Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fire Sale 2007: The Aftermath

It's over- the trade deadline was yesterday at 3:00. As I watched TSN's tradecenter tracker, a few more trades trickled in after the deadline- more likely due to slow reporting, not illegitimate transactions. For the complete list of transactions, including waivers, call-ups and trades check it out TSN.

Arguably the biggest trade of the day came in right at the buzzer. Edmonton traded Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders for Nilsson, Omara and their 2007 1st round pick. I was surprised and pleased by this transaction. Ryan Smyth was the star of the Oiler squad. After much of their defense departed following their Stanley Cup Finals run last year, Smyth was the dominant force on the team. Trading him truly demonstrates how far Edmonton has fallen since last season's playoffs. Covered in Oil expressed their woes for the departed Smyth in several posts. I can imagine that most fans feel the same way. I don't mind Smyth heading to the Eastern Conference though- he has done a number on our Jackets. It seems like every game he plays against Columbus he manages a point or two. With him securely on the east coast, he shouldn't give us any more problems for a while. After all, we play those teams what, once every third season?

As for the Jackets, only four transactions took place that were worth mentioning on national media. There was one or two moves by Syracuse (the CBJ AHL affiliate) but nothing substantial. For a great evaluation of what MacLean and crew were up against this trade deadline, check out Drew's take at End of the Bench.

Anson Carter - Traded to Carolina for a 2008 5th round pick.
Ty Conklin - Traded to Buffalo to back up Miller (Biron was traded to the Flyers earlier yesterday) for a 2007 5th round pick.
Brian Berard - Placed on waivers. Despite MacLean's best efforts, he can't seem to get rid of this defenseman. Anyone can claim him from waivers.
Brian Boucher - The Jackets grabbed this former Blackhawk goalie off of waivers to fill in the 3rd goalie spot. He's the only addition to the roster, and he's only here because the Jackets needed somebody to fill in Conklin's place.

So the Jackets opened up some salary room for what we can only hope to be some big signings this offseason. I'd really like to see the Jackets pick up a big time player or two- ideally a #1 center and a power #1 defenseman. I can dream, right? There's a bunch of players on waivers right now that have performed better than many CBJ skaters this season. Barring a plague of injuries, or an exceptional opportunity on waivers, I doubt we'll see the Jackets pick up anyone new before summer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fire Sale 2007: 2PM Update

No news on any other transactions going through Columbus yet. Berard is on waivers though.

The Red Wings have acquired Todd Bertuzzi from the Florida Panthers. It has not yet been determined what the Panthers will get in exchange.

Aaron Ward has been sent to Boston from the NY Rangers in exchange for Paul Mara.

Atlanta has acquired Pascal Dupuis for a to be determined NY Rangers prospect.

It has been confirmed that the Blue Jackets will receive a 5th round 2007 pick for Ty Conklin.

Fire Sale 2007: 20% Off at NHL.com

Looks like the teams aren't the only ones having a fire sale.

NHL.com is having a 6 hour sale running right now. 20% off all orders, plus free shipping on orders of $85 or more. Check it out.

Fire Sale 2007: 12 Noon Update - Ty Conklin Traded

I'm keeping an eye on today's NHL trades. Here's what has happened up to the moment:

Bill Guerin was traded from St. Louis to San Jose for a first round pick in '07 and a minor leaguer "to be named later."

Georges Laraque waived his no-trade clause to be traded to Pittsburgh for Daniel Carcillo and an 8th round pick.

Martin Biron(G) was traded to the Flyers for some sort of draft pick.

Ty Conklin has been traded to the Buffalo Sabres. It has yet to be announced what the Jacket will get in return.

Fritsche's Out, Modin is In, and Berard in limbo

Jackets winger Dan Fritsche is in rough shape following an incident on Sunday night. Just a few minutes into the second period, #49 took a slash- and not the kind that yields two minutes. While digging for the puck in a corner, a skate slashed Fritsche's wrist, which immediately bled profusely. Fritsche quickly made his way off the ice, into the locker room, then to Grant Medical Center.

Aaron Portzline's report in today's Dispatch tells of Fritche's tendon-severing cut and his two hours of surgery. The wrist and hand is expected to recover fully, but it will be some three weeks or longer before Fritsche returns to the ice.

In other news, Modin has been officially re-signed to a three year deal. #33 will be paid $2.75 mil for next season, then $3.25 million for the next two seasons plus a $250,000 bonus for each of those seasons. The contract does include a no-trade clause, so Modin is pretty much assured to be around for a while, whether you think the Jackets are overpaying or not. Modin has 15 goals for 30 points this season, a -2 rating (+9 career) and 42 penalty minutes.

Brian Berard is being shopped around for anything the Jackets can get. According to a Dispatch article, MacLean is putting Berard up for sale via fax machine- just like those lunch specials we used to get everyday at my old job. There's less than three hours left until the deadline, and the CBJ front office will take anything for him. Wouldn't surprise me if they sent MacLean an Applebees gift card or a pair of socks for the defenseman... But wouldn't that be better than 'future considerations'? After all, they make pretty good quesadillas at Applebees.

