Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Deadline Moves Resonate

Ha ha! An old pre-Gaborik Letestu,
2013 Training Camp
At the trade deadline Jarmo Kekalainen added veteran depth to the roster at little cost, shoring up multiple parts of the lineup.  Shopping at the untrodden end of the rental market, Jarmo conserved top draft picks and spent mid-draft picks in the third and fourth round in multiple years.  He accomplished two things; he told his existing roster he trusted them and he brought in reinforcements to prop the team up.  For me as a fan, I was really pleased by these moves.

Letestu's story book return to Columbus, scoring a goal, and having an obvious impact in play sets a feel good vibe that hasn't been around the club much this year.  2017-18 is a season burdened with very high expectations, and the young team has seemed to struggle with that weight, while showing obvious potential.  So how do you help?  Add veterans.

In addition to Letestu's positive impact on the fourth line and special teams, Jarmo added Ian Cole and Thomas Vanek, a strong defenseman on one hand, and an accomplished scorer on the other.  For these players, they all come from a situation where their team was out of the playoffs (Ottawa for Cole), to a team that is in playoff position, if tenuously.  For Vanek this is a real opportunity. A new contract is probably less of an issue for him than an opportunity to take a shot at hockey's big prize.

So in the end, I think, these pieces make the Blue Jackets a much more dangerous team in a playoff round.  The playoffs are a different beast, and these veterans bring a variety of experience and talent to the equation that could make the end of this season very entertaining.  And if the rentals don't work out, you fall back on the team that got you this far.  It is a very advantageous position for the organization to be in, as they try to move toward being a perennial playoff team. 

And boy oh boy am I happy for the Letestu family.  Welcome home folks.  We've missed you.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

On the Outside Looking In

Dubois, Anderson and Wennberg, circa 2016
There is something kind of surreal about being a long time Jackets fan, and hearing the phrase "the CBJ dropped out of a playoff position for the first time in a year and a half."  Nonetheless, an unprecedented run came to an end last night at the hands of the Capitals, and the Blue Jackets are not in playoff position for the first time in a long time.  Which, at this stage of the game, is probably healthy.  If there were 4 days left in the season instead of a looming trade deadline, it would be time to panic.  This, however, is not that time.

No matter how poorly they played in January, the CBJ just could not seem to drop out of that third slot in the Metropolitan Division.  Now that they are actually showing signs that they can play hockey, they can't seem to win.  I think it will come though, as they are actually starting to forecheck effectively.  So we will see what happens tonight against the Devils. 

The Jackets have a run of Metro teams to try to handle here in February, so this is a good time to try to win some games.  One of the excuses for not bringing your best just went away though.  Now that they are looking up at playoff position, it shouldn't be too hard to get motivated.  The veteran core is showing signs of life, and Atkinson looks like he is getting ready to get hot and start scoring.  We will see if that pans out. 

The games matter from here on out, which should make for some compelling hockey.  I'm looking forward to watching these games down the stretch.  It should be fun.