Tuesday, December 26, 2006

CBJ Tickets on 24 Hour Sale

Jacket fans, I hope it's not too late.

I just received word that today, December 26, there is a 24 hour sale on Blue Jackets tickets. For three specific games, all tickets are 50% off. In addition, all games through the end of January have a small discount. If you're looking for a great opportunity to get to Nationwide this season, here's your chance.

The sale runs through 9AM Dec. 27, good luck!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Blue Jackets host Canucks Tonight at 7

Tonight the Jackets are home at Nationwide Arena to host the Vancouver Canucks. It will be the third time the two teams have faced off this season. Both games have gone to the Canucks, and they were won by only a goal a piece.

BlueJackets.com reports that Ty Conklin is on his way back to Syracuse, as Leclaire has returned from his injury and should be ready to start tonight. If Pazzy can get on the ice tonight, it's going to take quite a load off of Norrena who has started 7 of the last 8 games.

The Canucks are looking for win to stand out in the Northwest Division. The top and bottom of that division are separated by only two points. By comparison, 27 points separate the first and fifth place teams in Columbus' central division. On the ice, Vancouver has managed 17 goals in the last 5 games, so the CBJ defense will have to play tight to shut them down.

In the Columbus Dispatch today was a great article about the new CBJ coach, Ken Hitchcock. The story chronicles his life, including the loss of both parents at an early age and his hockey coaching career. The article insightfully looks at what drives the 56 year old coach, and how his style has created both wins and conflict with his players. For those of you outside the Dispatch coverage area, you can view the article here. Also, this link gives a quick overview of Hitch's NHL and international career.

Jackets v. Canucks 7pm on FSN, or inside Nationwide Arena, if you have the means.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nash goal from Monday 12/18

From YouTube comes this footage of Nash's goal from Vyborny and Fedorov on Monday. Definitely on the highlight reel for the season up to now- I'm hoping it'll cheer all of us up after last night's loss. Enjoy. (Chimera sure does)

Where are they now: Grant Marshall

In another edition of our continuing Blue Jackets alumni "Where are they now?" series, we'll look at Grant Marshall.

Grant joined the NHL as Toronto's first round pick in 1992. Following a few years in the Leaf's minor league system, he moved to the Dallas Stars in 1994, where he skated until being traded for a second round draft pick from the Jackets in 2001.

Marshall was never a high scorer or 'skill player' as they are sometimes called. At the time he was brought to to Columbus, he was an NHL veteran who won Lord Stanley's cup in 1999 with none other than Ken Hitchcock's Stars. He was brought in to help the young franchise develop.

At right wing, Marshall would be considered a 'power forward' who used his size and force to push his way onto the puck. If he were still with the Jackets today, I'd imagine he would be a 3rd or 4th line winger, probably skating with our grinders.

When skating for Columbus, he wore the number 29, though his number changed when he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional pick in 2004 draft. Marshall played for New Jersey from 2002-2006. This season has been spent in the Devils' minor league system, playing for the AHL's Lowell Devils.

In his two seasons with Columbus, Marshall played 147 games, scoring 23 goals and 61 pts. He also had 157 penalty minutes.

Grant Marshall at HockeyDB

Photo from SI.com

Choked by the Octopi

Ouch... Last night's visit to Detroit didn't go so well, to put it nicely. The Jackets were crushed by the Red Wings 5-0.

Norrena was in net until five minutes or so into the third period. Conklin, who proudly displays his apparent nickname 'Conks' on his mask, replaced him. It was a rough night for Norrena, who was only able to stop 17 of 22. It seems like when Norrena's on, he's on... and when he's off, he's really off.

Even Hitchcock would agree that you can't attribute the blame to Norrena. The skaters failed to score any goals, and even a somewhat better performance by Norrena wouldn't have made a difference in the outcome. The Red Wings were dead-set on revenge following their fall 4-3 on Monday. They got what they wanted- particularly Hasek, who went from giving up 3 goals in the first on Monday to shutting down the Jackets entirely last night. When playing against the Red Wings, the Jackets need to be on their game. Detroit has been and will probably always be one of the best teams in the league. They're an opponent you have to play up to, otherwise you'll be crushed.

The Jackets had a rough time getting anything going, which is fairly common when they find themselves down by a few goals. One of the old, lasting patterns of this Columbus team is to all but surrender when the odds are stacked against them. It's incredibly crucial for the Jackets to score first. A stat I recently came across stated that the Jackets were something like 10-1-2 when scoring first.

If the inability to generate scoring chances wasn't enough, the Jackets did have one goal disallowed. The puck definitely ricocheted off of a CBJ skate, but it was not a 'kicking motion' that would rule it disallowed. However, the ref saw what happened immediately and nixed the goal, then contacted the Toronto war room. It seemed like a situation where the Toronto folks did not have sufficient evidence to overturn the on-ice ruling, but were not necessarily convinced that the puck was kicked past Hasek.

I've got to shake this game off. The Jackets need to pull out a few more W's in the next week so that they can end December >.500. It's entirely possible.

Jackets lose 5-0 to the Red Wings
Box Score

Photo from Dispatch.com

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

CBJ vs. Wings 3.0

Jackets are up in Detroit tonight to play the Red Wings for the third time this season and their second time this week. Thus far, the teams are 1-1 following a 4-1 loss in Joe Louis Arena in November and a 4-3 victory on Monday. Michael Arace of the Dispatch believes that tonight's game will provide a strong measurement of where the team stands.

The Red Wings will be looking for some revenge against Norrena, who will likely be in goal tonight. With Leclaire still out, Norrena is going to hold down the net for at least a few more days. Foote is also still off the ice, but having Duvie Westcott back helps somewhat.

I'm curious to see who the Wings put in their own net. Their lead tender, Dominik Hasek was given the hook after only 20 minutes of play on Monday night after the Jackets took the score to 3-0 in the first period. Osgood played a fairly strong second and third period, letting only one shot by- granted, the Jackets only took 14 shots in that same amount of time.

In other hockey news, the AP reports that there were three NHL hat tricks last night- the second such occasion this season. Last night's hot scorers were Marco Sturm of Boston, Andrew Brunette of Colorado, and Jason Blake of the Islanders. The Jackets are still waiting on their first hat trick of the season, but it will come. The way the offense has been coming together, I see it in the future of either Rick Nash or Sergei Fedorov.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mr. Norrena's Wild Ride

In the second game I've attended with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, the Jackets played an outstanding and very exciting 60 minutes against the Red Wings.

The Jackets ignited the crowd of 17,000 eight minutes into the first period with a tremendous shorthand goal by speedster Jason Chimera. Hasek came out to feed the puck around the boards to his changing power play lines and Chimera swept in, stole the puck and dropped it in the net over the Dominator's shoulder. The goal lit the crowd on fire, but sat the Red Wings faithful that always populate Nationwide when Detroit is in town.

A second goal came only 90 seconds later with a swift two pass combo from Fedorov and Vyborny, then to Nash in front of the net. Before the end of the first period, former Red Wing Sergei Fedorov would score as well.

The crowd was ecstatic to go into the first intermission up 3-0, and it was demonstrated loudly. In the six games I've attended this season, last night was by far the loudest and the most crowd-involved. This town is reclaiming its stake in the CBJ franchise, now that they've turned it on again.

If I may air a frustration, the Blue Jackets weren't as hot in the second and third periods. It seemed that the team went into cruise control following the first intermission, and didn't regain the killer instinct until late in the third when Detroit nearly sent the game into overtime. For 40 minutes, the Jackets were pushed around and had a difficult time controlling any part of the game. The Jackets mustered 7 shots in each of the second and third periods while the Red Wings fired 16 and 13 shots, respectively. It seemed like so many more, however. Norrena held down the net as if it were the Alamo, despite Babcock's (Pancho Villa's?) troops firing away. There were a number of times that a Detroit goal felt imminent, but so many of their scoring chances came up with naught.

The last five minutes of the game were a wild ride. A full-ice back and forth between the teams amounted to one more goal apiece, including Fedorov's second of the night, and an incredible timely save by Norrena. The crowd was on its feet for the finish, and they were not disappointed... Aside from the few thousand Wing fans.

I can almost sympathize for the Detroit fans though. I too was once and Red Wing fan. It was a different era then, though. Names like Yzerman, Fedorov (he's still one of my all time fav's), Paul Coffey and others are more of my Detroit time. Of course, the Blue Jackets were only a twinkle in McConnell's eye then. Since 2000, it's been all about the CBJ.

Anyway, the three stars of the game were Fedorov, Nash and Vyborny, though Norrena really deserved one of those spots. For the second and third period the rookie goaltender stood on his head.

The Jackets played sharp last night, and hopefully they continue to do so tomorrow when they play the Wings in Detroit. Catch the game on FSN.

Jackets win 4-3
Now 12-17-3, 27 pts, 4th in the central division (5 pts behind Chicago)
Box Score

Photo taken by: Jamie Sabau, from BlueJackets.com

Monday, December 18, 2006

Five Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

I picked a good time to be out of the Jacket's TV viewing area last week. The Jackets lost two in a row to the Coyotes and Blackhawks.

