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The Aftermath

jordyn leopold letter

Quick recap of the action in the last 24 hours:

  • Jordan Leopold was dealt to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Defenseman Justin Falk and a 2015 5th-round pick. Of note with this trade: The Blue Jackets traded a player who was consistently NOT playing for a potential depth defenseman and an additional pick in the upcoming draft. Of most importance was “The Letter”. I cannot think of a more heartfelt, adorable, endearing, etc., way to plead for your dad to “come home” to Minnesota. I have a huge amount of respect for both GMs for making this dream a reality for young Jordyn and the entire Leopold family. Easily the best story of the day.
  • Amid the swirling rumors of Cam Atkinson’s upcoming departure, in an approximately 15 minute span it came to light that a contract extension was being hammered out and that it had been agreed to. 3 years, $3.5 million AAV. Not a bad number for a guy about to appear in his 200th game and has already reached the 50 goal plateau. After scoring 4 goals in 5 games February 6-14, Cam has seen a very limited amount of success in the Jackets’ losing streak. I know I’m not the only one hoping that with the contract extended and trade deadline passed, Cam can get out from under the pressure and build some consistency down the stretch of the final 20 games.
  • Finally, the move some couldn’t wait for, others dreaded, and many bemoaned: James Wisniewski and a 2015 3rd-round pick were dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2015 2nd-round pick, William Karlsson and Rene Bourque. Initial reaction to this deal is anger and frustration. Karlsson is the most interesting piece of this trade right now, the 2nd round pick in the upcoming draft is something to be happy with, and Rene Bourque is OVERPAID for a minor-leaguer (potentially another reclamation project for Jarmo and JD?).

20 games left…


Where Will Wiz End Up/The Case for Wiz

With the trade winds whirling and less than 24 hours to the deadline, I took some time to look over the teams that could most likely use a player like James Wisniewski, and in the end make a case for why he should remain in Columbus.

The Clarkson-Horton deal was a shocker that took much of the attention away from the already swirling drama around Wiz. The Dispatch reported the Blue Jackets had started shopping Wiz and then it was further reported that the 10 team list of teams to whom he would NOT approve a trade would focus on teams that the CBJ would most likely be able to trade him to.

Mr. Portzline’s tweets:

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So with all of that said, here are the teams without a defenseman in the top 20 points leaders and their available cap space (in millions):

Anaheim Ducks – $4.4

St. Louis Blues – $1 (Shattenkirk is sidelined indefinitely)

Tampa Bay Lightning – $3

Vancouver Canucks – $0.5

Winnipeg Jets – $6.5

Minnesota Wild – $5.7

New Jersey Devils – $2.8

Toronto Maple Leafs – $1.6

Edmonton Oilers – $4.2

Buffalo Sabres – $9.2

With Wiz almost certainly vetoing any trade to the usual suspects (Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Toronto) and if he REALLY wants to stay here, the potential trade partners for Jarmo Kekäläinen are EXTREMELY limited.

Personally I would hate to see him go for multiple reasons:

  • Wiz leads CBJ defensemen in points with 7-21-28
  • Ryan Murray still hasn’t been consistently healthy
  • The intangibles – Leadership, Character, Respect, Commitment

Does Wiz make some boneheaded plays? Yes, but who on the CBJ doesn’t? I have very strong feelings about the potential sell-off of James Wisniewski. His contract is large enough that the potential return will not likely justify the subtraction of everything he brings to our team. The CBJ have waited for nearly their entire existence to have a regular point-producing defenseman on the back-end, and now they have several. This season was lost after the horrible months of October and November along with the horrific rash of injuries, there is no reason to jettison such a precious commodity in this forgettable year for the Jackets. It’s time now to shore up our deficiencies for the 2015-16 season, namely an improved training staff, and not hurt the limited offense already here.


Hit the Ground Running

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Much like the Jackets, I’m doing my best to get back in the swing of things. I was reviewing old blog posts and seeing repetitive things, good and bad, that bothered me. You might wonder what this has to do with tonight’s 4-3 CBJ win over the Washington Capitals. 2 times the Caps scored immediately after the Jackets, and by immediately I mean that Greg Murray hadn’t even finished announcing the goal scoring summary and Barry Trotz’s team was trying to kill our buzz. Many, many, many previous CBJ teams would have folded in similar scenarios and it seemed to be the story of the game. That is if you ignore the puck-hogging Ryan Johansen (in a good way), Corey Tropp flying all over the ice, and Curtis McElhinney gaining scads of confidence throughout the entirety of the game.

