Monday, December 31, 2012


Boone Jenner in a common location, in front of the net
By all accounts, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Boone Jenner turned in a whale of a game today in the 2013 World Juniors competition, when Canada defeated Russia 4-1.   Jenner, coming off of a 3 game suspension for lighting up a guy who was skating with his head down (a late hit, no doubt) played very well.  He was dominant in the face off circle, and according to the Twitter feed, at one point killed off ~20 seconds of a penalty simply because the Russians were unable to take the puck back from him.

Jenner's future in Columbus is looking very bright, as he has character stamped all over his playing resume.  Somewhat unexpectedly, he is leading the Ontario Hockey League with 27 goals playing for the Oshawa Generals.    If he can translate even a part of that goal scoring to the NHL level, it will be a huge addition to the team.  I'll bet John Davidson is thrilled to be watching Jenner's performance, as he looks like the type of brick Davidson is planning on building with.  I'll be looking forward to seeing him play in Columbus at some point in the future!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012


John Davidson addresses Season Ticket Holders
I'm still kind of musing about the whole John Davidson thing.  It was good seeing him and the other CBJ folks at the Season Ticket Holder Open House.  There have been good write ups of this event in the Cannon and on Union Blue, so no need for me to try to recap.  But there was one thing that was hugely evident, that John Davidson has the skill set to fill a void that was left in the organization when Doug MacLean was fired.  The role of the front man.  And he's good at it, no ifs, ands, or buts.

And that's a huge thing, no doubt.  But the thing that struck me the most, was his confidence that we would get better.  And when he says 'we won't get out worked', you have to believe him.  I guess the vibe that I got from this is that he has the 'weight' to carry that off.  He is the unquestioned leader of hockey operations.  And he sets the tone.  I don't mean to disparage Scott Howson when I say that I just don't think that sounds the same coming from him.  He could have said 'we won't get outworked', but in the wheeling, dealing, weighing of value life of a General Manager, I'm not sure it makes sense.  I think the dynamics of the last few years would make it very difficult for Howson to make that kind of pronouncement.  It just seems to carry more weight with Davidson, which perhaps it should.  He's the President of Hockey Operations, and that title should have some oomph.  He can tell Howson 'that dude doesn't seem to want to work as hard as we need him to, see what you can get'.  Then Howson has to go make a deal.  So yeah, I think we are gonna have a team that 'won't get outworked'.  And that will sell in Columbus.  It always has.

Frustrated fans at the protest last year had a common refrain that 'real change starts at the top'.  The top has now been changed in a very emphatic way.  John Davidson has great 'hockey' credentials.  He is respected around the league.  And he has been willing to tie his name to the notion that success is going to come in Columbus. And when you hear him talk, you know that is his expectation.  Not his hope, his expectation.  There will be 'curve balls' along the way.  There always are.  

It's easy to tell, whilst prowling the internet, when you see someone who simply has no clue what is happening in Columbus.  They will glibly say that the organization is a candidate for contraction; close Columbus and the southern teams and move them to Canada where they will undoubtedly thrive, because they have looked at the won-loss record.    It kind of makes me chuckle to myself.  They just don't have a clue.  But over the last year the front office has been strengthened like no other organization in the league, with the addition of Craig Patrick and John Davidson.  Those types of moves don't have immediate paybacks, but as time goes on they will build momentum.

In addition, Mike Priest made significant moves to support the arena locally and keep the team from bleeding cash in the lockout.  Clever work, identifying a new revenue stream, then getting the local and state movers and shakers to lend a hand to make the deal work.  Keep in mind that the revenue to support the arena is not dependent upon events, that is just icing on the cake.  So Columbus came into this year shrewdly prepared for the insanity of a lockout (SIGH! Expletive deleted!)

So when John Davidson says to me (and my STH sisters and brethren) 'We will win', I gotta believe him.  It may take time, but for the first time in this franchise's life, we have someone who expects to win at the helm, and who knows how he wants to get there.  And that, my friends, is something of significance.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to All

Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from our band of bloggers.  We really appreciate your continued attention to the expression of our collective hockey problem, and we enjoy the times when you share your thoughts with us.

2012 has indeed been a strange year.  Hold your loved ones close and appreciate them all that you can.  It's hard to tell when the strange twists and turns of life will take the things we enjoy away.  On the joyous side, my compadres have welcomed new additions to their families, so we know that they will have a busy year ahead!

Take care everyone, and here is a Christmas wish for some NHL hockey to grace our lives in 2013!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the Road Again

Joonas Korpisalo is playing for Finland in the WJC
Got a couple of things to wrap up here, so I thought I would plunk this stuff down real quick.  All that schlepping into work every morning paid off as I shut off my alarm, got a little extra shut eye, and was still up in time to watch the 6 AM World Junior Championship Prelim round between USA and Finland.

I felt like USA carried the play in the first period, but kept taking stupid slashing penalties.  Finland managed to can one to take a 1-0 lead.  The Refs missed a quick in-and-out shot for the USA that bounced off the back bar of the goal.  I never saw it, half the guys on the ice never saw it, and the refs did not have a functioning replay system to check it, so it passed as one of those things.  The first period ended 1-0 Finland, and they never looked back.  I thought they carried the play through the second period, especially as USA took more penalties, and they pulled away to a 5-1 win in the third period.  Joonas Korpisalo, our 3rd round pick last year looked VERY solid in net for the Finns in the first period and a half before he was rotated out for another goaltender.

Blue Jackets prospect Mike Reilly, a Minnesota Gopher, and an offensive defenseman is a bubble player for USA, who may, or may not make the cut simply because the US has many of that type of defenseman.  He did a good job of jumping up on offense, but couldn't bury any chances, and was victimized on the defensive side with some bad bounces, once deflecting a shot up over the US goaltender for a goal.  He probably did not help his chances with the WJC USA team, but this is a guy to keep an eye on as he develops.