News About Jason Williams that Does Not Result in a Dead Limo Driver

No sooner had I completed my first post as an author on the Jacket Times, did the NHL's Norris Division continue to sell off their pieces to contenders. The Chicago Blackhawks (no offense, but this is my favorite NHL team, nothing against the Blue Jackets, Ive followed them since their inception into the league but I grew up in Chicago and love Steve Larmer) traded center Bryan Smolinski to Vancouver in exchange for a conditional second round pick (either 07 or 08). Maybe this team does have a plan, as they continue to try an establish a monopoly on the NHL entry draft's second round. While I applaud this move by the Hawks (Smolinski has underachieved this years scoring 14 goals and adding 23 assists for 37 points with 29 penalty minutes and a +10 rating, mostly thanks to Martin Havlat), this move comes with no surprise as GM Dale Talon probably would not bring back Smolinski who is a free agent at season's end. What I don't understand is why Atlanta wouldn't trade for Smolinski, who would fit in perfectly to be that tweener first to second line center that they need (The Thrashers also need goal tending, but another blog for another day).

The Hawks remained busy on Monday by re-acquiring Kyle Calder from Philly, who continues to drop faster than Chris Leak's Wonderlich score (an 8?!). They then turn Calder around and ship him to divisional foe Detroit for young Winger Jason Williams. On receiving the news that he was becoming a Blackhawk, Williams said that he was excited for finally getting a chance to play for an Original 6 team.

Ok, so he isn't the brightest guy on our team, but at least he didn't shoot anybody or refer to himself as "white chocolate". GOOD TIMES!

Monday, February 26, 2007

American Idol and Keith Tkachuk Have More in Common Than You Think

Hello to all you Jackets and NHL fans, my name is Dan Griffin (jackets time handle: sports723) and I am the sports director for a Jackets radio station affiliate. I have been asked to contribute to this blog and seeing that News Radio is at commercial, I agreed.

Paula Abdul must be a huge fan of the Western Conference's Central Division ( it will always be the Norris to me, darn you Gary Bettman) because opposites attract when looking at this mess of a division. You have NHL front runner in Nashville, who if they can get consistent goal keeping from the ever streaky Vokoun, are a legit cup contender now that they have added Forsberg to play along side Kariya in what might be the wussiest yet most fearful line in the whole NHL. Detroit's grit and combination of youth and veteran talent always makes them fearful in the playoffs (provided they get out of the first round). Then you have yearly bottom dwellers in Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis.

The Jackets as we all know have begun cleaning house, trading Anson Carter for nothing and his dreadlocks for a fifth round pick. Chicago seemingly has no game plan as no NHL team in their right mind would take the massive contract of the formerly good Nikoli Khabibulin and the often injured Adrian Aucoin. St. Louis however has begun the massive exodus of their fading stars. The Blues traded aging vet Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta for a first-round draft pick and a third-round selection this year, and a second-round choice in 2008. If the Thrashers re-sign Keith, the Thrashers must also send St.Louis the rights to their 2008 first round pick.

Now, if this were 1998, I would applaud the move by Atlanta. But since Seinfeld is only in reruns and Jordan Knight just gave me my potato ole at my local Taco John's, I'm going to guess that its 2007. Atlanta now thinks they are legit title contenders. Being only one point behind Tampa Bay for the 3rd seed overall and the South East Division lead, I can understand this. But trading for a 34 year old winger with only 43 points in 61 games doesnt make much sense. Especially with Marian Hossa being an elite winger to play along side Kovalchuk, it would make more sense to trade for a second line center to compliment Bobby Holik (especially since he has just 28 points this year).

But what do I know, Im just a sports director. Look for the Central's cellar dwellers to continue to sell before the deadline, these teams do have talent that can help a contender.

Rare Rout of the Rangers and Predator Problems

Isn't alliteration great?

So the Jackets went to what Danny Gare repeatedly called "the world's most famous arena" and took down the NY Rangers on Saturday, then returned to Nationwide to be beaten by Nashville for the umpteenth time this season.

The New York win was something special. The Rangers and their fans clearly expected a win on Saturday, which they needed to aid in securing their playoff berth. The Jackets weren't about to let that happen, thanks to some great PK effort by Rick Nash and Jason Chimera. Oddly enough, both of them came up with shorthanded goals to keep the game in the Columbus grasp. It was Nash's first ever NHL shortie, which only took so long because coaches previous to Hitch didn't give Nasher much in the way of PK ice time. The defense held tight to the end and the Jackets managed to defeat yet another Eastern Conference team that they seldom play against.

Sunday's game at home against Nashville pretty much went the way of the rest of the season series between the teams. The Jackets were able to take few penalties, which is a welcomed statistic, and even held on into overtime. Conklin was in net, which certainly led to problems in the shootout.

