Friday, October 25, 2019

CBJ ride Has Been a Thriller So Far

Rocky (Cam) and Bullwinkle (Pierre-Luc) combined to score the winner in overtime last night
Like any good ride, the CBJ roller coaster of 2019-20 started with a sickening feeling in your stomach, and that thought that 'this won't end well'.  But after the first two games this team has settled down into playing tight, team hockey, and are getting used to playing in close games.  And as John Tortorella mentioned, they have shown a great deal of resiliency.

I got onto the Rocky and Bullwinkle gag because I'm an old fart, and I remember this kind of stuff.  But the word coming out of the locker room last night, when Pierre-Luc Dubois shed his defender like he was tossing away a dirty tee shirt, and then hit Cam Atkinson crashing the net for the winning goal, was that he was playing like a moose.  Boris and Natasha always called Rocky and Bullwinkle 'Moose and Squirrel", and I just couldn't get over that mental image when thinking about Cam and Pierre-Luc. 

Dubois has been playing physical hockey like he did two years ago when it took everyone by surprise.  I thought he got away from it some last year, but he is back to his strong, physical play again, and he looks very good in the way he is approaching the game.  This isn't the Tom Wilson 'crunch hit' physical, this is a 'move you out of my way' kind of physical that is very impressive in this young player.

Lots of good things happened last night.  Both Cam and Texier, who were overdue for goals scored, and Sonny Milano scored a beautiful goal, making up for a couple of gaffes earlier in the game that put him in the dog house temporarily.  Nonetheless, in spite of being down 3-1, the Blue Jackets hung tight, didn't quit, and tied it up.  They are figuring out overtime as well, having gone from losing 2 overtime games in a row, to winning two overtime games in a row.  As the youngsters continue to develop, this is going to be a low scoring team, but they have shown that they can play the team defense they will need to be able to play to win in that fashion.

So as of now, the Blue Jackets sit two games over .500, and are definitely in the hunt.  There is a lot of hockey to be played, but these last few games have been highly entertaining, and its always good when we win.  Keep in mind that fundamentally, the core of this team are the same guys who ripped off a 16 game winning streak while allowing a goals against average during that time of less than 2 goals per game.  If your GAA is less than two, it means you won a lot of one goal games, and threw in a few shut outs too.  But the Blue Jackets are playing that type of hockey again, which they had a hard time doing the last few years.  But I think they are going to be a good team this year.

It's early times, but this looks like it has the makings of a real fun season that will go down to the wire.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Please Keep Hands and Feet Inside CBJ Ride, Until it Comes to a Complete Stop

Hi folks!  The Columbus Blue Jackets 2018-20 Roller Coaster will start tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  It should be a heckuva ride this year, and we don't really know where it's going.  Personally, I think its going to be a lot of fun.  But expectations are low.

Which is funny, because my buddy Bill always says these seasons never turn out the way you think they are going to.  Realistically, I didn't think I would ever see that last year's team would fear for making the playoffs, and they were nearly diva'd right out of the dance.  Our poor showing after the trade deadline had a lot to do with our diva weight last year, weight that we shed over the off season.  So I like our chances to finish about where we did last year, but who knows?  Have fun with it folks!  New story lines, and new and interesting players should make it a fun year.

Terms of Service
I am a solo blogger, and I do this for fun.  That makes for a certain amount of intermittancy in my posts, as my time may get sucked up by being a working stiff.  I pay for my tickets, I go to the games, and I share my opinion, no matter how misguided.  There's a lot of good stuff out there on the blogosphere to keep you busy reading.  Thanks for taking the time to check in once in a while.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Old School Blue Jackets Approach is New Again

Alexandre Texier
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be faced with an interesting season this year, and one way to view it is as an old approach made new again.  But there are some stark differences in the approach this time around.  In the early days of the franchise, the CBJ often relied on newly drafted young players coming into the lineup to provide a hope for success.  This was due mainly to the paucity of talent in the organization (a dramatic contrast to the Golden Knights).  Derick Brassard is an example of a player that came into the CBJ lineup without a stop in the AHL.  Our desperation level was high at that time.  Sometimes the players fared well in spite of the complete lack of development, e.g. Rick Nash, Brassard, Jakub Voracek.  Other times they didn't, e.g. Alexander Picard.  Nonetheless, these players were looked to for advancing the team's fortunes.

Fast forward to the upcoming 2019-20 NHL season, and the Blue Jackets will once again be looking for young players to advance the team's fortunes, but with some huge differences.  Whereas in the past many of the young players WERE the talent, in the upcoming season they will be surrounded by relatively proven talent.  There were no players close to Seth Jones or Zach Werenski on the old teams, or forwards such as Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Pierre Luc-Dubois of the newly added Gustav Nyquist.  These players are backed with proven veterans such as Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno, so the supporting cast is orders of magnitude stronger.

Emil Bemstrom
The other major difference is that the young players have not been rushed to the NHL, but their development has been allowed to run its course.  It is entirely possible that Alexandre Texier and Emil Bemstrom are not ready for the NHL.  But their development has not been rushed, and it is the right time in their development curve to attempt to take that step.  They will get a chance to prove in training camp that they are ready.

Of course, the biggest story of looking for young players to step up is in the net.  Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikens will man the net for the Blue Jackets this year.  I have always liked Elvis' game, and way back in early development camps I thought he showed he was a great prospect.  Personally though, I am very bullish on Joonas Korpisalo.  Several years ago a read a lengthy article about goal tender development in Finland.  It was in part VI of that article where I learned that Finnish goal tenders tend to have a later development curve.  In other words, they just seem to mature later in contrast to Canadian players.  The takeaway lesson was to be patient in developing your Finnish goal tenders. 

To me, Joonas Korpisalo is at the sweet spot of his development curve, and this is a nearly perfect time for him to ascend to a number 1 net minder.  Keep in mind that while Joonas' stats are not sparkling (2.95 GAA; .897 SV%), his record was 10-7-3.  Keep in mind that if the Blue Jackets back up goal tender doesn't have a winning record, they don't make the playoffs in the tumultuous 2018-19 season.  This is the best record ever for a CBJ backup (McElhinney's 2015-16 record of 12-14-2 is closest) as it is a winning record.  Joonas is going to be ready, and I think he will surprise some people.  And I think he is ready for this.  He has learned all he can ever learn from Bobrovsky.  Now its time to put it to use.

