Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DBJ's only pertinent thought on Game 63: Detroit

Detroit 5- Columbus 2
18-38-7, 5th in Central Division, 13 points out of 29th in the NHL
In their first game since the NHL trade deadline, the host Columbus Blue Jackets fell, 5-2, to the visiting Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.

I'm going to dispense with the normal five thoughts on the game to discuss in depth what I feel is perhaps the only pertinent thought as it relates to this game - and the 19 remaining.  First, I'd suggest that you watch this video of today's press conference if you have not yet done so.

If you want to read a transcript, go here.

Let's put aside the obvious question of why the assembled hockey media allowed Rick Nash to have such a softball media availability - including not asking the obvious question, "What personal/career goals do you think that you cannot achieve in Columbus?" Instead, we should focus on that which was said.

Rick Nash has given up on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Theater of the absurd

All of a sudden, the 300-ish people who turned out at the All-Star
Weekend fan protest seem remarkably reasonable, eh?
OK, I get it.  The Columbus Blue Jackets are a mess.  From this fan's point of view, it's descended into the theater of the absurd.  This soap opera has brought embarrassment to the organization, the team, its fans and the community that just bailed the noble but failed private sector-only professional sports experiment out until 2039.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Kobayashi Maru Trade Deadline

The Kobayashi Maru scenario, of Star Trek fame seems to me to be the best description of today's trade deadline activity.  Briefly, the Kobayashi Maru is the fictional no-win scenario that Starfleet Cadets were always forced to face.  To me, a no-win scenario is the best description of the swirl of controversy surrounding the CBJ and their star player, the face of the franchise, Rick Nash.

Part of our role here on this blog is to attempt to provide perspective.  We're not the best at recapping events, per se.  At the close of trade deadline 2012, we know approximately this:

A. Nash was on the trading block; B. It was widely perceived that management had made the decision to trade him, as their most valuable asset; C. the CBJ maintained a very steep asking price for the face of the franchise; D. the offers from the teams on the list provided by Nash did not meet the price that was set, and E. Ultimately, management revealed that Nash asked for a trade back in January.  Ugh.

Any general manager who sets about trading his only star sets himself up to be remembered for ever as "that bozo who traded _______ for only ______, _______, and _____________".  The team of Howson and Patrick did not want to wear that mantle, and refused the watered down offers that did not meet their admittedly high price.  The upshot of this is that you have 20 games left to play with a player you have apparently burned your bridges with.  But have they?

Columbus has a National Hockey League franchise. Really.

As time wore down on the 2012 NHL trade deadline, I noted that the storyline coming from NHL-centric media and other teams' partisans was that the Columbus Blue Jackets "got greedy" and, because of that perceived greed, scuttled the trade of Rick Nash by their actions.

I'm blowing the whistle on this meme.  Two minute minor.  Go to the box.  Jackets on the power play.

Trade Deadline recap

For better or worse, the Columbus Blue Jackets apparently didn't blink on their demands for Rick Nash, and - as of 3PM - will have the Captain around for at least the balance of the 2011-12 season.

Sammy Pahlsson was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for two fourth-round draft picks. (UPDATE: Vancouver tossed in minor league blueliner Taylor Ellington.)

And that's all she wrote.

It's NHL trade deadline day!

Let's kick it off right with a whiff of the smell of victory...

Enjoy the NHL media attention, Columbus Blue Jackets fans, because I have a feeling that it's going to get pretty quiet for a while once the deadline passes.  

I'll be away from the computer during the mid-late morning (Dark Blue Toddler obligation) but will be back in the early afternoon and will endeavor to offer updates as quickly as I can.  

Remember, the deadline is 3PM on Monday, February 27.  I already am hearing that CBJ general manager Scott Howson will be holding a press conference once the deadline passes.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Price is Right - Accountability

This is no time to wonder what's behind
door number 2
The latest word on the twitter-verse is that the New York Rangers are backing away from the demands of Scott Howson, the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The thinking there is that the price of two roster players, their best prospect, and a number one pick it too rich for Rick Nash.  Howson is absolutely correct in standing his ground.  It would be a travesty if Howson was the first to blink, and if he does, he should be promptly fired.  He does not have to trade Rick Nash.  In fact, he faces considerable fan backlash if he does trade Rick Nash, so he'd better have a pretty hefty handful of magic beans to show an angry fan base.  You don't get a player of this magnitude available at the trade deadline.  And what are they buying?  A bona fide shot at a Stanley Cup.  A player who can take over a game, possibly a series.  You SHOULD be paying a lot for a player like that.  Good luck with those Bruins in the playoffs Mr. Slather.

My second point in this brief post is about accountability.  The CBJ do not have to trade Rick Nash at all.  The message has been clearly sent to the locker room.  The results of the 2011-12 season are not acceptable.  It doesn't matter who you are, you are not immune from the fall out.  That, more than anything, is the most important message of all.


DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 62: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh 4 - Columbus 2
18-37-7, 5th in Central Division, 11 points out of 29th in NHL
With tomorrow's 3PM NHL trade deadline looming over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team made its only appearance of the year in Pittsburgh in a losing effort, 4-2 in regulation.

