Archive for December, 2009

29
Dec
09

Game 41 – NEW YORK ISLANDERS

The Jackets look to prove last night wasn’t an aberration as well as welcome Milan Jurcina and Chris Clark to the line-up.

7:00pm EST, Fox Sports Ohio, Standard Definition

Wow, last night was pretty awesome. The Jackets will certainly be riding an emotional high as they won their first game in 9 tries avoiding setting a new franchise record for consecutive losses. Last night saw a complete return to Hitch-style hockey and the Jackets outhit the Wings 39-13 and were not on the back of their skates like many of the recent losses.

Something to remember back to last season for… November 3, 2008 was the final straw on the back of GM Scott Howson and coach Ken Hitchcock to make the emergency recall of Steve Mason, and there the story began. Mason was able to return to his 08-09 form last night in front of the sellout Nationwide crowd, that was one of the best of the season.

Tonight will see the debut of both Milan Jurcina and Chris Clark. There was much speculation as to who would come out of last night’s winning line-up, but Hitchcock had a surprise on one end of the ice at least:

The Jackets held an optional skate at Nassau Coliseum. The big news, beyond the arrivals of Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina, is the expected scratch of defenseman Mike Commodore. The other day we wrote about whether coach Ken Hitchcock would start sending messages. Here we go.

Puck-rakers

I really like this move, personally I, and many others, believed that Kris Russell would be the healthy scratch, but the trade of Jason Chimera will not be the last or only message sent to this team. Yes they won last night, but scoring one goal with all of the talent up-front is a no-no. It can be said that yes, even Pittsburgh gets shutout sometimes, but that’s sporadic, not part of a 9 game losing streak where the team scores only one or two goals in 7 straight contests.

The Jackets finally took a positive step last night, and need to do so again if they want to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the remaining needed record has now reached 27-14-1 to make the expected 92 points for placement in the top 8 of the Western Conference. In all honesty, I’m starting to think the point total will be higher because, well its just a gut instinct, but it sure seems like there are a lot more “3-point games” this season than last.

Two teams heading in an opposite direction… again, who will step up, what impact will the new guys have, can Mason continue to play as well as he did last night…

CARRY THE FLAG!!!

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28
Dec
09

Chimera for Jurcina and Clark

As soon as I made my last post about the upcoming game against the Detroit Red Wings, I find that the Blue Jackets have pulled the trigger and acquired D Milan Jurcina and RW Chris Clark from the Washington Capitals.

Here’s some more in-depth info about Chris Clark:

Most interesting about acquiring Clark is that not only is he signed through next season, he was the captain of the Washington Capitals… this could be the veteran leadership the Jackets have been looking for.

More info about the big man Milan Jurcina:

As stated earlier, a good reinforcement to the depleted blue-line.

Unfortunately, we also say goodbye to a long-time Jacket who has been a part of the team since I became a fan:

Best of luck playing for the Stanley Cup Chimmer!

28
Dec
09

Game 40 – DETROIT RED WINGS

I might as well copy and past the game 39 post for this one. The only thing different tonight is the roster freeze is over and rumors are swirling.

7:00pm EST, Versus HD (if you have DirecTV check here)

The Jackets look to avoid setting a franchise long losing streak of 9 games as well as gaining their first win against the Red Wings this season. The game has almost been overshadowed though by the variety of rumors floating around…

Reported earlier today by Aaron Portzline was this little nugget:

Hearing lots of talk about a possible Blue Jackets — Capitals trade. No specifics yet known.

As the day has gone one various names have come up on both sides of the trade. For the Blue Jackets: Filatov, Chimera, and Torres. For the Capitals: Alzner, Jurcina, Morrison (all defensemen). So far nothing has been announced except that the franchise revealed they are indeed talking with Washington.

As of right now I don’t think believe that Filatov would be moved unless it will bring back someone just as valuable to the franchise. On the flip side, Alzner is very unlikely to be moved by the Caps considering that he is one of the top young players in the NHL. For a second though, we can and should consider that maybe this is the first step towards “giving up” on this season and building towards 09-10.

