Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bubble Boys Win 5-2

PLD in 2016 training camp
Interesting game tonight.  CBJ bubble boys against the St. Louis Blues bubble boys.  Much like Bob's early season performances, Jake Allen had a kinda soft night in a game that doesn't count.  Motte, Hannikainen and Nutivaara had goals in the first period for the CBJ.  In the second period the Jackets let a few Blues hang around in front of the goal for extended periods, and they both roofed wicked backhands in the corner opposite Korpisalo.  Dubois in the second period, and Kukan in the third responded to the Blues, and the CBJ came away with the win.

In my opinion, both teams waded into the game, as might be expected from a bunch of players on the bubble.  By the end of the third period the Jackets players were really starting to swirl and look like a dangerous hockey team.

My observations.  The cuts tonight will tell you a lot.  Dubois has made the club.  He has the potential to be an effective wing, and if Boone Jenner is healthy could enable Jenner to move to center because there is someone (Dubois) to replace him in his 'get the puck off the boards' role.  In other words, Dubois = replacement Boone, which enables you to do something creative with Boone Jenner.  As long as Boone is ready early in the regular season, that could be good. 

I think Motte and Dalpe make the team.  Unfortunately, for a favorite player of mine, I think Marcus Nutivaara starts the season in Lake Erie Cleveland because if he plays 2 more NHL games he has to go through waivers.  An unfortunate math problem for him, but the notion of Nutivaara and Collins on the top pair for the Monsters kinda warms my heart, and allows Nutivaara to get big minutes and drive play.  He needs to drive play to stay in the NHL, so be hot with that by playing huge minutes in Cleveland.  What the CBJ depart camp with is not how the whole season will go.  Either Ryan Murray asserts himself, or he doesn't, but Nutivaara needs to be hot and ready from The Monsters, so it makes sense that he goes down.  That allows the team to carry an extra forward instead of an extra defenseman, which they will need to do.

The huge question is do they keep Abramov in the slot Nutivaara formerly occupied?  He looks like a real tweener at this point, and I am not sure that going to Europe helps him as much as sitting in the press box in the NHL.  As a young player, you want him to play, but people will get injured, and if he is the next guy up in the NHL, the waiting might be worth it.  He and Sonny Milano are duking it out for this role, and the health of Dubinsky and Jenner is probably the ultimate arbiter of where they end up.  Sonny can go rock Cleveland without waivers, but he has certainly knocked hard on the NHL door, and would be the first guy up in the face of adversity by the parent club.

So the season looms, but the BEST indicator of how this season might go is the incredibly solid play by Joonas Korpisalo in his last two preseason games, the two wins to date.  The notion that the CBJ has a backup goal tender who can be expected to win is foreign to most long term fans, but would be a refreshing change.  We haven't had that since the Sandman (Curtis Sanford) flashed the amazingly aqua pads in relief of otherwise injured goal tenders.  Joonas has the potential to be a determining factor this year.  Think for a minute about the possibility of Torts confidently rolling out the backup on the second night of a back to back, and expecting a win, rather than hoping for a win.  That could take a ton of pressure off of Bob, and I personally believe that is what Joonas Korpisalo will provide this year.  I may be wrong, I have been before, but this could be a key issue regarding a return to the playoffs this year.  I hopefully predict Joonas Korpisalo will have a winning record this year.

What a great time of year, the games don't count.  Soon they will, and we will be on the journey again.  Cuts today and tomorrow will tell us where we are.  And then we ramp it up for the season!!


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Season Looms; 2017-18

The Sweaters are washed and hung to dry, ready for a new year.
Training camp physicals start tomorrow, and the 2017-18 Columbus Blue Jackets season is upon us.  Like all seasons, there are expectations that will not be met, and there are expectations that will be exceeded.  My buddy Bill has a saying he is fond of that goes 'these seasons never turn out the way you think they will'.  I have found this to be invariably true, because if they always turned out the way you thought they would, why play the games?

We go into this year with something different than expectations.  In my opinion, making the playoffs this year is an organizational imperative.  If we want to establish the fact that the organization has indeed moved forward, the playoffs are imperative.  And the road to the playoffs is long, hard, and full of pitfalls.  In many ways we may be counting on the guys who finished second in OT at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament last night.  We may need those guys to rise up if misfortune visits our team.

They made a credible showing, losing the championship game in 3 on 3 OT.  Those things happen in that format.  They played well against a good Chicago team that they jumped early, but Chicago took over in the latter half of the game.  There is a lot of room for growth.

Due to being home yesterday unexpectedly, I had an opportunity to engage in a spirited Twitter discussion with a lot of CBJ fans, but primarily @CapnCornelius.  The subject of our discussion was the contract status of Josh Anderson, with training camp looming.  On its face, this would seem to be a pretty straight forward negotiation.  The Agent is asking for a lot of money because the CBJ reputedly gave up a lot of assets to keep Anderson.  But Josh is a Restricted Free Agent without arbitration rights.  That means this is the one contract negotiation where the CBJ have the leverage.  Josh had a fine first year in the league.  He needs to duplicate that to get the big money.  Holding out of training camp will not help him to duplicate it, but he would be stone cold crazy to go to camp without a contract.  So whats the sticking point?

According to our Twitter conversation, there are a lot more moving parts to this negotiation than you would think.  First of all, the CBJ are still in the running for a trade to the Colorado Avalanche for Matt Duchene, and his $6 million contract.  So money has to go the other way, and what you give Josh has a real impact on how close you are to the cap this year.  And next year the salary negotiations are just going to be awful, with many good players up for contracts and raises.  You cannot go into next year with enough cap room.  The money they give to Josh takes up some of that space.  Pierre Luc-Dubois is eligible for a lot of bonuses under his ELC.  If those bonuses put you over the cap, there are penalties to be paid, and you sure as heck don't want penalty money on your cap next year.  So the Jackets need to know where these chips are going to fall before they can get serious with Anderson's contract negotiation.

That's a lot of moving parts.

Lastly, on the cross-mojozination front, there has been a lot of change in the CBJ blogosphere.  A couple of new sites have been launched, along with the standards the Cannon and Buckeye State Hockey.  A new site called The First Ohio Battery has been launched, and has maintained a good content stream all summer.  I recommend checking it out.  Secondly, in a phenomenon sweeping the continent, a new site called The Athletic has been launched.  This site is a subscription site behind a paywall, but they have gathered a great deal of talent from across the country.  Aaron Portzline and Tom Reed have both left the Columbus Dispatch to write for The Athletic Cleveland, and the content has been outstanding.  If you can afford it, I recommend it.

I'm looking forward to a fun season.  I haven't had a whole lot of angst this summer, and have enjoyed the summer a great deal.  A top five finish will do that kind of thing for you.  But its a new season, and we are tied for first, and tied for last.  There will probably be some separation once the real games start.  For now, we must be content with preseason.  It's gonna be fun!