After handling better teams such as Dallas, Colorado, Edmonton and Ottawa, the Jackets fell behind two of the worst teams in the league. Such is hockey, I suppose.

I had an invite to Saturday's dismal home game vs. Chicago, but had to pass because of being out of town. Normally, I'd be pretty upset about missing an opportunity to cheer on my Jackets from my Graceland, Nationwide Arena. I'm okay with missing it... If I had to witness Norrena letting five goals by in the first period, I probably wouldn't have been able to handle it. I probably would have attempted to slit my wrists with my ticket.

To the Jackets' credit, they did claw their way back and ended it as a two-goal game and no more. Also, Nash hit 100 career goals.

Shake it off, Jacket fans. Sports are very ebb and flow. The Jackets play Detroit twice this week, including at home tonight, then this weekend is Vancouver and the New York Islanders.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rumblings from the Cellar

Last night, another team record was broken, 4 straight road wins. Now if we played all of those games in St. Louis, Chicago, and Phoenix, sure, no problem. The things is that three of these games were against formitable opponents, and games that the Jackets owned the other teams: Colorado (3-0), Edmonton (4-0), Dallas (3-1), and don't forget that home win last Saturday against Ottawa (6-2). These are tried and true powerhouse franchises, and the Blue Jackets are putting them to shame.

The three top lines are not only all getting scoring chances, they're scoring goals. Since the first of the month, they've outscored their opponents 22-6. Fritsche has 5 points in his last four games, Nash scored 2 in the Ottawa game, Vyborny had a nifty goal in the Dallas game last night after Turco mishandled a pass. Chimera capped the Dallas game with the afterburners, as he stormed through the D for a mini-breakaway. Other mentions go out to Anson Carter, who's recking up the helpers, and Fredrick Norrena, who has played some outstanding hockey. (You'll see his name at number four on the save % leaderboard, and number 3 on the GAA leaderboard)

Looking ahead, the Jackets play in Phoenix tomorrow, and are back home saturday to play the Blackhawks. If they stay hot, the Jackets can improve to 28 points and continue the climb from the cellar of the conference. As Tyler's last post states that Hitch dropped the "p word," Lets take a look at the numbers:

Based on last year: 95 pts needed
Currently 28 pts, 53 games left, 67 points 33.5 wins needed (.632)

Based on Calgary's pace at #8 in the west:
need (.536): 29.4 wins

These aren't the worst numbers to achieve, but I'm not counting on anything yet, there are still 50 games left and anything can happen.

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Dallas Stars 1

Record: 11-16-2
Box Score

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hitch used the 'P word'

He said it first, not me.

According to a Dispatch article, Hitchcock used the 'P word' following Sunday's game against Ottawa. As much of as a believer as I want to be, I'm not sure I'm there yet. Let's finish off December, then regroup. Then there's the all-star break, then we'll talk.

The CBJ machine is in Dallas for tonight's game against the Stars. Leclaire is at home, hopefully only missing a week's worth of games. His lower body injury turned out to be a mere sprain. In his words: "I’ve been told not to put any weight on it. I’ll spend a few days watching movies and playing video games. And I’ll try to be back as soon as possible." Good news for the young netminder, who will hopefully be back in action next weekend.

Foote's injury is considered to be day-to-day, so he'll be out tonight and hopefully back in time for Phoenix on Thursday. We'll have to wait and see on that one. Don't forget, Duvie Westcott is still out with a finger injury and Brian Berard has still yet to play a single game this season. Those two are amongst our best on the blue line, though there will no doubt be some competition for starting positions when they get back.

In other injury news, Modano and Ott won't be playing tonight in Dallas. Modano has a hip/groin issue and Ott broke his leg. Well, that's two less Dallas staples the jackets have to defend against.

And one more tidbit of NHL news. The St. Louis Blues fired their coach yesterday, replacing him with none other than Blue Jackets candidate Andy Murray. I'm glad we got first dibs.

Jackets faithful, this will likely be my last post for a few days as I'll be out of town until Sunday. I'll be keeping tabs, as no doubt you will, on the team. Go Jackets!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Turned Tables

How 'bout dem Jackets?

Last night's 6-2 victory at home against the Ottawa Senators is the latest of what is now a four game winning streak. In those same four games, the Jackets have outscored opponents 18-3. An unbelievable stat when we recall what this team looked like before thanksgiving.

I watched all or part of this winning streak, and I can firmly say that is coming as a result of a full team effort. Across the board, each line is making its presence known, and usually felt as well. Checking has improved, shooting has been more numerous and more accurate, and the special teams lines have been phenomenal. Last night against the Sens, the Jackets managed five power play goals. Five. Up til now, it's been hard to get five goals at all, let alone from special teams. Needless to say, the five power play goals performance is a franchise record.

Fritsche has been playing like a man possessed- I've been blown away by how much of an impact he has made on recent games. For someone as young and relatively under the radar, he's certainly doing his share. Frtische doesn't have the spotlight in the way that Zherdev and Nash do, but he certainly knows how to control the puck.

Whatever magic Hitchcock is using, it's working. Plays are being made that wouldn't have stood a chance a month ago. The forwards are moving the puck up ice and not seeing it go the other way immediately. Defensemen are getting into the play, and Hainsey is making plays from the point. Eriksson too is having some of his best career games.

The down side of last nights big game, which included six Jacket goal, a failed Ottawa penalty shot and five minute major penalty against the Sens, was injuries. Foote and Leclaire both came off the ice earlier in pain. Foote is departing with the team today to Dallas for this weeks' road trip, but Leclaire is staying put for treatment.

Pascal Leclaire came out of the net in the second with what has only been described thus far as a 'lower body injury'. In his place, Thomas Popperle has been called up from Syracuse. While Leclaire's injury does create some concern, I have confidence that Norrena will to a fine job in his place, and hopefully this able Jackets defense can provide enough cover for Popperle if he starts.
Get the full story on Jacket injuries from last night from Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch.

Despite the great play by the penalty kill lines, the next thing Hitch needs to work on is keeping our players out of the penalty box. We've been struggling with hooking and tripping calls in particular.

Jackets are now 10-16-2 with 22 pts and are 4th in the division.

Sat: Jackets win 5-1 at St. Louis
Box Score

Sun: Jackets win 6-2 at home v. Ottawa
Box Score

***(Update: Contrary to the Dispatch article, BlueJackets.com reports that G Ty Conklin, not Thomas Popperle, will join the team for the road trip. Also, D Filip Novak will travel. He'll play pending on Foote's injury)***

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Hot or Not?

With all this talk about hot players on the team right now, I thought I would reflect a bit on some of the personnel decisions that President and General Manager Doug MacLean made over the summer:


Traded G Marc Denis for LW Fredrik Modin and G Fredrik Norrena. I originally thought that this was a trade mainly for Modin. I think we have all learned since then, yesterday in fact, that the trade also very much included Norrena. It started out rocky, with doubts of LeClaire being able to sustain the rigors of being the #1 goaltender, and with Modin's lackluster performance in the early season. Since then, Norrena has become the first Blue Jackets goalie to post back to back shutouts, let alone two away games, one of which involved the Avalanche peppering him with 42 shots. Great performance for a backup goaltender. Modin has since tied Rick Nash on the goal leaderboard with 7 goals. How about that, trading away one decent goaltender for a great goaltender and a great veteran forward, one of the best responders under new head coach Ken Hitchcock


Signed D Anders Eriksson. At first, I thought this may have been a pretty stupid move. Basically, Radoslav Suchy was not re-signed, and Eriksson was signed in his place. Eriksson has a few spotted years of NHL experience after being drafted by the Red Wings, but has also played in Russia and Sweeden. The Blue Jackets got rid of him once, and now he's back, fortunately for us, he's the only player with a plus rating, +5. Way to go Anders!

Signed C Alexander Svitov. Originally acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay for D Daryl Sydor. He's another like Eriksson, who played in the European leagues before coming back into the NHL. He's a solid checking line center with some potential, but he's got to stop taking stupid penalties. I'm pretty neutral on this one, Alexander is still a young player, but if he doesn't start to show a little more jump in his step, it may be time to rethink this decision.

Signed G Ty Conklin. Give me a break, Ty Conklin is old, and not very good, he's 2-9 with Syracuse this year, has a 3.50 GAA, and what's more, the jackets pay him far too much. Conklin has a total of 60 games in the NHL over 6 years, and the Blue Jackets gave him a $1 mil contract. What are they thinking?


Signed C Eric Boguniecki. The move made sense over the summer as the Jackets were a bit short up the middle, but since then, he's been traded for Ryan Cadwell, a 25 year old defensive prospect. I'm okay with the move, sign for depth now, trade later.