Shootouts are hard for any goalie, veteran or rookie. It's one of the most difficult plays in the game because all the goalie can do is react. It's pretty much a wait-and-see situation, where the shooter can choose from a number of different options and the goalie has to work accordingly. Conks, with his minimal NHL experience is rightfully underqualified for that sort of duty. Despite that, I give the whole team credit for hanging on against a division opponent. (one that is quite stacked, no less)

Ok, so another thing about the Anson Carter trade and why it makes me angry: I think most of us will agree that MacLean undervalued Carter for the trade. Dumping payroll or not, the GM could probably have arranged a warm body or at least a pick this season in exchange for Carter. Besides, if no one else wanted him, wouldn't it be possible to re-sign Carter at a lower salary? If no other team really valued him above a 5th round pick, who would spend more than $2.5 mil on him? What really irks me is that the Jackets received a 2008 5th round draft pick. The organization won't see any value from the trade for well over a year, and given that a 5th round guy probably isn't any sort of savior for our organization, he will certainly spend substantial time in Syracuse. At best, the player that we will have traded Carter for won't see ice time in Columbus until at least 2010, or 2011, if at all. I'm getting a little tired of this waiting game. I'm tired of the team putting so much faith, money, and focus into young players that will take years and years to become the skilled veterans that seem to be producing for every other NHL team. Blue Jacket fans have waited, as we all realize that patience in professional sports is a virtue. But it's been six seasons in the basement. Six seasons of signing young players who don't realize expectations. Six seasons of "maybe next year". The CBJ front office needs to start making decisions that will impact the success of the team now. Not six more seasons down the line.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Carter Traded

Well, the news we've all been expecting. Anson Carter was traded today to the Hurricanes for a 5th round pick in the '08 draft. Now, I expected Carter to be on the trading block, but that means that MacLean has made another boneheaded move...He paid $2.5 mil for 54 games from a 3rd line winger that scored 10 goals and 17 assists. Did I mention a fifth round pick in '08: "With the 165th pick in the draft, the Blue Jackets select some guy I've never heard of from some little ass town in Canada" What a deal! Tyler headlined a post earlier "All players 50% off" more like 75%.

And just like that the dude from Cool Runnings has come and gone, I guess it really was the Sedin twins making him look that good

Buffalo Brawl Leads to 136 Penalty Minutes

Last night's Ottawa-Buffalo game created quite a spectacle. I didn't watch the game personally, so I don't know what kind of rough-and-tumble sort of play led to this, but this is one of the most egregious hockey fights I've seen in a while. It seems like everyone was throwing punches, and it ultimately leads to a goalie fight. (I've never completely understood the goalie fight. It's not like one laid a cheap shot on the other or anything.) It's some great Emery on Biron action though.

Check out all the penalties from the game on the official scoresheet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Leclaire on IR (again)

The Jackets have placed Leclaire on IR again after "re-aggravating" his knee injury from December. The reports on CBS Sportsline and the CBJ website don't give much more detail than that.

Just when we thought Pazzy was back to stay a while, he ends up on IR again. The front office has already recalled Conklin to Columbus to fill the bench while Norrena works the net. It's too bad the Jackets don't have a better goalie to call upon when one of the dedicated NHL tenders goes down. "Conks" is touting only a 3-12-2 record this season, but is running a 2-3-1 when playing for Columbus. Percentage wise, that's actually better than Pazzy, who has only managed 6-15-2 in 24 games this season.

In the same press release, the Jackets announced that they will also be calling up Curtis Glencross from Syracuse. (A package deal on airfare for the two?) If you don't recall, Glencross was the other player (besides Zenon Konopka) traded from Anaheim earlier this season in exchange for Mark Hartigan and Joe Motzko.

(Photo from TSN)

The Scouts Tell It Like It Is

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.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

RickNash.com Debuts Today

Looks like Nasher found his way to 'the net' of a different sort. RickNash.com has been fully unveiled, giving us fans prime access to stats, downloads, and collectibles of #61.

The site features some well done flash animations and some mad photoshop skills. You can tell Rick spent a lot of hours working on this thing. Desktop backgrounds are available in multiple resolutions, and a calendar notes every upcoming CBJ game. Don't miss his biography and a link to contact Nash yourself.

Rick Nash has now joined a handful of other NHL players who have established their own websites within the NHL.com network. Other hockey player-webmasters include Sid the Kid, Ed Belfour, Raffi Torres, and Kevin Weekes. Yeah, I'm surprised Weekes has a site too.

The drive to create player sites can be seen as an attempt to market the game to younger, more technically adept hockey fans. -Though they might be better off on MySpace.

It's a Britney Spears night in Syracuse

The Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, have an interesting promotion going on this week. In honor of Britney Spears' recent decision to shave her head, the Crunch will be offering free tickets to their February 24 game to any woman with a shaved head.
Their rationale:

"...an effort to provide tranquility for troubled pop star Britney Spears’ turbulent lifestyle..."
I'm sure Britney will be gracious of their efforts. I'd like to see how many women partake in this promotion. How many G.I. Jane wannabes are there in the Syracuse area?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hockey Havoc at the Hilton

As mentioned in a recent post on End of the Bench, Ovechkin, Crosby, Havlat, Luongo and others star in a recent commercial on NBC.

I like the new NHL marketing campaign a lot. I just think opening up this advertising to a larger demographic might be more beneficial.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Fire Sale 2007: All players 50% Off!

Today is February 19. That means there's hardly a week until the NHL trade deadline. We all know it's common for teams without hope of a post season to put on a fire sale of their roster. Columbus is certainly no exception. We at the Jacket Times are bracing ourselves for what could be some major changes in the CBJ roster.

Aaron Portzline's article in yesterday's dispatch discusses Modin, who has become an important player to the team, both on and off the ice. According to the dichotomized duo of Hitchcock and MacLean, they're really trying to hang on to #33, despite several other teams trying to make a deal. MacLean insisted that the deal is almost done on Modin, and he's confident he'll stay in Columbus.