1. WELCOME TO LIMBO - While the game itself was reasonably competitive for 50 minutes or so, you can't look past the elephant in the room, the trade deadline.  The Blue Jackets are already in nuclear rebuilding retooling reshaping mode, with Antoine Vermette, Grant Clitsome and Jeff Carter gone.  Replacing them are Cam Atkinson, Jack Johnson and Ryan Johansen (who apparently has returned from exile to the press box).  That said, the deadline is tomorrow at 3PM and all signs point to the Blue Jackets not being done with personnel moves.  I'm reading internet rumors suggesting that Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Sammy Pahlsson, Derek Mackenzie and perhaps R.J. Umberger might still be in play.

So what to make of this particular game's roster?  "Ummm...it wasn't all bad, what for the one game they played together?"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

CBJ claim Darryl Boyce on waivers from the Leafs

The blog posts will come fast and furious over the next couple of days, so let's dispense with the pleasantries.

The Columbus Blue Jackets picked up center Darryl Boyce from the Toronto Maple Leafs waiver wire.  The 28-year-old Boyce has played in 17 games for the Leafs this season, notching a single goal and a single assist.  The Toronto fanbase and intelligentsia suggests that Boyce is a high-character player, which appears to fit the new roster DNA requirement of Howson 4.0.

Boyce sounds like a fourth liner to me, which leads me to believe that the thus-far current bottom six are going to get shuffled in the next couple of days.  (Pahlsson?  Mackenzie?  Boll?)

Trade deadline weekend - Scouting report

We're in the stretch run as we approach the Monday, 3PM EST National Hockey League trade deadline, so I figured now was as good a time as any to see which scouts have been showing up to Columbus Blue Jackets games.  Tracking scouts offers a level of insight as to which teams might have interest in trading for CBJ players.  Of course, some teams (like, say, Detroit) probably are showing up for competitive reasons.

As of last night, here are the scouts.  Remember, the number listed per game represents the number of scouts that were present at that specific game (as in, the Bruins had 3 scouts at the LA game).  The "COUNT" figure lists the number of games where a team's scouts (one or a million, doesn't matter) show up.

What to make of all this?  Here's my quick take:

Friday, February 24, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 61: Colorado

Colorado 5 - Columbus 0
18-36-7, 5th in Central Division, 11 points out of 29th in the NHL
The host Columbus Blue Jackets, in what could arguably be called the first preseason game of the 2012-13 season, lost to the visiting Colorado Avalanche, 5-0, in regulation.

1. COLORADO GIVES COLUMBUS FITS - Since Scott Arniel took over as coach of the Blue Jackets, Colorado is 5-1 against the CBJ.  They play a speed game (Note: A discernible identity!) that, for whatever reason, the Jackets just can't beat.  What's even more impressive about it is that Colorado has been able to rotate a few players in - such as super-rookie Gabriel Landeskog or trade deadline acquisition Steve Downie - who, because they fit the Colorado skill profile, just plug in and go.  What I'd give for a setup like that.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson deal

First, Scott Howson:

Carter to LA for Jack Johnson.

Antoine Vermette and Derek Dorsett
A trade popped while I was working on this.  Read down.

Update:  It has been announced that Jeff Carter has been traded to the LA Kings for Jack Johnson and a 1st round pick.

I've got to confess that I am not enjoying the spectacle of the Columbus Blue Jackets getting blown up.  Normally the trade deadline is exciting, but after the excitement of the off season to be at this cross roads is very disheartening.  On the other hand, clarity is often gained at a cost, and the price this team has paid in 2011-12 has been high.  A core of players has been assembled.  It is clear that this core of players will be unable to find success as a group, in spite of their individual talents.  So what then?

Antoine Vermette has been moved, in the first move of what may be many.  Many fans are upset that Vermette did not bring back more in exchange for his services.  If you are in that camp, I highly suggest this excellent post by our partner in crime Greg over on Full Mental Jackets.  I got a great deal of clarity from that post, and feel better about the price we got for Vermette.  And Greg's post also made me reflect on Nash.

Rick Nash is an asset.  Pure and simple.  If you want to change the core of your team, you need assets to do so, and Rick is a big asset.  So is Jeff Carter.  Word on the street this moment is that Carter may go for Jack Johnson and a number one pick.  And the character of the CBJ changes.  Whoops.  It just popped.  Dave Maetzold just tweeted its a done deal.  Does this set the price for Nash?  No details yet.  But since I'm here, working on this, I'm gonna push the publish button.  Sure hope its right!  (don't you love the information age)

It was one great game...

...but the season has 82 games.

What an incredible Blue Jackets victory looks like from
the camera of a two-and-a-half year old
I'm still reeling.  Not from the Antoine Vermette trade but rather the blitz of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. For my money, that was one of the more impressive offensive performances that I've ever seen from the Columbus Blue Jackets.  It was one of those games where the stars actually shone (instead of the grinders covering for the stars), and where the suspect defense and goaltending was good enough to keep the game from being a high-scoring nailbiter shootout.  As I wrote, it was enough to make you wonder if this was a case of right roster, wrong coach.

But it was just one game.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Au revoir, Antoine

Antoine Vermette is now a
Phoenix Coyote
Back before the 2010-11 season - what I now affectionately refer to as the Salad Days of my CBJ fanhood - I wrote a blissfully optimistic piece about Antoine Vermette and how he was on the cusp of being a true number one center in the National Hockey League.