The late Jeff Little used to like to say, "hope is not a strategy".  Unfortunately, hope is all the Blue Jackets had available in the early years.  This time around though, the CBJ have done their due diligence on the development side of the ledger, and have several young players that are ready to take the step to the NHL as a natural progression in their development.  Their level of success can only be gauged in the crucible of play in the best hockey league in the world.  Likely some will succeed, and some will need more time.  However, I hope they all succeed beyond our wildest dreams!


Monday, May 6, 2019

Ya Gotta Score a Goal

Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Boston Bruins 3-0.  Shut out in game 6.  That hurts.  But there it is.  The better team won.  Now we move on.

This was the most successful team in the history of our franchise.  Never lose sight of that.

This is a veteran Boston Club, and the window is closing rapidly on them.  Give them credit for playing like playoff veterans.  We didn't score.  That's a statement on their part.  It wasn't because we sucked.  They were the better team and they deserved to win.  Play better in the regular season, come through the Metro bracket, and this match-up might be in the Eastern Conference Championship.  No slight to Carolina meant.  That's totally on us.  Personally, I'm planning on being a front-running jerk for the rest of the playoffs.  But that's just me.

Congratulations Columbus Blue Jackets!  It was fun to root for you this year.  And we are looking at a tumultuous off season, so we'll have a lot to talk about.  Love you all.

So ends the best season ever for our young franchise.  It was a beauty.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Locked into a Real Series

For the first time in their history, the Columbus Blue Jackets are locked into a real playoff series.  This is a team that has never experienced a game 7, and the odds seem to be that they are looking to add this to their resume soon.  Certainly Boston will not be alarmed if they lose one of these next two games, as their veteran attitude came out in a big way in Game 4.

Tonight's game 5 will be an interesting test for the CBJ.  There are some improvements they need to make in their 5 on 5 game as has been well documented, and need to stay out of the penalty box.  As has been shown in this series, and against Tampa, and really against Washington last year, the fates of the team are fairly closely tied to their power play success.  So here's hoping that Cam has a blistering night on the power play.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.  For us, we will be trying to re-capture the taco magic from Game 1 against Tampa.  It's a long story, but it worked. 

Congratulations to Carolina for advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.  That is a really good story. 

Big game tonight in Boston.  We have to take at least one game on the road if we want to advance.  I'm looking forward to it.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

5th Line Fizzle

Game 3, 2014, when real crowds graced
Nationwide Arena
That was, bar none, the worst playoff crowd to ever attend a game in Nationwide Arena.  Needy, apprehensive, the crowd allowed the Bruins to take them out of the game.  The CBJ did not have the puck luck tonight.  That's hockey.  The crowd needs to rise above that.  They didn't.

Telling the refs they suck is a truism.  Of course they do.  A lightning quick game, played with different unspoken rules than the regular season.  Even the CBJ's lone goal was on a bad call.   Hello folks.  One goal is not enough. 

Tuuka Rask was the better goal tender tonight, or perhaps the luckier one.  We put plenty of good chances on him.  He held his early lead.  This was a predictable performance by the Bruins, and if we want to advance, we now have to win another game in their barn. 

This was a real solid mid-March crowd.  Got some momentum by the third period, left for their cars when the Bruins put the game away.  Really?

I feel bad for the players.  It didn't go their way tonight.  That's hockey.  You have to grapple with defeat.  This is not like college football where you have to be perfect.  No one goes undefeated.  That's why you have to win a 7 game series.  They didn't bank on having a lame crowd tonight. 

It's time to look in the mirror, so-called 5th line.  What do you really want?  Historic playoff crowds have cheered louder when things went bad.  That's our advantage.  It wasn't present tonight.  No wonder we lost.

Bullschitt performance by the CBJ crowd tonight.  The players will respond.  Will you?


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Dubi Calls Me Out; Bread Delivers

After last night's thrilling overtime win in Boston, Brandon Dubinsky was asked about the atmosphere in Nationwide Arena he expected this coming Tuesday.  His response was something to the tune of 'It will be a hell of a lot louder than it was here'.  Challenge accepted Dubi.  Game on!

Second round playoff hockey comes to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday for the first time ever.  It will ooze awesomeness.  I am already getting pumped up.  You don't get that many kicks at this can, and my head is right to leave it all out there Tuesday night.  So thanks Dubi.  I can relax, and let it flow now.

Last night, Artemi Panarin scored two goals.  One of them truly sublime to tie the game up in the third period.  Overall, he played a very good game, but dang, on both of his goals all of his skill was on display.  I'm keeping the blinders on, focusing on this chance in the playoffs.  The Jackets were able to gain a split on the road, and now come home for the next two games. 

I am pleased for Matt Duchene, who I think has played well in this second round.  I think all the players have had some struggles at times in this series, Boston is going to do that to you.  They are a very solid team.  There is a lot of hockey to be played yet in this series, but once again the Jackets are coming home and playing with house money.  This is going to be fantastically fun.

Meanwhile, kudos are due to the Cleveland Monsters as well, who advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs.  The parent club has pulled a lot of talent from there on this run, its good to see the depth that we have down there.  Liam Foudy scored two goals to help advance the Jackets.  That's really good to see.   Jarmo moved a lot of assets to vault the parent club forward, but the Monsters have played tough down the stretch, and done well so far.  Here's hoping they can keep it going forward.

Second round action comes to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.  It will be awesome.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How the Open Scrimmage Helps me Gird for the Second Round

Jarmo Kekalainen's suggestion to open the scrimmage to the public yesterday drew about 5,500 CBJ fans.  I had intended to take some vacation and go; my wife already had the day off.  But I hurt my myself (upper body, day to day) and couldn't go.  But this break, and an event like that are helping me to get my edge back as a fan.

You see, I let it all hang out in that series against Tampa.  The notion of cheering hard when the least little thing went bad meant nothing to me.  The funny part of game 4, is that I don't even remember Tampa tying the game, we were cheering so hard.  Ears pinned back, letting it loose, particularly when things looked like they were going sideways.

For you see, no one could do anything to me that hadn't already been done in an opening round of the playoffs.  The precision of the Detroit sweep, the angst of the Penguins, the crushing losses to Washington, there just wasn't much that I hadn't seen.  The pundits predicted another Detroit-like sweep.  So I had nothing to lose.

