Saturday, October 14, 2017

109 Goals Off the Table; 3 Big Metro Wins

Sonny Milano
Sonny Milano did not score tonight.  That means he has fallen off his 109 goal pace, down to a mere 82 goal pace.  That does not mean he was not a significant player on the ice tonight against the Rangers.  Indeed, I thought he was one of the better players.  But I also thought that John Tortorella's decision to roll out an all rookie line of Bjorkstrand, Dubois, and Milano, which was an effective line for at least one shift, was a real kick in the pants to the veteran players, and you saw a real elevation in their games as this game came to a close.

Artemi Panarin scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket, a game winner that brought the crowd out of it's seats.  Just wow!  It was an awesome thing to see, and one of the things that are going to make this season really fun to watch.  The veterans have been patient with how things are coming together, but late in the game, Panarin took things into his own hands in spectacular style.  Arguably, better function and scoring earlier in the game would eliminate that need, but that assumes the Blue Shirts are a push over, and they are far from that.  Nonetheless they fall to 1-4 while the CBJ climb to 3-1. 

It's early in the season.  The Jackets have avoided falling behind the 8-Ball, which is a good thing to date.  In addition, they have achieved wins over 3 Metro Division opponents with the win tonight, which puts them in good standing from a playoff viewpoint.  Divisional games are important games, and the wins early are every bit as important as the wins late. 

So all is well as we prep for trying to get a regular season win for the backup goal tender tomorrow against a depleted Minnesota squad. 

I had a lot of angst tonight.  Problematically for this long time season ticket holder, who has watched more than one season get punted before Halloween, these guys seem real, and I am already highly engaged, and thus vulnerable.  It is a fun, precarious, and unfamiliar position for me.  I did not breathe easy tonight until the Bread Man scored that second goal.  That's when it got fun for me.  Before that, I was a bit of a wreck. 

So the Jackets have banked a reasonable start.  That and $0.05 will get you a cup of coffee.  The NHL cranks up the pace several times from here on out, and it will be interesting to see how the rookies respond. 

But for now, it's a good start, with wins against 3 Metro opponents, which will help us down the road.  A  good night.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Set for a New Season

Anderson Back in the Fold
As of 5 PM today the lineup for this year's Columbus Blue Jackets is set.  The CBJ (not CLB thank you) are set, and a very interesting group of forwards it is indeed.  The nice part is that the late addition of Josh Anderson will provide some thump to the lineup down the road.  Mark Scheig of the Hockey Writers pointed out that this years addition of the CBJ actually got younger in spite of being another year older.  I think that is largely because Sonny Milano made the team, and I for one could not be happier.  It seems like he has been with the organization for ever, but he is only 21 years old.  But this is a great developmental step.

Sonny Milano is likely to play for the Monsters yet this year.  This will not be a set back, but a normal developmental step for a young player like Sonny.  He may prove me wrong, and no one could hope for that more than I, but pragmatically, he may need a bit more seasoning before he is ready for a full NHL season.  Making the team out of camp, and doing well in the preseason is one thing, but no later than 3 games into the season and the NHL will be up to full speed.  Sonny will have to demonstrate that he can take the increased pace, and thrive.  There will be  3 or 4 more 'crank ups' in the typical NHL season. and Sonny will need to show that he can handle each of those as well.  He's felt that increase in intensity at the Monsters at some level, so maybe he will be ready to rise to the occaision.  We'll see.  But a trip to Cleveland does not mean this player is a bust in any way shape or form.  He is showing good progress.

The funny thing about adding Sonny to the lineup is how much more dynamic it shows the whole group is becoming.  We lost good players from last year, and we need to replace that scoring.  So far, we have added Panarin, Bjorkstrand and Milano to the line up, and they will need to make the scoring happen.  There is a lot in their respective pedigrees to suggest that this is a reasonable expectation, so it will be fascinating to watch the season unfold.  This edition of the CBJ is going to be fun to watch.  They are built to compete with the Penguins.  I'm not sure how they will do against a team like LA Kings, which are big and strong, and going to attempt to stifle you not to mention the attempts at intimidation.  Boston is a bit of the same ilk.  But there is a dynamic streak in the forwards, that if it achieves its potential, could be really good.  Don't discount the stabilizing influence of the Captain, Nick Foligno between Milano and Bjorkstrand.  That group won't lack for play making, and we know the Captain will score when he gets a chance. 