This may have been one of the most complete games of the year, I can say with certainty it was one of the most exciting. The effort put forth, the hitting, the back-checking, puck battles, turnovers, etc., it was probably a bit more enjoyable considering the last game in Nationwide Arena had none of that.

A couple additional thoughts:

  • Kevin Connauton again was good, full of skill and potential, but there are moments his inexperience shows, much more in the defensive zone than offensive zone.
  • The crowd tonight was surprisingly big (16,514) from what I have grown used to seeing in previous seasons on a Tuesday night in January.
  • SportsClubStats says the CBJ now have a 0.8% chance of making the playoffs. The interesting aspect is that the “get in” points are projected at 99 (!!!). I would be shocked if the total points needed doesn’t come down a bit.

The Stretch Run

Today was our first dose of “Life After the All Star Game”, and for those who enjoyed the snow day, it wasn’t so bad. Many others returned to the doldrums of their day job and received the mid-day news of Bob’s injury timetable (4 to 6 weeks). Not the greatest news, but expected after the injury in the last game prior to the break versus Winnipeg.

The injury to arguably the Jackets’ best player couldn’t have come at a worst time with just 34 days until the trade deadline. The other daunting aspect is the VERY steep hill to climb.

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14 Points… 14 points and a tough stretch of games including a 5 game roadie to the Islanders, Flyers, Pens, Canadiens, and Rangers, and a fan “favorite”; a 3 game Western Canada trip to Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary in mid-March. The deep hole, rough schedule, and injury bug all come together to make all Jacket-Backers groan.

The famous Sports Club Stats gives the CBJ a 0.4% chance of making the post season, better than being 0.0%, right?

Sir Bob isn’t likely to return until sometime around March 3rd-10th, potentially well after the Jackets have completely fallen out of contention. Of course, someone like Anton Forsberg or Curtis McElhinney could have something to say about that, and it’s about time the injury bug bit another team in the Eastern Conference.

I was a beneficiary of the previously mentioned snow day and made the trip downtown to catch practice this afternoon. Completely outing myself here: the last time I attended a regular-season practice, Ken Hitchcock was still the coach. That being said, it was an absolute pleasure to see both Artem Anisimov and Ryan Murray back on the ice. Both looked quick and moved well considering the severity of their sustained injuries. The best part of practice to me was seeing the guys having fun. They know what lies ahead, they’ve been there, and every time we have seen the Blue Jackets with their backs against the wall, they’ve responded in a big way.


All Star Awakening


Approximately three years ago, a major event set to launch Columbus onto the international hockey stage was announced, and thanks to the lockout, the event never happened. We were fortunate enough to be sitting in Nationwide Arena a little over a year ago to be pleasantly surprised with the awarding of the 2015 NHL All Star Game. An announcement that we, as fans, felt we had earned.

The 2014 season ended in thrilling fashion, spring turned to summer, lives continued to move ahead, and suddenly the leaves were changing and the Blue Jackets were back on the ice. The 2014-15 CBJ squad had limped to the mid-season break, the daily excitement of voting for our favorite Jackets’ players (seemingly in vain, thank Chicago and Latvia!) was fun, the new logo appeared and POOF, All Star weekend was here.

The entire event has blown me away. From Thursday’s Fan Fair “preview”, Friday’s Fantasy Draft, Saturday’s Skills Competition, and Sunday’s game, hockey and Columbus finally seemed to be going public with their budding love affair.

My hope is to talk about each of the events in some detail, suggest some improvements, and see what others thought too.

I am more in love now with hockey than I ever was before and it takes events like the All Star Game to re-energize fans, educate and recruit new ones, inspire young ones, and captivate an entire section of the media. As difficult as it can be to be a fan of the youngest team in the NHL, this made it all worth the thrills and chills over the years.

There are so many different things to talk about, and not enough time or space to say it all right now. I appreciate any thoughts, comments, and feedback anyone can share!