I was not able to follow the second WJC game of the day, Canada vs. Sweden, but according to Twitter, Blue Jackets prospect Boone Jenner may be looking at supplemental discipline for a hit that injured the shoulder of a Swedish player.  Canada won in OT (or a shoot out, I'm not sure).  The WJC officials may not like the hit, but Jackets fans have to love it.  Jenner is having a great year, and if we ever have any stinking NHL hockey may make a real bid to make the CBJ.  He is a great prospect.
Todd Richards addresses the crowd at the CBJ open house

The real reason I wanted to do this post was to close the loop on the Season Ticket Holder open house last Monday.  In this post and this post I engaged in a good discussion with a gent using the handle of Roadman over the merits of trying to leave our good young talent down in the AHL to try to win a championship down there (hence the title of this post).  I mused if we had the 'organizational courage' to leave them down there.  Roadman disagreed with the wisdom of this choice, and advanced several thoughtful ideas about why taking an alternative approach would be better.  Well Roadman, I never got to ask my question, but I found out the answer.

Pride might dictate attempting to say that we were both right, but a factor that neither of us considered would be the driver in the situation, so in the end, I think Roadman was right.  Having the young talent come in and compete for a spot on the big club is the way to go.  I believe that great benefits would derive to the organization from having the young talent complete what they have started in the AHL.  But even if we made that decision as an organization, and back filled the CBJ roster with veterans, injuries would be the deciding factor.  There is no question that if any hockey is played this year, that there will be numerous groin injuries. The end result is that even if we tried to keep the young guys in the A for developmental purposes, the number of injuries that are a near certainty would force our hand, and we would have to call players up from the AHL.  So the answer to my question is that it would not work, that injuries would force our hand, and so you might as well not try to artificially keep them in the A to achieve a secondary goal in the interest of development.  It just wouldn't work.  Of course, since the players in the AHL will be much less susceptible to that type of injury because they have been playing, they will end up with a good opportunity to play in the NHL.

So there it is.  Another great idea, down the tubes.  Ah well, some times you gotta dream.  Thanks for all the feedback Roadman.  It is much appreciated.


Friday, December 21, 2012

DBJ Wayback Machine: DBJ in the land of the Mayans

For the blog's 1000th post back in January, I trekked to the Yucatan and contemplated life as a Columbus Blue Jackets fan in the Mayan port city of Tulum.

Seeing as we've hit the end of the Mayan calendar, I thought it appropriate to fire up the wayback machine.

Jersey number 21?  On the 21st - the last day of the Mayan calendar?  Coincidence...or not?

Enjoy the read.   And it's been nice knowing all of you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The New NHL

Wait! What?
Well, I attended the season ticket holder open house at the ... ah, man, those *&^%*#s at the Cannon totally scooped me on this!  Dang it!  Man, that Wagner must have the stamina of a camel!  Given the pace of the Twittersphere I might as well be blogging about 14th century politics.  &$^*^%#!!!!  Oh well. Yawn  It was a long night, and maybe stopping back at the R-Bar to lube my throat after a long Q&A session, like the Jacket BackersYawn wasn't such a good idea.  Definitely tired and sleepy.  I can probably stay up ... yawn .. for a bit more.  Stupid lockout.  Snort. Snore.  Fehr....Bettman....Voided contracts......yawn.....snort...have to think.......

Huh?  I must be in a dream sequence (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?)  Where am I?  Oh, this looks like CBJ training camp, 2013-14.  Should be interesting, let's hear what they are saying.

Howsan:  Welcome everyone, to training camp.  Have a seat, I have a few things I need to go over before you start on your physicals.  We'll hit the ice tomorrow.  You are on the hardest working, and most egalitarian team in the NHL!  How about that eh!  Yes sir, without a CBA and all those contracts voided, its really different.  Now the league has asked me to read this statement.  Just a sec.  OK, here we go...

As you know, every player is a free agent this year.  It is the policy of the NHL that no team may discuss with another team its policy for negotiating salaries.  The NHL believes in a free market, and certainly doesn't want to get sued for antitrust violations.  Don't believe what those agents say anyway.

Well, since we know we aren't exactly going to be able to compete with New York and Toronto, who, according to newspaper reports are all ready at $200 million and $210 million in salary respectively, we've decided we needed to take a different approach.  Hoo boy!  No way we can compete with that.  Nope, we've decided that since just about all the other teams rosters are full, you'll be happy to play for our standard, 20 year, $400,000 per year contract.  Just think boys, you'll be making the same amount of money as the President of the US of A!  Yes, I know the contract term seems long, but don't worry, its not guaranteed!  Oh, and don't be thinking you can dog it for a year and get out of that contract, well just send you to the A, because they are all two way contracts.

But just think!  You'll be making the same amount of money as all your teammates!  Well, except for the goal tenders, cause you're screwed without goal tending and they are all crazy anyway.  The good news is we think we can bring payroll in at under $15 million, which means we can slash ticket prices in half, and still be in good shape.  

So we practice tomorrow, then we have a preseason game at Detroit the next day.  Make sure to be here and load your gear on the bus before noon.  What, oh yeah, the bus.  Don't worry about that.  Walt's Sam's outside now making it look mean.  

Plane?  Ha, ha.  Seriously boys.  Where do you think you are going, the West Coast?  Well, no, all that travel stuff was in the CBA, but we don't have one of those anymore.  Where was I, oh yeah, we'll be staying at the Motel 6 in Monroe, but don't worry, we have most of one wing, and I think the crazies all have rooms on the far side of the other wing, so the meth dealers shouldn't bother you much.  This motel is great!  There's an olive garden on one side for those of you looking to go upscale, and a macdonald's on the other for those of you on a budget.  Five star hotel??!!  Ha, ha, ha, are you kidding me??  No, we don't do that any more.  That stuff was all in the CBA!  No, this is one of the finest Motels in the midwest.  And, you'll only be sleeping three to a room!  I'm assuming you'll give the cot to the rookies.  I think you'll find the accommodations clean and comfortable.  Make sure you hit the anytime machine before you leave so you have cash.  What?  Meal money?  Ha, ha, what a bunch of jokers you guys are.

Look, we're paying you as much as the president of the US of A to play a game.  At the rate we're paying this is still the highest paying hockey league in the world!  Well, except for the KHL, but they'll get that figured out pretty quick.  And besides, who ever heard of a bus crashing on take off?  There's lots of guys who would love to make $400 grand a year to play hockey, so if you don't like it someone else will.  

Player 1: I hear Stamkos gets a limo ride to every practice and game!

Howsan:  Of course!  Its freakin' Stamkos.  You're not Stamkos!  And he plays for Toronto anyway.  There's no way we're gonna be able to match what they're doing.  Holy Frijole!  The good news is that our fans get to see them anyway, when they come to play us, but our fans will be paying pennies on the dollar to see them.  A good deal for everyone!