But when the CBJ swept Tampa, I was hit with this overwhelming sense of joy and relief.  And I have struggled since then to regain my edge.  I now feel I have something to lose again in this next round, and I have to find a way to let go of that if I'm going to be the fan I need to be in this upcoming round. 

So the rest and recuperation has been helpful for me, after a trying season of fandom.  But I can feel it coming back now, the edge and the excitement.  I'll be ready to take on any disappointments with aplomb, keep my head in the game, and make Nationwide the most competitive environment I can.  I'm ready for it now, and we just need to get this Boston-Toronto game 7 out of the way so we can see ahead.

We pushed hard on Tampa, and they did not have an answer.  Our second round opponent will not be hampered by that problem, and will respond when pushed.  Likewise, we will be called on to do the same.  It is going to be fantastically fun, and I am really getting pumped.  But I needed the break for this one.  So thanks for sweeping them boys!

Round 2 starts later this week.  Uncharted territory.  It should be awesome!

GO MONSTERS!! (up 2-0 in their own playoff series!)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stage Set for Another Epic Game 4

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a somewhat checkered
Seth Jones
playoff history.  But one thing you CAN say about their playoff history is that they produce epic Game 4's when they are in the playoffs.

Game 4 against Detroit in our first ever playoff series, when they came back from multiple deficits.  The too many men penalty at the end that sealed the sweep for Detroit, and the shower of beer cans that followed.  That's called real time performance feedback folks.

The epic game 4 against the Penguins, with Dubinsky's late tying goal, and Foligno's overtime winner replaced the Detroit game as the best Game 4 ever.  What a game that was, and what a moment.

Last year's game 4 saw Columbus waste a pretty good performance by Bob because the scoring had ultimately dried up.  Washington evened the series at 2 games apiece in that one, as their march to the Cup was just getting started.

This year's game 4 may prove epic as well.  The Jackets come into this game with 10 players having scored in the series.  It is to be hoped that the well of scoring is far from dry, and my personal hope is that Texier gets his first playoff goal to add to the list of scorers.   A dangerous and talented Tampa Bay team will come into this game looking to win a game and stay in the series.  For the Blue Jackets, the 4th game is the hardest game to win in a series.  We will get to see if they can rise to that occasion.  A win would be epic, to say the least.

Oh, by the way. There haven't been any epic Game 3's, as our Game 3 misfortunes have usually set the stage for an epic Game 4.  Until last night of course. 

Big game coming up tomorrow, should be awesome!  Maybe even epic.  We'll see where this takes us.

Before I finish, I wanted to note that the Cleveland Monsters have clinched a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs!  Well done Monsters! 

Tomorrow the Blue Jackets go for their first series win.  Fans need to come prepared to battle for this one, I don't think it will end easy.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Unfortunately, The Jackets Must Win at Home to Accomplish Anything

David Savard
BREAKING: Tampa Bay Coach Jon Cooper announces that Braden Holtby will take the net for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight against the Blue Jackets.  Ha ha ha!  NOT! 

The Columbus Blue Jackets stunningly return home today, up 2-0 against a powerful Tampa Bay Lightning team.  It is well chronicled that the Blue Jackets lost the series last year against the Capitals after leading 2-0.  Even the Tampa players are trying to get the Blue Jackets to believe that this is the same scenario.  It is not. 

However, Blue Jackets fans must steel their hearts and prepare for adversity.  We must be prepared to cheer when the chips are down.  Its playoff hockey, and we are part of this fight.  Sometimes it hurts.  Oh, don't we know it.  But don't give up the ship.  Tonight we cheer hard no matter what.

Reverting to the previous subject, reasons why this is not the same as last year's 2-0 lead, it is important to remember that coming back from a 2-0 deficit is a rarity, not a regularity.  Part of the reason that Washington was able to do it so effectively last year, as my little quip above indicated, they were able to re-insert their starting goal tender who had inexplicably lost his job down the stretch.  That completely changed the dynamic of the series, and Holtby got hot and took them to the Cup.  Tampa Bay already has their starter in net. 

Tom Reed, over on the Athletic (subscription required) wrote a good article today about the Blue Jackets needing to create better home memories.  He's right.  But last year, when up 2-0, this was uncharted territory for the Blue Jackets.  This year it is not, and the angst from losing that series last year has simmered all year.  They will not approach tonight's game the same way as they approached game 3 last year.  Tampa Bay is a veteran, experienced playoff club.  They, and the Blue Jackets, know that it is not over until you win four games.  The vibe here reminds me of the 1990 World Series, when the Reds stormed past a powerful A's team that just never got started.  So it would behoove the Jackets to put these guys away.

Huge game tonight in Nationwide Arena.  The Jackets need a home win.  We, the fans, need to buckle it on and bring it, no matter what happens.  We are setting up for another memorable game 4 in Nationwide Arena.  But first, we need to take care of business tonight.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Not Your Big Brothers Blue Jackets; 3 in a Row is a Trend

Wennberg Sits for Texier
The Columbus Blue Jackets have punched their ticket to the playoffs for the third consecutive year.  That, my friends is a trend, and a refreshing one.  Congratulations to the players, coaches, and management for this achievement.  It is colored somewhat by the threat of facing the Tampa juggernaut in the first round. 

And naturally, since I have been critical of Panarin, Artemi Panarin scored a goal, won the shootout on his forehand (his forehand is lethal) and Bobrovsky's stellar play got us into the playoffs against the Rangers.  Panarin continued his good play against Ottawa.  That's fine, I am happy for him, and I am happy for Bob.  Now the real test starts, and now the real evaluation starts.  So they get a clean slate, just like everyone else.

But keep in mind the illusion these two games represents.  Panarin had space to operate.  That space will disappear in the playoffs.  Think back to the Boston game, where every time he touched the puck he was jumped by one, sometimes two Boston players.  That was playoff hockey.  But the slate is clean.

Alexander Wennberg's regular season finally ended with a whimper.  A lost year for him.  He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Alexandre Texier who showed a willingness to shoot, and scored his first NHL goal, thereby getting half of Wennberg's goal total for the year in 2 games.  Ouch.  Wennberg needs a reset.  Well, the playoffs are clean slate, and if he can crack the lineup, he has a chance to make some noise if he decides to shoot the puck.  Hopefully next year goes better for him.

