The second round games have just started so I thought I'd take a moment to note my observations on how some of the teams have played so far.
Who has been disappointing: Nashville's early exit from the playoffs was a bit of a surprise here. The team played great all season, and managed to lead the western conference for a good part of it. Even after their February trade for Peter Forsberg, (who may not return next year) they couldn't get it done in the opening round of Lord Stanley's tournament. Like most Jacket fans, this season's series sweep by the Predators put the nail in my proverbial anti Tennessee hockey coffin.
Detroit is also not performing as they should be for #1 seed. They had a difficult time against Calgary, and as I write this they are down 2-0 in the first at home against San Jose. The Red Wings' play appears incomplete. They're consistently missing passes and giving up the puck, particularly when they try to drop it back to the point. The Sharks have done an admirable job shutting down Detroit's offensive opportunities. Nabokov was even able to stop a 3 on 1 situation following a turnover in the Sharks' zone.
I was also hoping to see Atlanta make a run, but they just got beat with experience by the Rangers. In hindsight, they didn't stand a chance.
Who has been exciting: Ottawa has been a thrill to watch. Maybe its just the fact that we Jackets fans are so oriented in the Western conference, but the Senators seem to have largely slipped under the radar. As Buffalo dominated the East, Ottawa certainly took their share of wins. As Dan will remember, we predicted the Sens' success back when they signed Heatley, who is a goal scoring machine when the world is watching. (Recall the 2003 All-Star Game) They managed to shred the young Penguins as well, making short work of Crosby, Fleury, Staal, and Malkin. (Those guys will win a cup in due time.) Keep your eyes on Ottawa. They've got the experience and talent to win this thing.
Buffalo and Anaheim have both performed as expected, obliterating everything in their way. We'll see how long they can keep it up, or if the Rangers and Canucks can rise to the occasion and shut them down.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
The second round games have just started so I thought I'd take a moment to note my observations on how some of the teams have played so far.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The rumors that season ticket sales were headed down the tubes must be coming true. In an act of desperation, the Jackets are sending Coach Hitchcock to the wolves in a series of "Town Meetings".
Here's the excerpt from the invitation letter:
You and your guest are exclusively invited to attend a special "Town Meeting" where you will have the opportunity to directly interact with Blue Jackets Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. Learn how the NHL's winningest coach since 1997 plans to build the Columbus Blue Jackets and ask your questions directly to the Coach.It's unclear what Hitch plans to say at these meetings. After all, what could he say that we haven't heard already or don't already know? Up to the moment, the CBJ squad consists of the same 73 point team they had a month ago. All that has changed has been the removal of MacLean from the GM spot. That simple fact may be enough for some, however.
These events will be held in the Founders Club on Nationwide Arena Suite Level on the following dates:
Monday, April 30
Wednesday, May 2
Thursday, May 3
Monday, May 7
The "Town Meetings" will begin at 7 p.m. with a brief cocktail reception followed by a program and Q&A session with Coach Hitchcock starting at approximately 7:45 p.m. You may park in the attached garage and enter Nationwide Arena via the Club Level entrance at the top of the garage (level G3).
While this is a clever strategy that treats PSL holders as "insiders" who get to see the Founders Club and meet Hitch in person, this tactic might be better saved for (or used again) this summer when the Blue Jackets have some material to show to fans. A new GM, a hot draft pick, and a free agent pickup or two will sell far more seats than some free booze and speech from a coach who has only been in town for half a season.
If you go, try to ask a question or two that's going to get a straight answer out of Hitch. Odds are that most of his responses are going to be the generalized fluff that all athletic organizations use. I'm sure he'll say that "the team is going to work hard next year, finish their checks, and develop scoring opportunities." We've heard all that before, and frankly, that's exactly what any hockey team should be doing at any level all the time. That's nothing we don't already know. I'd like to get some commitment from Hitch that the team will lose some dead weight and make some moves for some free agents in the offseason. Lastly, I'd like to hear him personally say that he is in charge of hiring the new general manager. If we, the fans, are to subscribe to Hitch's vision, and the team is to adhere to his 'system', then we need a GM that's on the same page and is willing to give Hitch the reigns on the team.