Signed RW Anson Carter. This was the other big move that MacLean made, hoping that it was Anson Carter who sparked the Sedin twins in Vancouver, and not the Sedin twins who boosted Carter's numbers. Carter is another player sparked by Hitchcock's tenure as coach, he was brilliant on the top line in the Minnesota game with a goal and two assists, and he scored goals in the shut outs in Edmonton and Colorado. Another good acquisition by the GM

Of course there's that whole coaching issue that has been all over the news in Columbus. Hitchcock has already begun to transform Columbus into a winning organization, but like most things, it's going to take some time.

The playoffs are most likely out of the question again this year. Right now, we're 10 points out, again using the magic number of 95 points, the Jackets still need 77 points in 56 games...pretty difficult. On the bright side, if the Flames (currently 8th place) stay on the pace they are now, they will have amassed approximately 84 points. The Jackets can get to that mark if they average a point per game, which isn't quite so horrible (they're .500 with Hitchcock behind the bench).

Get it while it's hot!

Freddy Norrena is the #1 star on NHL.com right now. He's on the front page. His highlights from this season are available if you click the little camera icon below his pic.

Check it out!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Steady Freddy indeed!

It's a Tuesday night full of firsts for the Blue Jackets, who toppled the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 in Denver. I couldn't be more pleased by the play of our beloved Blue Jackets tonight. On game 4 of a 5 game road trip, the Blue Jackets got their first win at the Avs' Pepsi Center. In addition, it was the first time in franchise history that Columbus has beaten Colorado in regulation.

And if that wasn't enough, they got back-to-back shutouts for the first time too.

All Blue Jacket goals came at even strength, which was pretty much their only option. Colorado only gave up 4 minutes of power play time. The Jackets took four two-minute penalties, once causing a 5-3 advantage for the Avs. The penalty kill lines were up to the task, however.

The team was all around sharp. They played with confidence and flair, they made offensive opportunities and played a tight reliable defense that created a redundancy in front of the net that I've never seen before. As Norrena moved to stop shots, other players, forward and defense alike, stepped in to seal cracks and stop the Colorado offense from getting one past the line.

Norrena was a net minding machine- stopping shot after shot, 42 of them in all. Despite pitching a shutout away with 42 saves, Norrena was snubbed from being a star of the game. I can only explain that as an oversight by the star selection committee. With back to back shutouts, I'd say he's a contender for the the league-wide star of the week. Regardless of his star status, Norrena isn't playing like an NHL rookie. At the rate he's going, he's going to put a lot of pressure on Leclaire and there will be competition to be the starting tender for the Jackets.

Kudos to Carter, who played a hell of a game. 77 was on ice for all three goals and always seemed to be in exactly the right spot to make a play. Carter has made a serious impact on this Jackets team, especially since the signing of Ken Hitchcock. The Jackets staff needs to make sure he's given all the ice time he can handle, and that he's happy in central Ohio. I don't want Carter going anywhere.

Despite the win, the notice board is coming back:


Adam Foote - You're the captain, Foote. Keep out of the penalty box. As an experience veteran, there is no reason you should be taking these penalties. Your first penalty came while you were already on the PK. That's the worst time to get sent to the box. You leave your team doubly vulnerable. Your other penalty came just as the team finished killing a tripping call against Klesla, too.

Jackets win! Again! 3-0
Box Score

Monday, December 4, 2006

Oilers ring Tollefsen's bell

That's what happened to OKT in the first period of Saturday's game at Edmonton, according to Hitchcock. I'm guessing he sang that old song by Anita Ward and got what he asked for.

But the Jackets won big- probably by the greatest margin all season. With goals from Svitov, Brule, Carter and Fritsche (EN) the Jackets shut out the Oilers 4-0. The team played hard and finally cashed in on what they had been owed. After playing so hard this road trip, it was just now indicated on the scoreboard. Best of all, Norrena was in the net.
According to this article in the Dispatch, Nash had a few words regarding the play of Edmonton's goaltender Dwayne Roloson. During a power play, Nash was camped out in front of the net, as he often is. In an attempt to clear some space, Roloson, used his stick to pop Nash between the legs. Nash fell to the ice in agony, and I can't blame him. No one likes to get hit in the pills. The netminder took a slashing penalty, and Columbus went on a 5-3 power play.

Nice job, Jackets. Let's keep it up. Spread the goals around a little, maybe.

Jackets win 4-0 (Woo-hoo!)

Friday, December 1, 2006

Take the NHL into the 21st century!


I'm writing this post as I'm watching the game. It's about halfway through the 3rd period and the refs have already been on the phone with the Toronto officials twice.

The first call was in regard to a very questionable goal. The puck ricocheted off of the post and back out onto the ice. The ref waved off the goal (because it wasn't) but the goal judge behind the net lit the lamp. The horn sounded, lights flashed and the spotlight went down onto the ice. Meanwhile, the puck was out on the ice being moved around by Calgary players. The Jackets, who didn't see the ref waving off the goal, thought that Calgary had scored. The flames seized this opportunity of Columbus confusion to actually put the puck in the back of the net. This "second" goal counted.

The review questioned whether or not the ref blew the whistle after the no-goal, there by stopping play. If he did, then neither goal counts. If he didn't, then the second goal does count. The ruling from the Toronto war room was that the second goal should indeed count.

I'm not trying to be a whiner here, but this call really irked me. I understand that the whistle is the official start/stop noise of the game, but the goal horn sounded, the flashing lights and audible chaos ensued and the crowd went nuts. What are the players supposed to do? If they weren't looking right at the ref at the time he waved his arms, there's no way they would have thought it wasn't a goal. The actual goal was scored several seconds after the horn had sounded. In addition, the NHL and other sports leagues have rules restricting crowd interference, use of profanity, amplified sound (organ, music) during play, and so forth. How could the lights and horns not be considered unfair crowd/arena interaction with the game? The officials should have halted play and waved the whole thing off.

Shortly afterward, the Jackets were crashed into their own net and the puck disappeared. Chances are that the puck did cross the line into the net, but the cluster of skaters in the crease made it unclear. The on-ice officials and those in Toronto decided this one wouldn't count.

With 3 Toronto war room calls in two games, this is getting out of hand. It's the 21st century- why are we relying on human eyes 10 feet behind the net to decide whether or not a goal is scored? Yeah, we've added replays, which helps, but it's not enough. The NFL also uses replays, but theirs are available by both officials and coach's challenge and are reviewed on-site instead of far away. Most importantly, they're easier to use to overturn a call than the NHL system.

The NHL needs to adopt a high-tech puck. It would be easy to embed a transmitter of some kind into a game puck that could aid in these situations. The underlying idea is very simple- when the puck enters a certain area, a goal has been scored. If the puck is not in that area, there is no goal.

This could be done a number of ways, and here are my suggestions:
  1. There could be a sensor in the back of the net that would detect the puck in relation to the goal line, using some sort of imaging sensor.
  2. An electro-magnetic sensor, similar to an airport metal detector could be put within the goalposts and could detect a puck moving between them.
  3. RF ID tag inside the puck. I don't know how accurate these are, but it may work.
  4. My favorite is a location trilateration system- think GPS but on a smaller scale. Using multiple positioning receivers and a transmitter inside the puck, the location of the puck could be determined anywhere in the arena to a matter of centimeters, maybe better. Simultaneously, this system could potentially be used to highlight the puck on the tv screen (i know this idea was experimented with in the 90's) or locate it when it is hidden behind the boards from the camera.
The game is over now. Jackets lose... the questionable goal was the decider.

Jackets lose 2-1
Same basement, different day.
Box Score

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Where are they now: Lyle Odelein

In this new segment, we'll look at where Blue Jacket alumni are now.

Our first alumnus: Lyle Odelein (D)

Odelein was on the original Jackets roster and played through most of the 01-02 season. He was traded to the Blackhawks for Jaroslav Spacek. Odelein posted a career worst -28 rating with the jackets in 01-02, a far cry from his career best of +35 from his 92-93 season with Montreal. Odelein also served as one of the Jackets' first captains.

Odelein was active in the league through last season. He bounced from the hawks to the stars and panthers before finishing out last season with Pittsburgh. Best I can tell, he retired somewhere between mid last season and the beginning of 06-07.

Odelein is remembered a tough and scrappy defenseman, who stuck up for any of his teammates. I distinctly remember Lyle throwing punches several times. He always had a facefull of characteristic bruises or a black eye.

More Odelein stats are available at the hockey database.

Gallant got the message

An article in the dispatch tells how Gallant has taken much criticism from fans and players since his departure a little over two weeks ago. He said that he'd read quotes saying how much better things were now in Columbus since he left. At the moment, Gallant is on his way home to Prince Edward Island before returning to the Jackets' organization to serve in a yet to be determined capacity.

Gallant wasn't ready for an NHL coaching job, especially with a fledgling team. He took up the post when MacLean stepped aside in January of '03. As I've said before, MacLean should have sought a permanent new coach right away, instead of promoting Gallant.

All in all, I've got nothing against Gallant. He did all he could with what he had to work with. He coached from his personal experience and beliefs about the game. As a seasoned Jacket (he's been a part of the organization since the beginning) he has more to offer than most to the organization. I don't mind seeing Gallant stick around Columbus for a while, so long as its not behind the bench.