I was pleased to learn recently that Torts had warned Foligno in the off season to get his head around playing center.  It makes a difference, and I think Nick is going to surprise a lot of people with how he does.  Our center depth may not be as bad as everyone thinks (or not, I could be dead wrong, but I drink from a half full glass).

Our defensive corps is deep, and very solid.  We have two defensemen who will be sitting in the press box eating nachos that Colorado would die for, but appearances have to be kept up.  So we'll just settle for a very strong D-Corps, and when adversity shows up, which it inevitably will, Harrington and Nutivaara will come out of the press box and perform.  Why isn't Sakic trying to build around Duchene instead of getting rid of him?  Enquiring minds want to know.  But I digress, as usual.  With our dynamic D-Corps feeding dynamic front lines, the CBJ look like they can compete speed wise with the other fast teams in the league (Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Toronto), yet still have enough stiffness to compete against the heavy teams, especially after Boone Jenner returns.  Anderson makes a big difference there.  Have fun skating off Tortorella's conditioning there Andy.  You'll be okay after a few days. 

Tortorella's a funny guy.  I think he is way more cerebral about the game than a lot of pundits give him credit for, and there are a lot of guys who still see him as New York Rangers Torts.  He is a fiery guy, no doubt.  But he thinks about the game, and his approach all the time.  I think he truly understands that it is how you handle the people, and he is very smart in that context.  That is a give and take thing, and all people make mistakes, but Torts seems to want the players to challenge him.  I think he feels it will make him better.  And that is a healthy situation. It will be fascinating to watch this unfold this year.

It is my personal belief that it is an organizational imperative that they make the playoffs this year.  If we don't, then we haven't moved the needle.  I think they will, mainly because we may have one of the best defensive corps in the league.  Neither Zach Werenski or Seth Jones is a pretender, and those two dudes are gonna be scary, maybe as soon as this year.  But one thing for sure.  This team is gong to be fun to watch, for good or for ill.  As my buddy Bill says, these seasons never turn out the way you think they are going to.  It is a long journey to the end of the year, and the hope for a playoff spot.  The only thing that seems truly certain, is that this will be an exceedingly entertaining year to  watch Blue Jackets hockey.  There will be joy, there will be tears.  That's part of the journey.  But it will be fun.


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!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

COGH Tells Sakic to Pound Salt (Fake News!)

Sunday, Central  Ohio Girls' Hockey (COGH) Board Member Natalie emphatically declared that she would not trade any of her girls for Matt Duchene, the talented center of the Colorado Avalanche.  This is a real setback for General Manager Joe Sakic, and one wonders if this diminishes Duchene’s trade value at all.  The unwillingness of the Board to trade assets to an NHL franchise speaks to the core mission of the COGH, which is to support female youth hockey in the Central Ohio area. 

You have to admire the determination of the Board of the COGH, to even consider trading their skaters for Duchene (when pointedly asked about it).  In spite of lingering questions about the ability of a youth hockey organization in central Ohio to bargain with an NHL organization under the current CBA, you cannot question the potential value of the Avalanche Centerman to the Board.  At $6.5 million per year, the COGH could likely leverage significant benefits from owning his rights.

But here’s the problem.  The COGH doesn’t ACTUALLY have any players to trade in the first place.  That’s because those players are part of the four existing youth hockey leagues in the Columbus area, the Columbus Ice Hockey Club (CIHC), the Easton Youth Hockey Association (EYHA), The Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association (CCYHA) and the Capital Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA).  The COGH is interested in supporting female youth hockey in all of those leagues, so selecting a few players to trade for Matt Duchene involves brokering a lot of deals, so we think this trade is probably not going to happen. 

However, I had the opportunity to interview Natalie at the hockey talk in August gathering at the R-Bar (@RBar_AD) and found out a lot of things I didn’t know about COGH.  For instance I found out that COGH has a goal to promote the sport of hockey to young women, and then promote ways to keep them in the game as they age.    They also play a role in introducing young girls to the sport.  In that role often find themselves assuring parents the sport is safe, compared to a sport such as gymnastics.  As in all sports there is some risk of injury, but wouldn’t you rather fall off a balance beam wearing hockey gear?