Looking at possible players to be moved here are the guys currently on the team who have expiring contracts:

Forwards: Fredrik Modin ($3.25 mil), Raffi Torres ($2.24 mil), Alex Picard ($826,000), Jared Boll ($743,000), Mike Blunden ($735,000)

Defenseman: Anton Stralman ($731,000), Mathieu Roy ($525,000)

Not a lot of chips to deal with there. It is almost certain the Jackets will be dealing a forward for a D-man, and if the deal with the deal with the Caps goes through here’s a brief look at the D-men we could get back:

Shaone Morrison, Age 27, 6’4″, 217lbs, Shoots Left

Final year of contract, making $1.975 mil

Milan Jurcina, Age 26, 6’4″, 236lbs, Shoots Right

Final year of contract, making $1.375 mil

Personally, I’d be okay with either guy if all that’s given up is Torres or Chimera, preferably Chimera, but that’s not my decision to make. Either guy could be an upgrade, and would certainly be a shake-up to the room right now. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that no one on the roster is playing to the level they did last season, and when Mathieu Roy has been your best defenseman, it says a lot about the rest of your guys. I don’t think either Jurcina or Morrison would be considered building towards the future, but Alzner could certainly be in that direction…

More to come!

Carry the flag… please!?

All figures courtesy of CapGeek.com and NHL.com

26
Dec
09

Game 39 – DETROIT RED WINGS

Merry Christmas to all! The Blue Jackets will try again to give us fans the present of a complete game and a 2 points tonight in the “Hockey Town”

7:00pm EST, Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

The Blue Jackets have not won in Detroit since last March when the CBJ went to Motown and upended the defending champs 8-2. Since then though, the Jackets have been all but feeble against the Red Wings, and to compound the issues against the Wings, the Jackets are riding an 8 game losing streak.

At this point I am almost at a loss for what to say when it comes to finding what it will take to get the Jackets going the right direction. I did take a few minutes to compare last season’s run to the playoffs to this current situation:

First 38 games 2008-09: 18-16-4, 40 points

Final 44 games 2008-09: 23-15-6, 52 points

Final record/points: 41-31-10, 92 points, 7th place in the Western Conference

First 38 games 2009-10: 14-17-7, 35 points

RECORD NEEDED to reach 92 points: 28-15-1, 57 points

Simply put, the Jackets have about 15 losses to give before they would not be able to reach the approximate required points to finish in the top 8 after all teams have completed 82 games. Now yes, 92 could shift up or down, for example since the Blue Jackets entered the NHL, the lowest point total to make the top 8 was 90 points while the highest minimum was 96.

I’m not saying this to be doom and gloom, but to be realistic. It would be outstanding to see the Jackets put together a run similar to what they achieved last year, but the likelihood of that kind of thing happening twice is probably not very good.

Back to the task at hand, the Blue Jackets need this win like never before. The Red Wings are without a slew of bodies tonight, so expect lat least a few new names:

• Injury update: C Valtteri Filppula (wrist) and D Brian Rafalski (flu) are probable. C Henrik Zetterberg (shoulder), D Jonathan Ericsson (knee), LW Dan Cleary (shoulder), D Niklas Kronwall (knee), RW Jason Williams (leg), LW Johan Franzen (knee) and D Andreas Lilja (concussion) are out.

From The Dispatch

Garon will get the start tonight and Stralman returns to the line-up. Nothing else to be said…

GO JACKETS!!!!!

23
Dec
09

Game 38 – DALLAS STARS

Will anyone step up? The last game in Dallas was the Blue Jackets last road win back on November 19… and that’s really really bad. If the losing streak continues and the team does not step up, GM Scott Howson will be forced to make some tough decisions after the Christmas holiday.

8:30pm EST, Fox Sports Ohio, Standard Definition

Alternate listings for Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland area

If it wasn’t Christmas break, I’d probably consider not staying up if this one gets ugly. But rather than throw the team under the bus before they take the ice, its times like these that it can’t hurt to be hopeful. 7 game losing streaks aren’t good for anyone’s psyche, the team, management, fans. When I called up some buddies to come over and watch the game tonight it was more of “come over and hang out, and probably watch the Jackets lose”. Quite a different tone than a season ago.

The good news among all the negativity is that even after tonight there are still 44 games (a possible 88 points) remaining, over half of the season. I strongly believe that they can turn it around and quickly, but it is very difficult to predict what will actually happen in the near future.

It seems that every recent visit to Dallas has been a big deal dating back to last season when the CBJ opened with an overtime victory, then in December Derick Brassard had his infamous fight that knocked him out for the season. So far this year we had the mess of James Neal showing how classy of a player he is:

Dorsett is out for some time still with his broken hand and will not be able to get revenge himself, but the Dispatch had an interesting article about Jared Boll and his best friend whom he may have to go after tonight.

