Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Undefeated Season Squandered

Apparently Gaborik is hurt again.  LOL Kings!
I figured a photo of Gaborik would be fitting for a totally dysfunctional blog post, which this will spiral rapidly into.  I haven't listened to Richie's presser tonight, but am fresh from viewing the game, with a whiny 13 year old Stars fan sitting behind be, and my road home closed, without advertisement.  So I have a certain angst about the whole evening.

I thought the Stars deserved to win the game.  They won the first period, and the third period, and a lot of times that will do the job.  It is AWFULLY early in the season to run into a desperate hockey team, but that's what the Jackets got tonight.  A pretty good Dallas team that started 0-1-1 and was staring at 0-2-1 tonight.  Lindy Ruff, the Dallas coach, had already called out his stars for a lack of performance.  Not a great setup for a Blue Jackets team that was riding high.

So it played out like you might expect.  With the exception of a stretch late in the second period, Dallas won the majority of the puck battles, forechecked effectively against our defenseman possession game, and effectively neutralized our forecheck.  When Dallas made a mistake, and they made a few, we didn't bury the chance, with Boll and Anisimov both missing gaping nets.  You never make all those chances, so the odds will be leaning towards cashing in on that type of chance at some point in the future.  But it was symptomatic of the game.

I kind of figured that this is how it would go down when Dallas scored it's second goal.  Jamie Benn, a pretty good player, and already called out by Lindy Ruff, beats a 1 on 2, and then scores.  He just plain wanted it more.  The litany of Jackets players that the Stars effectively neutralized is long and distinguished.  Ryan Johansen exploded in the second period, but conditioning is an issue that is still there, and Benn and Seguin out scored him.  No secondary scoring in this game at all.

An eye opening game for our rookies, Dano and Wennberg.  Welcome to the NHL western conference boys.  Wait till we go out west next week.  Wennberg seemed able to rally with better play as the game went on.  Dano, not so much, and he was dropped to the fourth line to give a hard skating Jack Skille more ice time.  But the Stars soon bottled him up as well.

What I liked about this game was that our fourth line showed some real flashes of what last years fourth line was able to accomplish.  Go in, and get possession when the chips were down.  I thought Jared Boll had a really good game, playing the system, not getting too crazy, and he had a prime scoring chance that he went top shelf from point blank, but hit the pipe.  Not too bad.  Yeah, I know some people dislike Boll a lot.  Some of them are even Blue Jacket fans.  But he has not played this way in the last several years, and if he keeps it up he will be very effective.

Joey (NOT JoJo, or RJ, or RyJo) had his 100th and 101st points in his NHL career, both of them goals.  Not too bad, not too bad at all.

All and all, it was just one of those games.  All we need to do is beat Dallas down there, which we have done before, and wipe the slate clean.  That is the beauty of this NHL schedule.  A not so great loss against a western conference team can be cancelled with a win against them later in the season.  Then beat the east, and you are in the playoffs. Budda-bing, budda-boom.  Got 79 games left to go before we see that though.

Really good crowd tonight.  One too many Dallas fans, with her screechy voice in my ear.  So it goes.  A very nice crowd for a Tuesday night.  This is shaping up to be a fun season.  Good stuff.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Passing Grade

Marko Dano at 2013 Development Camp
Last night the Columbus Blue Jackets played a very solid home opener against a top Metropolitan Division opponent, the New York Rangers.  Yesterday we described this game as a tougher test than the season opener for our squad, and they passed that test with flying colors, beating the Rangers 5-2.

Nick Foligno walks the Red Carpet

The Red Carpet for the Players
The Blue Jackets really did a nice job on the opening day ceremonies, and the plaza in front of Nationwide Arena was jumping all afternoon.  The ceremony of having the players walking down a red carpet through the fans turned out to go really well, I thought.  It was fun to see them do it, and I'll bet it was an interesting experience for the players.  Bob naturally came first, and earliest.  You could have lit a candle off Matt Calvert's smile, and it was fun to see the rookies Wennberg and Dano make the walk.  Nick Foligno was the last of the players, and he was warmly welcomed by the fans.

Once the game got started, we could settle down to some good hockey watching.  It was very interesting to me how the fans started booing Rick Nash every time he touched the puck.  Nash is off got a good start this season, and ended up getting a late goal in this game, but he was pretty effectively neutralized by the CBJ.  And I think that both teams having played a game already allowed them to get past any jitters quickly, and treat it just like another big game.

