Arace and Portzline of the Dispatch put together a great article that discusses the state of our team. The report compiles the opinions of five NHL scouts who have watched the Blue Jackets play. They discuss what they believe to be the team's strengths, weaknesses, and cause for their continued struggle. Every Jacket fan should check out this article. All in all, it's a bold truth that we as fans need to come to terms with.
According to the scouts, the biggest weakness for the Jackets is defense. As one scout put it:
"When (Duvie) Westcott’s your best defenseman game in and game out, you’re not strong back there. I’m looking at guys right now who are going to be available (in the free-agent market this summer) that are all better than (most, if not all) of the (Jackets’) defensemen. …"Ouch. Another scout agrees in principle but not necessarily on Westcott:
Their best defenseman is Ron Hainsey. And what does that say? He was a waiver claim.And one last stinger:
To me, their big weakness is on the back end. I’m sorry, but you can get by with Aaron Johnson or Ole-Kristian Tollefsen in the lineup, but both of them at once is too much. That’s two pairs each night that are a gamble.That last quote was oddly contradictory to another recent Dispatch article. Hmm. There were only a few positives about the team, particularly on the "energy line". The scouts liked Chimera in particular, and were surprised that Fritsche has done as well as he has. Vyborny also received praise, and the scouts like our current netminders, but that's about where it ends.
There is more critique of maintaining Shelley as a regular player, Zherdev not scoring as expected and Svitov not living up to his promise. One of their biggest suggestions on offense is for the team to pick up a #1 center, as Fedorov's best days are behind him. One scout refers to 91 as "Band-Aid" who the team is not going to win with.
They do remind the fans and faithful that the Jackets have a lot of solid prospects and developing players. With Hitchcock at the helm, they say, this team is sort of like the Arizona Cardinals. The talent is there, everyone is just waiting for it to take off and perform on its promise.
Maybe this reality check will shake the CBJ front office into making some good roster decisions in coming days and into the off-season. Something's gotta change. As our CBJ reporters point out, the Jackets have the worst record in the NHL across the last six seasons, and real progress has not yet been made.