(Thanks to Brandon for the heads up on this one)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Here are links to the Dispatch articles surrounding MacLean's departure from Columbus:
- Blue Jackets fire MacLean (11:13 a.m.)
- Analysis: For lack of focused plan, MacLean gets the boot
- In the end, MacLean left the owners no choice
- Analysis of MacLean's personnel moves
- Decision to fire MacLean 'was unanimous'
- Reader reaction to the Blue Jackets firing Doug MacLean
- MacLean's firing: What they're saying in Canada
It's the slowest time of the year for Jacket fans. Other teams are enjoying the playoffs and our team is out on the golf course. The draft is still two months away, and the front office won't start signing free agents until the summer, and certainly not without our new GM. We've probably got a while on the GM signing too.
Aaron Portzline's article in the Dispatch explains that the Jackets' GM search is just in the preliminary stages. This is partly due to the fact that several of the candidates currently work for Cup-contending teams and therefore won't be immediately available for interviewing. In the mean time, Mike Priest, the new CBJ President, will be granting interviews to two front office employees already in the organization. While these candidates are worth examining, I have faith that Priest will focus more of his attention elsewhere. Promoting a MacLean crony to the top spot in the organization isn't a good way of "moving in a new direction." Regardless of their selection for the new GM, the Jackets will see a lot of changes in coming months. Even though the waiting is rough, it's a short wait compared to the last six seasons.
But hey, we've got playoff hockey to watch... and this:
Friday, April 20, 2007
- Dallas Stars - Darryl Sydor
- Anaheim Ducks - Francois Beauchemin, Todd Marchant, Mark Hartigan
- Buffalo Sabers - Jaroslav Spacek, Ty Conklin
- New York Islanders - Mike Sillinger
- New Jersey Devils - Mike Rup
- Tampa Bay Lightning - Marc Denis, Luke Richardson
Thursday, April 19, 2007
An era has ended for Columbus hockey. Gone is the Prince Edward Island kingpin Doug "The Don" MacLean. (You can interpret that either way you want. You can choose between the Godfather Don Corleone, or Don McLean "Bye Bye Miss American Pie")
In a evening meeting of the CBJ ownership group, it was decided that MacLean's nine year tenure as Blue Jackets President and GM would come to a close. Doug took the reigns back in '98, well before the Blue Jackets ever took the ice. He was charged with developing the expansion team into a competitive professional squad. Since formally entering the league in 2000, the Jackets have posted six dismal seasons with losing records. Players, coaches, and even some fans have both come and gone in that span with no strong sign of improvement soon.
MacLean's termination from the organization has been long coming. After several consecutive unsuccessful trades and off-season pick-ups, followed by declining ticket sales and an overall inability to put a winning team on the ice, it is time for Doug to move along. Michael Arace of the Dispatch put together a great read detailing what went wrong during the MacLean era, in a concise yet complete article. (Though I have yet to grasp the Green Bay Packers comparison. You give it a shot.)
Doug takes with him a sizable portion of the CBJ budget. As per his multi-year contract, MacLean will take home his next year's salary, potentially in addition to a buy-out sum. In all, the CBJ organization stands to lose approximately $1.6 million by cutting MacLean's contract short. However, if this cash penalty is what is necessary to bring in proper management, then so be it.
So far, it has only been confirmed that MacLean himself is leaving. Unknown yet is the status of the rest of his administration and coaching staff that was recruited and hired specially by MacLean. These individuals include several Front Office staff members, as well as assistant coaches Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy. Jackets Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will be staying in Columbus- that much was confirmed by the Dispatch.
McConnell and the rest of the ownership group has committed themselves to personally finding a replacement for MacLean. They will likely act very quickly, as any incoming GM will need time to prepare for the upcoming NHL draft (which he will be hosting) as well as the offseason trades and player signings that happen during the summer. Michael Arace of the Dispatch speculated on who a few of the potential candidates may be. Notable candidates include Steve Tambellini, VP and Assistant GM of the Vancouver Canucks, and the former GM of the LA Kings. Also a potential replacement (and one that makes me a little nervous) is Mike Priest, president of JMac Inc- the parent company for the Blue Jackets.