Other info:

Team Belarus announced their Olympic Roster today. Here’s the schedule of various nations releasing their rosters:

Link

Bring home a win for Christmas!

22
Dec
09

Questions abound

As mentioned yesterday, at the suggestion of The Dark Blue Jacket, I will be giving my own answers to the questions Aaron Portzline asked of GM Scott Howson from yesterday’s Dispatch.

And here we go…

Question: Given the expectations surrounding this club heading into this season, how surprised are you to be closer to last place than a playoff spot in the Western Conference?

The quick start was a very pleasant surprise, but there were early problem signs on (what Porty called) “The Tennis Trip”. The team defense has not performed consistently or anywhere near the level they were able to last year. Compounding the issue has been a revolving door of injuries, while not substantial “big name” type of players, there has consistently been a role players out of the line-up.

Q: What player, what aspect of the club, has been most surprising?

Tough to answer because there have been pleasant surprises; Dorsett and his importance to the team, Torres and his scoring+energy combination, and the big disappointments; Brassard who might need to sit and watch, Mason and his wildly inconsistent play. The expected great players Nash, Umberger, Vermette, Voracek, were expected to be great, but has it been consistently enough? The lack of consistency is my biggest surprise, offensively and defensively the team doesn’t know who it wants to be it seems.


Q: Why is coach Ken Hitchcock the right coach for this club right now?

Hitch is the right man because he brings more identity to the Blue Jackets than they ever had prior to his presence. I would argue that more people in Columbus, and the hockey world at large, know about Ken Hitchcock than Rick Nash. As a fan, I recognize that the Jackets are not playing the style of hockey they did last year on a consistent basis. When they are forechecking as we witnessed last season, this team is very difficult to beat, but when there is seemingly a different team on the ice every night this season, it is difficult to place blame.
Q: You have one of the youngest clubs in the NHL. Does he work well with a group like that?

With Hitch’s vast knowledge of the game of hockey, I don’t know who is better for installing an identity and properly educating players the right way to play the game. Hitch is about discipline yes, but I think with the balance of veterans and young guns, it shouldn’t be an overbearing issue like some would make it out to be.
Q: Do you feel like you over-estimated Derick Brassard, expecting him to be a No. 1 center this season?

At risk of sounding like team management, I don’t believe Derick has been overestimated, but is still struggling to adjust after missing over half of last season. Derick seems to be a player with a lot of passion and determination but hasn’t quite found the stride that he had going last year. There is an obvious level of talent, and I still believe he will be centering a line with Voracek and Nash on the wings in the future.
Q: How close did you come to making a deal over the last few days, before the NHL’s holiday roster freeze went into effect on Saturday?

We all know that Howson has not been the type to make deals just to make deals. He has slowly and steadily brought this team to respectability, going from a bunch of random pieces not worth much, to a team with plenty of “bullets” when it comes time to make deals. I do expect a move in the near future especially if the losing streak continues, if for no other reason than the Jackets could very possibly be sellers at this years deadline.
Q: Do you consider talking during the next week, even though you can’t make a move until after Dec. 26?

Of course there will be conversations had during the holiday freeze. As mentioned above, I expect a deal eventually, but it probably won’t happen right out of the roster freeze. Maybe we should all hope for Mrs. Howson to make Scott’s eggnog a little stronger this year and he will come up with a sweet deal landing a great veteran defenseman.
Q: Any thought given to a minor league call-up?

Based on how the CBJ played last year with half of a minor-league roster in the games against the Avs and Sharks, I should hope so. I’m a bit surprised someone like Picard hasn’t found his way to more playing time in Columbus this season. It says a lot about the d-men we have in the ‘Cuse that only Mathieu Roy has had meaningful time in the ‘Bus, but I think a lot of it is also an effort to make sure none of them are improperly rushed to the NHL level.
Q: You made one change to your blue line last offseason, adding defenseman Anton Stralman. If you had it to do over again, would you have done more to upgrade the defense?

I would have liked the CBJ to add a better stay-at-home type of d-man. Getting Stralman has been important to the drastic improvement of the power play, but then again, who could’ve predicted that Jan Hejda and Mike Commodore would not be performing anywhere near the level they did last season? Getting a player like Pronger was not an option as it would severely handicap any chance of keeping all of our youth who’s contracts are coming due in the near future. Without re-hashing all the players we didn’t sign, I would have expected the Jackets to be putting claims in on some of the d-men going through waivers, just as a flyer even.
Q: Could this club use another strong veteran presence in the dressing room?