When Natalie answered the safety question, it made me wonder about the gear; hockey equipment can be pricey at times.  So I asked her if they ever help girls starting out with their equipment needs.  Besides dipping into her personal stash of accumulated gear, if there is a significant need, COGH will instead work with the Columbus Ice Hockey Club (CIHC).  CIHC has a mission of promoting diversity in the sport of hockey, and are in a position to help with the more significant needs. 

So here I found myself at an R-Bar event finding out more about youth hockey in our fair City, and I was really enjoying the discussion.  So I asked Natalie what their skaters thought of the Columbus Blue Jackets.   She replied that at the ages they are dealing with (3 and a half and up), they love the games, they love the arena and the love the events.  They are not quite there in terms of player identification yet. 

So at the end of the day, Natalie said, COGH is just a group of people advocating for all of the girls in hockey.  I felt this to be a very worthwhile endeavor, so I asked Natalie how people could help their organization the most.  She replied that things that would help them the most would be to attend events and share information about the organization and its events.  Since COGH just received its 501(c )(3) nonprofit status, they hope to be able to participate in a 50-50 raffle at a Jackets game in the future. 

Hockey is growing for all ages in the City of Columbus.  Organizations such as COGH help to ensure that all of our children are able to play hockey if they want to play.  It’s part of what makes our City great!



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lucas Sedlak; Fulcrum for Success

Lucas Sedlak, 2016 Training Camp
I don't know if fulcrum is the right word or not, it's just the one I could come up with that was close to what I meant.  I really regret the loss of William Karlsson, as I think he is going to bloom into a better than average NHL center.  And since Jarmo got him through a bit of grand theft as a throw in from the Wisniewski trade, whom we had acquired as a free agent, we were able get out of the expansion draft without spending a hard earned draft asset (well, except for that late first round pick).

I know there are differing opinions out there on Willia Karlsson, but I will point out that by the end of the playoffs last year, Torts was matching Karlsson up against Crosby as one of our best defenders.  So I think Karlsson will flourish in Vegas.  The reason I say this is that I want to paint the picture of the hole that needs filled, and I think Lucas Sedlak is the guy that will do the filling.

Two years ago, Lucas Sedlak had established himself as an excellent defensive center for the then Lake Erie Monsters.  However, when the playoffs arrived, Sedlak's goal scoring exploded through the simple expedient of crashing the net with his stick on the ice.  Oliver Bjorkstrand routinely found him for tap in goals in that series.

Last year, Lucas was a surprise addition to the team, forcing Gregory Campbell into the Blue Jackets front office in a player development role (see what happens when you save your employer $1 million?).  Lucas had a very steady rookie year in a fourth line center role, finally scored his first NHL goal, and seemed to improve as the season went on.  Unfortunately, a late season injury hampered his play down the stretch, but I thought he was a noticeable force in the last playoff game.

So anyway, just how big of a hole does he have to fill this upcoming year?  Assuming he needs to step in and replace Karlsson as third line center, he needs to upgrade his performance from 7 G - 6 A - 13 P to William Karlsson's 6-19-25 in his sophomore campaign.  Some folks have Oliver Bjorktrand playing on that third line next year, so he likely will have opportunity to up his assist totals with better line mates.  His defensive abilities are certainly good enough to hold down the third line center role, and he is excellent in face offs.

There are some people penciling in Pierre-Luc Dubois into this third line center role.  I think that is fraught with, well, fraughtness.  PLD has to prove he can play in the NHL, and probably should be playing with the Cleveland Monsters this year if his development could override bad arrangements with the Canadian Hockey League.  If PLD doesn't make the NHL squad, he has to go back to the Q and push around 17 year olds, which isn't going to help his development at all.  But I think it unlikely that PLD could duplicate 6-19-25 in his rookie campaign.  If he can, power to him.  So on the big club this year I see him getting his feet wet in a fourth line role.  He has the frame to carry it, and there won't be huge pressure to succeed.  If injuries deplete the top 6, then he could fill in at that level, where the organization hopes he is ultimately going to play.

The reason I say this about PLD is my conviction that it is an organizational imperative that the Blue Jackets make the playoffs again in a murderous Metropolitan Division.  The organization should be past the point of throwing rookies against the wall to see if they stick.  The problem with PLD is that the developmental choices are so crappy.

The reality seems to be that it is not such a stretch to expect Lucas Sedlak to be able to step in and replace William Karlsson's contributions to the team.  A prodctive bottom 6 is a good way to wins games, and I think the Blue Jackets are positioned to have a productive bottom 6 again this year.  Now if only Dubinsky would start scoring.....