In other news, the Jackets made a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. CBJ sent Marc Flood in return for D Derrick Walser. Long time jacket fans will remember Walser- he played in Columbus now and again from 2001-2004. He'll likely spend most of his days in Syracuse unless the Jackets face more defensive injuries.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Jackets get 'Luongo'ed

Despite a stellar performance by Leclaire, the Vancouver Canucks stopped the Jackets last night. With a final score of 1-0, and the top two stars being goalies, it was truly a defensive battle.

I watched the first two periods last night, and the Jackets were playing tough hockey. Valiant efforts by Carter and Fedorov in particular came up with naught. Leclaire was all over the net though- a herculean effort for a goalie still so young. He went post to post many times to stop the Sedins and Naslund from getting more than one goal.

The singular goal came from Markus Naslund, the NHL all-time leading scorer against the Jackets. In what can only be described as miscommunication by Tollefsen and Eriksson, Naslund stole the puck, slipped between the defenders and went one-on-one to beat Leclaire.

Besides another game under Hitch's CBJ belt, last nights' battle demonstrated the effectiveness of Leclaires' goaltending. Since the beginning of the season, I've been a skeptic. Leclaire is still young and is playing lead goalie without a veteran backup. If he can continue to play as he did last night, he'll do just fine.

Mid way through the second period, the Jackets did have a goal waved-off. The video replay, which was reviewed by the boys in Toronto, appeared to conclude that the puck just crossed the Vancouver goal line. Not so, ruled the hockey officials.

Jackets lose 1-0
Still in the basement.
Box Score

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Same Dump, Now With Less Chase

Shout out to Drew of End of the Bench for bringing this up. It needed clarification.

In my last post, I stated that Hitch was doing away with the dump and chase. This is only partly true.

The old style CBJ dump and chase worked like this: After a forward crossed the center line, he would dump the puck into the offensive zone. He, along with up to 2 other Jacket skaters would sprint down the ice to fight for the puck in the corners. This strategy is fairly mainstream in hockey, as it enables big strong forwards the ability to forecheck and dominate the defending team with physical play. If the puck was recovered, it could be brought back to the point or cycled into a normal offensive setup.

Hitch's strategy is a bit different. Instead of allowing all of our forwards to skate kamikaze style into the end boards, he wants the first forward on the scene to attack the puck, and have the second evaluate the play and either go in for assistance or move to make a play. The third player should stay up higher near the blue line, available for a pass or to make the transition to defense if the forecheck fails.

The Hitchcock method of dump and chase should help to prevent a swift counterattack by keeping players closer to the neutral zone and not tied up near the opponent's net. It will also promote faster scoring opportunities as the second and third man in will be ready to make a play rather than chasing the puck.

The old style of dump and chase was such a staple for the Jackets, and I'm happy to see it go. The team gave up so many odd-man rushes by not properly watching their backs when on the forecheck. A dump quickly turned into a play the other way with only one or two skaters ready to play defense.

We already saw the revised strategy on Saturday when the Jackets played the Wild. Watch for it tonight as the Jackets take on Vancouver. 10pm on Fox Sports Net Ohio.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jackets' first win under Hitchcock

The Jackets got their first win with the new coach on Saturday on only their second try. The team was solid all around, making fewer mistakes and having better execution of fundamentals.

There was no magic to Saturday's win. Even though Fedorov had a 4 point night, it didn't seem like he had to carry the team to get the W. There was great contribution from all four lines, and the top line (Nash, Fedorov, Carter) was fantastic. Even Norrena, the 32 year old rookie played a good game and got his first NHL win.

The Wild had also been struggling, though not nearly as bad as the Jackets. They played hard but tired out faster than the home team, even as both teams were playing in the second of back-to-back games. Vyborny personally gave up the Wild's second goal. In a heartbreaking play, #9 turned the puck over just steps from Norrena's goal. The favor was returned in the third period however, as a Wild defenseman deflected the puck into his own net.

Jacket goals, which have been few and far between this season, flowed like water. An unprecedented five pucks hit the back of the net. That's 10% of all goals this season, believe it or not. Columbus has only 50 goals for this season, better than only Chicago. At the same time, the NHL leader is Buffalo at 105. The division leader, Nashville, has 78.

Hitchcock is already working on this team. Between what I've witnessed and read, his focus has been largely on fundamentals and basic strategy. The players have begun to function as a team- even Zherdev was making passes and playing aggressive defense. Hitchcock is doing away with the dump-and-chase strategy, which will be a first for the CBJ franchise.

Jackets are now on the biggest road trip of the season and won't be back at Nationwide until December 10 vs. Ottawa. In the mean time, Hitch should be able to spend some quality time with the team, reminding them how to play this crazy game on ice.

Anson Carter had this to say about the change since Hitch arrived- I think it sums up what we all think.

"I can’t tell you how many times I went home after a game and banged my head on the wall because we weren’t playing the game right (earlier in the season)," Carter said. "The important thing now is we’re all playing the same way. A funny thing happens when not everyone is doing their own thing..."
Jackets win 5-3
6-14-2, 14 pts
Last in the division, last in the NHL
Box Score

Photo by Adam Cairns via Dispatch online

(Update: Frederik Modin
will not be traveling with the team this week due to a foot injury)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snappin' the streak!

Ahhhh.... That's what it feels like to win. It had been so long that I'd nearly forgotten. It feels fantastic, by the way.

The Jackets played superbly well tonight. They played with the confidence, poise, and fluidity of an NHL team. They finally looked like they belong in this league.

I attended the game myself, and it was the first time I'd seen this team win in person since at least last season, maybe longer. This season I'm now 1-5 for games attended. Tonight I had good seats- C6, row C- and there's no game for which I would rather have those seats. Five goals, a four point night for Fedorov and a revitalized Jackets squad I haven't seen yet this season.

I'm ecstatic about tonights game. It could hardly have been more perfect. The win was exactly what this team needed- it ended a losing streak, in front of a home crowd, by a new coach, on a Saturday night, when national hockey media eyes were checking out our Hitched-up Blue Jackets.

I'm going to need some time to digest the game. I'm so elated with the win tonight that I can't possibly think critically about it. I'll see about being more analytical tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Something to be thankful for

The news came faster than I was expecting. It's a new era for the Blue Jackets, as Ken Hitchcock has been selected to lead the team. No details yet on the length of his contract or its salary terms.

This coaching change has been long awaited. I've been looking for this since MacLean got rid of King, back in the 2002-2003 season. Instead of turning King's firing into something proactive, he sat on his hands for 4 years, replacing the coaching staff with himself and his cronies.

But that's all done now. Hitch is in, and it's gonna turn the tide for this team. I don't expect an immediate full reversal of results, as good coaching takes time. I do know that Hitch has the sense of urgency as he wants to get things rolling immediately, "implementing new things at practice" today.

I like this guy already.

So take an extra scoop of mashed potatoes, jackets fans. 'Cuz now it's time to "get it on!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jackets will be on at 1:00PM friday at Philly, then 7:00PM Saturday at home against the Wild.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hitch gets the nod

It was made official before the start of the game this evening vs. St. Louis, Ken Hitchcock is the new head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is expected to be behind the bench Friday afternoon for a 1:00 game against his former team, the Philadelphia Flyers.

I will agree that this is a good move for the Jackets, bringing in a veteran coach with a proven winning record. Is 408-227-122 good enough?...carry the two...yup, that's 6 division titles and a stanley cup ring. Not a bad resume, but maybe not the best move the Jackets could have made.

I do agree with the process of hiring the coach, it was very simple, Mr. McConnell said to Mr. MacLean: "Doug, you need to get rid of Gallant. I want a list of 5 replacements on my desk by the end of the week" The list actually was 3 names, two were immediately eliminated:
1. Gary Agnew (c'mon, need I say more? the guy is 0-5)
2. Kevin Dineen (while he has been a great coach for the AHL affiliate of the Ducks, and probably will make a great NHL coach, he can't coach the team with MacLean at the helm)

Now, on to the three that made the cut, and the one I wish had made the cut:
1. Pat Quinn (my first choice) - Pat Quinn coached the Maple Leafs from 1998-2006. While he never won a cup, he won a gold medal for team Canada in the '02 Olympics, and while coaching, Quinn was the winningest active coach in the NHL. Great resume, but the Jackets never called, and he'll keep on picking who goes into the hockey hall of fame for a living

2. Mike Keenan - upset Quinn for a cup in 7 games in 1994, but didn't get an interview from the McConnells because he was the GM of the Florida Panthers, where Doug MacLean coached, and also where the TV play-by-play Jeff Rimer came from. I've tried to keep track of the crazy things that he says about the team, but he screws up so much I've lost count. Anyway, Mike Keenan is a no go, we've got to get rid of the Doug MacLean cronies

3. Andy Murray - former coach of the Kings. I don't know much about him, other than he had an interview, and it apparently didn't go well. I think it was for the show of the process, if you interview two people, it looks like you're actually screening for a position

4. Hitch - He's the guy. I don't necessarily agree with the authoritarianism that got him drove out of town in Dallas, and I don't necessarily like that there are veteran free agents that refuse to play for him. Unfortunately, I figured this would happen, and I have to look at the positive. The dude can win hockey games, he's outside of Doug MacLean cronie world, and he also cannot be controlled by the aforementioned Mr MacLean. He does know what he's doing, and even if he's not well liked by the players, I think he may be able to help out here in Columbus.