Player 2:  Are we gonna have to see that quack of a doctor you had last year?

Howsan:  Good news boys!  No, you don't need to see the team doctor anymore.  In fact, you're free to go see any doctor you can afford to pay for!  Medical care?  Ha, ha, ha.  Ya, that's another one of those pesky CBA things.  Speaking of pensions, you won't need to worry about that either.  We have a real nice 401(k) you can toss some money in for your retirement.  I understand that if we turn a good profit this year, they may even throw in some matching money.  How about that, eh?!

Well, that just about wraps up today's meeting, any...

Snort, snerk, cough Huh?!!  What's going on?  I fell asleep at the keyboard, and boy, I had the craziest dream....

Disclaimer:  This is a fictional account that does not represent the position of any organization, nor of any person with even 2 neurons firing in their head.  All statements are complete fabrication.  But like all doomsday scenarios, they may contain a grain of truth if you look hard enough.  We are not responsible for any of that.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All hail the NHL's preemptive lawsuit!

You may or may not have seen that the NHL, facing the possibility of a self-immolating CBA negotiating partner in the NHLPA, has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in New York demanding that the NHLPA NOT decertify or "disclaim interest".  That's right: After months (years?) of smacking the NHLPA around like a dead mackerel, the NHL is asking a judge to demand that the NHLPA stick around for further flogging.

Oh yeah, such a declaration would prevent players from suing the NHL for anti-trust violations...and triple monetary damage awards from any verdicts.

As a sweetener for the NHLPA to not go forward with their demolition plan, the NHL suggests to the court that the union stick around as the watermelon to their Gallagher, or...this:
The Lawsuit contains  a request made by the NHL that says if the judgment rules that a disclaimer of interest or decertification by the NHLPA is ultimately found to be valid, then all standard player contracts signed under the previous CBA would be void and unenforceable. 
“In the absence of a valid CBA or collective bargaining relationship, the provisions of the NHL [standard player contract]s will no longer have any force of effect,” the lawsuit reads. 
So, basically, everybody becomes a free agent in that scenario.  Would be wild, no? Plus, would mean that Players have no basis to claim damages, since they wouldn't be under Contract.
Every player contract voided?  Everyone's a free agent?  Really?

Now we're talking!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Storm the Schott!!

The Ohio State Band performs Script Ohio on Ice
The agitators over on Twitter are trying to get local hockey fans fired up and at the game this Saturday (December 15, 8:05 PM start time) for a pivotal CCHA match up between the 2nd ranked Miami Redhawks (5th ranked nationally) and our 4th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.  Wielding the hashtag #StormtheSchott, the Twitterazzi are trying to incite the locals, hopefully to good result.  MISS HOCKEY??  COME OUT TO THE SCHOTT AND CHEER ON THE BUCKEYES!!

The Knucklebucks will be out in force!!
This promises to be a really good match-up.  Last Saturday, Lake Superior State snapped Miami's 8 game unbeaten streak.  Meanwhile, the Buckeyes, after sweeping  2 games from Michigan State two weeks ago, lost to Robert Morris University at home last Friday in non-conference play.  Since the BasketBucks were taking over the Schott on Saturday, the hockey Buckeyes traveled to Robert Morris where they lost in overtime.

While the two losses in non-conference play didn't hurt the Buckeyes CCHA ranking, they do highlight OSU's scoring difficulties.  The Buckeyes will either have to put the puck in the net, or keep Miami off the board in order to win.  Fortunately, they have November Goaltender of the Month Brady Hjelle in net who may well be up for the task.

Miami has Sophmore Forward Austin Czarnik (7g-12a-19pts) and Freshman Riley Barber (7-12-19) who are tied for first in CCHA scoring.  Ohio State counters with 7th place Ryan Dzingel (8-8-14) and 8th place (tied) Tanner Fritz (3-10-13).  The Buckeyes play a tight checking, solid hockey game that Hitch would love under coach Mark Osiecki.  They will have to be at their best against a formidable opponent.  Come cheer the home town boys on!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Question of Courage

In my last post I discussed a question that I intend to try to ask John Davidson in an upcoming season ticket holder open house.  For convenience, I'll repeat my question here: Do we have the organizational courage to leave the young men in Springfield down there to finish the job if there is a truncated NHL season?

One commenter, roadman, raised some really good points.  So first of all, most importantly.  Thanks for reading.  We appreciate it.  Secondly, and nearly most importantly, thanks for taking the time to comment.  I think its important to hear other perspectives, and be able to consider them.  I thought his comments of sufficient validity and weight to want to take some time to discuss them, other than trying to use a cell phone to reply, an inadequate venue, at best.

His first comment went as follows:
But aren't you also selling a number of these young men a little short? Isn't the reason they have worked all these years, to make an NHL team? Some of these guys have already played in the show, as much as a year in the case of Ryan Johansen. Would you deny them their opportunity to earn an NHL level paycheck?

This is a really great comment, and gets to the down side of what I am asking and suggesting.  Of all the people down at the AHL now, the one most affected is Curtis McElhinney.  Here's a guy who has been an NHL goaltender, gotten injured, got traded, and sent to the AHL.  He is a big part of Springfield's success to date, and of all the players down there, probably most deserves an NHL shot.  But I leave him down there, for a couple of reasons.

First, as an organization, we want to see Mac put in a whole season in goal. He's coming back from an injury , sugery (I think), and we want to see if he's good for the long haul.  Second, bring him up for a truncated NHL season, and we have 3 goalies we are trying out, Mac, Bobrovsky, and Mason.  Mason, short of a 0.65 GAA and 0.96 save percentage in extensive work, won't be back.  There is room for Mac to take a shot next year.  If he gets dinged a little, misses some games at the AHL, he has the room to heal up and come back. He gets brought up into a 3 goalie situation, gets dinged, and his career could be done.  Better to have a stable goal tending situation in Springfield, and have Mac ready and able to come up and compete for the number 1 job next year.

