Posts Tagged ‘quarter review

10
Jan
11

Midterm Report

Believe it or not the 2010-11 Blue Jackets season is already more than half over.

Talk about a rollercoaster.

20-ish games ago we were all basking in the glow of a hot start and riding a 5-game winning streak with a home-and-home with the Detroit Red Wings looming… since that time it’s been all downhill for our beloved CBJ who have posted a 6-13-3 record falling from a fight for first in the conference to 13th place in the West.

Ouch.

A challenging 2nd half remains for the Blue Jackets, with an EPICALLY important road trip at the end of February into March including dates at Nashville, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and St. Louis. This trip will be one to propel the Jackets into a frantic fight for the 8th spot in the conference, or a true death knell for the season. Chances are we’ll know where we stand before this trip, as the NHL Trade Deadline falls on February 28th this season.

To share a different perspective for the halfway mark of the season, I invited Jacket-friends Dannie and Tyler to share some of their mid-season award-winners and losers.

From Tyler:

Thoughts so far

As good as the first quarter of the season was for the Blue Jackets, the second quarter has just as equally disappointing.  The Jackets surprised everyone by starting off 9-1 on the road and rising to a virtual tie atop the Western Conference.  Then the third jerseys arrived.  The Blue Jackets have entered a 6-13-3 tailspin.  The optimist will point out that the Jackets are only 4 points out of eighth place and are very much in the playoff race.  The pessimist points out that the team is almost in the same position as last season.

To be honest, this is the position I thought the Jackets would be in this season; close to a playoff spot, but just out of eighth.   I am somewhat disappointed in the lack of scoring by some of the Jackets’ top players, specifically Jake Voracek and Derrick Brassard.  With all the distractions to wrap up the first half of the season, the Blue Jackets most certainly could be in a much worse position.

On the Horizon

After looking at the remaining schedule, I expect the Jackets to win a total of 40 pts in second half for a total of 83 by end of the season.  This will put the Jackets around the 10th or 11th spot in the West by season’s end.

On the personnel front, expect a move in the very near future.  As everyone knows, there is a lot of smoke and we know how the saying goes about smoke and fire.  Also, expect one or more of the “young core” guys to be traded.  If Scott Howson wants to send a message to the locker room, he needs to look no further than these guys.

Offensive MVP:  Rick Nash

What more can you say, when The Captain scores, the Jackets are usually on a roll.  Not to mention, Nash is the only true goal scorer currently on the roster.

Defensive MVP:  Marc Methot

A year ago, if you told me Marc Methot was the best defender on the Jackets, I may have laughed in your face.  As it is now, Methot shows up every night and has shown flashes of becoming a shut down defenseman.  Methot has done a great job of skating the puck out of the zone, making smart passes, and playing big minutes.

Overall MVP: RJ Umburger

RJ brings it every night, he is the conscience of the team, and he hates to lose.  RJ does everything the coaches ask of him and he is the consummate professional.  RJ is second on the team with 14 goals and is +4 on a very inconsistent team.

Offensive LVP:  Kristian Huselius

Juice is a great offensive player that relies heavily on quick starts and stops to play his style.  This made the ankle sprain he suffered earlier this season that much more devastating.  As a top six forward, Juice is not putting up top six numbers.  This could change as he gets his legs back, but if Kristian can’t get his offense rolling, the team could be in trouble.

Defensive LVP: Jan Hejda

It kills me to put Hejda here (one could make a case for Mike Commodore) but Hejda is a square peg in a round hole.  Hejda is a great stay at home defenseman that was excellent under Hitch.  Unfortunately, he is not mobile enough to play the way Arniel wants and handles the puck like a hot potato.

Overall LVP:  Mike Commodore

As the highest paid player who can’t get out of the press box, asking out of Columbus and causing the distraction puts Big Red firmly as my LVP. This distraction may even have cost the Jackets one or two wins on the previous road trip.

Biggest Disappointment:  Nikita Filatov

A projected top six player who was supposed to put up 40+ points this season just couldn’t get it done in the NHL.  Now, Filatov is still trying to discover his scoring touch in Springfield.  Nikita is still a very young player, but one can only get the feeling that time is running out on the young Russian.

Biggest Surprise: Marc Methot

See Defensive MVP

From Dannie:

Thoughts so far

From the very get-go, the Jackets have had precious few moments of domination (St. Louis, Montreal, the West Swing v1.0), a lot of lopsided, painful losses (Buffalo, Edmonton), and then there was Penguins-gate. There have been invigorating, overtime-and-on-Versus feel-good wins, but mostly a whole lot of scraping their rear-ends on the ground like cats who didn’t quite shake it all off in the box. For the first two months of the season, that was enough to win games. As the teams around them have found their legs, despite some ugliness, they have managed to hold on at the back of the pack.

On the horizon

Four games against Detroit. Two against Vancouver. Tampa. It’s not going to be easy. If they can remember to give a dedicated 60 minute effort – they can hang on. If not, there’s always next year?

Offensive MVP: Rick Nash

While Rick Nash continues to infuriate with his on-again-off-again relationship with effort, it’s hard not to give him credit where it is due. 20-14-34 puts him at the top and his ability to net the puck from unbelievable angles has kept the Jackets in games they didn’t deserve a piece of. At a half-assed effort, he is far above his teammates in scoring – but when compared to the guys in his pay grade (7.8M cap hit) – he’s far behind his peers (Sidney Crosby – 66pts, 8.7M; Henrik & Daniel Sedin – 54pts/ea, 6.1M/ea).

Defensive MVP:…..

LOL (editor’s note: Best response ever)

Offensive LVP: Kristian Huselius

Kristian Huselius. Sure, he was injured for a good six weeks or so. He coincidentally sat the entire month of November, when the CBJ crept into a tie for first place. Since his return, the team is 4-8-1. Total disappointment. Honorable mention: Nikita Filatov.