And if anyone actually cares about the team's performance on the ice...they lost again...to St. Loius...the team that made the cup playoffs 25 years in a row, then became the last place team in the west. Until they beat the Blue Jackets in a shootout. The good news is that the Blue Jackets got that half game they needed to make it to 95 points. Now, instead of 42.5, it's only 42 wins. Too bad that's 2 out of 3 games that must end in a win. Happy Thanksgiving!

Coaching selection expected soon

Andy Murray was interviewed yesterday by the CBJ executive threesome- the McConnells and MacLean. No word yet on how things went.

Quoting The Dispatch: "A decision could be made as soon as today or Thursday, with only contract negotiations standing in the way of an announcement."

Good news. I'm hoping they make selection quick- I got club seats for Saturday vs. Minnesota, and I don't want to watch Agnew drag this team through the mud in person. Cash is becoming a factor for the coaching decision. According to the same article, Hitchcock made 1.2 mil last year to Murray's 800k. A fair sum either way, but worth every penny if it helps to turn the team around.

I'm not sure how much Gallant or King made, but I sure as hell hope it was less than that.

Jackets are home against St. Louie tonight, taking on the team that is only 2 pts ahead of them in the standings. We've beaten the Blues already this season, let's do it again. A regulation win tonight would tie us for a spot in the basement, which I suppose is better than being there all alone. Listen for chanting of "hitchcock" and a swarm of boos if the jackets play the way they have in recent weeks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Head Coach interview #2

After another dismal performance by the Blue Jackets, a new coach can't get here soon enough. This team looks like garbage. We can't score, we can't defend, we can barely move the puck on the ice. Last night's game was as bad as I've seen, as it barely missed a shutout by 14 seconds. The Jackets hadn't scored in over 130 minutes of hockey.

I'm ready for anything that might make this team act like its playing in the NHL.

Andy Murray, former coach of the LA Kings, is in town today to meet with the McConnells and MacLean. While the CBJ officials have a few more interviews yet to conduct, sources reporting to the Dispatch say that Hitchcock is looking like the strongest candidate:

A source with knowledge of the Blue Jackets’ hiring process said Hitchcock was "very, very good" — with great stress on "very, very" — during his interview.

The fans want him too. Reportedly, they chanted for Hitchcocks hiring at last night's game in between boos. As Aaron Portzline put it:

A chorus of boos could be heard as the final horn sounded. It would have been louder, but most of the fans had already left.
If this team can't turn around soon, MacLean and McConnell are going to have a lot more to worry about than what happens on the ice. The team is losing its fan base quickly. With the fans go the money, with the money goes hope. I can't blame the missing fans. As much as I love this team, I can't bring myself to shell out $20 to go to a game. I can make myself depressed for free.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yoder for Ice Maintenance Manager

I'd like to officially nominate Yoder for the Ice Maintenance Manager position that is clearly needed at Nationwide Arena.

As this article suggests, the ice at Nationwide is rough, inconsistent and poorly maintained. I've personally played hockey on Yoder's ice and know it to be smooth, solid, and cold. As such, I would like to formally acknowledge my support for his application for the position.

And he can sharpen skates like you wouldn't believe. It's like having a Ginsu knife on the bottom of your skate. I actually used one once to cut through a shoe.

Hitchcock Interviews with Jackets

Ken Hitchcock was spotted in Columbus on Sunday, no doubt interviewing with CBJ officials. He is alleged to be the first of several interviews for the head coach position, which should be solved "in the next week or two".

Several Dispatch articles take guesses at who also may be on the list of candidates, but Hitchcock is routinely seen on top. The other top contenders include Andy Murray, most recently from the L.A. Kings, and Pat Quinn, who coached Toronto to six straight playoff appearances.

According to some, GM MacLean is heavily considering giving the position to Agnew permanently. I couldn't disagree with this idea more. Agnew may be a great coach in the AHL, and I would be delighted to leave him on the coaching staff. However, a strong willed big-time coach is exactly what this team needs to turn it around in the long-run. We've played <.500 hockey for five seasons, and a major shakeup is the only thing that is going to work. Columbus is emerging as a major hockey market- we have the fans, the players, the arena, and the money to make this team work. All we need is a solid coach to put some W's up on the board.

If I were on the decision making body (and I should be), I would lean towards Pat Quinn. His record of recent success in another major market would make him a solid addition to the team. Hitchcock would also be an improvement, but has a history of having a questionably frank personality that is hit & miss with players. The last thing we need to do is lock in another coach who is buddies with MacLean. We've done this with MacLean himself, then Gallant, and now Agnew, who is now 0-3 behind the CBJ bench. (Photo from Dispatch online)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Jackets vs. Avs 11/17/06

The Jacket's faced the Avs once again alright. To start with, kudos goes out to Fredrick Norrena, who in my book has proven himself worthy to be in the NHL. He got his first opportunity to start in Nationwide Arena tonight, but as well as he played, he still gets another tally in the 'L' column. It was sad to see the team clear the bench after the game to have their chance to apologize to their backup goaltender for losing once again, make that 11 of the last 14, and two in a row vs. backup goalies. For the fifth time in 17 games, the shutout goes to the opponents.

What is the deal with this team? I'm not going through the list again, everyone here reading knows the talent level of the players. They're good, but it halts at the individual level. I've been sitting night after night, seeing Fedorov and Vyborny make the best centering passes I've seen...to no one. It seems as though Jason Chimera's hands have turned to cement. He's fast, he can get to the puck, he had several multi-point preseason games, but he can't do anything after he sprints the length of the ice to get the puck. David Vyborny had the puck stolen every other time he touched it. Fedorov looked flat, except it's probably just exhaustion from playing every position on the ice every night. Gilbert Brule couldn't stay on his skates. Finally, I think every player in the NHL has figured out Nik Zherdev's toe drag.

I guess here's as good of time as ever to take a minute to vent about Zherdev. Here's the problem: he doesn't back check. And no, it's not that he doesn't know how, or can't, he just doesn't. Norrena even tried to exploit this weakness in Zherdev's game (the laziness in the defensive zone, that is) but the great pass from Norrena up to the offensive blue line didn't even work. Play went from goal line to goal line, Zherdev barely made it on side to accept the pass from Norrena. It came, but Zherdev didn't skate hard enough, and what could have been a one on one (which he's really good at by the way) turned into nothing, because Zherdev didn't get back in time. There was plenty of time, seeing as though there were 9 other skaters on the ice who made it back. Zherdev just didn't do it.

Here we are again, the turning point of the season. Yeah, I said it right. Yeah it's November. Yeah, it's the turning point. Actually, we missed it already. In order to get to 90 points, the Jackets must finish the season 40-25, .615 almost the exact opposite of what they have now. The bad news is that last season, 90 points wasn't good enough. Edmonton, the 8th seed, had 95, which boosts the winning percentage to around .650.

Side note: there's a great article in the Columbus Dispatch about the ice quality. Apparently it sucks. Rookie ice crew. I learned the original ice techician left to pursue other interests, and the new engineer was hired two weeks before the season started. Hey MacLean! looking for an ice technician? I know a guy!

Final Score:
Colorado Avalanche 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

Box Score

Record: 5-11-1

The race to 90 pts: 40 wins (.615)

Jackets try again vs. Colorado

Preview coverage of the Ohio State v Michigan game tomorrow is far more important than the Jackets game tonight, or so the world would lead us to believe.

Jackets home vs. Colorado- Agnew's second chance with the team, just as it is the Jackets' second chance this season against the Avalanche. Hopefully we can keep up the offense while tightening down the blue line too.

See my post about the OSU game on my other blog, The Soap Box.

Ohio University Clinches MAC East

The most important sports news of the day is right here:

My alma mater finally did something right on the football field.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tough loss for Ags, Nash nearly hats it

In his behind-the-bench debut, Agnew's Jackets fall to the Predators 5-4.

On the bright side, Nash scored two and also managed an assist. According to reports, Nash was likely the scorer on that third but the credit went to Modin. The goals finally put to rest Nash's scoring slump that has undoubtedly contributed to the lack of offense this season.

All CBJ goals came during 5 on 5 play, which says a lot for our offense. Since the inauguration we've struggled at even strength. The special teams was weak however, going 0-5 on the power play, giving up a goal on the penalty kill and worst of all, giving up a short handed goal to Nashville's Fiddler.

Off the ice, Agnew met with each player this week to discuss the coaching changes and his expectations of the team. His effort reasserts personal accountability on the team and should put some pressure on our most skilled players to get the job done.