Ryan Johansen at Development Camp
Ryan Johansen most certainly played much of last years NHL season, when he wasn't in the press box.  He played the wing, instead of his natural position, center, until the very end of the season, and was a lot less than dominant.  The Johan should have spent LAST year in the AHL, but he wasn't eligible to be there.  The NHL was the only alternative.  He was not exactly dominant, he was a lot like a rookie in over his head.  Right now, Ryan Johansen is exactly where he should be developmentally, playing big minutes on the number one line at center in the AHL, and emerging as a team leader.  Barring catastrophe, Ryan Johansen will have long, and hopefully successful NHL career.  The CBJ isn't going anywhere in the next 5 years without Johansen, and having him in a position to lead his team in a challenge for the Calder Cup will do much more to prepare him for the leadership role we need him to take on the big club than a few more games in the NHL in a shortened season (IMHO).

Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (JAM) are all kind of cut from the same mold.  The are relatively small, quick skill players.  This is not to diminish in any way their toughness, desire, want, you name it.  These guys are good hockey players.  At the NHL level, you MIGHT be able to get away with two of them on the roster, but that's it.  Don't get me wrong, as a fan I love these guys.  Marty St.Louis isn't big, and look what he's done for the 'Bolts, but you also have to line up against the San Jose Sharks 4 to 6 times a year.  Cam and Matt have done time at the NHL level in the past.  Matt's problems at the NHL level are coming close to derailing his career.  Having one of the largest guys in the game jump you in a pre-season game, resulting in an injury pretty much trashed his NHL hopes last year, along with the CBJ's miserable start, and he didn't exactly tear up the AHL last year.  Another year in the AHL for both of these guys won't hurt them, and will add the maturity necessary to withstand the beating they are going to take in the NHL.

The CBJ have not exactly been stellar in player development.  I would argue that to a certain extent that is a function of being an expansion franchise, and the dearth of talent the comes with the turf when you are in that situation.  So pulling on our experience could be doubtful.  The anecdote I would use to support my line of thought is from Ken Holland, the General Manager of the Detroit Redwings.  In talking about the pre-2004-05 lockout maneuverings when the Red Wings loaded up on high priced veteran talent that all were left to walk in the cap era, Holland referred to the luxury they had of leaving Henrik Zetterburg in Sweden to win a scoring title in the Swedish Elite league.  Obviously, that helped Zetterburg's confidence when he came to the NHL.  My argument is that we, as an organization, have to make that luxury for ourselves, and this year, this time, is the time to do it.  Anything these players might gain out of a short NHL season, they can gain in the AHL.

The second really good comment roadman made was this:
While there is something to be said about working together at the AHL level there are also a number of players on the "Big" club that they can be learning to play with as well. They are going to be around them a lot more years than they will most of the guys in Springfield.

I think this is a really good comment, although I would qualify it. In about 10 of our clubs 12 seasons (assuming a truncated season this year is one of them), I think this comment has a lot of value.  In between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons I'm not sure it would be true, due to the amount of turn over in the roster.  Of course the other year that would be true is the 2012-13 team.  There has been a complete overhaul of the  CBJ roster.  No one on this team knows each other, and they have to learn to play with each other on the fly this year.  While its possible the youngsters could integrate well into this chaos, its definitely a risk.

On the other hand, taking a long term view, Ryan Johanson, Cam Atkinson (or JAM or Calvert), Tim Erixon, John Moore, David Savard are almost certain to form the CBJs core group going forward over the long term.  With Springfield sitting atop the AHL in the standings, you have a unique opportunity to imbue your future core with experience with winning.  To be frank, this isn't likely to happen with the big club this year.  Keeping these guys together to forge a winning attitude for the future is a priceless opportunity.

Roadman's other really good comment concerns filling the roster and AHL players on other teams:
You have to fill out the roster, the CBJ will need at least 2 Forwards and 2 Defensemen. and to me you ice the best team you can, anything else is just pure and plain TANKING. Do you really think there are 2 forwards and 2 defensemen out there better than Atkinson, Johansen, JAM, Erixon, Savard and Moore? Should EDM leave Hall, RNH, Schultz, and the rest in OKC? Should Huberdeau stay for seasoning? Would you give Holtby another year to mature? The list is extensive.

Well, to answer your question, yes, we do have to fill out the roster.  I do think  our strategy should be to back fill the roster with veterans who will do as well as our young guys for 48 games.  For instance, you could bring back Jody Shelley, a guy in the last year, of his last contract as a glue guy for the locker room.  He is still immensely popular in Columbus, and you could make a place for him in the organization.  Is he better than our young players over the long term?  Of course not.  Might he not fit well in a shortened season?  Very possibly yes.

Secondly,no, I am not suggesting that it would be appropriate to keep Hall, RNH, and Shultz in OKC.  They don't play for the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, and their situation is completely different.  First of all, OKC is in about 4th place in its division.  Second, you are talking about a bunch of number 1 overall picks.  I'm talking about Blue Jackets players.  What I am saying applies very uniquely to Columbus, and rests a lot on the good work that our prospects have already done this year.  If Springfield was a middling team, or near the bottom of it division, I would agree completely with you.  I am talking about a unique opportunity for these young players to pursue a championship.  We should let them take that chance.

And, in keeping with your comments, I think it is important to communicate this goal to these players.  "The big club is in transition.  Your goal is to try to win the Calder Cup.  We promise to support you in that, and minimize the disruption to your team.  Don't worry, we'll be paying attention".  I also personally think that John Davidson is uniquely qualified to deliver that type of message to these young men, and to inspire them to pursue that goal.  That is a critical part of what I am saying.

Lastly, I'd like to express my deep appreciation to roadman for expressing your comments.  You forced me to explain myself more fully.  I certainly hope you do not perceive this commentary to be negative.  Lastly, you may have noticed that we have this lockout on, and content is hard to come by.  Thank you for the inspiration.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Organizational Courage

One week from tomorrow the Columbus Blue Jackets will be hosting an open house for season ticket holders so we can meet and talk to John Davidson, the new President of Hockey Operations, and Coach Todd Richards.  Being one of them thar nuts who still has his money with the team, in spite of the shenanigans of messieurs Fehr and Bettman, I will get an opportunity to attend.

In the interest of fairness, Mr. Davidson, I am going to telegraph this punch.  Here is the question I am going to ask you:

Do we have the organizational courage to leave the young men in Springfield down there to finish the job if there is a truncated NHL season?

Right now the Springfield Falcons sit atop the AHL standings.  They have the best road record in the AHL.  Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, Matt Calvert, John Moore, Tim Erixon, Curtis McElhinney have all staked varying levels of claim to an NHL roster spot, should we have any kind of season.  What they have done in Springfield is put together a darn good start to the season.  In my mind it is critical to the long term prospects of the CBJ to have these guys experience the whole process as a team.