More importantly, Portzline's account also includes a warning that there may be some surprise trades by CBJ administration. By trading away a chunk of the roster, the team may be able to free up some cash for free agents this offseason. They may also try to grab some more picks in this summer's NHL draft, which is going to be held in Nationwide. I've said this before, but I would rather see some solid trades and some offseason pickups than draft picks. Our only draft pick to really move this team forward has been Rick Nash, and he's having a pretty rough year to this point. A bunch more young guys isn't going to get this team moving right away, barring something of a Crosby-Ovechkin anomaly.

So who might be packing their bags that would constitute a 'surprise'?

  • Fedorov, for one. He's the highest paid player on the team, making somewhere around six million per year. He has certainly helped our team this season, but has it been six million dollars worth of help? Hard to say. With only 35 points on the season, that's about $171,000 per point. Yeah, I know there's a lot of intangibles to consider with a talent like Sergei, and he's arguably my all-time favorite player, but that's a lot of cash.
  • Carter is as good as gone. He'll be an unrestricted free agent at season's end anyways, and has not generated as much offense as expected this season. No surprise here.
  • Berard, right now, is on the "damaged goods" rack. He has generated interest from other teams, but with his recent surgery is unlikely to fly off the shelves. No surprise here either, whether he stays or goes.
  • Svitov has potential to move. He's not as tied into the franchise as some other players, and has a rough & tough attitude that bodes well in the playoffs. He would be a good 3rd or 4th line fill-in for any playoff-bound team
  • I would hate to see the "energy line" broken up because they've been such a solid line for the last month or two, but what about Chimera or Malhotra? Chimera is arguably the fastest guy on the team, and speed is a key weapon of the new NHL. Who wouldn't want a guy who can fly from one goal line to the other in the blink of an eye?
  • I'd like to see Chimera stay, but would be ok with Malhotra going. Manny's been in and out of the box too many times of late and hasn't been the biggest stick on the line. Frtische' work ethic and Chimera's speed completely overshadow Malhotra, and I don't see Manny as being the glue that holds that line, or the team, together. He could be on the block.
  • Beyond Berard, none of the CBJ defensemen would add substantial value to another team. Klesla is becoming a franchise player, and Foote has attained captaincy and seems to be taking root in the Columbus community, thereby making neither of them likely to move out of state. Erikkson and Hainsey are good on the blue line, but wouldn't give a team any more advantage over their current lines.
So that's my take. Let's stay tuned to the trade wires and keep track of arrivals and departures at the ole' CMH.

For another player-by-player analysis at potential trades, check out Drew's take at End of the Bench.

1 and 1 weekend for the Jackets

Jackets won one and lost one this past weekend. Friday's game against the Sharks surprised everyone when the Jackets blanked San Jose. Michael at Army of the Ohio noted a couple of unexpected features of the game, including some key plays by players I have trouble with.

Sunday shaped out a little different, however. The Jackets hosted the Montreal Canadians for only the second time ever (Thank you NHL scheduling). Even though the Habs came in on a multi-game skid, they managed to scrape together one more goal than Columbus to get the win.

21 year old Halak was in net for the Canadians and he put up 31 saves. He also had this to say to a CBS Sportsline reporter:

"It would have been nice to get the shutout but we got the two points."

I don't like the vibe I get from that- opposing goaltenders coming into Ohio half expecting the shutout. It's particularly pompous from a guy who's in his first NHL start!

Anyway, the Habs scored all three of their goals in the second. The third period demonstrated some strong play by our younger players as Zherdev and Brule lit the red lamp. Seeing those guys execute and make plays even when down two or three goals is incredibly important to the recovery of the CBJ organization. Frankly, it's almost worth the loss at this point in the season.

The Jackets' six game home stand is now finished, and the team will be headed to St. Louis on Tuesday in what will surely be a "we're not going to the playoffs, you're not going to the playoffs" demonstration of young talent and some scrappy play by Nash, Svitov and Tollefson, who have become increasingly violent. (Or is it just me?)

On an unrelated note, this marks the 100th post on The Jacket Times!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Nashville acquires Forsberg

And the rich get richer.

The Nashville Predators traded two players (Upshall and Parent) and picks for Philly's Peter Forsberg. If this doesn't secure the Preds a long stay in the post season, I don't know what will. Forsberg is an outstanding player who has never had a season with a negative rating. Even though his numbers aren't outstanding, he's a stud in the playoffs and will certainly make an impact on the Nashville playoff effort- He certainly did for Colorado.

Zherdev Kicked From Practice - Update

Our troublemaking winger Nikolai Zherdev has been re-welcomed to practice and game time by Hitch. (Zherdev was booted from practice earlier this week)

Aaron Portzline details how Zherdev had a conversation with Hitch, then made up his missed practice by staying later on Tuesday. CBJ management no says that Zherdev "understands what is expected of him" now, and should not pose any more of a problem to the team.

Zherdev not only practiced, but played for 13 minutes during Wednesday's loss to the Blues. (He put up a -2 rating.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Don't Miss Another Jacket Times Post! RSS!

If you're wondering if there's a better way to check in on this and other blogs, not miss new posts, and not have to remember to check each page yourself, the answer is yes.