I, amongst other CBJ bloggers and Dispatch writers are glad to see MacLean go. Most believe that Doug had many positive contributions to Columbus hockey, but failed to produce a successful team. Professional sports are a "what have you done for me lately?" world. It doesn't matter what someone did- it matters what they're doing- and MacLean's recent (read: last 2-3 seasons) efforts haven't exactly been awe-inspiring. He made several poor signings, weak trades and has overpaid for several players who under produced. All the while, the team has continued to stay below a .500 record, and has generally been out of the playoff hunt before the All-Star game.
Many readers and CBJ followers will remind us that it's not entirely MacLean's fault, and they're right. There have been and will continue to be many factors at play regarding professional hockey in Columbus. After all, the General Manager only indirectly affects what happens on the ice. He himself does not choose which net the puck goes into. MacLean gave a good effort in Columbus, and I'm sure he strove to succeed as much as we all wanted him to. But when you post the worst record in the league for the last six seasons combined, and are one of only two teams that have not made the playoffs at all during that time period, it's time for a reality check. In the business world, a CEO cannot continually post abnormally low, bottom of the barrel numbers year after year and expect to keep his job. When failure becomes a pattern and not a fluke, it's time to have him replaced. MacLean should be pleased he kept his position for this long. In the high pressure world of professional sports, winning is everything. You're either winning or you're not. And if you're not, you don't get to keep your job.
The TSN article that broke (best I can tell) the news was posted at 11:15 PM, Eastern Time. As a matter of fact, neither the Columbus NBC affiliate, nor the team website has posted the story yet. The only local press that has a story on their website at the time of this post is the Dispatch.
Related Jacket Times posts:
April 11, 2007 Is GM Doug MacLean stuck in 1996? 8 reasons why I think so.
March 7, 2007 CBJ GM Doug MacLean on Forbes List of Best GM's in Sports
Monday, April 16, 2007
It's time for me to make a selection for this year's MVP. Selecting one player who is "most valuable" to the Blue Jackets is tough. After all, what does 'most valuable' even mean? Some would argue for the guy who scored the most points, others may vote for the hardest working player. But alas, I have made a few decisions for who I think deserves the top (and bottom) honors. Without further ado:
Least Valuable Player- Brian Berard is a solid choice for this (dis)honor. He spent the first half of the season injured and the second half on the bench or scratched. All that cost the Jackets $2.5 million, which makes it Doug's fault too. It's worth noting however, that in the 11 games he did play, Berard put up 3 assists. That puts him ahead of another LVP candidate, Jody "Two points" Shelley.
Most Improved Player- Dan Fritsche was outstanding. Despite having his season tragically cut (sorry) short, he put up more than double his point total from the previous season. This Parma native is turning into a clutch player for the Jackets. I'm happy to keep him in town and on the 'energy' line.
Most Valuable Player- A few other fans and the CBJ website itself posted a poll naming Fredrik Norrena as the MVP. I don't completely agree with that. Sure, Norrena played hard and managed an above .500 record, but he was often streaky, and was generally not a dominant force in why the Jackets were able to win a few. That said, I'm going to go with what some may say is a controversial pick and give the MVP to David Vyborny.
I've always thought that Vyborny is one of the most underrated, under appreciated players on the team. He's always in the corners coming up with a crafty play to either stimulate a scoring chance or stall on the penalty kill. And if you want numbers to support this award, look no further. Vyborny led the team in points (64), assists (48), and was second in plus/minus (+6). He was the only frequent starter to appear in the top 20 in the plus/minus category as well... a testament to the Jackets' struggles.
Vyborny is so often overlooked. He's quiet, doesn't fight, seldom talks to interviewers, and doesn't score a ton of goals. He simply goes out on the ice, does his thing, then waits on the bench for his next shift. #9 will continue to be a key player for this team as long as the front office can keep him around. There's been talk about Vyborny returning to the Czech Republic to raise his family, but I hope he sticks around Columbus as long as possible.
If you have an alternate selection for these honors, say so in the comments. I also invite my co-writers to post their selections.