Ken Hitchcock will also be interviewed early next week, he is likely to be the first of several candidates. Time may become a factor however- according to the Dispatch, Ottawa may also be considering a coaching change.

The Jackets loss at home to Nashville takes them to 5-10-1, still 11 pts. We'll get another shot at Nashville next week though.

Box Score

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MacLean must be reading this blog.

Holy crap. My post yesterday must have got a lot more attention than I thought. I put Gallant on the notice board and 5 hours later he's fired. I don't know my own influence.

I kid, of course. A coaching change has been long coming, and the CBJ execs finally recognized this.

Gerard Gallant was removed from his coaching duties today and replaced on the interim by assistant coach Gary Agnew. This specific step is only somewhat promising. While Agnew may already be experienced in the Jackets system, having spent the last 6 seasons with the Syracuse Crunch, he lacks much NHL experience. While I'm open to any change for this dismal jackets season, I expect MacLean to seriously pursue a long term replacement, and not leave Agnew in as a tiny scab on a festering wound.

This Dispatch article discusses a few potential coaching solutions. First and foremost is Ken Hitchcock. He was fired by the Flyers this season, though he is still under contract with that franchise filling in on some administrative positions. Hitchcock holds a 408-284-100 record in the NHL, which supports a nearly 60% winning percentage- almost 20 points higher than any coach of the Jackets.

Andy Murray recently left the Kings, has a winning record, and would be available quickly. He is also the only Canadian coach to win two world championships.

The final coach discussed in the Dispatch article is a name that Jacket fans should recognize. Kevin Dineen, who was on the roster for the Jackets' first three seasons, is now on the coaching hot list. He has already been getting attention from other NHL teams because of his success guiding the Portland AHL team to the playoffs.

Whomever MacLean chooses, I have the best of hopes. A major coaching change may be able to turn the tide for this team. The fans are tired, the players are tired, and the season isn't far from being totally shot. Picking up a big time coach could reassert our position in this league.

MacLean: Just don't do anything stupid, like start coaching the team yourself.

(Update: Check out this article, also in today's Dispatch. Hunter makes some really good points about the status of our team. The problem may very well be far larger than one man, or possibly it is one man -MacLean. Either way, the crony system is going to do us any more favors than it already has.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Link additions

On the right side of this page, you'll see a few new links. These direct to other hockey blogs, including 2 by other Jacket fans, and one to "Covered in Oil", an Edmonton Oilers page. Fortunately, they haven't given me too hard of a time for Friday's game.

Oil Slick

Following last Thursday's victory in St. Louis, I thought I'd spend a few bucks and head down to Nationwide to see the Oilers game.

The joke is on me. CBJ is now 0-4 on games I've attended.

The jackets gave one away on Friday night. Despite beginning the first period on a long offensive streak with a very long possession, many shots and good cycling, the jackets couldn't get one in the back of the net.

The Oilers, being a solid all-around team, weren't about to let us keep that up. They quickly shut down any offense we would get the rest of the game, exempting only one power play goal by Anson Carter, which happened to be the 1000th goal in franchise history. Oh, and Fedorov went 80% on faceoffs.

About the only thing a Jackets fan could salvage from Friday night's game was the fighting, which yeilded 20 minutes in penalties, and another 20 in misconducts.

I'd love to put some of the team on notice right here, but the notice area isn't big enough. Instead:


Gerard Gallant - Coach Gallant, you gotta get it together. You have the players, you have the fans, you have everything you need. Get these guys motivated and turn this season around or it will be your head!

Oilers win 4-1
Jackets 5-9-1, 11 pts. Last in Central Division

Box Score

Friday, November 10, 2006

And Klesla said, "Let there be light!"

How 'bout last night's big win in St. Louis? What an excellent response to the slump the team has been in. From the opening puck drop, the team played hard. Defense was consistent and puck possessions were long and involved many shots and set-ups in the Blues' zone.

Leading the Jackets tonight was none other than Rostislav Kleslsa, who managed not one, but two goals. The first of which came on a breakaway, after what can only be described as an amazing chance play. Fritsche was down in the Jackets' corner and attempting to clear the puck just as Klesla stepped out of the penalty box. The clearing effort went straight to Rosti's stick. Hardly a deke later, Klesla beat Legace and lit the lamp.

Klesla made it two, five minutes later on a drop pass from Fritsche.

Nash also cracked his scoreless streak with a power play goal in the second. Hopefully Nash will pick it up from here on out. As the team's perennial top scorer, we're going to need his offensive talent to make a dent in the standings.

Gallant's line changes appear to have worked for now, as we still pulled off a rare win with many of our offensive players in new spots on the lines. The most controversial would certainly by Vyborny's move to second line center. He managed an assist and a 47% face-off rating, more than acceptable for someone new to the position.

Hot List
Klesla - Way to turn it around, keep it up!
Fritsche - Excellent performance last night- a goal and two assists.

It's showing that if the Jackets' slump is going to reverse directions, it's going to have to start with the young guys.

Let's get on a roll Jackets, starting tonight at home vs. Edmonton.

Box Score

Jackets are 5-7-1 for 11pts, 3rd in the central division

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Gallant Selects Brave New Lines for Jackets

According to a Dispatch article, Coach Gallant has made some serious changes to the Blue Jackets lines. The fans will get to see his experiment for the first time on Thursday when the Jackets take on the St. 'Most Dangerous City' Louis Blues.

The forwards are as follows:

Nikolai Zherdev-Sergei Fedorov-Anson Carter;

Fredrik Modin-David Vyborny-Rick Nash;

Jason Chimera-Manny Malhotra-Dan Fritsche.

Jody Shelley-Alexander Svitov/Gilbert Brule-Steven Goertzen.

The majority of these positions are unsurprising- Fedorov leading the top line, young guys at the tail end with Shelley. But there are some noteworthy exceptions:

Nash has been bumped to the second line and replaced by Anson Carter, who is more of an NHL veteran. This move may be in hopes of preventing the first line from having too many inexperienced youngsters. A veteran may be more able to adapt to Fedorov's mature play style. Also, Fedorov's bilingual abilities may quickly bring Zherdev into the game.

The second, and much more noteworthy, change is Vyborny playing Center on the second line. In my eye, Vyborny has never been seen as a center. But this fan is willing to recognize that Vyborny is a complete player (and one of my favorites) who can handle both sides of the puck adequately. Initially I would have expected #9 to play wing on the first line instead of taking center. But there's no way he's better at face-offs than Fedorov, so he moves down a line. Vyborny at center also moves Malhotra down, which is an acceptable option. Malhotra has a phyiscal play style that doesn't always gel well with the skilled finesse players on the first two lines. He is best suited to skate with Chimera, and Fritsche will have some guidance as a young player.

I look forward to seeing if these lines make a difference to our scoring woes. Our most skilled players are now spread evenly through two lines, so we're more likely to have solid offense at any given point during the game. Even though I consider these changes to be brave by Gallant, I think its a "so crazy it just might work" situation for the Jackets.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Roster News - Nov. 7

Jackets GM Doug MacLean and Coach Gerard Gallant have made a few small roster moves.

-Shelley was scratched for Saturday's loss to Detroit, though Gallant says that it is only a temporary move.

-Duvie Westcott has elected to have surgery now to repair is broken finger. His spot on the blue line will be filled by Aaron Johnson, though his special teams time will likely go to Anders Erikson. Westcott will be on IR for 6-8 weeks, which is to the serious detriment of the Columbus offense. The defenseman is tied with Rick Nash for 2nd in team scoring.

-Brian Berard is still out of commission following back surgery. The defenseman will likely return to the ice in late January.

MacLean has stated that he is looking to make a trade for another defenseman to alleviate the injury situation. Unfortunately, the trade market is too slow to get any good options. Hopefully it will heat up in coming weeks.

While the jackets injury situation will weaken an already struggling team, I can't help but feel sorry for the Blackhawks. Khabibulin, Lalime, and Havlat are all out for injuries, and Handzus will be gone for the rest of the regular season, minimum.

Other significant injuries from around the league:
Phoenix: Comrie, Reinprecht, and Ricci all out indefinitely
Buffalo: Afinogenov out indefinitely
Carolina: Kaberle, Letowski, Stillman
Florida: Bertuzzi, Nieuwendyk

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Are they still in the race?

Its a shame when we get to a point where every game turns into a must win for the Blue Jackets, but here we are again at the beginning of November with 9 points in 11 games. Trouble is, last year, the 8th place team in the conference, Edmonton, finished the season with 95 points. With 11 games down so far this season, the Blue Jackets must get 1.02 points per game to get to 90 points, that's 73 points in 71 games. Keep in mind, however, that the acutal number of points needed may vary, so I've added a tracker to the bottom of my posts that will approximate the number of points the Jackets need to get to 90 pts. As we see how the other teams are doing, I may adjust the 90 point goal higher or lower.