Indeed, we are very experienced in watching good starts in Columbus.  In 2 of the last 3 NHL seasons the team has put together the best start in franchise history, only to falter in December when the intensity of play picks up.  The opportunity to put together a winner in the AHL, to have the future core of our hockey team experience success is priceless.  Do we have the courage and will to refuse to cash that in for the short term benefit of a truncated NHL season?  Not to mention that having this core exchange assumed success at the AHL level for assumed short term success at the NHL is very self defeating looking at next year's draft.  If ever there was a year to tank a truncated season, this is it (quit winnin' for MacKinnon!!), since we have 3 first round draft picks.

Any hockey season is long, and filled with ups and downs. Springfield has had a mini-slump and emerged.  They will face more challenges ahead as the AHL season progresses.  They should be allowed to experience those challenges as a team, to help establish a tradition of success in the organization.

The CBJ have never had a winner as an AHL team.  The only exception is the epic tale of Zenon Konopka's inspired leadership, and a record setting winning streak to propel the Syracuse Crunch into the playoffs.  Konopka literally chiseled each win into the locker room wall with a screw driver, and dragged that team into the playoffs by force of will.

Our current Falcons team has an opportunity to establish a tradition of success in the AHL that is all its own.  A tradition of winning in the AHL would be a huge asset to the parent club, the CBJ.  These young men should be allowed to have the opportunity to attempt this significant long term contribution to the organization.  But they have to finish the process first, and fight their way to and through the playoffs.

They deserve that chance.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Carp Po Dium

Carpe Diem - Latin - Sieze the Day!

The NHL/NHLPA negotiations took a strange turn last night, when the breaking out of the NHL podium by hotel staff, where Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations were being held, caused a flurry of Twitter activity by reporters covering the NHL lockout.
Thus, this post is dedicated to that podium, which now has its own Twitter account (@NHLpodium), and is a symbol of the vacuous statements that both Union leadership and NHL leadership have treated us to.  Insane stuff, if you are a fan.

In an incredibly foolish moment, I bought into the rhetoric, and have spent the day in an agony over a season in balance.  The optimism!  The 'death spiral'!  Renewed optimism! Oh wait.  There are 20 tweets since I began typing this.  Back in a moment.Ugh.  Back to death spiral.  Fehr coming out with an announcement that the deal is done, and there is 'full agreement on money'.  Bettman comes in and takes it off the table.  Dang.  (Grandma, you owe me on this one for keeping it clean, because its been a long weird day and I am seriously annoyed at this fecal matter of a bovine species of the male persuasion but I promised to keep it clean so...).

Ok, perspective time.  This is a big time Good Cop, Bad Cop ploy by both sides.  Everyone should recognize that.  Bettman called it. 'Good, tough negotiating'.

Recognize this folks.  That's still what it is.  Fehr comes out and says 'We have agreement (except for few details)!  Bettman comes out and says "Fecal matter of a bovine species of the male persuasion!  The offer is off the table".  The bad cop is now in the room.

Prediction - Deal by mid-week next week.  This is process.  Twitter frenzy is all part of that!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I wonder what they're really doing in there?

With the players and owners meeting without Bettman or Fehr in attendance, I wonder what owners and players are really talking about.  My money is right now they are re-writing the lyrics to one of the best songs about self-doubt and recrimination - "Mother" by Pink Floyd.  Or "Bettman" as soon to be released under Anson Carter's record label in the coming future...

Bettman do you think they'll drop the bomb?
Bettman do you think they will return?
Bettman do you think they'll try to break my balls?
Ooooh aah, Bettman should I build a wall?
Bettman shouldn't run for commissioner?
Bettman should I trust the ol’ PA?
Bettman will they put me in the Hall of Fame?
Ooooh aah, is it just a waste of time?

Hush now owners, owners don't you cry
Gary’s gonna make all of your
Lock Outs come true
Gary’s gonna put all of his fears into you
Gary’s gonna keep you right here
Under his wing
He won't let you tweet but he might let you zing
Gary will keep owners cozy and warm
Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe
Of course Gary’s gonna help build the wall

Bettman do think he's good enough - for me?
Bettman do think the contract’s dangerous - to me?
Bettman will she tear your small market apart?
Oooh aah, Bettman will she break my heart?
Hush now baby, baby don't you cry
Gary’s gonna check out all your proposals for you
Gary won't let anyone fighting get through
Gary’s gonna wait up till you get in
Gary will always find out whise
You've been
Gary's gonna keep Toronto healthy and clean
Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe
You'll always be a baby to me
Bettman, did it need to be so high.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The body of evidence builds on brain injuries

A cross-section of the late NHLer Derek Boogaard's brain. 
The great story that the Powers That Be don't want you to hear is finally coming out: Contact sports have the very real potential to cause irreversible, tragic brain damage to participants.  

The New York Times is reporting the results of an article in the scientific journal Brain that suggests that a full 68 out of 85 brains analyzed (using donations from those recently deceased) by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, in collaboration with the Sports Legacy Institute, showed signs of degenerative brain disease.

This is something that, frankly, terrifies me as the parent of a kid who surely will someday want to play sports that Daddy likes to watch - namely hockey and football.  I've been watching this story with increasing concern since trying to put the purchase of my Jon "Nasty" Mirasty CBJ sweater into proper light (also here, herehere and note a few other related posts), and the news is only crystallizing in a direction that I don't think anyone wanted to see.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A happy lockout memory

NHL lockouts are miserable if you’re a fan.  If you have a job in this realm fueled by disposable income, they can have an even greater negative impact on your life.  To most NHL fans, lockouts are miserable because you lose faith in your team and the sport.  But once in a great while, a feel good story will emerge from a lockout.  Marooned players will drop in on a Pee-Wee practice.  Some will use their celebrity status to play in games and events for charity that may otherwise have never happened.  But every once in a while, something special happens at random out of nowhere that one day you will be able to tell your grand kids about – this piece is about one of those stories.

It was October 2004 and the NHL lockout was in full effect.  Players who needed cash were already looking to head overseas to play.  Players that were more financially secure and had kids in school tended to stay put in their NHL cities.  Each NHL team had a group of 8-10 NHLers that stayed in town and worked out together, often renting ice at local rinks a couple times a week.  Columbus was no different as a group of players that included Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Luke Richardson, Jody Shelley, Todd Marchant, Geoff Sanderson, and Scott La Chance would skate a couple mornings a week at the Dublin Chiller to keep in on-ice shape.  These players would reach out to former college and pro players in the area and invite them to participate in these morning skates to keep the competition level as high as possible.  One might image it would be a little more difficult in Columbus, OH to field 30 former NHL, College, and Pro players for a pickup game twice a week.  Well it was, so enter yours truly.

Yes, that's right.
 I lock you out then you have to skate with Morgan.

The wife of one of the CBJ players was on my B league men’s team – she was the right winger on my line, known as the ‘9-1-1 Line.’  If you needed a goal ‘STAT’, you called us.  Back then, I was a B-league stud, much like Jared Boll is today.  6 years removed from competitive play and 5 years before my metabolism would betray me, I still had the goods.  When these NHL pickup games started in October of 2004, pickings were slim in Columbus for talent to fill out these NHL pick-up games. At the time, I didn’t know they existed.  One night after a men’s league game we were having a couple of drinks.  My right wing mentioned to her husband that he should have me come out to their morning skates as the talent was a little lacking.  He, having seen me play, thought it was a good idea.  So a couple days later, after emailing the event’s organizer and making arrangements with my boss to come in a little late the next few Tuesday and Thursdays, I walked into the Dublin Chiller to skate with local NHL’ers for the first of several sessions.

At the time, twitter uber-optimist @johntkemp and I were co-workers.  I had to tell somebody the cool news and told John – he was my E-league prodigy at the time.  Our place of employment was about one mile from the Dublin Chiller.  Word got out to a small group of hockey enthusiasts at work that I was “skating with the Jackets.”  There was more disbelief from these folks than admiration – I guess that’s what happens to a soul when it’s never loved something more than itself.

I am not a star struck person, and while sounding narcissistic, this was not the first time I had stepped onto the ice with NHLers, but it felt kind of cool none the less.  On that first morning, this was just any other session of pick up hockey to me as I walked into dressing room 8.  I plopped my bag down to find Geoff Sanderson and Todd Marchant were getting dressed too.  A couple other guys I didn’t know where in there getting dressed to, their gear subtly hinting at being former pros.  I kept my mouth shut other than to comment on the bionic-like knee brace Todd Marchant wore under his right shin guard.  As I got dressed, Marchant noticed that I wasn’t wearing shoulder pads.  He looked at me and asked, “you don’t wear shoulder pads?”  “No,” I said, “I hate them.”  He said “Well, you may want to wear them, we’re skating against the defensemen” he said as he walked out of the dressing room.  So I pulled off my jersey and put on my decade’s old Cooper Techniflex shoulder pads, completely oblivious to the “we” that Todd Marchant had just said.

I walked out of the dressing room and onto the ice.  It was warm-ups just like before any other game.  I headed over to the bench to drop off my extra stick and water bottle.  Geoff Sanderson had just finished stretching and took a warm-up slap shot from the top of the circle that missed the net high.  “No Slappers!” Marchant yelled over to Sanderson like he had just done something illegal.  Marchant skated over to Sanderson and said, “We couldn’t get the (normal guys) to play in net this morning.  These guys are men’s league goalies. One guy is a doctor that played in college, the other is a fireman.  No slap shots today.”  Obviously, an NHL slap shot was a bit much for these guys.  There were a couple other guys out there taking slap shots on the goalie, none very hard.  I get to a spot on the ice, touched off a slapper into the far corner and I hear, “Morgan!  NO SLAPPERS!”  That was probably the best compliment that I’ve ever gotten.  I still have that shot, I bust it out in the C-league every now and again much to my teammate’s surprise.  Black and Tan till I die, yo.

We started separating into different sides and got ready to start playing.  I looked around the ice and noticed a couple of ex-Columbus Chill guys as well as a couple ex-OSU guys.  I had my custom made pair of Vapor XX skates that sported some crazy flop to go with my contra ban Tampa Bay Lightning game jersey.  I at least looked the part, whether I would embarrass myself was just a puck drop away. There were also a couple people on the ice that had no business being at a normal drop-in game, let alone with current and former pros.  But, like earlier stated, skilled players were on short supply at the NHL pick-up game in Columbus, OH.  I was channeling my former AAA stud self from the early 90’s, hoping that I wouldn’t be a total joke out there as the ‘starting five’ from each side took the ice.  I was one of those five for our ‘team.’  I looked up in the stands to see a couple of my co-workers and Kempy standing there looking down at me in dis-belief – “Gooner” as they called me around the office was on the ice with 6 NHL players.  I really wasn’t paying attention while looking up into the stands, the play started and I found myself back on defense with the play coming into my end.  I was able to win the puck in the corner from an ex-OSU guy and make a breakout pass to Marchant on the half boards, and got the hell off the ice.  I didn’t want to get stuck out there on defense, not at this pick up session. 

Sanderson and Marchant came off the ice about a minute later and sat next to me on the bench. Marchant looked over at me and said “You’re skating with Sandy and me.”  Without even realizing it, I went into that familiar feeling of relief knowing I wasn’t going to be playing with a bunch of slow guys during pick up.  It was that warm pick-up hockey feeling knowing I was playing on a line with skill.  Not that I was skating with two of the fastest skaters in the NHL, but that that my linemates weren’t going to be total hacks.  In retrospect, I’m proud of myself for thinking that.  I was happy to be playing with good skaters and not gushing over who they were.  I am not wired for fandom, but I did relish that first session.

I remember four distinct plays from that very first morning.  The first distinct memory is the ‘quickness’ that Sanderson and Marchant possessed.  I, until very recently, had very good speed and it was largely undiminished in 2004.  On the breakout and entering the zone, I kept up with a hustling Marchant and Sanderson.  But when the play switched from offense to defense on the fore check, those guys were in their spots before I knew the puck had been turned over.  I had speed, they had all-world quickness.  Given the difference in quickness, I found myself in the high slot as they pounced on the puck in the corner waiting to start the cycle.  This led to my second distinct memory from that first morning patrolling the high slot – I was completely snake bit my first several shifts.