CBJ 06-07 Stats on NHL.com
Last night featured another amazing game between the Stars and Canucks, once again going into overtime. After being shutout for 5 straight periods dating back to game 2, the Canucks got the equalizer early from Jan Bulis into the third period off a beautiful rebound. Again, I sensed overtime and wondered if Versus would get its head out of its ass and show us the extra frames. They did. And again, the Canucks won it off a Taylor Piatt (who?) one-timer. Thankfully, that game-winner took just 7 minutes, not 77. TAKE THAT Step-by-Step! Urkel was funnier anyway.
Also, interesting aside from my previous posting on the ineptitude of one Versus network Do us all a favor and sell the NHL back to ESPN for a penny, or a loon or a scheckle or a ruble or whatever interesting piece of change that you want. (NOTE: learned from that Albany Times Letter to the Editor, damn they are smart in the Empire State's Capital.)Not only did that Pilates commercial feature Frank from Step-By-Step but also by former NHL'er Pat Verbeek, who interestingly enough won his first Stanley Cup with.... the Dallas Stars. ( I know I guessed Kevin Bacon too) Also, looks like I was off...way off on that Flames prediction, just hope they can make it a series
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't the only one irate at 3 am Thursday morning screaming at Frank from Step by Step as he introduced a new exercise for me to ignore. Versus is trying to establish themselves as an actual network and they pull this crap!? They still haven't responded to my email. Thank God for NHL.com's streamcast of the Canucks flagship so I could pretend I lived in 1925 for the 4th overtime. I was half expecting to be interrupted by a fireside chat or Orson Welles trying to convince me that aliens were invading the earth. Well I'm not buying it. Flames over Wings in 6, calling it now.
Update: The Versus outage was noted on Deadspin as appearing in a Letter to the Editor in the Albany Times-Union... I'm sure amongst other places. I hope Versus noticed.
I tuned in to the Stars-Canucks game last night at the beginning of the third, which was just before midnight in the eastern time zone. It was a fun, quick scoring game and the Stars tied it up at 4 midway through the third. Little did I know that I was in for an all-nighter.
The game proceeded to overtime. The sudden death play continued through three overtimes, stopping between each for an intermission. I stayed with it, even though it was soon 3 am. I was invested, and I wanted to see the goal that broke the deadlock. But then came heartbreak. Versus went to commercial between the third and fourth periods and never came back. Instead, viewers were subjected to a fitness infomercial starring Patrick Duffy. I didn't find out til this morning that the Sedins broke the tie with less than two minutes left in the 4th overtime.
Damn you Versus!! Damn you!!!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Inspired by a conversation I had with faithful Jacket Times commenter Brandon, I've gathered evidence supporting the fact that Blue Jackets General Manager Doug MacLean is stuck in 1996.
Brandon: i heard today from a buddy of mine that McConnell told MacLean to fire Gallant and that if he didn't he'd be firing two people.
Interesting point. 1996 Was a good year for MacLean. That year he was the GM of the Stanley Cup finalist Florida Panthers. With that kind of performance from his team, I can imagine why he'd want to live those days forever. Let's take a look at some of the decisions MacLean has made recently and see if he's still stuck in the 26 team version of the 1996 NHL.
- Bryan Berard - In 1995, he was the #1 overall pick in the NHL Draft. By 1996, little about the NHL performance of the defenseman was known, and he was no doubt a hot commodity.
- Anson Carter - Played his first games in the NHL in 1996 for the Washington Capitals
- Dave King - In 1996 King just finished his third consecutive year coaching for the Calgary Flames. He reached the playoffs each season but always lost in the first round.
- Sergei Fedorov - #91 had already played a number of successful seasons with the Red Wings, and their team looked really sharp. (They went on to win the Cup in '97 and '98) Sergei also posted over 100 points during the '95-'96 season.
- Adam Foote - Foote was a top defenseman for the 1996 cup winning Colorado team. MacLean saw firsthand what Foote was capable of as his team stole the cup in game
74 (Thanks Truth) from the Panthers.
- Ken Hitchcock - He was hired by the Dallas Stars in the middle of the 1995-1996 season. Even though they finished 15-23-5 that year, Hitch's Stars made the playoffs the next 5 consecutive seasons and included 2 finals appearances and one Stanley Cup victory.
- Gerard Gallant - GG finished his last season as a player in 1996 and joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant in 2001 - his first NHL gig.