The good news is that there is still a chance, the Jackets need to win 37 games, which is just over the .500 mark, at .521. It's still a decent mark to shoot for. With the shootout win against Calgary last night taking 3 hours and 22 shooters to decide, maybe the team is starting the turnaround. We'll see what happens at the Joe tonight when the Jackets play the Wings. Go Jackets!

Last game:

Calgary Flames 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 5 (SO)
Box Score

Columbus Record:
4-6-1, 9 pts

The (hopeful) Race to the playoffs (90 pts):
71 games to go, 73 points needed (1.02 pts/gm)

Thursday, November 2, 2006

11/1/06 CBJ vs. Colorado

My, my, Jackets. We're getting somewhere. Despite this loss, I saw some very noteworthy improvement. I went into this game expecting the worst, mostly because my last in-arena experience was so disappointing.

Our team took relatively few penalties, spent a substantial amount of time on offense and get this:

Out-shot the Colorado Avalanche.

They really did it. By a lot, too. Total shots were 44-22. It looks like the Jackets figured out how to play a little offense, and for that, I couldn't be happier.

Passing improved dramatically and I actually witnessed the first line doing some things with the puck that I hadn't seen since the Red Wings or Flames last season. Drop passes, tape-to-tape across the ice, and good play in the neutral zone were marks of solid improvement. Even though we were only 1-9 on the Power Play, each advantage brought a barrage of shots to Jose Theodore. He was simply able to stop so many of them. Two of our goals did come during five a side hockey, which is another area the jackets have struggled in every season.

Fedorov got his first goal of the season finally, and was working hard all game long. He managed two near-breakaways, one of which put the Jackets on a power play late in the third. Modin also had an exciting power play goal, shooting it back-hand, behind his back into the net. It was a fun one to watch.

The goals against the Jackets were fair, but at least two of them came as a result of a defensive breakdown. The team may be learning how to play offense, but cannot forget to get back on D and help cover the net. On those two goals, there was no one in between Leclaire and two Avalanche players. The Columbus defense totally left him hanging. A young, inexperienced goaltender such as Leclaire cannot be expected to stop everything by himself.

This is a game that the Jackets could have won. A little bit tighter defense and some more face-off wins on special teams could have turned the tables on the Avalanche. That aside, I'm quite pleased by the effort, focus, and skill demonstrated on the ice by the home team. The entire team played a balanced game, and all players walked away with an E or -1 rating, meaning that no one was on the ice for many of Colorado's goals. Keep it up guys, and we might win a few!

For the Notice Board
The worst offender of skipping out on defensive responsibilities is Rick Nash. The young star needs to remember that there's two sides of the puck. Most of the time that we spent on defense, Nash stayed up at the opponents' blue line, cherry picking and waiting for a pass. If Nash wants to be a big time player, he needs to mature a little and get back to help his team. Nash, you're still On Notice.

Foote is off notice for two reasons. For one, he swept in behind Leclaire to knock a puck out of the crease that was bound for the net. Nice moves, Foote. Secondly, Foote contributed greatly to the offensive effort, taking a few shots and more than once leading the charge across the blue line. A veteran defenseman who can recognize his whole-ice responsibility is an asset to this team.

Klesla, you're still on notice. No additions from this game.

On a side note, I had the best $16 seats I've ever had at Nationwide. I'll request Section 210 Row A next time I attend a game. Great value.

Jackets are now 3-6-1 for 7 pts, tied for 2nd to last in the Western Conference.

Box Score

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

What needs to get better?

Ok, so I've been slacking a bit in the game review section as of late, but hey, the team appears to be slacking a bit too. It's come down to three things the Jackets can do better to improve those stats and standings. In no particular order, here they are:

Win Faceoffs

Yes, even though you can hit someone real hard and steal the puck, posession is still a huge part of the game. Even though all faceoffs are important, there are a couple that are REALLY important, like the ones on specialty teams. It's the difference on a power play between getting that one-timer goal from the point, or 20 seconds of wasted time as the defense plays the puck back to the other end of the ice. The Blue Jacket's centers are definitely not rising to the occasion. Of the seven centers that have taken a faceoff this season, 3 are above 50% and the highest scorer, 66.7% put up by Geoff Platt, doesn't even play on the big club anymore. Manny Malhotra's numbers aren't horrible at 54% (at least he wins more than half), but his special teams are right at 50%. Fedorov sits third on the list with 51.4%. The other centers playing are Alexander Svitov and Gilbert Brule, 37.9% and 41.1%, respectively.

To break down the numbers a bit I will go to the game on 10/28 in New Jersey. Looking at the faceoff following a penalty, the Blue Jackets were 2 for 10, a 20% faceoff win percentage. The total percentage for the game, an appaling 22%. The faceoffs MUST get better to have a shot at winning a game. Where's Mike Sillinger when you need him?

No stupid penalties

That's right, I'm talking about the favorites of the "new" NHL. Hooking and Holding are the big ones, and they're being called on our top penalty kill lines, with the likes of David Vyborny and Sergei Fedorov being near the top...which brings me to the best thing to yell at the ref's when penalties are called on the guys that shouldn't be taking these stupid penalties: "[Insert player's name] doesn't cheat! he's a fair player!"

Score some goals

This goes without saying...good news is, it isn't as bad as the Blackhawks, who went almost 3 games without a goal. I feel like John Madden saying this but in order to win a hockey game, you have to score a goal, usually more than one or two. The Blue Jackets have the offensive fire power, the scorers and playmakers need to make something happen.

A little prayer on the ice might not be so bad.

The topic of this post has been conveniently been perfectly timed with my All Saints Day post on my other blog, The Soap Box.

Apparently a Christian clothing store is now marketing these religious sports jerseys. You can thank Deadspin for the heads-up.

The way this season is starting, a little help from above might not be the worst idea.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ice Professionals, no doubt.

Attendees to Jackets home games this season will have witnessed a new feature on the ice. Not new players, not new intermission activities, but a new ice maintenance team. One that's a little... well... more exciting?

This season, the Pepsi Corp. has sponsored the Mountain Dew Ice Crew. (pictured) This crack team of highly qualified, expertly trained individuals has arrived to make sure the ice is in peak condition for NHL play. Also found in their job description: Eye Candy.

The Ice Crew is an addition to the now veteran Pepsi Power Patrol that is responisble for the distribution of t-shirts and fan excitement. I must say, being a member of the Power Patrol would be a dream job. Not simply for the obvious opportunity of attending all home games, nor for the co-workers. I just want to play with one of those T-shirt cannons. Just think of all the non-clothing items you could launch with that thing...
Here's a link to some more information including their individual profiles.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jackets acquire D Ryan Caldwell

Yesterday the Jackets acquired Ryan Caldwell (pictured) from the New York Islanders in exchange for Eric Boguniecki. This prompts the question: "We had Eric Boguniecki?"

I only remember Bogunieki for playing on the lesser lines of the St. Louis Blues and for being a 58 overall rated player in one of my NHL playstation games. Nonetheless he played 38 games for Pittsburgh last season, scoring 11 points and a -2 rating. Not too bad for a 05-06 Penguin.

More importantly, Caldwell is a young guy who is only two seasons removed from the University of Denver. He played both at Bridgeport (AHL) and played two games this season for the Islanders with no points, no penalties, and a -2 rating.
Maybe Caldwell will breathe some new life into the Columbus defense.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Herbstreit is a Jackets Fan, Corso looking for Stinger's head

I was just watching the Virginia Tech - Clemson game on ESPN. Naturally, my favorite Buckeye quarterback-come-sportscaster is co-anchoring the event. At the halftime break the studio anchor announced some hockey news. The following conversation ensued (paraphrased, of course):

Other sportscaster in booth: "Do you still follow hockey Kirk?"
Herbstreit: "Yeah, I love hockey. But my team is terrible."
Other guy: "Who's your team? Columbus?"
Herbstreit: "The Blue Jackets. They're terrible though. They play with no emotion, no enthusiasm and no drive."

There you have it. Kirk Herbstreit is a Jackets fan. Not too surprising, I suppose- I know he lives somewhere in the Columbus area. Maybe if the jackets ever get a winning record we can get the Gameday crew to broadcast from Nationwide. Lee Corso could put Stinger's head on... and all those crazy fans in the back could hold up rediculous signs insulting the cast. "Puck Corso!"?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jackets vs. Sharks 10/23/06

In all the Blue Jackets games I've been to, I've never left the arena in as bad of a mood as I did on Monday. The game against the Sharks was god-awful. The Jackets played like a high school hockey team that smoked too much pot before the game. Nearly every player appeared uncoordinated, unenthused and indifferent to what was taking place on the ice. It didn't look like the team even realized where they were til midway through the third period.

I want to believe in the Blue Jackets, I truly do. I want nothing more than for this team to succeed. Finally we have the personnel to make a statement in the league, and yet we can't even lose with dignity.

The biggest problem I noticed was neutral zone passing. Anytime the puck left the stick of a jacket near center ice, it was immediately headed back towards Leclaire. We couldn't coordinate our forwards to get the puck past the blue line more than once or twice per period.