Web 2.0 has brought us a little goodie called RSS. The short of it is that it's a feed straight from this and other sites that can be read in a news aggregator. All you have to do is tune in to one site or software program, and all of the latest updates from your favorite sites will be right there, waiting to be read. It'll even keep track of which ones you've already seen so you don't have to sift through them. I personally track several CBJ blogs this way, plus a couple dozen regularly updated sites.

I recommend using Google Reader for this service. It's fast, free, and can connect to your other Google services, such as G-Mail, Blogger, or your personalized home page.

Also, I added the ability to have The Jacket Times emailed to you at each update. To sign up, just enter your email address on the right side of the page. I'd still recommend an RSS reader, but this is a good option if you're not ready to jump into that right away.

If you're ready to pick up the feed, the address for it is http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheJacketTimes if you're using firefox (and probably IE) it will offer you the option of adding a subscription, right form that link. Otherwise, copy & paste that link into your RSS reader.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day, CBJ Fans

Hope you're having a great Valentines day. Jackets play at home tonight against the St. Louis Blues. How about we show some V-Day love and steal two points from a division team? That would make me feel special.

"It's not tank time" say Hitch and MacLean

Michael Arace of the Dispatch discusses what's next for the Jackets. Despite the fact that this stage of the season that we're in (read: not even maybe going to the playoffs) is susceptible to taking losses to better a team's position in the draft, Hitch and MacLean insist that we won't be seeing that in Columbus.

Good. As much as I like to see great draft picks, I don't think a top pick is going to give the Jackets any better chances next year. Columbus has had their share of good picks in the past- think Nash, Zherdev, and Klesla, for starters, but those guys aren't going to get the team straight into the playoffs. Granted, none of these players have done the kind of damage that Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin have done, but I don't see even a number one pick as a ride out of the basement. Nash didn't do it, and he even won the Rocket Richard trophy.

It's been made clear that Ken Hitchcock has a "system". He runs his team in a particular way, one that is not always so agreeable by players. I would be more interested in MacLean giving Hitch more control over who the team signs this offseason, as well as during the trade race before the upcoming deadline.

It's crucial that the coaches and staff not tank the team. They need to continue to drill the players, rookies and veterans alike, in Hitch's system and make sure they're all on the same page for next season. If the team can continue to make adjustments and win, they'll become believers, and the team will be that much farther ahead next fall.

Besides, if I was under the impression that all this team wanted was a draft pick, I wouldn't spend the money to sit in the arena. Nationwide has already had a lot fewer sell-outs than previous seasons (at least that's how it seems) and no team wants to throw out that kind of fan support.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Preying on the taxpayers

Yesterday, Fox Sports had an interesting column about the "division rival" Nashville Predators. Turns out that Nashville might be well on its way to kick out the Preds. Apparently, current Predators owner Craig Leipold is going to be asking for $2 million from Nashville taxpayers if attendance doesn't increase by 25%! Not only this...the $2 mil will go toward moving the team, what a low blow!

I can and do see situations where teams will ask cities to help out with costs surrounding an arena, ballpark or stadium, and often times a city will help build a facility because of added revenue it can provide to the city. Columbus doesn't really provide a good example due to that whole John H McConnell thing, but look at an event like the 2007 entry draft this summer, where there will be people from all over the US, Canada, and Europe. The draw is not only huge, but these people will need a place to stay, they need to eat, and as most people do, they will demand and pay for entertainment.

Back to the spoiled Predators...among other things mentioned in the column, the city was very compromising, they took 20% of the concessions income, and they wanted $50k rent, annually. for all of you leasers out there, thats just over 4 grand per month. Hell, I'd pay $4100 a month to live in the Gaylord Entertainment center. Oh yeah, the Predators get all of the ticket revenue, advertising revenue, the luxury box revenue (which the city paid for when coerced into renovating the arena), and don't forget the parking revenue.

Add in the largest portion of the CBA revenue sharing agreement rumored between 10 and 12 million, and it seems like this team is in great shape. Do they even have expenses other than their rent and team travel? And Leipold is asking for money to move. Who would want to when all of the major income belongs to the team, and the team needs more money to be competetive? This is one of those things about professional sports that just disgusts me, teams that are doing well, and whine because they "can't compete," for those of you that don't follow the sport, small market teams were the big ticket last year in the playoffs with Edmonton, Carolina and Buffalo all in the mix. I couldn't agree with Al Strachan of fox sports more when he says: "We've had enough. We couldn't care less if your ugly uniforms are never seen again. To paraphrase a song that emanated from your fair city, 'Take your team and shove it.'"

***WARNING****
Sentimental home team support moment approaching in light of Valentine's day

I know the Blue Jackets haven't had the best of luck, or talent, or whatever it is you want to use as an excuse, but without this team in Columbus, I think that downtown Columbus would be different. The business and revitalization that the Blue Jackets brought to Columbus six years ago is just what this city needed, and now with a new ballpark for the Clippers going in across Neil avenue, I only have more of a reason to support Columbus, it's team and as Greg Murray keeps telling me at every game, MY COOOLLLUMBUS, BLLLUUUUUUUEEEE JACKETS! (loud shouting and appluase erupts).

The Trade Deadline and the Jackets - What's coming?