Frankly, I don’t know. It’s easy to say this team misses Michael Peca or Manny Malhotra, but do any of us really know? This is supposed to be Nash’s team now and if the product on the ice is a result of that, then yes, we need a veteran presence to re-center the group and be an off-ice leader. At this point, I don’t think a move to sign Peca or any other veteran would make much sense. The onus is on Nash, Umberger, Torres, Modin, Pahlsson, Chimera, Juice, Hejda, Commodore to take the reins and get this thing right.


Q: You talk about “going through the process” and “working through it”, but isn’t that what last season was about? Didn’t you feel like you’d already gone through all of this?

There is no end to the process of development, just like growing older, everyday we all learn something new, or should. The Jackets will always be learning, especially on a very young team, the process is never really over. There were lots of new lessons last year, how to deal with success being a big one, but now the Jackets are getting a whole new education. Teams know what to expect from them and the fans have a certain level of expectation from the players and coaches.
Q: Do you need an enforcer?

No. I have always thought that enforcers were a bit overrated.
Q: [Why or] Why not?

Yes, this team has struggled to stand up for itself a lot in the past, but there have been more and more signs that the right guys (non-skill positions) are increasingly willing to go to bat when necessary. This is a part of the process of building a young team into a contender.
Q: Sitting here, five days before Christmas, do you still feel as if that’s a playoff-caliber club?

I know that the Jackets are capable of making the playoffs, and I really believe it. The Blue Jackets have a load of potential talent, but will they be able to tap into it in time? If they can start catching a few simple breaks, it could change in a hurry and we could be right where we were last March, going through one of the greatest weeks in franchise history.

If the play continues like this, it’s not likely the CBJ will be playing in late April this year. On the other hand, in the most extreme situation, take a look at what the Penguins firing of Michel Therrien and subsequent hiring of Dan Bylsma was able to do. No we’re not as good as the Pens, but if the right move is made at the right time, a lot of good can happen.

In summation, don’t expect any rash moves, but I think this club will find a way to push for a spot in the playoffs.

21
Dec
09

1000 Ways to Die

Winter Solstice… boo for the shortest day of the year. The good way to look at it? Every day from now til the end of June is longer. Bad way to look at it? We still have 3 months of Winter to suffer through. Joy of joys.

I’ve been out of touch, but not out of the loop for the last week since the Predators game and that mess that we call a hockey game. Honestly, I try to be an optimist with many things in life, but especially when there is a lot of negativity already swirling. The Blue Jackets are not one of those things I’m super-positive about right now, and neither are many of the fans and die-hard supporters. Hockey is already very unpredictable, but this team seems to find any and every way to lose a game.

Against Nashville the Jackets were in it for the first period before succumbing to a seemingly unstoppable force. In the follow-up game, the Jackets traveled to Minnesota and were in good shape to get a point but gave up a goal with under 40 seconds remaining in regulation to lose again.

On Thursday the Blue Jackets looked again to get right at home against the Coyotes, but once again fell in the skills competition. With the NHL roster freeze coming up after the looming game in Denver, most of us expected some sort of move by GM Scott Howson…. the Jackets lost again, this time by giving up 4 goals in the opening 8 minutes of the first period.

Right now a lot could go on for the Blue Jackets. During the recent stretch I was in Chicago with a computer that wouldn’t connect to any wireless network, and did not witness any of these losses besides the final 2 periods of Saturday night’s loss to Colorado. In all seriousness, this team is about as predictable as the stock market. They have a few good outings, but don’t get a bounce and run up against a hot goalie, the next night they are giving up 4+ goals and giving themselves little to no chance to win the game.

While everyone’s running around trying to finish last-minute Christmas shopping, I have a lot more time while on Christmas Break and look to get back to much more frequent posting.

The Dark Blue Jacket proposed an outstanding idea of answering all of Aaron Portzline’s questions for GM Scott Howson by each CBJ blogger to get some group conglomeration of opinions. I plan on having this up within the next day.

Anyways, Jackets are in Phoenix tonight, Garon is in net, pretty much a must-win if the team wants to get this ship going the right direction.

Time to get pissed




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