So the second season has started.  All teams are 0-0, and the schedule should drop later today. 

Best of luck Jackets!  No pressure, everyone expects you to lose in 4 games, so relax, have fun, work hard, and play your game.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Notice to General Managers: Beware Panarin

Yvenko, because I don't have a picture of Panarin.
Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets were swarmed under by the Boston Bruins, 6-2.  The Jackets suffered from some bad puck luck early, when an air ball (puck) from behind the net landed on Bobrovsky's back and rolled in the net.  The next goal was a good greasy goal by Boston, and they were playing with a lead from there.

These last few games from the Jackets have seen the puck luck change for them.  The pucks that hit the pipe on the Western road trip went in these last few.  Tonight, they went in for Boston early, most of which they earned, and it snowballed from there.

According to Bob McKenzie, reporting on Artemi Panarin prior to the trade deadline: Panarin is an elite offensive player, who can drive your offense.   To which I would add the qualifier, "unless you really need it".

Tonight the Blue Jackets got down early, through no fault of Artemi Panarin,  Down two goals early, with a playoff berth on the line, Panrin was a non factor.  He launched shots from the blue line, as if he was a defenseman, but don't look for him to get down to the crease and score the dirty one when your team needs it to make the playoffs. 

If I seem bitter about this, its because I am.  He did these things last year.  He won't do them this year, because he is not committed to this place and this organization.  Rest assured Mr. General Manager.  He will be more committed to your organization when you give him the long term money that he wouldn't accept from this organization.  Oh yes.  If you had pro scouts in the barn tonight, you would have seen your year 3 of your 7 year $10 million dollar contract.

Panarin set a record this year for points for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Chances are, Mr. General Manager, the bar is a little higher for your organization.  Don't get fooled by this.  He will have set that record, and we may yet miss the playoffs.

Tonight was a team loss for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  It was not an individual loss.  But there was no ability to come back once they were down.  That's when 'elite' players are supposed to make the difference,  Tonight, they did not.  And I felt, watching the game, that Panarin's effort faded as the game went on.  Boston felt they could physically shove him out of his game.  They succeeded.  That was a much less frequent occurrence last year, hence my frustration.

It will be interesting to see if Montreal makes the playoffs because of Shaw's dirty hit on McQuaid, as he would have been very useful in this game.  That would mean the Player Safety Committee had a direct hand in who did, and did not make the playoffs.   That's a scary thought.  Nonetheless, McQuad wasn't available tonight, 5 days after a blind side head shot that wasn't deemed worthy of a suspension.  And they Blue Jackets coughed up goals right and left near the crease, where McQuad makes a living. 

Bad juju all around.  I'm good though.  I told the beer vendors good-bye, see you next year.  We have a long and close relationship.  With so many passengers like Panarin, it's hard to believe this team can win its way into the playoffs.  In reality, tonight should be treated as a "that's hockey' night.  It was Boston's night, they got some bounces, made some good plays, and came away with the win.  In a seven game series, you figure that will even out.  But the Jackets are not in a seven game series.  They were looking for 'elite players that can drive offense' when they were down 2-0.  You could find them easily.  Unfortunately, they were all wearing the Bruins colors tonight.

Maybe the Monsters will make the playoffs.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Winning The Game in Hand

Boy, what a week.  The CBJ have now won 5 games in a row, and are situated in the first wild card with 3 games remaining.  What a dramatic change from the western road trip, where they seemed unable to do anything right.  They righted the ship in the Vancouver game, and have been playing superlative hockey since then.  Their current style of play reminds me strongly of 'the streak' when they won 16 straight games.  During that time they were allowing LESS than 2 goals a game, an amazing feat.  At present, they appear to have recaptured that mentality, and if they can run it into the playoffs (not yet a done deal) they will be a handful.

I really didn't know a 8 days ago where this was all going.  Well, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, and the rending of garments all ceased with the Vancouver game.  I whined at the goalies.  Bob dropped 3 shutouts in the last 8 days.  Yowza!  He looks very determined.  I am very happy for him.

I whined about Panarin.  He seems to have rediscovered what ever it was he misplaced, and has been playing increasingly effective hockey over the last week.  He is once again hard to take the puck from, and has been incredibly effective.  Props to the Breadman. 

The return of Nick Foligno to the team seemed to steady them.  And Torts may well have found 4 lines he will be comfortable rolling.  During 'the streak', Torts had 4 lines he just rolled.  He would come into the post game presser and say, Naw, we aren't looking for any particular matchup, we're just rolling our lines.  To go far in the playoffs, you need to have a fourth line that will dominate its match-ups.  The Nash, Foligno, and Dubinsky line is doing that, and Torts will throw them out against anyone.  This puts them in a very strong position.

Most importantly, they won their 'game in hand', which is when you have played one fewer games than the other guys.  A game in hand will help tie breakers, but ultimately will burn you if you don't win it.  They went into a trap game against Buffalo, on a back to back, and turned in a very solid performance.  The impact of the game in hand is shown in the standings, vaulting them up into WC1. 

Three games left.  They are all very important.  A tough Bruins game, and two trap games.  It's important to outwork the opposition in each of these games.  They may be able to do that.  This next week will tell us a lot.  More to come. 


Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Student Versus the Teacher; Seth versus Shea

Seth Jones, circa 2016
As the 208-19 NHL season winds down, the Columbus Blue Jackets are on the bubble to make the playoff, after sitting comfortably in the mix for most of the year.  The team has been inconsistent since the trade deadline, and since consistency is one of the hall marks of a contender, they are dropping out of contention. 

After being healthy all year, they now have the injury bug.  As a season ticket holder, I am gnashing my teeth and directing a lot of my anger at Panarin, who appears to be playing to not get hurt.  A guy who was formerly very hard on the puck, is the easiest giveaway in the league now, and absolutely 'not competitive'.  But no, while I feel a lot of anger there, I'm not gonna go there.  Perhaps my interpretation of the situation is wrong (never!).   Perhaps he is injured, and we'll find out later.  Perhaps he is confused by the sudden leadership void.

Nick Foligno is doing what he needs to do, and is not available.  No criticism from this viewpoint, but it does create a leadership void, and a question.  Is Seth Jones ready to make this his team?  If so, he can't tolerate performances like Panarin's?  I saw an interview with him the other day where multiple reporters were asking him about getting in someone's face, or putting your arm around their shoulder.  It does take different things for different people.

