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.