To the San Jose Sharks credit, they played textbook hockey. Everything about the Sharks performance was by the book. Passes were well chosen, plays were carefully set up, and execution was at an acceptable level. The Sharks didn't need to play an exceptional game to beat Columbus. All they had to do was show up.

Penalties were a serious issue. The jackets took 10 total penalties and all but 3 were for Tripping or Hooking. On the flip side, the sharks also took a fair number of penalties and the jackets couldn't produce. Even playing 5 on 4 we could only generate a handful of shots.

Finally, we were once again outshot by nearly 10, including a 15-4 second period.

This is a new segment of my post for players who I shall scorn until I see some noted improvement. (Viewers of the Colbert Report should be familiar)

Rick Nash for outright missing a golden opportunity. While Nash was standing next to San Jose's goal, a shot was deflected by Toskala, flying right by Nash, who had a wide open net for what seemed like several seconds. Nash was clearly looking the other way.

Adam Foote for not doing more about Cheechoo's goal. Even though the jackets were down in a 4 on 3 situation, the play that put the puck in the net was textbook. A cross-slot pass to Cheechoo who was waiting at the back door. As a veteran defenseman, there is no excuse for not seeing this play the whole way in. Foote stood there and watched the entire play while hardly moving from in front of the net.

Rostislav Klesla - Rosti, you're killing me. You're a solid player, but you were the only skater to be on-ice for all 3 goals. What's up?

San Jose Sharks 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 0

Jackets are now 2-4-1 with 5pts. Last place in the division. *Sigh*

Box Score

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How long is it between hockey games again?

Last week I sat patiently waiting for the game last week in Minnesota. I almost didn't believe what I was seeing during the game. The Jackets dominated the first period, then fell flat of their faces to an embarassing first regulation loss to a score of 5-0. With the first loss also comes the loss of bragging rights, as the Jackets fall to third in the division and ninth in the conference.

The good news about the loss is that it is an 82 game season, and with the long season also comes the hard facts. The Blue Jackets are going to lose 25 games. That's right, flat out lose 25 games. They are also going to win around 30 games. It is those other 27 games that are going to make all of the difference.
In other Blue Jackets news, Coach Gallant was quoted in the columbus dispatch today, saying that this week, the practices are going to be a lot harder than the past. He doesn't know how else to keep the players in game shape with the two longest stretches without a game being back to back. Sergei Fedorov has also been skating with the team in a no contact jersey, but is hopeful to make his 2006-2007 debut on Friday vs. the Maple Leafs, in Toronto's second appearance in Nationwide Arena. The Jackets then travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday to take on Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Look for Fredrick Norrena to make his first NHL start on saturday.

Columbus Blue Jackets, 0 Minnesota Wild, 5
Box Score

Columbus Record: 2-1-1, 5 pts

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jody Shelley: The Enforcer ...but for how long?

Brian's post about Monday's game vs the Coyotes brought up an interesting topic: Jody Shelley. Good ole #45 has been with the Blue Jackets organization from the very beginning. As early as the inaugural 2000-2001 season, Shelley played 69 games for the Syracuse crunch and once for the Jackets. Since then he has been a staple on the Columbus roster, playing 50-80 games per season.

Jody Shelley is a role player, his title: the enforcer. Shelley is known for one thing and for one thing only- to establish a physical presence on the ice and defend his team from the roughest players on opposing teams. When an opponent tries to rough up one of Columbus' younger or more defenseless players, Shelley is the man who steps out on the ice like a bodyguard. A few checks into the boards usually fixes the problem, though a few more deliberate punches to the face are also in the repertoire.

It is well known that the NHL is attempting to "crack down" on fights by enforcing stricter penalties for instigators, and at the very least making quicker efforts to stop the punches before they're thrown. Without getting into the merits of on-ice fights in the NHL (we can do that another time), the crackdown on this scenario takes away the need for a physical player like Shelley.

As Brian said, Shelley's days are numbered. Beyond fighting, Shelley is not an incredibly useful player on the ice. In 280 NHL games, Shelley has amounted to only 27 points- 10 goals, 17 assists. In the same amount of time he racked up 856 penalty minutes. Granted, that number is slightly skewed by the fact that a fighting penalty is a 5 minute major and cedes no power play, but it still amounts to over 14 hours in the box. But how many of those minutes are forcing the Jackets into a penalty kill situation? The one stat that I don't have available is how many minutes he actually spends on ice. I think the penalty box to ice time ratio would be ridiculous. What I do know is that he averages over 3 minutes in the box per game and in the first three games of this season has not found himself there yet.

Outside of games, Shelley has a different role with the team. As one of only a handful of Jacket players who have a strong grip on the English language and a likeable public personality, he has spent more time than any other player doing promotions and advertising. Local car dealerships utilize many commercials with his likeness projecting toughness. The mobile Blue Jackets promo team also frequently have him making public appearances (formerly in tandem with Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre). Video highlights and ads inside Nationwide Arena often include him advising the safety habits of fans and demonstrating the strength and physical play of Blue Jackets hockey. In essence, he has become the quintessential face of the Blue Jackets. It's hard to imagine Columbus hockey without him. As this site would reflect, he's certainly a fan favorite.

The reason for which I have the most respect for Shelley is not his physical play, not his defense of his team, and certainly not his advertising spots. I admire Shelley for his tremendous work ethic and never-give-up attitude. Having attended a Blue Jackets practice, I can attest that #45 was the first one on the ice and the last one off. To be frank, the guy works his ass off to be the best player he can be. You can't blame a guy with that much effort. To his dismay, his hard work on his slapshot and stick handling hasn't yielded him any more than 10 points in a season, even while taking the ice in 80 games. However, I must imagine that this attitude and commitment to the team carries over inside the locker room. It's near impossible for any outsider to speculate what impact he may have on the other players.

I have nothing but the biggest dreams for the Jackets, and as such I wonder what role Jody Shelley will have on a playoff contending team. Is his slot on the roster and his salary best spent on an enforcer that can no longer legally enforce? Should he be sent back to Syracuse so that a younger player with stronger potential can take his seat on the bench? These questions will be answered in due time. In my opinion, Shelley needs to evolve. He either must find a more legitimate and effective way to fill the enforcer role, or develop his skills to better deserve his seat on the bench.

And now without further ado, a video of Jody Shelley's "Greatest Hits":

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Full 60 Minutes

Time for home game number two, a thriller for fans of fast paced offense. This time around, the Jackets had a couple of regulars back in the lineup, and they sparkled against the Phoenix Coyotes. Nikolai Zherdev was the story of the night, finally making it back from Russia. The Coyotes learned quickly that Zerdev was back in Columbus, as he put up a two goal night. Rick Nash continues to be the story however, with 3 goals and 3 assists in 3 games. Leclaire once again proved strong for Columbus putting up a remarkable 24 saves on 25 shots. The shots looked great from the other end as the Jackets' offense got off 34 shots on Mike Morrison.

It seems as though all of the things that we've been talking about are all coming around. Not only did the Columbus dominate on offense, but there was the full 60 minute effort from the entire team, something that definitely was missing in Chicago a few days ago. Anson Carter also scored his first of the season, a beautiful bank shot off of newly acquired Phoenix defensman Ed Jovanovski.

One problem that I do see developing, especially later in the season is the lack of minutes Coach Gallant is giving to Jody Shelley. Not that Shelley deserves them, but the days of the hockey goon are numbered. The Coyotes landed quite a few cheap shots in the game, notably on Dan Fritsche, who was injured, but also on Alexander Svitov, who so recently was on the IR list with a shoulder injury, which came dangerously close to being reaggravated. Point being, Shelley got his minutes after these two potential game breakers, but only managed to get one good hip check in toward the end of the second. Where is the team goon when the kids are getting pushed around? Why is Jody Shelley still on the team? I know the fans in Columbus adore Mr. Shelley, but if Coach Gallant doesn't give him ice time, why is he sitting on the bench at all? It seems to me like that spot on the roster could be filled by a useful player to give the top lines a chance to rest for a few minutes. Shelley had 5:02 of ice time, while David Vyborny on the other end topped the list with an unheard of 24 minutes on the ice. Sooner or later our stars are going to need a break.

I hate bursting the bubble of this great win by the Blue Jackets with negativity, but I also see a problem in the officiating. I counted two specific instances where a Columbus player was TACKLED, only to be called for interference. Yes, I said it right, but I'll say it again. A Columbus player was tackled and then went off for interference...HUH? too bad they don't show the penalty replays on the jumbotron.

I will now leave you this fine evening with my new favorite Gretzky quote (Sorry Tyler, I actually found a better one): "First of all, they played a nice game. They're a much better team than last year. I tried to explain that to our guys." Guess they didn't hear your words of wisdom, o' Great One. Better luck next time!

Phoenix Coyotes 1, Columbus Blue Jackets 5

Columbus Record: 2-0-1 5 pts.
(First place in the central division)

Trailing Columbus in the division:
Chicago, 2 pts.
Detriot, 2 pts.
St. Louis, 1 pt.
Nashville, 0 pts.

Box Score


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