These last 8 games are about us and the Montreal Canadians fighting for the 8th playoff spot, and the right to be eviscerated by Tampa.  Any other ship has sailed as of this posting.  Which is intriguing in that it is an 8 game contest of leadership between Seth Jones and Shea Weber.  Jones spent his formative years under Weber's tutelage, and now needs to draw on that experience to lead this Blue Jackets squad forward.  One would think in a short 8 game playoff that the teacher has the advantage there, but the pupil has some tools to work with. 

Make this your team Seth.  And then let's see what happens.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

If You Want To Whine When You Lose, You Have to Crow When You Win

We have watched Bobrovsky have bad puck luck lo these many games.  And in times of weakness, we have blamed the result on the goal tending (meaning me).  This may not have always been fair.  Two posts ago I called for a change in the goal tending, and indeed, Bob got a rest on the away game against Pittsburgh.  But he has been lights out since.  And indeed, before that, review by people I respect, namely Tom Reed of the Athletic thought that all of the deflections that pissed me off were darn good hockey plays, and don't throw your goal tender under the bus for those. (BTW, your dad used to subscribe to Sports Illustrated.  Really, the Athletic is the modern equivalent, and you should subscribe if you can afford it).  So, in many ways, Bob was due a little puck luck.  He got it tonight in spades, with a superlative performance in a crucial playoff Metropolitan tilt, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes.

Tonight the Blue Jackets shut out the Hurricanes 3-0.  I thought the Jaekets' play was reminiscent of Carolina's, where we got ahead early and then stifled them.  Yes they dominated on the shot clock, but they weren't high danger chances, and those high danger chances that they generated, Bob snuffed.  

When I talk about this, I think about the times recently where our defense gave a shooter a bit of space, and they invariably hit the corner top shelf far side.  The Islanders game is a good example.  One defenseman gets space on a blown coverage, he hits top, far corner (instead of pipe) and the game is over.  Tonight we jumped on them early to get a two goal lead, and Bob no longer feared those miracle shots, and stuffed everything accordingly.  Nice work by Bob.

HUGE, HUGE, HUGE win tonight.  We don't know how it will turn out, but our boys played stifling defense tonight.  That's what it takes to win in the playoffs.  A performance to capture in their minds.

Jackets win!  A tough road ahead.  One game at a time.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Dear Boone, Thanks for the New Hat

PRETEND THIS IS AN IMAGE OF BOONE JENNER Because google drive can't seem to pull up the real thing.  It's an old image, from 2016 training camp, but i took it so i have the rights to it without offending someone.  Since I do this for fun, no one is out any money, so its all good.

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Boston Bruins 6-4.  A huge win for the Jackets, and a long journey from my last immature rant after the Winnipeg game.  If you don't like immature rants, go ahead and close the link.  I like to think I am better than that, but I fail to attain that mark sometimes.  In many ways, that's hockey, so I don't sweat it a bunch.  I admit my failings, and move on.  Which is one of the beauties of the game, in a way.  You are forced to confront failure, and rise above it.  There could be no better metaphor for tonight's game.

The Blue Jackets raced to a 5-1 lead based on the pent up shot percentages, and some damn fine play.  There is not a thing wrong with the CBJ play over the last 3 games.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, that's hockey.  The Bruins, being a powerful team this year, substituted in an outstanding goalie in Halak, and proceeded to whittle away at the lead in short order.  It's who they are, it's what they do.

Nonetheless, the Blue Jackets withstood their comeback, in spite of the score closing to 5-4 by the end of the second period.  And Boone Jenner scored the hat trick goal to salt the win at 6-4, and I lost a damn fine hat.

But, I got to go shopping, and found a really sweet black and white CBJ hat.  its a great thing to go Minnie Pearl and go out of the arena with the tags still on your new hat!

I like to think I am a glass half full kind of guy.  I'm not sure its accurate, as far as the CBJ are concerned,  but I like to think it.  We are in an ears pinned back dog fight to make the playoffs.  Perhaps to face Tampa.  If, and I mean IF we make the playoffs, we are going to be playing some really good hockey.  IF we make the playoffs, and IF we face Tampa, we won't be the same team they played before.  But first things first.  Friday, it's Carolina, and we need a win in the worst way.

Okay, maybe it's me, but Duchene, Dzingel and Anderson are kinda scary,  In  a good way.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Three Strikes and You're Out: Time for a New Goal Tender for the #CBJ

Bob Can't Not Give Up That First Period Goal.
Since the trade deadline, one thing has become amply clear.  In spite of great opportunity, Sergei Bobrovsky is not a goal tender who will get the CBJ into the playoffs.  Maybe it's bad karma.  Maybe it's bad luck.  Maybe its that fact that the other goal tenders in the league don't think he is better than they are, and routinely outplay him, ESPECIALLY AT HOME.  I'm not shouting.  I'm not.  Well, maybe...

Before you read too much into this rant discussion; I want you all to recall Philipp Grubauer.  He is the goal tender who carried the Washington Capitals to the playoffs last year.  Then, a motivated Braden Holtby took over the net and carried the Caps to the Stanley Cup.  I think we are watching at least part of this dynamic play out in front of our eyes.  As a long time fan, at this point I have zero (0) confidence that Bob is going to win during the gauntlet of games we have coming up.  I don't think the team does anymore.  My Dad is a big fan of karma, after watching 8 plus decades of sports, and I don't think Bob has good karma.  Good karma is something that can be earned.  It's time for Bob to do that.

It's time to turn the reins over to Korpisalo (hereinafter Korpi) and Kinkaid (hereinafter Kinks).  Jarmo tried to change the dynamic of the team at the trade deadline.  This has yet to play out in the goal tender position, although Jarmo made provision for it by acquiring Kinks.  It is time.  Kinks should get the net against his old mates the Devils, so they can salute him and move on.  It's the right thing to do.  If he wins, he keeps the net against the Pens.  Because he has a winning record against them.  And they definitely won't know what to do with it.  If he loses the away game, Korpi should get the home game. 

In case anyone hasn't noticed, we are in a playoff race now, and it's not going well for the home squad.  Since the goal tender routinely spots the other side a goal in the first period, it's time to change.  The currency to keep the net from here on out is to win.  You lose, you lose the net.  You win, you keep the net and keep playing,   It's time to make this move now.  There is enough time left to let this play out.  But it needs to start now. 