Forward March

The 2013-14 Columbus Blue Jackets season came to an end just like that. 

No parades, not FANtastic finales, but leaving us the way the previous season did, the team simply ran out of road. 

Traveling nearly 200 miles round trip for every home game wears on a fan of a team that never quite can get over the hump… this will be the year, right? But as so many have now realized, this team captivated so many casual fans, and recaptured the souls of those who have drifted further and further away with each disappointing loss.

2008-09 felt like such a relief to earn the first playoff berth, 2013-14 felt that we have finally EARNED the playoff berth. Most of us will never know where the exact change in mentality came from, but there are so many people to be thankful to for the direction change.

Scott Howson – Without his moves, where is this team right now?

Todd Richards – Mr. “Steady As She Goes” seems cool as a cucumber in every situation and is the perfect fit for our young team. 

John Davidson – Sage advice at every turn for the new direction of this team.

The Players – Is there one guy who doesn’t pull his weight out there?

Down 4-0 tonight we began to reminisce over the season, talk about next, discuss summer plans, etc., but it was like the CBJ could hear us start that discussion and Fedor Tyutin rammed home a shorty to make it 4-1. The crowd roared a bit louder than expected.

“Do people really think they’re gonna come back from this?” I said to Tyler… He replied with a shrug. 

The story plays out as we all witnessed. The Jackets made the jaded fans of 209 who have been coming for 8+ years stand up, scream, chant, and cheer for the ole Union Blue. And they almost pulled it off.

I could not be more proud to be reunited with my team the way I was this season, like falling in love when you least expect it, the Jackets once again pulled me fully back into the fold. Friends from years past who’d seek me out once or twice a year to check-in on life and the usual “Jackets gonna make the playoffs this year?” questions have all returned. My students at school ask about the CBJ, coworkers, casual sports fans, non-sports fans, you name it. 

The Blue Jackets are center stage, now it’s up to them to keep it.


Showdown at the CBJ Corral

It came and it went. The 2012 NHL Trade Deadline passed at 3:00pm Monday afternoon.

Sammy Pahlsson, Grant Clitsome, Jeff Carter, Antoine Vermette, Kris Russell have all been shipped out, and no more “shipping” will take place until the after the Stanley Cup is awarded in early June in Nashville, Detroit,Vancouver, New York, or Boston.

This post isn’t about the guys we said goodbye (or good riddance) to. This is about the captain that remains with our team.

I’ll admit it right now: I trust the management of this team. There isn’t a single person in the world who could have reasonably predicted this season would’ve gone the way it did. The excitement of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter had everyone rip-roaring and ready to go in July of 2011.

Fast forward 7 months, and here we stand with Rick Nash requesting he be traded, after GM Scott Howson and Co. said originally it was management who requested the opportunity to pursue a trade for the Captain. It can be argued that Nash is going back on the contract that he signed, keeping himself in Columbus for the majority of the remainder of his career. But it can also be said that the management have not built the team around him that Rick was promised.

Certainly I’m in the minority of defending the management side of things, but Rick signed the contract knowing who his bosses were and knowing who signs the paycheck.

As a fan of the Blue Jackets, I thought it’d be pretty tough to be more embarrassed of the team than I already have been this year. A new low was reached yesterday evening when it was revealed that Nash was the one requesting the trade. I was prepared to be accepting of a huge return in a trade of our Blue Jackets’ Captain, and sure, I would have felt upset/depressed/unsurprised that it never worked out for Nash in Columbus. Now, the egg’s on those of us who wanted nothing but Nash to stay here and become our (lesser) version of Steve Yzerman.

While deadline day was not the epic explosion we expected, there are many in Columbus who are playing out their final weeks in CBJ-land. There is virtually no way Rick Nash wears the Union Blue ever again (unless it’s part of the 2013 All-Star Game Jersey), Steve Mason, RJ Umberger, etc., etc., etc., could all be on the move too.

General Manager Scott Howson and Senior Adviser Craig Patrick have an unenviable position, and in the end, maybe Rick Nash did learn something from the previous Blue Jackets captain; How to bail on your team when they need you most. Luckily Scott Howson took those lemons and made lemonade too.

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