The Rangers seemed to get tired of Mark Dano early on in the game, a theme that I think will be recurring as the season progresses.  When Hagelin was assessed an elbowing penalty against Dano, the CBJ seemed to gain momentum with the following power play.  This lead to a stretch of play with the Blue Jackets dominating the puck possession, until a pass from Hartnell in the middle back out to the point allowed Artem Anisimov to walk into his shot and he rocketed a shot by Talbot, the Rangers backup goal tender, and the Jackets took a 1-0 lead at the 6:24 mark of the first period.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Sterner Test

Today the Columbus Blue Jackets start the defense of their home turf in the 2014-15 NHL season against the New York Rangers.  This will be a more difficult test for this battered Blue Jackets squad than the plucky, energetic, but not quite ready for prime time Sabres.

This is a Rangers squad that, in general, we feel we can beat if we play our game.  But the main difference between this season and last is that the core of these Rangers came together as a team during the playoffs, and that is something that is not easily dismissed.  We will see today how much of that lingers, but a run to the Stanley Cup final should pay dividends for the Rangers this year.

The CBJ also have a very tight team.  There is little doubt of that, and they looked very cohesive in their season opener.  They will need to play that style of game against a more difficult opponent today.  A trend that started in Traverse City, in the development tournament hosted by the Redwings, and carried through the preseason is that the CBJ may be outshot early, and may fall behind.  But they have consistently shown an ability to start to wear on teams, and have shown some explosiveness in the third period.  They have shown an ability to play a systematically sound game with a variety of lineups.  We will get a real good idea of the early potential of Wennberg and Dano today as well.  I am looking forward to watching that with keen interest.

These are games the CBJ did not win consistently last year.  A weekend tilt against a powerful opponent before a full house.  It will be a sign of growth for this team if they can begin to win these games.  A Cup finalist is a good early measuring stick, but will not measure the full potential of our team, win or lose.  But a strong early start is built by winning this type of game.  It should be fun to watch!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014-15 NHL Season Finally Here

With a whirlwind of roster change, the 2014-15 hockey season has finally arrived.  It has been an interesting time since Sunday, when the word broke that the Columbus Blue Jackets had claimed Jack Skille off of waivers.  Then on Monday came the joyous news that Ryan Johansen and the CBJ had reached a contract agreement.  Then today came the not so joyous news that Brandon Dubinski is on Injured Reserve for an 'indefinite period', and the CBJ had taken Adam Cracknell off the waiver wire from the L.A. Kings.  This is a Jarmo Special, an acquisition of a player he knows well from his days with the Blues. I guess we'll get to that in a second, when we talk 4th line.

Since I am an atrocious predictor, AND, most predictions are based on last year's results, I'm going to pass on a prediction.  I think we can all reach consensus that I am wrong, and we move on.  I am very excited for this season, because we have experienced some stability in our core players that I think was badly needed.  For instance, many people are picking the Islanders to finish in the playoffs this year, and as a team, I think they improved a lot.  But there is a lot of change there, and it takes awhile for that all to jell.  I think the amount of roster change that has taken place has played a role in the slow starts the last two years for the CBJ.  We have not seen that amount of change this year.  I think that lack of change will help the Jackets get off to a reasonable start.  They don't need to tear the league up, but a game or two over .500 by Veterans Day would go a long way.

One of the keys that I will use to try to assess how much the team has improved overall will be the type of success they have against the elite teams; Pittsburgh and Boston in the East, Chicago, L.A., Anaheim and San Jose in the Western Conference.  Last year, the team struggled against the elite teams during the regular season.  This year I will be looking to see if we start winning a couple of our home games against the elite teams.  We are not an elite team at this point, but it would be good progress to win a couple of those big weekend games at home against Boston or Pittsburgh.  Some road wins would be icing on the cake.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ryan Johansen agrees to terms with the CBJ

3 years, $12 million, 4MM AAV that pays $3MM year one, $3MM year two, and $6MM in final year.  Johansen will still be an RFA at the end of this contract and a qualifying offer must be made to retain his rights.  HERCULES, HERCULES!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's Time to Extend Training Camp

CBJ fans react to Gallos' suggestion that training camp be extended...
Wait...what?  Did I say training camp?  Oops!  I meant to say the tryout!

Due to the vicissitudes of the preseason, it seems that our young wunderkids, Marko Dano, Kerby Rychal, and Alexander Wennberg are poised to make this team out of training camp.  They have all shown themselves to be at some level ready for this task, so at this stage of the game it is important to remember that we are entering another phase of 'making the team', and that is a 10 game tryout.
If my understanding of the CBA is correct, there is tonight's final preseason game, and up to 9 regular season games that Dano, Rychal and Wennberg can play before you burn the first year of their entry level deal.  So despite the fact that the Jacket's brass has watched these guys intently, they are going to be scrutinized even harder over the next 9 games.  It is quite possible that all of these guys play in the AHL before the year is out.  In an ideal world, they would already be down there preparing to lead Springfield back to the playoffs.  But adversity has payed a visit to the CBJ, and here they are.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Regular Season: I'm Happy and Sad!