Realistically, it doesn't make sense to even have Bob be the backup.  We need to know which of these two are going to carry us to the playoffs.  If Korpi gets the net with regularity he can be very good.  Kinks is an excellent guy to fill in, but don't wear the tread off.  These next three games should give us a good idea of where we stand. 

The CBJ left the easy points laying on the table by losing their home games.  Sometimes, that's hockey.  It happens.  But right now, EVERY opposition goal tender comes in here to prove he's better than Bob, and backups and regulars have been making it happen this year.  It's time to change that dynamic, and introduce some uncertainty into the calculations of the loyal (but hated, I'm talking to you Pittsburgh) opposition.  Bob has had his opportunity, and I believe he has squandered it.  I also believe he is a pretty darn good goal tender, who can't buy a break right now.  It's time to earn some of that karma.  It's time for the other guys to play in the starters net in practice, because that comfort zone is not serving Bobrovsky well at this time.

Humble pie is a tasteless, sometimes sour, meal that nonetheless must be eaten at times when we least want to partake.  That time has come for Bob.  It's better to have this now, than in the playoffs.  If we make the playoffs, which at the moment is certainly in doubt.  This team is not playing like a playoff team a the moment, and part of it is because the goal tending position is fragile.  And that is awkward at best this time of year.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Dark Blue Basket Case

Sergei Bobrovsky possibly still a Jacket
This is the mother of all trade deadlines for Blue Jackets fans.  We have two of our best players, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky who will test the free agency waters come July 1.  They are major assets on our team as currently constructed, and it is not certain the organization will reap any benefit from the remainder of their contracts other than their play.

To me this is somewhat of a sign of the maturation of our franchise.  Seldom have the Jackets been so newsworthy. 

But none of that really helps this writer cope with the uncertainty.  The next few days until the Monday 3 PM trade deadline could well see a dramatic reshaping of our team.  Or not.  It's all over the board.

Not long ago, Aaron Portzline of the Athletic (subscription required) posted no less than 7 different scenarios on how these contract situations could play out with varying degree of probability between now and the deadline. (Get a subscription if you can afford it.  You won't regret it).  The sheer number of these is staggering, and for a team that would have to play the Tampa Bay Lightening if the season ended today, the magnitude of the potential impact is staggering as well.  This is all really high stakes stuff, and the Twitter feed will get crazy. 

All of which is contributing to me being a bit of a basket case waiting for the shoe to drop.  The good news is that the day after the deadline we get to turn around and play the Penguins, likely with a spot in the top 8 on the line.  But at least at that point we'll know what we have.

Ottawa has declared that Matt Duchene won't suit up for any more games in Ottawa.  He is going to be traded.  The Blue Jackets are rumored to be in on this deal, and if we want to compete for a cup this year, we might well need to add an asset like this.  With the news of Ryan Murray being out for awhile coming out today, it seems certain a defenseman needs to be added as well.

Also on the Athletic, Craig Custance wrote an article called 'Execs unplugged: Behind the Scenes on the Real NHL Trade Deadline'.  This is an excellent article, and Jarmo Kekalainen was one of the executives that Custance interviewed for the article.  My take away from this is that Jarmo is a process guy.  While he has not foreseen the exact scenario in front of him, large pieces of it have been obvious for awhile, or at least the possibility of those pieces.  So Jarmo has done his homework, and will trust that homework as he tries to put these deals together.  Right now, I feel pretty good that Jarmo is the guy to stand up for our organization.  We all get to dissect it with the beauty of hindsight.  Jarmo gets to do it real time.  At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see what was really there.

These are interesting times for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  There's also an old Turkish curse that goes "May you live in interesting times".  Hmmmm.  Well, good news is Jarmo is from Finland, so maybe it doesn't translate that way there.  Best of luck Jarmo.  Go get 'em!!


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Making the Monsters Great Again; The Acceptable Futures Trade for Panarin

The Monsters' Count Down to the Calder Cup
With the big news being Artemi Panarin will go to the post season to evaluate his options, Jarmo Kekalainen must make some hard decisions.  We discussed in the last post some of the consequences of that decision, and the notion that 'losing Panarin for nothing' is a relative term.  As we saw with the Gaborik trade, that can happen at the trade deadline as well as on July 1.  Since a trade deadline deal will almost certainly involve futures rather than a player, you have to ask yourself what type of futures deal is worth making the move?  To me, the easy criteria for evaluating the move is: Does it make the Monsters great?

There are not a lot of teams out there that have the resources to do that.  In order to do my best to see this clearly, I am going to be relying on an article published on August 30, 2018 by Corey Pronman of The Athletic.  Please note that the Athletic is a subscription sports news service, with an incredible variety of awesome content.  If you can afford it, I recommend a subscription.  They have deals out there, you won't be sorry.  In this particular amazing article, Pronman ranked all 31 NHL teams farm systems.  Pronman is the NHL equivalent of @CBJProspects over on the 1st Ohio Battery, except he covers the whole NHL.  So I will use his article to evaluate possible trade partners with the CBJ for the talents of the Breadman, and possibly Bob as well.  Note that Pronman ranked the Blue Jackets farm system as 23rd overall, which I thought was right on the money.  Most of our young talent is in the NHL, and not at the farm.

Two teams that I think might well be interested in Panarin for the playoff push are the Nashville Predators and the Boston Bruins.  They both could use the offensive boost that Parnarin will bring, and particularly in the Predators, you have a team with its sights legitimately set on a Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately for the evaluation criteria I am talking about here, the Predators, as well as Boston, rank behind the Blue Jackets in Pronman's rankings.  Since it seems likely that we will want to focus on center depth, neither team seems to have much to offer that would move the needle for the Monsters, much less the CBJ, even with some patience.

Pronman cleverly ranked prospects in the following manner: Special Prospects (e.g. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo), Elite Prospects (e.g. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver), Legit Prospects, Have a Chance, and Depth Notes.  For comparison sake, Pronman ranked Vitaly Abramov as a Legit Prospect (a fair ranking).  Nashville has a center that Pronman wasn't content to rank as simply legit, but wasn't ready to call Elite, so settled for High End Prospect with Eeli Tovanen, a right wing playing for Jokerit in the KHL.  Not a great match with the Jackets needs. 