It never came to pass.

These days, Vermette was more likely to be seen playing on the third line or pulling a nifty play like this:

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 60: San Jose

Columbus 6 - San Jose 3
18-35-7, 30th in National Hockey League, 9 points out of 29th
With the trade deadline looming over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Boys in Union Blue suited up to host the San Jose Sharks tonight.  The CBJ won in convincing fashion, 6-3, in regulation.

It's been a while since I've written a happy postgame blog post, so bear with me as I find my sea legs.

"Yup.  I'm fixing the Columbus Blue Jackets."
1. YOUR COLUMBUS BI-POLAR JACKETS! - Look, I'm not complaining.  Well, not that much.  Considering where this team started the season, getting to "One game on, one game off" is a monumental feat.  And boy, were they ON tonight!  Dropping two goals on the Sharks in the first ten minutes - and putting another couple in before the end of the first period, the Blue Jackets came out strong, took control of the game and never really let the Sharks back into it.  Six goals in total, three of which came from a fantastic power play.  It was like the polar opposite of this past weekend's Chicago game, and I LOVED it.

Honestly, I take the slow and steady improvement seen under Todd Richards (5-4-1 in the last ten, not bad considering the season) as essentially un-learning whatever Scott Arniel was feeding them for the year and a half of his reign of error.  Which begs the question: Was the Howson-assembled roster that we saw tonight capable of this type of performance all season long...but for the presence of a terrible coach who is no longer in town?  And if that was the case, why in the world did Howson not recognize Arniel's shortcomings sooner and make a move to salvage the season?

Enough bellyaching.  It was a helluva game, and the guys who made it happen deserve a hearty applause.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Glass Bangers, 2/21/12

THE MOST UNFORTUNATE OF ROAD SHOWS - I've been cringing for the last few days at the reports that Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson (sometimes with senior advisor Craig Patrick) have been travelling to the likes of New York and Philadelphia to meet with Flyers and Rangers brass, presumably to discuss trade deadline deals involving Blue Jackets roster players.  The web scuttlebutt suggests that two of the Blue Jackets' highest-paid players, Rick Nash and Jeff Carter, could be under consideration to be moved before the deadline.

I'm no Howson fan, but I really don't like the optics of this.  To see our general manager literally knocking on other teams' doors to explore ways where the Blue Jackets can be relieved of highly-compensated players...it just reeks of desperation.  As in, "Take my players.  Please!"  Now Howson is no idiot, and he (hopefully!) won't let himself get fleeced with what might be his last two meaningful pieces of trade bait.  Howson's supposed trouble in moving his stars do suggest a larger problem.

This team is not dealing from anything close to a position of strength.  Howson has signed and acquired contracts that are overpriced, have terms that are too long...or both.  The roster is littered with them, and the stock excuse has been, "You have to overpay to get players to come to Columbus."  Is this the point where the accumulated weight of the team's overpayments come home to roost?  Is this roster now so overpriced as to be untradeable...or tradeable only if Columbus is forced to accept lesser value in exchange for a perceived salary dump?

Yes, this is alarmist.  But facts are facts.  The Blue Jackets are not negotiating from a position of strength.

Monday, February 20, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 59: New York Rangers

New York Rangers 3 - Columbus 2 (OT)
17-35-7, 5th in Central Division, 30th in National Hockey League
The Columbus Blue Jackets helped close out Hockey Day in America with a 3-2 loss in overtime to the host New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Yours truly spent the game munching on boneless wings and an appetizer sampler platter with Full Mental Jackets blogger (and DBJ blog writer) Greg May at his Buffalo Wild Wings in Grandview.  Few things hockey-related are better than being the wingman (no pun intended) to such a funny and knowledgeable hockey fan for the evening.

1. THAT WAS RATHER AWKWARD - Rick Nash, being the cool character that he is, brushed off the New York media scrum pre-trade deadline.  Brandon ("I hear Scott Howson has a man-crush on me...what's that like Stralman?") Dubinsky, all but screamed, "Don't make me leave New York!"  Seriously, Dubinsky did say, "It would suck" ... but, of course, that was in relation to leaving New York - not coming to Columbus.  Right?  RIGHT?

Then the two guys had to go play a hockey game against the teams with which they have been linked in trade rumors.  I'm sure that was comfortable.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

CBJ trade deadline watch (real and imagined)

The trade deadline is a delicious time for idle speculation, especially with a team who's on the cusp of blowing itself up and trying to start over at a foundational level.  To make that happen, players have to leave and players/prospects/draft picks have to come back.  It's the ultimate NHL parlor game.