Training Camp has begun for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  For fans it means the NHL regular season is right around the corner.  Most players are excited to return to the rink and begin the 2014-15 campaign.  Everyone that is, except for a few players.  Unless you spent the better part of a couple of weeks away from all forms of CBJ social media, it’s likely you’ve heard that both Ryan Johansen and Nathan Horton will miss the start of training camp.  While there is joy and excitement about the start of the 2014-15 season, this September is not without it's feeling of worry and concern.  Ryan Johansen’s absence is due to contract negotiations and Nathan Horton has a previously undisclosed back injury.  Now we hear about Boone Jenner's broken hand.  The timing of these developments doesn't help the cause as the 2014-2015 season may be the most important season in the brief history of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  While the absence of these players doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom for the franchise, they certainly don't do the fan base any favors chasing away apprehension that typically comes along with the first few weeks of the NHL regular season.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Umby Money and a Week

Joey wearing the colors of
the loyal southern
No one can question RJ Umberger's devotion and effort as a Columbus Blue Jacket.  It can also not be doubted that occasional shortcomings in hand softness, foot speed and hockey sense kept RJ from having the impact he really wanted to have.  There were those who called his $4 plus million contract a 'bad contract', and indeed, the CBJ moved that contract over the summer.  This I think is good for RJ, and wish him all the best.  He no longer has to be the 'heart and soul' of the locker room in Philly, and being overtaken in that role in Columbus was kinda tough on him I think.

But seriously.  After last year, the notion that Joey is worth less than RJ is kinda dumb.  So give Joey the same money as RJ, and get it done.  Even if he's not the real deal, Joey can give you RJ numbers.  So let's get this done.

From a fan's perspective, I expect Joey to be out of camp for at least a week.  If you are going to miss some of camp, you might as well miss at least a week to let 'em know you are serious.  So once the week time frame has passed, I respectfully request the parties to get Joey back in Union Blue.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

You're Our Only Hope, Obi Wan Dubinsky

Princess Morgan Delivers a Critical Message to Obi Wan Dubinsky
Hoo Boy!  What a week.  I am constantly reminded of how poor a predictor I am, as I watched another prediction go down in flames this week.  In the heat of a playoff push last spring I remember tweeting that I was no longer worried about a Blue Jacket being in the All Star game, as Ryan Johansen would be there for sure.  Thanks Overhardt for trashing that prediction!  Hockey fans are the most forgiving folks in the world (see Bettman, Gary re: lockouts), but Joey is burning good will starting tomorrow.  To get in the All Star game as a new All Star you need to perform, and a guy who is not on the ice isn't going to perform.  I always kind of expected to Joey not have quite the great year this year, just 'cause that's how things are.  But any missed time in the regular season pretty much trashes that hope.  I don't think Joey is about to go on a 50-60 goal tear, 'cause he would have to be on that pace to get any consideration for the All Star game at this point.  What is worth more going forward?  Sitting out, or being in the All Star Game?  In my personal opinion, of course, it's the latter.  Oh well, par for the course for a Blue Jackets fan.

Then comes the news from the team that Nathan Horton is hobbled by a bad back.  Long time Blue Jacket Fans remember well how awesome Freddy Modin was (a heavy player), but he had back spasms that 3 months later were diagnosed as fractured (more like cracked) vertebrae.  I've gotta tell you that's what's on my mind, because Modin never really seemed to recover from that injury.  Horton should take the time to make sure he's good and healthy before he returns.  Don't rush it!!  In some ways, this is a normal course of events when someone is returning from something major like the shoulder injury.  Other injuries crop up with regularity in these situations.  Get well Horton.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Johansen: Looking at what we know today


At the Blue Jacket’s NHL media day today, President of Hockey Operations John Davidson announced three contracts that were offered to Kurt Overhardt, and by proxy, Ryan Johansen.  I normally don't like to spend too much time debating a player's worth and translating it into salary.  However, now that some numbers have been disclosed, it's fair to examine those numbers.  My opinions don't consider the elasticity of cap - because like quantum mechanic experiments that involve Austrian cats, I cannot tell if the cap will increase or decrease beyond this season.  Let’s look at the numbers as they stand today and play devil’s advocate: