 6-3 on the road to the Edmonton Oilers, a young team that is looking very explosive.  Following a spirited round of Scott Arniel Line-up Bingo, courtesy of the DBJ, everyone settled down to watch the game.  And now, for the Dark Blue Jacket's 5 thoughts on this game.

1. Fast Start, Fast Finish - The Oil got on the board in the first 30 seconds of the game, courtesy of a Nash penalty.  Curtis Sanford had no chance on Eberle's power play goal.  The Oilers then began a push in the waning minute of the 2nd period that carried over to the third, and salted the win with 4 goals in the third period against the road weary CBJ.  Ryan Jones put together 2 nice goals with 1 bunny for a third period hat trick.

2. The Sand Man - Once again, Curtis Sanford played well.  It kinda fell apart in the third period, in his ninth straight game, and on the second night of a back to back.  But the CBJ lose by double digits if he doesn't shine.  Sanford kept them in the game in the second period with some sterling work, for example, stoning Eberle on a 2 on 1 break.

3. Derek Dorsett - Dorsett didn't have an empty net from a pulled goal tender to shoot at in order to collect his hat trick, so he had to settle for only scoring two goals.  The first, which put the CBJ ahead 2-1, was a beauty.  Dorsett collecting a whiff by an Oilers D-man, walked in and avoided the poke check by the goal tender Dubnyk, and scored the goal into the abandoned net.  The other goal was a put back of a rebound from a Marc Methot slapshot.  It was a strong game by Doors.

Friday, December 2, 2011

You, too, can play "Scott Arniel lineup bingo"!

Those who made it to the bitter end saw it last night: Columbus Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel shuffled his forward lines in the third period against Calgary faster than a dealer in Vegas.  We had captain Rick Nash slumming with the second liners.  We had fan fave (and, last I checked, top scorer) Vinny Prospal grinding with the fourth liners.  We had the player once known as R. J. Umberger pulled up to play with the top liners.

It was madness, glorious madness, and it resulted in a win.

So let's make a game out of it!


Here's how to play:

1. Get a piece of paper and divide it into twelve boxes, three columns by four rows.

A blank Scott Arniel Lineup Bingo card.  Side decoration not necessary
but somehow cathartic.  (And no, that's not an anarchy symbol at the bottom.)

DBJ's thoughts on the eve of NHL realignment

It seems like everyone and their brother is piping in on Monday and Tuesday's NHL Board of Governors' meetings, at which a potential realignment of the league will be on the table.

Puck Daddy offers a concise overview of the two options on the table and suggests a possible outcome.  One is the "swap" of Winnipeg and either Detroit, Columbus or Nashville.  The other looks something more resembling this:

Regardless of the realignment plan, it'll take two-thirds of the Governors - 20 of 'em, meaning no fewer than five from one conference presuming all 15 in the other vote as a bloc - to make any changes.

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 25: Calgary

Columbus 4 - Calgary 3 (Shootout)
7-15-3, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Calgary Flames, ever the hospitable Canadian hosts (They're so darned nice!), gave tonight's game away to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the waning minutes of regulation, setting the stage for a Blue Jackets shootout win, 4-3.

1. BRASS IS FED UP - Because seemingly every CBJ game starts out being overshadowed by the locker room news of the day, let's get this out of the way. Allen Walsh, Derick Brassard's agent, blasted the Blue Jackets and especially coach Scott Arniel twelve ways from Sunday.  In very few words, Walsh said so, so much.  I'm going to have to devote some attention to it  in a separate post, but I didn't want to overlook this important development in the Blue Jackets world.

2. EARLY JUMP - Antoine Vermette got the first goal of the game in the first five minutes.  A nice, messy, close-up goal for Vermette and a statement of intent for this game.