Boston has a Very Good NHL Prospect, again a half step higher than a Legit Prospect, but not Elite.  This is a center, Ryan Donato, playing for Harvard in the ECAC.  Pronman had a lot of nice things to say about this prospect.  But does he drive a deal for the Breadman?  I don't really think so.

One team that has potential for a deal, is Florida.  I covet their top center prospect Henrik Borgstrom, whom Pronman rates as an Elite Prospect, but not the finished product of a Pettersson.  They also have a legit prospect at center in Aleski Heponiemi, playing in the WHL.  If you put together a package of picks, with these two prospects, and took their backup goalie in exchange, you might be able to ship both Bread and Bob off to Florida.  They sit 10 points out of a wild card spot, but its still January.  You add Bread and Bob to your lineup, push Luongo to the backup role, and make a run at the wildcard.  It's definitely doable.  A bold move on their part, but I think they have excellent prospects for being able to sign both players.  South Beach baby!!

Plopping an elite Center prospect into Cleveland once his college season is over could have a real impact on the Monsters.  Other prospects would emerge over time.  One of our organizations strengths is scouting, and this is where it has to come to the fore.

It's time to make the Monsters great again!!  And if what other GM's are offering you isn't going to do that, then you don't want to do the deal, you stand pat, and take your medicine, along, hopefully, with the playoff success for the Blue Jackets.  There is talent on the Monsters roster now that still needs development before its ready for the big show, but it is coming along well (e.g. Abramov, Milano, Stenlund, et al).  And reinforcements are coming next year (Elvis will be IN the building!!).  But it would be nice to be able to move the dial now, if you can!



Friday, January 25, 2019

Lessons from the Gaborik Trade

Marion Gaborik back in his CBJ Days
There came a time in the history of the CBJ where it was thought that trading Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline was important because he was an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at the end of the season.  It was considered important to get assets for him instead of taking a dead loss in free agency.  That was the thought.  We'll review the trade in a minute.  The unfortunate reality was that later that year, down a goal to the Penguins late in an elimination playoff game, the guys we had coming down the ice were not 'high danger' guys.  Good players, but not players you feared would wing the puck by you into the net before you could react.  Gaborik is a guy who could do that, but he was long gone, off to win a Stanley Cup with the LA Kings, because he winged the puck by guys a bunch of times in the playoffs.  Now he's dead weight on LA's salary cap, but would you exchange that for a Stanley Cup?  Every time. Errata:  LA unloaded Gaborik on Ottawa.  LOL.  But you get my point.

The point is, when the CBJ most needed a player of that ilk, we didn't have him because we were 'worried about losing him for nothing'.  Jarmo Kekalainen is a pretty astute man.  This lesson did not escape him at all.  Hence the concept of 'renting him to ourselves', a way of internalizing the cost versus the value.  Obviously, all of this has relevance to this year, as we look at possibly renting a couple of high value players to ourselves, potentially at great cost.

But what cost?  Here, looking at the Gaborik trade in depth makes sense.  In that regard I am indebted to Pale Dragon over on the Jackets Cannon who posted this  Ranking of Jarmo Trades.  I've been thinking of this post for awhile, but I was hung up because I couldn't remember exactly what the trade was.  Pale Dragon bailed me out on that regard.  And there is a thread in the comments on his article that flirts with what I am trying to get at here, so I wanted to take a moment to give credit where due.

According to Pale Dragon, we traded Marian Gaborik for Matt Frattin, a 2015 second round pick (Travis Dermott) and a 2014 3rd round pick (Dominic Turgeon).  You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy... Oh wait, wrong epic.  Anyway, Matt Frattin made it to the NHL for 135 games.  That's nothing to scoff at for any old hockey player growing up.  But as a significant piece of a trade for an aging top player?  Meh.  The other two pieces played zero role in the CBJ's efforts to become respectable.  So overall, it's fair to say we got nothing in the trade.  Except for the loss of a scoring threat when one might have been useful.

There were other issues with Gaborik.  CBJ management (JD and Jarmo) were distinctly unhappy with his apparent influence on Cam Atkinson.  The investment in Cam's future (hello Mr. All-Star!) may have made this a great trade in hockey ops balance sheet.  But Jarmo learned this lesson well, and he will be using the experience he gained with this lesson to make tough choices as the 2018-19 trade deadline approaches.

If you subtract Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin from this team, you are certainly going to be looking at situations in the playoffs where their skills will be dearly missed.  Can their skills take you to a new level this year if you keep them?  Only 20-20 hindsight sees this clearly.

I sure hope the Breadman signs.  I love watching the dude play.  The lesson above says, if you aren't getting a large return, you keep him.  Matt Frattin, a second and a third, neither of whom panned out?  If you are going to come up empty, I'd rather take my chances in free agency with Panarin, and reap the benefits of what he will bring to the playoffs.

Bob is tougher.  But I think the market is bad, and you have to have goal tending if you want to do anything, so you keep him, and take your chances competing in free agency.  Likely he'll be gone.  But you have to have him if you want to make any noise.  And the pressure is on him to perform.

Summing up, the lesson from the Gaborik trade is that these guys are probably worth more to you than what you will be able to garner on the open market.  Trust your ability to convince them in free agency, and move forward with your sights on really making some noise in the playoffs.  It won't be easy.  This is high risk, high reward stuff.  But you just gotta take your shot when you can.  And now is that time for the CBJ.  It's going to be a fun finish to this season!!



Saturday, January 12, 2019

Why Hoisting Nash's Jersey Soon Makes Sense

Nash in Todd Richards First Practice.  Another Coach.
Yesterday, Rick Nash announced his retirement from the NHL.  As has been discussed in many venues, Nash holds many records for the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise.  As was also discussed earlier in the year by The Athletic's Portzline, Reed and Lukan, Cam Atkinson is poised to assault many of Rick Nash's CBJ records.

Certainly Nash has been an influential player for the CBJ.  In our first trip to the playoffs in 2008-09, Nash pretty much carried the team the whole way under the able whip hand of Coach Ken Hitchcock.  What is beyond question, is that Nash left everything he had on the ice that year.  The team's reward was to face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings in the first round, on their way to a repeat confrontation with the Penguins.  The exhausted upstarts didn't really have a chance.