While we can only guess at what GM MacLean might be planning, chances are good that some trades will be made within the next two weeks. The NHL trade deadline is February 27 at 3pm EST.

Just about any player is able to move, but the ones that are most likely to leave Columbus are the Unrestricted Free Agents. Modin, Carter, and Berard all have this status, meaning that at the end of the season they are free to sign with any team of their choosing. Given that all three of these players are pretty solid, chances are good that another team will be able to bid higher than Columbus will. If MacLean thinks that they're going to leave, it is to his advantage to trade them away now in so that he gets something in return. Otherwise, those players can walk without Columbus getting anything for them.

Despite the fact that no Blue Jacket appears on TSN's rumor list, there has been talk of teams such as Carolina, Pittsburgh and Vancouver, all of which need an extra boost into the playoffs, wanting to pick up Carter. Tampa Bay has expressed interest in Berard, but his slow recovery from his back surgery makes his potential trade unlikely to happen until the last possible moment.

According to a Dispatch article, seven teams had scouts inside Nationwide for Sunday's game. Detroit, Colorado, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and both New York teams all sent staff to check out the Blackhawks and Jackets for potential pick-ups.

Since the Jackets' season is pretty much shot at this point, and the only thing left to do is try to irritate as many teams as possible by making them work their way into the playoffs, we can be assured that there will be a few trades through Columbus. I do hope that MacLean makes a substantial effort to keep some of these guys though. I would love to retain Carter in particular, and Modin is a great player who knows how to get to the cup (no wonder other teams want him). But most importantly, MacLean needs to be conscious of what Hitch needs to create a winning team- that is, who can work with his system and who cannot.

I'll be keeping an eye on TSN's Trades page, and let's see what the team looks like at the end of February.

Hitch Kicks Zherdev From Practice

An article by Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch on Tuesday stated that Zherdev was removed from practice yesterday because of his lack of enthusiasm. Shortly into practice, Hitch sent Z off with two points from his fingers.

On Sunday, the Blue Jackets battled the Blackhawks on NBC to a 5-4 loss. The game may have featured a tough comeback by the Jackets, but it also demonstrated an abysmal level of carelessness by Zherdev. #13 gave up turnover after turnover and didn't belong on the ice.

Can't say I blame Hitch for giving him the boot. I would have done the same. With the franchise struggling enough as it is, the last thing the team needs is a young "star" not caring about the team, the practice, or winning.

This isn't the first time Z has had issues. We at the Jacket Times and the commenters have already recognized that Z may not fit with Hitchcock's Jackets. Check out the comment section of this post.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Flames Extinguished

What a game. The Jackets took down the flames last night in a 3 period thriller. The game seemed like all offense, as the puck went end to end the whole game through.

The first period went scoreless, and the second was almost the same. In the last minute of the second, Calgary's Lombardi managed to get one by Norrena. It would be their last. The Jackets bounced back in the third with two goals- one from Vyborny and one from Modin. They then managed to hold on to the lead until the last seconds ticked off the clock.

The almost 16,000 Jackets faithful that filled the arena were mostly quiet through the first two periods. The Calgary fans in section 215 made more noise than most other sections. The Jackets' first goal changed all that by lighting a stick of dynamite under the butts of the CBJ fans. The crowd became loud and passionate for the team, and it changed the momentum for sure.

The manner in which the Jackets won the game was impressive and interesting. It was reminiscent of football in many ways. Once the 3rd period ticked into the final few minutes with the Jackets up 2-1, all Columbus had to do was hold onto the puck. They passed the puck back in forth, eating away as much time as they possibly could. It was something inbetween a football team kneeling and one desperate not to turn the ball over. At one point, I couldn't help but be reminded of that hail mary Stanford-Cal game in which the objective was to hold on to the ball (or puck in our case) until a defender was right on top of it, then pass it off to the next available teammate. They managed to eat up several minutes this way. I've never seen hockey players do something quite like that, but I definitely enjoyed it.

The Jacket goals came only when they reverted to a strategy they haven't been using in a while. That is, taking it to the net. The team did a phenomenal job of cycling the puck around the perimeter and getting lots of movement from behind the net to the point. But it seemed that all of the tight angle shots and slaps from the point all missed wide or were blocked before they were given a chance to score. When the team began to crash to the net harder and more deliberately, they were rewarded with two points. Needless to say, I think this team needs to revert back to that strategy. After all, how has Nash (who has been on a scoring drought) scored in the past? He used to hang out in front of the net and muscle his way to a redirect past the keeper. And it worked, too.

Your Jacket Times three stars of the game were:
1. Vyborny - absolutely deserves it for PK efforts and goal.
2. Norrena - held fast despite recovering from injury
3. Klesla - blocked several shots, great tough play.

Box Score

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Jackets v. Flames tonight at Nationwide

Jacket are home tonight against Calgary, and it should be a tough match. Calgary is up on Columbus in the season series and have done a number on our players. They play a tough game and will certainly pose a serious threat to the Blue Jacket defense. In their last encounter, during the CBJ road trip last week, Calgary boasted a 6-2 win. Let's hope they can't repeat that kind of success. I'm off to the arena.