Defensive LVP: Anton Stralman

Anton Stralman. For the fuss that he caused in the offseason re: arbitration, the projected “power play quarterback” has little to show for his raise. 0-10-10, with 6 PPA. His -4 is deceiving – he’s been much, much worse defensively than that. His inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone is becoming almost laughable. Honorable mention: Jan Hejda (where oh where has Jan Hejda gone?).

Biggest Disappointment: Kris Russell

This is a killer, but Kris Russell. In the first year of a brand new, shiny three-year 1.3M/yr contract, the one player who appeared to be set up for success under Scott Arniel has yet to do so. To his credit, he lost training camp to injury and was off to a rocky start with it’s effects, but now 3+ months post-injury he looks worse than he has in years. If they can find him somebody dependable to play beside, he will be able to focus on moving the puck instead of scrambling in front of his own net all-alone.

Biggest Surprise: Tom Sestito

Tom Sestito. Nobody expected big Tommy to do more than swing his fists when he was called up. Instead, the kid potted four points in 9 games and dominated not only in fights but was impressive in front of the net. Waiver rules pushed him back to Springfield, but those nine games were a sweet romance for CBJ fans.

A huge thank you to both Dannie and Tyler for their contributions.

I’m usually move interested to read others opinions, especially in times like this where there is a lot of “gloom and doom” surrounding the subject… you never want to be too negative or too positive for that matter.

Here’s to a record-setting 2nd half for the Columbus Blue Jackets!

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25
Nov
10

First Quarter Musings…

20 games in and I think it’s time to pass some judgment and form some opinions.

First let’s take a look at the team as a whole:

The Jackets are sitting here on Thanksgiving night having played 20 games, winning 14, losing 6, good for 28 points. There’s no doubt this is the hottest start in franchise history, but 2 things should impress beyond simply looking at the overall record. While being a 14-6 team, the Jackets have posted an impressive 8-1 record on the road so far this season, good for best road win percentage in the NHL. Also impressive is the goal differential this early in the season. The Jackets +12 is good for 2nd best in the West, and 5th best in the entire NHL. The differential is obviously an indicator of winning by a lot, but also CONSISTENTLY winning games. In order for teams to be successful they need to out score their opponents by a good margin, not just squeaking by night-in-and-night-out.

The Good:

Early Season MVP: Derick Brassard, Center

Why? Brass has posted 5-12-17 in 20 games played and has tallied points in 13 of the last 14 games. That’s a ridiculous pace if you didn’t know. He may not be Steven Stamkos, but Derick Brassard has returned to the form that was evident during the 2008-09 season, but hopefully this season will see Brass on the ice for all 82+ games. I almost forgot to mention, his faceoff percentage, while not always great there has been significant improvement and usage of Brass in all situations, not just offensive zone faceoffs.

Runners-up: Rusty Klesla, Marc Methot, Rick Nash

Both Rusty and Marc have been outstanding on the back-end so far this season. Klesla must avoid injury so we can finally see what the “original” Blue Jacket can do for this team. Early last year we caught glimpses of what Rusty could be, but injury cut a promising season short. Methot has been almost inspiring. Whatever task Marc has been charged with, he has seemingly completed it nearly flawless, and unnoticed, quite the unsung hero of the blue line.

The Bad:

Early Season LVP (Least Valuable Player): Nikita Filatov, Left Wing

Granted I’m writing this as Filatov is coming off a healthy, disciplinary scratch, Filatov has been a MASSIVE disappointment so far this year. Yeah, yeah, Hitch’s message wore on last year’s team and Hitch also took all the blame for Filatov’s Prima Donna attitude, maybe we’re starting to see not as much of that was Hitchcock’s fault? Filatov has tallied 0-7-7 in 19 games so far this season and sometimes seems lifeless on the ice. I remain optimistic that Filatov can break out of his slump and show the skill he has flashed before on a more consistent basis.

Runners-up: Antoine Vermette, Anton Stralman

Before anyone jumps me for putting down Vermette, please understand my reasoning. The only reason Vermette is being labeled on of my “LVP”‘s is because of the heightened level of expectations placed on him. Right now Vermette is on pace for 17-21-38 (give or take)… that’s not bad, but compare that to the last three seasons: 09-10 – 27-38-65 and 08-09 – 16-25-41 and 07-08 – 24-29-53. The direction he’s going is not what anyone would like to see, and I’m sure he realizes it too. Let’s all just hope he’s going to turn it up in the remaining 62 games.

Anton Stralman, oh ye of near-arbitration fame. On pace for a whopping 20 points… just one season after posting 6-28-34 and bringing the Blue Jackets power play to life. He has improved defensively (+1 rating this year, -17 last year) but the offense has trailed off a bit. Like Vermette, there is plenty of time for Stralman to get things going, and I think he could, but part of me thinks the best season (statistically) is in the past for Stralman. With a cap hit of $1,950,000… he has to improve.

The Surprises:

Came out of nowhere: Chris Clark, Right Wing

If you expected Chris Clark to be a beast for the Jackets this season, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog, you should be a coach in the NHL or part of the CBJ Scouting Department. Many expected Clark to be buried in the minors or as a healthy scratch this season, or even put on unconditional waivers… whatever was expected, there’s no way it was in the fans plans to see Clark piling up the points, now with 4-7-11 in 18 games. It is a contract year… I don’t know how else to explain what Clark has done, but how awesome would it be to see it continue all season long?

Overall, we’ve been blessed so far to avoid major injuries, have no major off-ice distractions, and no losing streaks. The biggest test that awaits is how this team will respond when adversity strikes.

As for now, enjoy it, cheer your butts off, and Go Jackets.




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