Friday, July 7, 2017

Hartsy, The D-Corps, and Same Ol', Same Ol'

Scott Hartnell
Well, since I last wrote, Scott Hartnell has been bought out, and is now a Nashville Predator.  I am glad for him to go back to his roots, and I wish him a productive year.  Laviolette has coached Hartnell before (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) and knows what he can bring to a team, perhaps more than Torts does, or did.  No matter.  We wish Hartnell well in all he does.  Question: Tribute video when he returns for the first time??  That would give us a sense of how offended our folks were by Joey.  Good luck Scott!

I've been following the Matt Duchene saga, where it is rumored that Colorado wants half our D-Corps for a guy who scored as many points as Gagne last year.  Well he had a down year.  So did Ryan Murray.  Screw 'em I say.  I think Colorado is a bunch of stone cold lunatics for even thinking of trading Duchene, but he is the only asset they really have other than McKinnon.  Why aren't you planning on building around this guy?  If not, why should we mortgage our future for him?  I know he is the sparkly bauble on the other side of the grass is always greener fence.  I know our center depth took a hit with the loss of Karlsson.  It is what it is.  If Duchene will get us a Cup, fine.  I don't think he will.  So he's not worth it.

When I think of D-Corps depth I always think of the last time Vancouver made a run to the finals.  They had arguably the best and deepest defensive group in the league, and all season long pundits and fans talked about the trades that Vancouver could make with that depth.  By the time they got to the Stanley Cup final, maybe one of those guys was still standing, and they lost him to injury in the final.  You can't have enough defensive depth.  Ryan Murray has seen several players pass him on the depth chart.  That is a unique experience for him, as he has always been the best defenseman on his team.  This summer he is essentially healthy, and has an opportunity to do something about it.  Don't undersell this guy.  It is, however, a 'show me' season, where he needs to demonstrate he is a Top 4 D-man.  Could he unseat Jack Johnson as Savard's partner?  We assume he can't, or won't, but that will be determined in training camp.  Or could he seize a top pair role opposite Seth Jones, pushing Werenski down to Savard's partner?  Think about Seth Jones or Werenski on the ice for 50 minutes of a 60 minute game.

Joe Sakic is trying to rebuild a fundamentally depleted roster with one trade.  Jarmo HAS to stand firm on this.  Duchene is a nice addition, but he does not single-handedly loft our team to the Cup.  Defensive depth is essential to a run to the Cup, as we don't have the forwards to overcome that lack (see Penguins, Pittsburgh).  So the Colorado fans think other teams are underselling them.  If this guy is worth 3 players and a pick, why the heck are you trying to trade him?  Don't you think the new GM in Colorado is going to want to build around this guy?  Stand fast Jarmo.  Don't do it.  It's okay to talk, but just don't.

So while I was indiscriminately re-tweeting every thing CBJ related around the opening of free agency, I came across a series of tweets about 'if we don't get Duchene it's the Same Ol', Same Ol' Jackets'.  I guess I don't agree with that, though I concede the fact that there are people who are going to feel that way.  I think there is a ton of back pressure on the parent club being provided by a talented group of youngsters.  Gabriel Carlsson is putting a lot of heat on our Defensive Corps from below.  Markus Nutivaara had a break out season, but could be on the bench this year.  Scott Harrington as well played a depth role effectively, but Carlsson may have passed both of them.  This is a GREAT problem to have.

Likewise, there is a lot of pressure in the forward corps.  Oliver Bjorkstrand will have an opportunity to train effectively this summer, something he was unable to do last year.  I have high hopes for this player.  Pierre-Luc Dubois is looking to make the team, but the other huge wild card is Vitaly Abramov.  The guy won the scoring title AND the MVP in the Quebec Major Junior league in his draft year.  Now the Q is not renowned for its great defensive play, and the ability to play defense will likely determine if Abramov makes the team.  But, like Dubois, he is either going back to the Q or playing on the big club.  But he is another potential sniper that will keep the heat on everyone playing above him.