And while I love a good rumor at least as much as the next guy, I started attempting to track the NHL scouts attending Columbus Blue Jackets games - home and away- in an effort to try to figure out which teams were serious about talking turkey with the CBJ and give context to the rumors that I've been seeing and hearing.  Not having a seat in the press box, I have to rely upon reports from media of which scouts were up there.  The reports were a tad scattered at first (hence no reports from the 1/31 San Jose and 2/3 Anaheim games), but they've become much more consistent as we've come closer to the February 27 NHL trade deadline.  Here's what I've recorded thus far (the numbers of scouts at a given game are indicated, but the "COUNT" at the bottom is the number of games attended by a given team thus far - a crude measurement of frequency and severity):

So what to make of this?  Try these thoughts on for size:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 58: Chicago

Chicago 6 - Columbus 1
17-35-6, 5th in Central Division, 30th in National Hockey League
Ever the gracious hosts, the Columbus Blue Jackets helped the Chicago Blackhawks shake off the lingering effects of a recently-ended nine-game losing streak this afternoon at Nationwide Arena.  The Blackhawks thumped the CBJ, 6-1, in regulation.

1.  THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK TICKS DOWN - Perhaps outweighing any significance of the atrocious on-ice performance of the home team was what was happening over in Philadelphia, where CBJ general manager Scott Howson and senior advisor Craig Patrick apparently spent 45 minutes with Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and vice president Bobby Clark in Holmgren's box.

"We believe that the Blue Jackets ongoing, impressive
futility will lead to Armageddon on Nationwide Boulevard."
The Blue Jackets scouts and management have been tailing the Flyers' team plane for a few games now, so it's safe to say that the CBJ and Flyers are likely up to something trade-wise.  If the Blue Jackets are sending their top two hockey people to a single game to chat up their hosts, you have to assume that there's  a lot of smoke hovering over a pretty significant fire.

Is this the fire from a nuclear explosion that will blow up the Columbus Blue Jackets?  And considering the lack of any consistent competitiveness - forget wins at this point, just show me a team that competes - can anyone justify NOT blowing the team up?

Friday, February 17, 2012

CBJ haiku-writing winners of the OhioHealth ticket giveaway

[UPDATE: Without upstaging the winners, I wanted to let those who participated in the haiku contest know that OhioHealth offered up a handful of bonus ticket packages.  IF YOU TOOK PART IN THE CONTEST, CHECK YOUR EMAIL!  You might have tickets waiting for you at Will Call tomorrow!]

First, thanks to OhioHealth for donating the two sets of four tickets to tomorrow's Columbus Blue Jackets-Chicago Blackhawks game (which starts at 1PM, not 2PM...make a note!).  This was very kind of them (and offered them a chance to promote their Physicians Night...errr..Day event).

Second, thanks to everyone who took a few minutes to jot down seventeen syllables over three lines about our favorite hockey team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Some haikus were poignant, some were insightful, some were downright funny...and some weren't really haikus but were enjoyable nonetheless.

Next, thank you to the DBJ blog's regular contributors, Gallos and Alison, for their assistance in sorting through the carnage haikus.  Labors of love, to be sure.  (Greg surely would have participated, but he has some OhioHealth employment-related ties in his family that led him to disqualify himself as a "judge".  Always an ethical one, that Greg...)

The three of us, in reviewing the haikus, noticed three general themes emerge.
  1. The downright loyal fan
  2. The funny poet
  3. The heaping pile of snark and/or bile
Seeing as these tickets were offered by one of the Blue Jackets' biggest sponsors (for whom we have no interest in embarrassing), and knowing that we only had two ticket packages to hand out, we decided to stick to offering our takes on the finest of the first two themes.  

With that, our winner for the "downright loyal fan" theme:

We Fight, We March On
Until a new sun will rise
Fire the cannon loud

And the "funny poet" theme:

a short poem
for an even shorter year
fail for nail

OK, we allowed just a little snark to slip past the goalie.  But it's been that type of year...cut us a break.

(OH JEEZ - Our "funny poet" winner only had 4 syllables in his first line!  But he's already been informed that he won - and we liked the poem.  Someone call Bettman and have him investigate the DBJ Syllable Checker...after the Grammys are over or something like that.  When no one will care any more.  Because that's how the league handles stuff like this.)

Anyway, on to the Chicago game...where the Blue Jackets faithful will apparently witness the triumphant(?) return of Brett Lebda and gather by the cannon on the main level after the end of the 1st period for their regularly-scheduled Tweetup!

OhioHealth wants me to give you free tickets for "Physicians Night"

First, the plug:
The February 18 game is an OhioHealth night to celebrate OhioHealth Physicians. Our main messaging to fans is, “Who says checking has to stay on the ice? Get your check-up off the ice by teaming with OhioHealth. You’ll have access to MORE hospitals, MORE care sites, MORE healthcare experts and MORE physicians!” Fans can search for an OhioHealth physician at http://ohiohealth.com/findadoctor. During the game, fans will learn about OhioHealth physician stats.
Now the deal.  For helping spread the word about Physicians Night (and really, can you not like your doctor?), OhioHealth has given me the privilege of helping distribute two groups of four tickets to tomorrow's Columbus Blue Jackets game.  (CBJ v. Chicago Blackhawks, puck drops at 1PM)  No strings attached - I get your names and pass them along to OhioHealth, who will make the tickets available at the Nationwide Arena ticket office will-call window.

So put your creativity caps on, kids.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

DBJ's first Todd Richards practice: Wow.

It's been a while since the Dark Blue Toddler and I invaded Nationwide Arena for a Columbus Blue Jackets practice (I think our last practice was in early November!), so I figured that today was a great time to do the practice/Arena District lunch/lunchtime Ice Haus skate.  For those parents with time and interest, it's a terrific way to spend time with the little ones.