You can't have full extension without full recovery.
I picked the wrong morning to pull at Trevor Letowski and not be able to hit the net.  In two consecutive shifts, Marchant hit me with two beautiful passes in the high slot – two of which I ripped wide, two of which I completely shanked.  I still had ‘pick up’ hockey mentality going and thought ‘great, now these guys are never going to pass to me.’  We got to the bench after that second lousy shift, Sanderson sat down next to me, and with a grin said, “Why don’t you stand in front of the net and I can shoot them in off of your shin guards.”  I laughed, he smiled, and it lightened the mood after two lousy shifts.  If nothing else his quip raised my confidence – setting the stage for my third distinct memory; and possibly the dumbest thing I’ve tried on the ice.

A few shifts later, we were breaking in on Luke Richardson and J-L G-P.  I was over on the left side, and Marchant put a beauty of a pass on my tape at the offensive blue line.  In front of me was a mountain of a man, Luke Richardson.  I thought for the briefest of fleeting moments that I could beat Richardson wide.  And why not, he had only played in like 1200 NHL games to that point.  It looked like he was waiting for me to cut to the middle being a right shot on the left side, so naturally I thought I had him.  At the top of the circle I threw a head fake to the middle and went to pull the puck wide.  Before I could even finish my head fake, he stepped into me, threw his arms and shoulder into my chest, put me into the glass, and smeared me for what felt like 7 miles.  I was easily four feet in the air the entire time I was in contact with the boards. My body made contact with nothing but glass – my skates may have touched the top of the dashers as Richardson used me as mortar to fill the gaps in the glass.  The puck dribbled into the corner and Richardson turned to get it – Red Bull sponsored my subsequent return to earth.  I got up to fore check, but not after I looked to the stands to be certain my co-workers had left.   Thankfully they had left and weren’t there to witness me getting plowed into the glass by an NHL defensemen.  I believe you can still see the 25 foot long smear on the glass in chiller 2 just before the Zamboni doors.

Undaunted, I kept skating hard the next few shifts.  I certainly didn’t belong in the NHL, but there wasn’t any reason to think I couldn’t be out there with those guys this Tuesday morning.  My moment of confirmation came two shifts later.  Again, the crafty Marchant hit me with a beauty of a pass breaking up the right side crossing the blue line.  As I crossed the blue line, Scott La Chance was stepping across to challenge me before the top of the circle.  This time I was going to keep my speed.  La Chance stepped up on me before the circle and I was at his 10 o’clock.  As he stepped up, he lifted his stick and opened his legs ever so slightly.  I poked the puck between his legs leaned left, stepping under him and flew by.  The puck was back on my tape at the dot, with La Chance draped on my back hip.  The play happened so quick the goalie was still coming from the other post a little slow to react.  I pulled the puck back and went to tuck it high corner on the short side.  Somehow, in a Cechmanek/Brouder like post-to-post move, the goalie, in a pure act of desperation, got his glove on the puck just enough to deflect the shot over the net.  La Chance had let out an “Ohhh!” as the goalie made a great save, but not before I wrestled the puck form between his feet behind the net to try and salvage the play.  He had the humility to give me an “atta boy” look as we skated off the ice.  I had cleanly, legitimately, and intentionally beaten an NHL defenseman one-on-one.  But like my co-workers will wryly say, “Any defenseman Morgan can beat isn’t long for the NHL.”  Scott LaChance had played 819 games in the NHL before I was able to sneak around him that Tuesday morning.  Some people say La Chance never lived up to his potential, and maybe that’s true.  But he did spend 819 games doing something right and few play in that many games.  As it turns out, those Tuesday mornings would be fleeting for him also - he never again made an NHL roster and retiring from pro hockey 3 years later.

The session soon ended and we headed back to the dressing rooms to shower and change.  I did take a moment to savor this time on the ice.  I had a lot of fun skating with Marchant and Sanderson – who wouldn’t.  It felt good to know I held my own with some speedy skaters. I will always remember Luke Richardson as a machine who methodically tried to integrate me into the glass. Jean Luc Grand-Pierre, if possible, has like negative 8 percent body fat.  Jody Shelley looked huge out there on the ice and was a nice guy.  I was able to make it out there for a couple more NHL pickup sessions, but those kind of blend into one big memory, but I distinctly remember that first day. After those first few sessions, I asked my boss if I could come into work an hour later and stay and hour later every Tuesday and Thursday to skate for the next couple months, he shot down the idea.  Kempy knew my boss at the time and will attest, he was clearly the kind of guy who wouldn’t give you an hour to do something cool like that. You could beat the quarterly goals he set for you, and he would find a way to cut you down while handing you a bonus check.  He was that kind of guy. 

No sir, not found in Columbus.

When I got back to the dressing room after that first session, my “linemates” were undressing.  I was stuffing my equipment into my bag whining to the guys how I had to go to work next.  Marchant then asks Sanderson what he was doing the rest of the morning.  Sanderson replied, “I’m going to go workout for a couple hours.”  My jaw dropped.  We just had a hard skate for 90 minutes and he was going to go workout for a couple hours.  Wow.  It was those words that have stuck with me the most.  I have been around pro athletes all my life.  But Sanderson, during a dismal lockout, skated for 90 minutes and then wanted to go work out for two hours.  He was looking for a contract pending a waiver claim, and even during a lockout, was committed to staying in shape.  That kind of dedication was rewarded unjustly.  Once the lockout ended he was signed to a contract, then he was traded to Phoenix two games into the upcoming season.  No loyalty, no reward for the hard work – that was the front office culture.  The Jackets weren’t very good then, but I wondered how the Blue Jackets could ever remain competitive if they were willing to ship off a work ethic like that.  8 years later, the Blue Jackets are looking to bring that kind of attitude back to the dressing room.  Go figure…

Phoenix via Colmbus #TrendSetter


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Previewing Buckeyes vs Spartans

Freshman Colin Olson usually starts the Saturday Night Game
Tomorrow night, the Ohio State Men's Hockey Buckeyes take on the Spartans of Michigan State, televised at 8 PM on the Big Ten network.  The Buckeyes, currently tied for second in the CCHA, and nationally tied for 8th in defense, are holding opponents to 2.08 goals per game.  In CCHA play, the Buckeyes are holding opponents to 1.62 goals per game.  In the games I've seen, the Buckeyes have played a good, tight checking game.  They minimize space on the ice, and are backed up by pretty solid goal tending.

The Michigan State Spartans are tied for ninth in the CCHA with 10 points (compared to OSU's 15).  According to this real nice article by Neil Koepke, the Spartans have struggled to score 5 on 5.  However, their power play is scoring at a red hot 29% clip, so the Buckeyes will have to play a disciplined game.