So, in the end, I don't think we are looking at a 'Same Ol', Same Ol' Jackets' season no matter what.  I think that it is an organizational imperative to make the playoffs this year.  Injuries, defections, mumps, lose 8 in a row, what have you; we need to be deep enough to carry it through.  Eke in as the last wild card, on the last day, it doesn't matter.  This organization HAS to make the playoffs this year, or last year's superlative season is reduced to 'Same Ol', Same Ol'.  This just can't happen.  Maybe it will.  It's a tough league, and a lot of teams are getting better, particularly in our Division.  But our team is very young, and getting better is what they are going to be doing for the next little while.  And I am unwilling to sacrifice that for an overvalued bauble so that another team can rebuild their shattered roster at our expense.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Another Good Hockey Trade

Brandon Saad, 1 day before taking a smile altering puck
in the teeth.  Training Camp 2015
On Friday morning, Jarmo Kekalainen made another 'good hockey trade', by sending Brandon Saad back to Chicago in exchange for Artemi Panarin, in a trade that likely improves both hockey clubs.  There were other moving parts to the trade, but this was the headline, and rightfully so.

Brandon Saad was a good player for the Blue Jackets, and it could fairly be said that we likely had not yet seen the best he had to offer.  We had signed him to a long contract, and in my mind he had plenty of time to become the guy we needed him to become.

Consider this.  Saad came from a Cup victory to a team that rewarded him with a hefty contract, and promptly punted a season in the span of 8 games.  This had to be baffling to him. Fortunately he got to experience a turn around with essentially the same group the following year.  That experience will make him a better player in the context of Chicago.  When he speaks of adversity in their locker room, the words will come from one who has known adversity.  So good luck in Chicago Mr. Saad.

Coming the other way is a player who can be a dynamic scorer.  Panarin has scored 30 goals in consecutive years, and will move from the second line to the top line.  Yes, other teams will adjust, but the Jackets have shown an ability to score by committee, so it won't be like in days of yore when Nash was the only scoring threat on the team.  Between Panarin, Atkinson, and Bjorkstrand, we have some guys who can do some serious sniping, so if another team commits to shutting down Panarin, we have other guys who can make it hard for them.  In addition, he does a lot of his scoring on the Power Play, and ours looked like it needed another finisher towards the end of the year.  It should be fascinating to see how this plays out.

I watched a video clip of Panarin one-timing a pass from Brent Seabrook for a goal, and all I thought to myself was: Zach Wereneski can make that pass.  Seth Jones can make that pass.  Heck, Markus Nutivaara can make that pass.  So, this looks really good.

A good hockey trade is defined as a trade that helps both hockey clubs, and both players.  The Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen has proven to be a good hockey trade.  I feel this trade fits that mold.

Welcome to Columbus, Artemi!  We have a few details to work out.  Do you like 'the Breadman'?  Are we allowed to have an Arti Parti?  We'll sort that out during the season, a season that may well promise some highlight reel stuff from a dynamic player in a new role.  Dang, I can hardly wait.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sorry to Hear About Joey, Rainy Morning in Columbus

Ryan Johansen knocked out of playoffs. :-(
The news came the other day that former Blue Jacket Ryan Johansen was knocked out of the playoffs by a thigh injury that required season ending emergency surgery.  I am really disappointed for Joey, as I was enjoying the exploits of the Predators this year.  They handled the repeated match-ups with Cup winning Chicago the right way.  It made them better, and they finally kicked the crap out of Chicago.  Probably the only thing standing between us and doing the same thing to the Penguins is Mike Sullivan, and they will stupidly fire him soon for some dumb reason (insert diabolical laughter).  So don't whine about the playoff format.  Just get better.

As for the Predators, they rallied to win a game on the road yesterday, and stand one game away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.  Best of luck to them.  I am disappointed for Joey because he was really coming into his own after the trade to Nashville.  That trade remains a great hockey trade, as both teams and both players benefited from the trade.  Good luck in your healing processes Joey!

It's been awhile since I've posted, as I have been really busy, as well as trying to digest the totality of the Blue Jackets season.  This was the best season for the Blue Jackets, by far, but after thinking about the whole thing, they really need to return to the playoffs next year to validate this season.  The analogy I am going to use is the Islanders.  The went a long time as a not real good team in terms of where they finished in the league.  Then they got to the playoffs, but were out the next year,  Back in, then out again.  So really sort of on the cusp.  The Jackets might have gained a modicum of respect around the league, but for them to grow that, they need to return to the playoffs next year.  Miss the playoffs, and the rest of the league will look at it as 'same old Jackets'.  No excuses this time.  No injuries, no craptastic start, gotta go back.  Expectations are one thing, but this is not an expectation, it is a need, and its not really optional.  Anything else is a major step backwards.