Nash just wasn't able to climb that mountain again in later years.  While I should confess to being critical of him at the time, the reality is that one guy can't just keep pulling an entire team along, year in, year out.  A current example is Taylor Hall last year for the New Jersey Devils.  It's the same phenomenon.  Both players deserve ultimate credit for that accomplishment.  But its not the type of thing that is often repeatable.

All of this is really cool, and these are reasons to hoist Nash's jersey some day.  They aren't really an argument for doing it sooner, rather than later.

To me, the argument for doing it sooner is twofold.  First, it represents the maturation of our franchise.  That we could draft a guy, and he could go through his career, and get his jersey hoisted is one of those things that shows stability in the franchise.  Admittedly, this is a pretty self serving reason for the CBJ.

Secondly, raising his jersey sooner is a means of celebrating his footprint in the record books of the NHL.  He has a lot of the records for the CBJ.  But what has he done that puts him in the NHL record books?  First off, he is the only Blue Jacket to ever win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals in a season.  That trophy is a great accomplishment, and similar to Bob's Vezina trophies, a good reason to hoist his jersey.

But the one event that to me says, 'do this soon', is to commemorate that night in the 2008-09 season, where the upstart CBJ went into Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and just destroyed the Red Wings.  It was one of those nights for the 'Wings.  We weren't that good, they weren't that bad.  It was just one of those nights.  That's hockey.  But on that night, Rick Nash scored an unassisted hat trick, the first player to do so since the incomparable Rocket Richard.  The first player to do so in more than 50 years.  It was an unbelievable accomplishment.  And that is the reason why I believe Nash's Jersey should be raised to the rafters of Nationwide Arena sooner, rather than later.

With the inexorability of a Greek tragedy, Mike Babcock never let his players forget that they let Nash do something that only Richard had done at that point; contributing heavily to the Red Wings decimation of the Blue Jackets in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.  But it gives you a glimpse of the level to which Nash had risen in that year.  And I think that singular accomplishment is something worth celebrating.

I'm not implying that it has to be done this year.  Given the unusual nature of this year, with looming free agency, I think you let all that stuff play out.  You don't want those things to detract or distract from honoring Nash.  But its something to get on the agenda for next year, and get it done.  This franchise is trying to run with the big dogs, and in the end, this type of celebration shows that they belong in the crowd.

Congratulations on a great career, Rick Nash.  Likely we'll be seeing you around in a different role, which we will all look forward to seeing.  Sorry that it had to end this way.  Nash played in an era where you had to physically overcome your opposition.  In the 2008-09 season, he did that to the whole league.  So let's raise the jersey and celebrate, because we can!



Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Looking Ahead to 2019; Reviewing a Prospect, a Player and a Pick

Not surprisingly, I waffle back and forth on the subject of Artemi Panarin.  The dude has the silky mitts.  Even when I am grumping because I don't think he has been nearly as hard on the puck this year as he was last year, I still think that he drives the offense on that top line.  Should Jarmo find himself in a situation where you just HAVE to trade him, I wonder if Bjorkstrand can fill that role to some extent.  Bjork is not the same player as the Panarin, but I wonder if he could fill that role. 

All that said, I think we have the equivalent of a late first round pick invested in Panarin.  Say Sonny just doesn't make it in the NHL (which is not what I am saying); it would be roughly the equivalent of Sonny whiffing in terms of an organizational impact.  Not at all like losing a number one overall, such as Taveres.  So it wouldn't be the end of the day if we kept Panarin, and lost him to free agency.  You can only do that math in retrospect. looking to see what was accomplished in the playoffs.

But what could you get at the deadline, for a short term rental?  You want something like a prospect,  a player, and a pick for someone of Panarin's caliber.  What would that look like?  So, my buddy Bill said something funny along these lines the other day.  He just blurted out Bittner, Sedlak, and a pick.  Paul Bittner is a solid player, has had some ups and downs, but still firmly on the developmental path.  We don't know how he will turn out yet.  Definitely a prospect.  Not an Abramov, but still a prospect. 

Lucas Sedlak is an NHL player.  I personally love the player, especially in the rose tinted glasses of the Calder Cup Championship he helped win by being on fire in the playoffs.  But he's a player, and you could put him on your roster and roll him out there, probably in a bottom six goal.  But if you were responsible for selling him there are a lot of possibilities: "look at those playoff goals in the A!  Won a championship!, All he really needs is some top six playing time... etc, etc".  Other teams have players like these as well, and the trick is to get you to believe they are something more when you are making a trade.

So for a hypothetical exercise, let's assume Jarmo decides he has to trade Panarin, and he is negotiating with Jarmo2, who has the CBJ system at his disposal.  Jarmo2 is hoping to get Jarmo to take Bittner, Sedlak, and hopefully the 31st overall pick for Panarin.  It may be a faint hope that Jarmo2 can re-sign Panarin, but he is willing to give it a shot, and he hasn't mortgaged the franchise to do so.  Jarmo, on the other hand, is trying to get Abramov, Bjorkstrand, and a pick out of Jarmo2 in order to part with a prized player.  If he could get that from Jarmo2 you would like to think that you have bolstered your long term franchise depth in order to move a player who won't sign.

This is a really difficult position for Jarmo.  But if the best you could get would be the former combination of players, it just wouldn't be worth it to trade Panarin.  You keep him knowing that you are going to eat the loss.  And it will hurt.  It's like whiffing on a late first round pick.  But it happens, and you move on.  Likewise, if you decide not to move Panarin at the deadline, you hope to have some tangible hardware to show for that decision.  Maybe not the cup, but certainly not a first round exit. 

I noticed something funny during the Ottawa game on Monday night.  It was late in the game, and Ottawa had come back and tied the game.  And I saw the Jackets get a little mad, and really start bearing down on what they were doing.  At that point, you knew they were going to score, and low and behold they did.  So as a long time Blue Jackets fan, it is interesting to me to see that this team has another gear.  Back in 2008-09, the first playoff year, I knew the team had nothing left to give.  They left it all on the ice to get to the playoffs, and there was no other gear available.  This team has that gear.  How effectively they use it remains to be seen, and they have to sort out how to be operating in that fashion when the playoffs arrive.  It's not the kind of thing you can just turn on, you do need to be running at that level when the playoffs start.  That will make this second half of the season interesting to watch.

Here's wishing everyone a safe and prosperous 2019!