- Doug's iPod has been known to contain tracks by Los Del Rio, the Quad City DJ's and The Tony Rich Project.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
This morning I registered the domain www.jackettimes.com through Yahoo. I found a great deal where I could get the first year for $1.99. Done.
If you use 'www.jackettimes.com' it'll do a masked redirect to the same site. All of your old bookmarks, rss feeds, links and whatever else you have attached to this site will still work, so there's no need to change anything. I just couldn't pass up a good deal.
While I do intend on making a few site changes during the offseason, I'll be sure to put up a post or two about them before anything major changes.
Oh, and if you're a blogger and want to take advantage of the same deal, you can get the $1.99 price by clicking here. I don't know how long it'll last, so get it while the getting is good!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
I elected to stay in last night. It came down to the money, mostly. But I did watch some great hockey on TV though- the Toronto-Montreal game was one of the best hockey games I've seen in a long time. I could try to give you a run down on this post, but I couldn't do it justice. The final was 6-5 Toronto, and one of the Canadiens had a natural hat trick within 6 minutes. Alas, the effort went for naught. Despite the Leafs' big win, the Isles' shootout victory over the Devils today kept Toronto out of the playoffs and granted New York the 8th seed.
The Jackets didn't fare so well. Even a late rally couldn't put them past Selanne and his cronies. Despite this, it sounds like it was a fun evening iniside the arena, and if the cards were stacked differently, I would have been there.
Norrena solidified his place as the first CBJ goaltender to amass a greater than .500 record. For that, he deserves congratulations. After all, he's the only Blue Jacket to do so, aside from maybe a call-up or two that only played a couple of games in Columbus. It really shows a lot about Norrena though, that he can have a winning record, yet the team as a whole is just 33-42-7. Leclaire really struggled early, and Conklin and Boucher... well, there's a reason why they didn't play any more than they had to.
It's one more season in the history books for the Jackets, and it 's bittersweet. It's always tough to see my favorite sports team end their season, knowing it will be nearly 6 months before I see them take the ice again. But it's chance to say good riddance to a season that has effectively been over for months. But I digress. We Jacket Fans need a week or so to cool off and reflect on the past 82 games. There were a lot of changes, a few surprises, and another disappointing ending. But I'll make an effort to keep a positive (all be it realistic) attitude toward the offseason and next year. ...right after I get the 06-07 season out of my system.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
I'm debating whether or not to attend tonight's FANtastic FANale VI at Nationwide. I'm really torn. The Jackets are hosting the Ducks in what is quite a meaningless affair. Anaheim is securely in the playoffs, and the Jackets are far, far from it. This game could quickly turn ugly, particularly if Teemu Selanne feels like rubbing it in again with a last second (literally) empty netter.
If I stay home, with my NHL Center Ice package, which is surprisingly free, I can watch whatever is going on in the whole league. Particularly, I'd like to tune into the Toronto - Montreal game. The winner goes to the playoffs, and the loser goes home. I'd also get a chance to see the Panthers play Carolina, which would let me view what I believe to be the last remaining teams that I haven't seen this season.
At Nationwide, the stands will be pretty packed and I'll likely have to scalp tickets to get seats. We would be present for yet another John McConnell "I'm sorry" speech, and we'd witness a handful of fans be rewarded with some game worn jerseys. It's be the last time for months that I'd get to see my team take the ice. But barring a very public firing of Doug MacLean, would I really be missing anything? I've poured more of my cash and time into this team this year than any prior, and I really haven't received much return on that investment.
It'll be a to-the-wire decision, no doubt. Check back tomorrow and we'll see what happens. Also coming this week will be the season in review, including our picks for Jackets MVP.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
I got the impression from this Deadspin post that Time Warner Cable would be giving its subscribers a free trial of MLB Extra Innings, the multi-channel pay service that provides access to virtually every major league baseball game. I tuned in this evening to see which out of market games I could pick up, but there was no baseball to be seen. Instead, the channels dedicated to MLB Extra Innings were occupied by hockey. In fact, I could watch any and every NHL game airing tonight.
If you're a central Ohio Time Warner subscriber, check out channels 621-630, plus the subsequent MLB channels, 641-650 for some out of town hockey. It's a great opportunity to see some out of market teams that we Jacket fans seldom get to see all season. I'm flipping between the Jackets-Stars game (on FSN) and the Ottawa-Pittsburgh game, mostly. But you can also see Toronto-Islanders, Edmonton-Minnesota, or even Montreal-Rangers. I haven't had the pleasure of watching most of these teams this season, except for the New York teams. Seems like they're always on Versus. Has anyone else noticed a heavy east coast/New England bias on Versus? Every time I tune in, they're always showing the New York teams, Philadelphia, Boston, or Buffalo. Sure, it's easier to air earlier starting east coast games, and yeah, a huge portion of the viewing audience lives on the east coast, but there's 30 teams in the NHL.
Thanks to the gift of NHL Center Ice, I'll get to see a few more teams before we head into the playoffs. However, I still have not managed to see the Panthers or Lightning, with the latter being a serious playoff contender. Maybe they'll play tomorrow or Saturday and I can catch them on Center Ice.
According to an ESPN report, a New Jersey Judge has overturned an earlier DWI conviction that occurred on a Zamboni. I’ll let ESPN do the explaining:
Zamboni operator John Peragallo had been charged with drunken driving in 2005 after a fellow employee at the Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown told police the machine was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards.
Police said Peragallo's blood alcohol level was 0.12 percent. A level of 0.08 is considered legally drunk in New Jersey.
After his conviction, ice resurfacer John Peragallo took his case to the court of appeals, where it was overturned on the premise that “Zambonis aren’t driveable on highways, and they don’t carry passengers.”
Good to know, just in case I’m ever in New Jersey and have tipped a few back at the rink. I doubt the same would fly here in Ohio, where its been rumored that you can get a DWI on a bike, if you’re over that .08 limit.
Interestingly, our New Jersey rink worker friend admitted to drinking Sambuca with his breakfast, then taking two Vicadin pills, but claimed to have not consumed his beer and vodka beverages until after resurfacing the ice. "Drunk" or not, a .12 BAC might leave his Zamboni looking like the picture above.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I found a list of NHL player salaries on WirtzSucks.com - A site dedicated to the Chicago Blackhawks and the loathing of their owner. Through some tricky copy & paste work, I prepared the following spreadsheet. It's sorted first by team, then by salary. Feel free to do what you will with the data in the file. Re-sort it, manipulate it, negotiate some new contracts... have at it.
To save you the trouble, Jaromir Jagr is the highest paid player at $8.36 million. Second is Brad Richards, second line centerman for the Tampa Bay Lightening at $7.8 mil. For the Jackets, the highest paid player is Fedorov at $6.5
Jody "two points" Shelley makes a cool $600,000- more than 23% of NHL players. His paycheck is bigger than Jordin Tootoo, Mathias Tjarnqvist and Mikko Lehtonen. It's also bigger than Dan Fritsche, OKT, and Ron Hainsey.
We're down to two. After being dealt yet another shut out last night at the hands of the Red Wings, the Jackets have just two games left to put this season out of its misery.
Both remaining games are at home in Nationwide Arena, and both are against playoff teams. Dallas (Thursday) has clinched a spot and sits as the six-seed and Anaheim (Saturday) is in second place in the Western Conference. The playoff seed positions are all pretty tight and a key win or two in this last week of the regular season could mean a home/away change or a different opponent in the opening round. Anaheim and Dallas will both be at their best these last games, making sure their squads are ready to enter Lord Stanley's Tournament.
Columbus players have probably already set up their tee-times for next week (pending weather, of course) and should be out taking advantage of early season golf club sales. Those not heading out to the links probably have plane tickets to the Czech Republic, Finland, or the Bahamas. As the commercial goes, maybe the Blue Jackets are due for a 'Bahamavention'.
In other news, there was a strange coaching change this week. New Jersey Devil's Coach Claude Julien was fired. Not that notale, until you recognize the fact that the Devils are in second place in the Eastern Conference. It's a whole different hockey game when you can fire coaches that have already made the playoffs. Here in Columbus, you have to keep your team below .500 for years to get the boot. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will be behind the bench as they cruise into the post-season. I'll have a good laugh if they don't get past the first round.