But, this year was the best year in franchise history.  So let's play with some of the 'firsts'.  Right now I am up to thirteen, but I suspect I am missing some.  Let me know what I missed.  Here we go!

2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets Firsts:

  • Most wins, 50 
  • Most points, 106
  • Consecutive wins, 16 
  • Most wins by a goalie, 41 by Bobrovsky
  • Most points by a rookie, 47 by Werenski
  • Most goals scored, 249
  • Fewest goals allowed, 195
  • Best league finish, 4th
  • First top 5 finish in the league
  • First non-wild card playoff spot
  • First playoff win in regulation time (no OT)
  • First playoff elimination game win
  • First road elimination game
As you can see, that first batch of 'firsts' is from the regular season, the second half of the list is from the playoffs.  So even if we got bounced by the defending champs in 5 games, we did some things that represent baby steps in our playoff development.  That development can continue apace if we return to the playoffs again in 2017-18.  But that is a long time away right now.  Whether it is a long distance away remains to be seen.


Friday, April 21, 2017

What a Ride!

Nationwide Arena Glows in a Playoff Light
Well my friends.  That was a beauty.  The cool thing is that I think a lot of people got to see how the barn can thunder in the playoffs.  When Cam scored that goal at the beginning of Game 3 I wasn't sure the roof was going to stay on the building.  That was really fun, what a moment!  I also think that some fans felt for the first time what it means to engage on your team's behalf, and what a battle that can be.  Because that's what it means to be a fan.  You have to sell out for something, and take the consequences as they come.  This last week had some rough spots for me, I can assure you.  I think it was likely that way for many of you.

Yet here we are.

I am starting to ingest some of the angry emotions from being bounced from the playoffs, and am starting to be able to look back with pride at what this team has accomplished.  I'm not in a big hurry here.  Playing with the lists of 'firsts' that came this year is going to be a lot of fun.

But first a comment on where this team now stands.  In 2008-09 Rick Nash pulled the team to its first playoff appearance by sheer strength of will.  I can remember wondering after that series if Nash would be able to climb that mountain again.  To his credit I think he tried, but his efforts were in vain, and it became time to move on.

After the 2013-14 playoffs the lack of organizational depth showed, and the team on one hand was unable to shrug off a rash of injuries and on the other stumbled and fell out of the gate, thus putting them well behind in the race, which they gamely finished.

So what about the 2016-17 CBJ?  This club was substantially better in all facets than the 2013-14 playoff team and they accomplished a number of franchise firsts.  Will they too stumble or be too short handed to succeed?  I guess my point is that the  2017-18 team doesn't need to repeat or exceed any of the firsts they had this year, so long as they become the first team in franchise history to go to the playoffs in consecutive years.  From there, as we just experienced, we will see what we will see.  Experience tempers expectations I guess, but next years team has lofty goals to achieve.

Now for some fun with lists.  A couple of cool firsts pointed out by Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt); the first playoff game won in regulation, the first elimination game that the Jackets have won, and of course the corollary, their first road elimination game lost.    So that's a step in the right direction.  A baby step, yes, but a step.

Next, I think it was the boys over at the Dispatch that pointed out  that 10 CBJ players had their playoff debut.  In no particular order they are ( - r means they were a rookie):

Werenski - r
Karlsson, WB
Carlson, G - r
Nutivaara - r
Sedlak - r
Bjorkstrand - r
Milano - r
Harrington - r
Anderson - r

It is significant that 8 of the 10 Blue Jackets that made their playoff debut were rookies.  There is a lot of growth to be had internally

Enough for now.  You will hear plenty of negativity out there.  Don't let it bother you.  The negatives help if they provide perspective, but they should be regarded warily, especially if the self-aggrandization is evident.  Then all you are getting is a narrow view, and it should be considered with caution.  I know that some sources I formerly used to gain perspective are now unreliable.  It's a shame.

Since I said that, I wanted to clarify that I write these for fun, and I do it for free.  When its not fun, I'll quit.  I do however, pay for season tickets.  So my hockey knowledge is bought with cash money.   Whether or not that is wise is probably subject for debate.  But its definitely a ton of fun!