Sophmores Tanner Fritz (12 GP, 2-9-11, +3) and Ryan Dzingel (12 GP, 5-5-10, -2) are on 5 game point streaks and look to lead the Buckeye offense.  Senior Goaltender Brady Hjelle, third in the NCAA with a 1.45 GAA and a save percentage of .950, and CCHA Goaltender of the week last week, should get the net Friday.  In the Alaska and Northern Michigan games, Freshman Collin Olson got the net on Saturday night in home games.  He struggled on the road against Lake Superior State last weekend, and Hjelle entered the game in relief during the first period.  Coach Mark Osiecki will have some tough choices to make.

All in all, this should be a really good test for the Buckeyes.  They will look to hold pace or advance in the CCHA standings, while the Spartans are looking to climb.  I think both teams will look to play tight defensively, and capitalize on the other team's mistakes.  This is a game Hitch would love.  No dangling.


(Editor's Note: I am not an NCAA hockey expert. I used this OSU site and this really detailed release from Ohio State Athletics Communications as sources.)

I Knew that Meditation Thing Wouldn't Work

Due to an inability to actual address the core issues that separate them, the NHLPA and the NHL called off the mediation efforts as reported by Puck Daddy.  This doesn't bode well for the possibility of a settlement.

Just a reminder that the Ohio State Men's Hockey Team takes on Michigan State at 8:00 PM on Friday, being aired on the Big Ten Network.  Go Buckeyes!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Power of the Big Ten Network

Tanner Fritz of the Ohio State Buckeye Hockey Team
In a busy holiday weekend on the road for the Ohio State Men's hockey team, the Buckeyes gained a split with Lake Superior State in CCHA hockey action.  Capping a weekend that left the Bucks in a 3 way tie for second in the CCHA with Notre Dame and Ferris State, Senior Goal Tender Brady Hjelle was named Goaltender of the week.  At 15 points, one point behind first place Miami, the Buckeyes are in a good position as the season advances.

On Friday the Buckeyes won 4-1 up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  Maintaining steady scoring pressure, the Bucks scored one in each of the first two periods, and finished off the third period by scoring two goals.  Opening the scoring was 5-10, 195 lb Sophomore Matt Johnson (12 GP, 4 G, 1
A, 5 Pts, +6), with assists to 5-10, 175 lb Sophomore Chad Niddery (5 GP, 0-1-1, +1) and 6-3, 200 lb Junior defenseman Curtis Gedig (10 GP, 0-2-2, +5).    The second period goal was scored by Ryan Dzingel, the 6-0 185 lb Sophomore who has been mentioned in this space more than once.  Dzingel (12 GP, 5-5-10, -2), currently tied for third in scoring in CCHA play was assisted by 5-10, 166 lb Freshman Tyler Lundey and 5-9, 175 lb Junior Alex Szczechura (9 GP, 1-2-3, -1).

The first third period goal was scored by 5-11, 200 lb Sophomore Tanner Fritz, pictured above.  Fritz (12 GP, 2-9-11, +3), one those currently tied at third in CCHA scoring, was assisted by 6-3, 200 lb Sophomore Darik Angeli (6 GP, 1-1-2, +0).    Late in the third period Lake Superior State scored a goal, only to be answered again by the Buckeyes when 6-1, 193 lb Junior Chris Crane (12 GP, 3-2-5, +1) scored an empty net goal, assisted by Tanner Fritz.  Goaltender Brady Hjelle stopped 30 of 31 shots he faced.

What does all this have to do with the Big Ten Network you ask?  Well, I'll get to that, but I also want to take some time getting the links and descriptions of the Buckeye Hockey players down so we could start to get to know them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Oh! Mediation!

Donald Fehr contemplates Nirvana
Today, the NHLPA and the NHL agreed to meditation to try to solve their differences in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.  Yogi Bikchk Swami Win Bhurds has agreed to lead them through his 12 step program of flexibility, focus, and meditation.  It is thought that the use of this program will allow the two sides to see through their differences to a level of total consciousness that will dissolve all barriers to feeding the frenzied masses the hockey that they long to see.

Gary Bettman drinks in the beauty of cost certainty
The use of meditation to solve a labor dispute is a novel approach, yet the sides resolved to 'disregard all earthly bonds in the pursuit of a more perfect existence'.  In the last lockout, the parties were unwilling to take such bold steps towards a more enlightened condition, resorting instead to a mundane, non-binding federal mediation.

Oh!  Wait!  Maybe I misunderstood that tweet!

Oh well.  The NHLPA and NHL agree to federal mediation.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Curse of Elmo

Elmo gazes malevolently down from the rafters of
Nationwide Arena
He first appeared late in the 2008-09 season, after a CBJ road trip.  A production of Sesame Street had been in Nationwide Arena while the Columbus Blue Jackets were on the road, and at the next home game we looked up from our seats in Section 207 and saw the Elmo balloon, looking down at us.

Elmo watched the Jackets struggle through the end of 2008-09, dropping from a 6 seed to an 8 as they staggered through the rest of the season after clinching their only playoff birth.  He watched the most amazing sporting event ever to occur in Nationwide Arena, the rollicking thunder of that playoff Game 4 where the CBJ finally shed the shackles of tentativeness, but too late.  He presided over the shower of beer cans that saluted an untimely 'too many men' penalty in a year when the eventual Cup Champion Penguins were allowed to skate an entire shift with too many men.  And thus, the first ripples of a virulent curse were vibrated through our collective consciousness.

Since that time this Elmo balloon has stared  down at the high, but ultimately crushed hopes of four seasons.  He has inspired December collapses in multiple, years, finally advancing his influence to October, and ultimately, to September of this year, when we didn't even get a chance to start the season.  He has seen a franchise spiral from a playoff team, to a dead last finish in a short 4 years, which includes two coaching changes.  And now, he has managed to even get the All Star Game cancelled from his lofty perch in the rafters.  Yes folks, it is the curse of Elmo that is driving all of our hockey woes.

It is time, oh yes it is time, for the game ops folks to rise up, and unseat this icon of ill-luck and channel of negative karma.  I don't care how many pellet gun shots, or lifts of scaffolding it takes to get him down, but before the puck drops again in Nationwide Arena, this evil force must be removed!!