Army of the Ohio has some nice pregame coverage that also details a few other storylines circulating the Jackets' locker room this week. Hitch supposedly has rallied the troops before tonight's game as well, so let's hope they're at full charge. After Tuesday's humiliating defeat, we need all the rebound strength we can get.


Go Jackets!

"J-Hi" and Ben Affleck are pregnant with Luongo's baby?

Courtesy of Deadspin comes this YouTube clip from a hockey game involving the Canucks. Not sure who else is playing, but that doesn't really matter. The scene takes place up along the glass where a 'fan' is notifying Luongo that she's 'with child'. Probably not though, but it makes for a funny scene.

Listen to the announcer talk about the scene... made me laugh pretty good.
Ben AFFLAAAACK!!!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Some New Links for You CBJ Fans

Hey fans, just thought I'd let everyone know that I added a few additional links to the CBJ Blogroll / Team sites. (It's down there on the right.)

Check it out! If you run a CBJ site, or know of a good one that isn't listed, leave me a message in the comments and I'll add it to the site.

I'd also like to officially welcome any and all new readers. I learned yesterday that our site was referenced to on Sports Illustrated's CBJ site. Enjoy your visit, and stop back often.

Stay warm, Jacket fans. And be careful driving- it took me more than 2 hours to get home last night and I watched people fishtail and spin-out the whole way.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Jackets Set New Franchise Record!!!!!

I wish I could be excited about the Jackets setting a new record, but lo, I am not. The record set in tonights 3-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes was the record for most times shutout in a season. 12. And there's still about two months of the season yet.

I don't know what happened tonight. I caught the first five minutes of the game on CD101, as I was still driving home from work (which took over two hours), and I watched the last five or so minutes on FSN. Ugly, ugly hockey. The Jackets didn't look incredibly enthused about the game, and looked pretty poor compared to the Coyotes. Phoenix managed three goals and a few big hits in the game, and Roenick smashed up Eriksson pretty good. (He had a nasty bloody lip during the 3rd.)

I'm pretty disheartened by the whole experience tonight. Not a good night. Terrible weather, terrible drive home, terrible performance by the team. I hope they do something (players only meeting?) between now and Thursday in so that they can put on a better performance against Kipprusoff, Iginla and the rest of the Calgary Flames. I'll be at the arena for that game, and it will likely be the last I attend this season. I've been attending games above my means this season as it is.

(Try a Google image search for "shutout". Why are there so many hockey pictures?)

Box Score

Bush is to Hockey as Oil is to Water

Okay, so that analogy worked out a little too well. The sports blog Out of Left Field has brought us a doosey of a clip from the White House. It's Bush hosting last year's Stanley Cup winning Carolina Hurricanes, and W is just thrilled. You can tell he shot some pucks as a kid (or maybe just got hit by one.) He struggles through the script, which was obviously written for him, which makes the scene almost uncomfortable to watch, but hey, That's My Bush!

New Lines against Phoenix

Jackets are at home in Nationwide tonight against Gretzky's not-so-great Coyotes. Phoenix has certainly had trials and tribulations this season, just as we have. They also traded away Mike Comrie to Ottawa. Comrie is a pretty good center, and a guy I always tried to pick up while playing various editions of EA Sports' NHL games.

If you're watching tonight's game, keep an eye out for some new lines and some CBJ players in new positions. Nash will be on the opposite wing (that means the right side for those not familiar) and Sergei Fedorov will move to the wing. He's still recovering from an elbow injury, so he's not so hot on the face off. Gilbert Brule will be back to center after spending a while on the wing too.

The lines will likely be as follows:
Modin - Brule - Nash
Fedorov - Svitov - Vyborny (the "smart line" according to Hitch)
Chimera - Malhotra - Fritsche (the line that's been hottest of late)
Shelley - Konopka - Carter

Interesting lines, huh? Hitch apparently has a thing for Konopka, so we'll be seeing plenty of him in coming games. I don't like seeing Carter all the way down on the 4th line though. I think he's more talented than that, but with the 3rd line magic we've witnessed and Fedorov out of center, there's no place for Anson anywhere else. Frankly, I think that 4th line would be at its best if they sat Shelley and brought up Picard, or another AHL stud.

Oh yeah, Leclaire may be back this week, so that should be helpful.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Loser's Merchandise

At the end of the Super Bowl, or any championship game for that matter, it takes only moments from the time that the last seconds tick off the game clock until the victors have donned their "championship" attire. All of that merchandise is printed in advance, of course. The contractors who produce all of those items don't hedge their bets on one team or another. They print sufficient merchandise for either team so that their hats and t-shirts are ready to go regardless of the outcome.

So what happens to the the merchandise with the loser's logos on it?

In a recent post on the The Sports Economist, we learn where it goes. The short of it is that it is never ever sold, and instead collected in a warehouse where it is later sent abroad to the world's poorest countries. The charity organizations that do the logistics make it a point to send the clothing to places where few have even heard of American sports, let alone be aware of which team won a championship. According to the article, the league does this to prevent "traumatizing" on of it's teams. Before, during and after the big game the merchandise is protected like "Elizabeth Taylor's diamonds." The MLB even goes so far as to destroy the mislabeled merchandise.