Colton Gillies.  Smiling.
As for the practice, I've been to one or two under Ken Hitchcock and a small handful with Scott Arniel (Don't think I hit any Claude Noel practices...).  This was our first Todd Richards practice, and it was the loudest, most boisterous, most energetic Blue Jackets practice I've ever seen.  By far the most positive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Howson 4.0

or, "Why Steven Covey surely facepalms over the Columbus Blue Jackets"

Steven Covey
While the winds of change blow across Nationwide Boulevard, I've been silent on the blog.  It's not that I don't have anything to say...more a case of having too much to say and not being able to find words that accurately express my views.  I suppose this is what writer's block feels like.  Bear with me.

One thought with which I think I can develop a meaningful commentary is that of the meta picture that is the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Specifically, the ever-evolving notion of organizational identity for my favorite hockey club.

So why the Covey reference at the beginning of this post?  Simple.  Steven Covey, one of America's great business/life coaches and author of a worldwide bestselling book entitled "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", suggested - wait for it - seven habits upon which one could make their lives happier and thus more fulfilling.  The first of the seven habits is foundational:

"Begin with the end in mind."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DBJs 5 Thoughts on Game 57. St. Louis.

Well friends, Alison here. Back to back game recaps from yours truly and I am proud to say I got my wish from last recap - it was Valentine's all around for Blue Jackets fans as they sent the St. Louis Blues home in a 2-1 loss, with the only thing that was the color of love being Hitch's face. The victory brings the Jackets to 16 wins on the season, but more interestingly, 4 wins out of the last 6 games (we're ignoring that LA game).

This game was good hockey. A grudge match between two teams that don't like each other very much, a battle against a former coach, and a rebuttal to rampant trade rumors. The Jackets came out strong and played 60 solid minutes...which would more than come in handy tonight. So on to our 5 points:

1. A Game of Inches. The first goal aside, every major piece of this game came down to a almost immeasurable means. A goal saved by Wisniewski with teeny tiny bits of the puck not crossing the line, a shot just this much shy of the goal by St. Louis, and two reviewable goals (and non-goals) within the final two seconds of a period - nothing was given easily tonight. Not only did it keep fans on the edge of their seats, it showed that these two teams were fighting it out. The margin of error was so small that coming out on top made the win that much more rewarding.

Monday, February 13, 2012

DBJs 5 Thoughts on Game 56. Anaheim.

Sky Terrace View
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost in a confounding display of hockey 5-3 to the Anaheim Ducks after returning from last night's victory.

The game was also the same night as the official #CBJTweetUp which was not only a lot of fun, but also a welcome reprieve compared to having to focus purely on the activities happening on the ice. It was great to spend time with so many good people and fellow fans.

So here we go, friends.

1. It was all just a dream. Remember how nice it was to see Mason play so well last night? Confident. Slightly creative. Important saves? And then remember how we wondered if those new pads just might help bring back the tiniest bit of "young Mase"? Well forget all that. Tonight was just an abysmal performance. Defensive breakdowns to be sure, and yes, Corey Perry & company had some sick shots, but geesh. That fourth goal off the face-off was absolutely brutal. Soul crushing to pretty much everyone in the arena not wearing a Ducks logo. Its hard to watch this happening...but sadly it is what it is. Like the season, sadly the game was over long before the clock said so.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 55: Minnesota

Columbus 3 - Minnesota 1
16-33-6, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets won their third game in four outings, this time prevailing, 3-1, against the Minnesota Wild last night.

For whatever reason, I got on a "Pulp Fiction" kick during last night's game.  Might as well carry it through to the recap.

1. "We're lucky we got anything at all. I don't think Buddy Holly's much of a waiter." - Of the three recent wins two were against the Wild.  Clearly, the Wild have lost their early-season mojo.  Which is somewhat funny insofar as Wild coach Mike Yeo apparently had some choice words about his team's 'compete level' in the local media and challenged them to play a tough game.  The game was anything but tough.  I'm not sure Derek Dorsett broke a sweat.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Bromancer

Multiple Twitter reports are coming out today that Scott Howson and up to three Columbus Blue Jackets scouts are present at the Philadelphia Flyers-New York Rangers game today.  As I've grown to understand the odd world of National Hockey League player personnel, that signifies a pretty strong level of interest in the players involved in the game.

Surely Scott Howson isn't in Philadelphia today to
grab a cheesteak sandwich.
(To give you the DBJ notion of how I interpret the scout-to-game ratio: A single scout at a game doesn't represent much more than the team keeping up with what's going on around the league.  Two scouts suggests something or someone is of interest to the team.  The presence of the Assistant General Manager and perhaps Craig Patrick suggests there's some heat on the fire.  If Howson shows up, something's definitely cooking.)

While the fun/wiseguy view of this is that Howson is trying to somehow revisit the Jeff Carter-Jake Voracek trade, I'm guessing that not to be the case. Simply put, I'm presuming from all the post-trade scuttlebutt that Philly GM Paul Holmgren moved Carter and Mike Richards out of the Flyers dressing room as a pair for a reason.  Plus, Voracek has 9 goals and 22 assists on the season for the Flyers (those 31 points would place him third on the CBJ point scoring list).  Never mind that rookie Sean Couturier, the Flyers' draftee with the CBJ's number one pick from the 2011 draft, has 20 points on his own.  So even if Howson was hell-bent on moving Carter (something I don't necessarily agree with), where's the incentive for Philadelphia to do a "do-over"?

That's not to say that Howson doesn't have a thing for current/ex-Philadelphia Flyers.  Remember, he's picked up Scottie Upshall and R.J. Umberger (via trade).  And while the Umberger and Carter deals prove that Howson can communicate with Holmgren, my money is on the Blue Jackets looking at the New York Rangers roster.

Why?  Two words: Vinny Prospal.

Friday, February 10, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 54: Dallas

Dallas 4 - Columbus 2
15-33-6, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets narrowly avoided winning their third straight game in almost an entire year, falling to the visiting Dallas Stars, 4-2, in regulation at Nationwide Arena.

1. A NEW TWIST ON AN OLD CLASSIC - Remember, back in the day, how Blue Jackets fans instinctively went white-knuckled when the last two minutes of the period hit?  How we all just braced for the inevitable collapse of our beloved Boys in Union Blue?  Well, that was SO Scott Arniel.  With Todd Richards - at least for this night- it was different.  The Blue Jackets collapsed at the beginning of periods!  Dallas scored at 1:35 and 4:21 of the first period and 1:09 of the second to essentially put this thing away (the fourth goal being an empty netter at the end).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Savior is Born in Columbus

Follow me. I will show you the way. Thumbs up if you like chili!
(Cross-posted at Full Mental Jackets by Greg May.]

It's been a couple of weeks since both non-hockey ops president Mike Priest and GM Scott Howson promised Blue Jackets fans some big changes to the roster. Nothing big has happened yet, outside of wild speculation over what part of the locker room the wrecking ball will hit first. Yesterday, the Blue Jackets announced that fan favorite Vinny Prospal has been given a one year contract extension. The move caused a lot of big smiles in Columbus, and more than a little head-scratching as well. 

A lot of people, Blue Jackets fans among them, figured that Prospal was as good as gone come the NHL trade deadline. The soon-to-be 37 year old is in the sunset of a well-traveled career and the assumption was that he would relish the chance to jump yet again to a team that could give him another shot at playoff glory. By announcing the one year extension today, not only did the Blue Jackets and Prospal zig when everyone thought they would zag, they zugged (newly invented word that means to go in a different direction than a zig or a zag) by agreeing to a no trade clause in the deal, essentially assuring Vinny that he won't get Cartered (another new word that means hosed).

There's no denying that this move feels good. Prospal has won over the fans and now the front office with his passion and enthusiasm for the game, his tireless work ethic and, perhaps mostly, his honesty. Having him around another year just increases the chances that science might figure out a way for the Blue Jackets to clone him while he is here.

What's causing people's scalps to itch is the thought that this might just be the proverbial first shoe to drop. All those things that Vinny brings to the table are good things. Really good things. That many assumed Prospal would be dealt at the deadline speaks to the fact that, despite Prospal's age, he was sure to be highly sought after by more than a few contending teams. So if the Blue Jackets aren't selling a quickly depreciating asset when his value might not ever be greater, the question becomes: why not? 

The timing of the move might be suggestive. The Blue Jackets appear to be on the verge of launching Operation Clean Howson. We have been told it will be "big." Is it big as in big R, big N with a big C on the front of the sweater? Forget the rumors du jour, common sense dictates that trading Nash has to be given consideration. Such a move would result in a gaping hole in the leadership of the team. The size of that hole is open to debate, but we can all agree that losing your captain is messy business. The Blue Jackets would need a player with special leadership qualities to step in and fill the void. Ask any diehard Blue Jackets fan who is still carrying the flag and you will be hard pressed to find one that doesn't think Vinny Prospal is that type of special player. 

And if Scott Howson were about to drop that kind of bomb on the fan base, it makes sense that he would announce Prospal's extension now, with a contract that says "he might be here longer than me" -- BEFORE he pushes the button. In fact, given what we have come to learn of the calculated world that Scott Howson lives in, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. 

But if you are Vinny Prospal, no matter how much you want to avoid uprooting your family, why would you want to subject yourself to more of this? Because you are a doer. Because you are a leader. Because you are a fixer, and this is a chance to prove it before you likely enter a career as a coach or scout. Because with a wink and a nod you have been promised a role with the team after your playing days are over. Because the team needs you, the fans love you and you have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on a franchise that so desperately needs and wants a lasting impact. 

Whether Prospal's extension is the first shoe to drop in a massive roster makeover, or simply a wise GM realizing that he can't get equivalent value in a trade for a player that possesses so many badly needed intangibles, Blue Jackets fans are rejoicing today. They can now place their faith in Vinny. They know that with Vinny, all things are possible.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Venit. Vidit. Ipse signati novum contractus.

Vinny Prospal signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract for the 2012-13 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here's the Dispatch story on the signing.

Blue Jackets fans will see Vinny Prospal around the
practice rink for at least one more season
I have quite a few thoughts on this and don't want to confuse, so I'm going to split this post up and address each topic separately.

Good for Vinny.  Despite his somewhat recent slump, Prospal, at age 37, still is a leading scorer for the team (which admittedly isn't saying a lot, considering the team is third-worst in the NHL in scoring, with 123 goals thus far this season).  He's been recognized as a powerful and positive locker room presence by the likes of Derek Dorsett and Ryan Johansen.

To toss $2.5 million - less than the cost of an average NHL salary ($64.3 million divided by 23 players equals $2.79 million) - at a guy like Prospal comes across as a no-brainer to me.  The fear of signing a 37-year-old is easily tempered by the fact that it's a one-season contract.  If it doesn't work out, very little is lost from an organizational flexibility perspective. So good for the Blue Jackets, too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 53: Minnesota

Columbus 3 - Minnesota 1
15-32-6, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets, sporting home ice advantage for the first time in what felt like forever, defeated the visiting Minnesota Wild, 3-1, in regulation at Nationwide Arena.

It was the second time all season that the Blue Jackets had back-to-back wins.  They're now 11 points out of 14th place in the Western Conference.

1. IT'S GOOD TO BE HOME - Good golly, that felt good.  Two-and-a-half weeks with no home ice hockey really stinks.  Worse yet, the away hockey was largely of that dreaded West Coast 10PM/10:30PM start variety.  It was good to be back at Nationwide Arena, back to hear "Leo!", back to hear @CBJ_DJ's tuneage, back to hanging out with friends (this time in the comfort of club level, where I almost got impaled by the Mountain Dew ATV's t-shirt cannon!), back to the last line change...

Glass Bangers, 2/7/12

Then-assistant coach Todd Richards looks on as rookie Ryan Johansen
participates in drills at the opening of CBJ training camp
THINKING THROUGH THE (INTERIM) COACH - I suppose I've seen enough of the Columbus Blue Jackets since returning from my Mayan experience to develop some thoughts on the Todd Richards (interim) coaching regime.  Of course, most of that viewing was somewhere around the time that Craig Ferguson was signing off, so my perspectives were about as cloudy as the gallons of coffee I swallowed the morning after last week's death march.  So let's throw caution to the wind...
  1. The team is playing harder.  It's not happening for entire games, not that I can discern, but the collective team effort is better than I recall seeing under Scott Arniel - at least the 2011-12 edition of Scott Arniel.
  2. Richards has no answers on defense or in goal, but I attribute that to a combination of the roster hand that CBJ GM Scott Howson dealt him and the injuries that peeled back a couple layers of precious skill and experience on the blue line.  
  3. I'm not sure that Richards has answers on offense, either.  Since he took over, the Blue Jackets have cleared the two-goal threshold three times (two four-point games and one three-pointer - all of Richards' wins thus far) - and that includes overtime games.  So effort is great, but it doesn't mean a lot if more goals aren't happening.  
  4. It looks like Richards is applying common sense.  Nash and Carter weren't working under Arniel, so Richards split them up.  Derek Dorsett has actually shown up to play on most every night all season, so Richards slapped an "A" on his sweater as a message to the seemingly blasé locker room.  Derrick Brassard is getting another look as a means to help fire up an anemic offense.  None of these moves were rocket science, but Arniel couldn't figure them out over 50-ish games...so Richards looks good by comparison.
  5. I won't shrink away from the fact that I really, really didn't want Richards on the Blue Jackets staff.  I honestly didn't think that he was going to be a good "veteran" (as much as a two-season NHL head coach can be a veteran) shoulder for Arniel to lean upon, and a guy who proved in Minnesota that he couldn't coach a team through the transition to an up-tempo offense -- OK, well, the Blue Jackets backed off Arniel's "unlimited pasta bar" offense.  A 3-7-1 record isn't helping change my mind, regardless.  
  6. At the same time, Richards appears to have learned from the experience of getting the heave-ho in Minnesota.  By that, I mean attitudinally.  I expected a bag-skating hot-head from what I had read about him with the Wild and instead got a somewhat bemused...observer...of his hockey team. I mean, how many times have we heard this from Richards: "What team will we see tonight?  I don't know."  Of course, that could be the position of a man who is serving as interim head coach and has no interest in sticking around town after the last game.  
So some mild surprises, a healthy dose of circumstances and enough hard facts that suggest that Todd Richards will make the rest of the season interesting...as he keeps the seat warm for the next guy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 52: Anaheim

Derick Brassard with the game winner!
Tonight, er, uh, this morning (Eastern Time) the Columbus Blue Jackets prevailed in overtime over the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on the strength of a Derick Brassard overtime goal.  The win definitely makes writing the re-cap easier, I've got to admit.

1. Typical West Coast Trip - The last time the Jackets visited Anaheim, Scott Arniel got fired following the game.  Probably a fitting end after his snide comment last year after the Jackets swept a West Coast trip, when Arniel said 'what have you guys been doing?'  Well, now you know coach.  Pride goeth before the fall.  Back to the present, after getting pushed off the ice by San Jose, Clock-Gate, when the L.A. Kings scoring at the 60:00:01.4 mark, this game looked like it was following a similar trend.  In spite of the ice, the breaks, and the officiating tilted against the CBJ, they managed to contain the damage, and keep the game close.

2. Power Play - Well I had a pretty good whiny rant in mind when I jotted down this note.  After the first period, the CBJ were 0-2 with 1 shot on the power play, having gone 5 games without scoring on the man advantage.  HOWEVER, with 2:05 gone in the third period, Jeff Carter scored a power play goal off a super sweet pass from Antoine Vermette to tie the game at 2-2.   That goal loomed huge later in the game.  Carter was engaged all night, and played a good game.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Let's look at Derrick Brassard

A fresh start with Todd Richards
has done Derrick Brassard
some good, but how much?
Of all the current Columbus Blue Jackets players to have an opportunity for a fresh start after the reign of error of former head coach Scott Arniel, perhaps Derrick Brassard was doing the most chomping at the bit.  Even the most casual observer could see that Brassard was only to be found somewhere deep in Arniel's doghouse (which, according to Brassard's agent, Allan Walsh, was legendary), an odd place for a 24-year-old former first round draft pick with four years of NHL experience already under his belt.  [UPDATE: For a terrific recap of Brassard's life pre-Richards, check out Andy's fine work at the CBJ Blog.]

Circumstances change, however, when a new coach takes over.  Interim head coach Todd Richards, in his opening comments after taking the reins, promised a clean slate for the players.  While I'm sure everyone had a degree of motivation to start fresh, Brassard had to feel like he finally had a chance.

So how has Brassard done under Richards in comparison to Arniel this season?  I'll suggest that the stats help tell the story.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Glass Bangers, 2/2/12

HUMAN NATURE - From online and offline chatter, it's clear that the circumstances of this season have created a situation where the Columbus Blue Jackets fanbase is increasingly polarized on what I consider to be The Big Question about my favorite National Hockey League franchise and whether/how to address it.

Do you see "No" or "Yes"?  All depends on your bias.
Moving past the question itself, this polarization has resulted in a terrific case study in the application of confirmation bias by many - and I'll throw myself into the mix so as not to imply that I'm above the fray.  I've done a little bit of study in this area and find it to be fascinating.

What is confirmation bias?  The above Wikipedia link does a decent job of summarizing the premise:
Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias, myside bias or verification bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.
Now that we understand on a basic level what confirmation bias is, I'll share that it is the lens through which I've been tracking pretty much all of the dialogue since the All-Star break started.  Those who were opposed to the notion of a CBJ fan protest were vocal in their opposition before and after the protest, pointing out what they consider to be inconsistencies and shortcomings of the protest - both in terms of form and substance.  Those (including me) who were in favor of the protest did pretty much the same thing, just from the other side of the coin.  And both sides actively seek out information which buttresses their opinion and/or tears the other opinion down.

Point being, we've dug into our respective frames.  Because we all know that the Columbus Blue Jackets would never be so naive as to tell us the unvarnished truth on how they perceived the protest, reacted to it and perhaps adjusted their business plan as a result, we're all left to speculation...and the search for confirmation bias.

Which brings me to today's discussions.  And I'll be the first to admit my bias, so bear with me if you don't share my opinion.  Or, if you're really threatened by opinions that run counter to yours, just move along.

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 51: Los Angeles

Los Angeles 3 - Columbus 2
13-32-6, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The "Columbus Blue Jackets Pajama Party Road Trip" out west continued with the second night of a back to back, with Columbus suffering a soul-crushing, literally last-second loss to the host Los Angeles Kings, 3-2 at Staples Center.

1. Groundhog Day - It was a 6-0 shellacking last night, and it was a reasonably competitive game ending in an LA goal with 0.3 seconds left tonight.  Regardless, it was the same result:

2. Carry The Coffee Pot - This 10:30PM Eastern start time is sick and wrong.  It is downright mean to the Eastern team's fans who have to stay up until 1AM to see the end of the game.  Then a back-to-back?  Brutal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

DBJs 5 Thoughts on Game 50: San Jose

Steve Mason Practicing Giving Up Rebounds
Tonight, er, uh, this morning the Columbus Blue Jackets got pushed off the ice by a bigger, badder San Jose Sharks team 6-0 for the Sharks second consecutive shut out.  It wasn't really that close.

1. Rebound Control - Really?  Are you allowed to do that?  Steve Mason's rebound control was brutal. His teammates hung him out to dry a couple of times later, but only after he had given up enough soft rebounds to the Sharks that the game was out of reach.

2. No Offense - All Sharks this game.  The CBJ never really mounted a meaningful offensive possession.  The CBJ barely got the puck out of the D-zone in the first period.  Although the shot totals were only 18-11 at the end of the first period, it wasn't really that close.

3. Chippy Play - Jared Boll probably unwisely woke up the Sharks by going with a pretty high hit on Joe Thornton, for which he received a minor penalty.  Had he not kept his elbow down at his side, its probably a game misconduct.  Joe is a big guy, and I think that Cam Atkinson would have hit him high, as he was nearly bent double.  That said, no problem with the call.  This started a tone of chippy play the exploded in the third period, when Dan Boyle boarded Derrick Brassard  from behind, then decides he should beat the livin' crap out of Brassard when he was offended by the dirty hit. Many of the team tried to respond, but the bottom line is that the Sharks are bigger and badder, and weren't too impressed.