I appreciate the fact that professional sports leagues go to such great lengths to make sure that these clothing items get to people who are in most dire need (except baseball), but also find it amusing. It's strange how uptight they can be on controlling this kind of merchandise. The image above is from a New York Times article. Besides that, I could not find the 'loser's apparel' anywhere else online. I guess they need to prevent sports memorabilia collectors from selling Buffalo Bills super bowl t-shirts on eBay.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

2 for 2 with Anaheim

In a deal that flew right under my radar, Columbus and Anaheim made a trade a little over a week ago.

The Jackets picked up: Zenon Konopka and Curtis Glencross in exchange for Mark Hartigan and Joe Motzko.

Of course, this isn't really big news. None of these players are frequent starters in the NHL, but they will all get plenty of ice time in the minors. Motzko and Hartigan have played in a handful of games for Columbus, and Konopka already had some ice time against Edmonton last week. Pending injuries and hot/cold streaks, who knows how much we may be seeing these guys at Nationwide.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Will it blend? That is the question.

I was pretty bummed by the final score of the Flames game. This made me feel better though.


If you find this sort of thing amusing, (and I sure do!) check out willitblend.com. Talk about marketing! I'm ready to buy a $400 blender after this kind of demonstration. I'll put it next to my Ginsu knives and my ThighMaster.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Bang Head Here

Ugh. That was no fun at all. I picked up the game right after Chimera scored the Jackets' second goal of the night, which made the score 5-2.

Needless to say, I don't really feel like I totally wasted my evening because I watched "Drumline" on TNT.

Because of Norrena's recent injury, the Jackets started Conklin, but had to switch to Popperle mid-second period. Neither of those two goaltenders 'belong' in the NHL. It was Popperle's first ever NHL game to boot. Given these circumstances, you'd think the team would be focused very heavily on playing a tight, disciplined defense to minimize power play opportunities against their minor league goalies. I may think that, but the team sure didn't.

Five of Calgary's six goals came on the powerplay, with two of those during a five-on-three. The Jackets gave up ten two minute penalties, plus five minute majors to Shelley and Konopka. (Konopka? Who the hell is that?) In the interest of understanding, the Flames did manage three goals in the first ten minutes of play, so the team was no doubt frustrated. But that's not an excuse to give Calgary so many more opportunities to run up the score. If anything, those three goals should be the signal for the team to tighten up, focus on fundamentals, and most importantly, don't do anything stupid!

Right now (according to NHL.com) the Jackets are 20th in power play percentage and 18th in penalty kill. Power plays in hockey are like turnovers in football. You want to seize and throttle every one you get. The teams that win are the ones that give up the fewest and force the most. The Jackets' power play percentage hit the franchise high of 12th place back in the 02-03 season with a 17.3% rating. The best PK rank achieved by Columbus was 8th, in both the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons.

The team has proven before that they can reach the top 50th percentile on special teams, but I retain that the best way to minimize an opponents' scoring chances is to just not take so many penalties. I was previously under the impression that part of the "Hitchcock system" was to emphasize fundamentals, finishing checks and to stay out of the penalty box. Maybe the team is just taking a while to fully adapt to that system, because the Jackets have been on a roller coaster regarding PIM. Some games (like tonight) they give up so many power plays, and multiple 5-on-3's, and in other games the penalties are kept to a minimum- only 4 or 5 during the entire 60 minutes of play.

Get it together guys, there's games to win!
There's still two whole months left!
There's still time!

Jackets lose 6-2. (Argh.)
Box Score

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Berard Back on the Blue Line















Bryan Berard was back in the lineup last night for the first time in over a year. He has finally recovered from surgery to alleviate that pain from two herniated discs in his back.

I can imagine how his conversation went when he sat down on the bench:
Foote: "Hey man, welcome back."
Berard: "Good to be here. What did I miss?"
Foote: "Nothing much."
Berard: "Who's the big guy with the white hair?"
Foote: "Coach Hitchcock."
Berard: "No kidding. Is that Doug E. Doug wearing number 77?"
Foote: "Nope. Anson Carter. Picked him up over the summer."
Berard: "Oh. What happened to Leclaire?"
Foote: "Traded for two guys named Fred."
Berard: "You don't say... Anything else?"
Foote: "Britney and K-Fed split up."
Berard: "Nooooooo!!!!"

It's good to have him back. Berard is the kind of guy I like to have on our blue line, despite his 20/400 vision in one eye. Last season he put up more than 30 points in 44 games, and the Jackets need every point they can get right now. Unfortunately, none of those points came last night in Edmonton, where the Jackets four game winning streak came to a screeching halt.

I could do without the steroids though. For those who don't recall, Berard was the first ever NHL player to have knowledgeably used anabolic steroids. According to wikipedia, he was neither suspended nor punished by the NHL because the league did not administer the steroid test. He was banned from international play for two years following the incident. He's still got a year left on that ordeal.

Welcome back Berard. You're gonna have to hit the ice skating (read: ground running) if you wanna get this team where it wants to go.

If I played in the NHL...

I saw this on EOB and Army of the Ohio, and I had to get in on the action. I’ve never played any sort of league ice hockey, but I did briefly play on a roller hockey team and a couple of floor hockey teams, and Yoder and I used to play on the ice at OU after hours. If I could go back and do it over again, I would have made more of an effort to start playing hockey in the youth leagues. I always wanted to, but the parents wouldn’t let me. They were always worried about injuries and cost.

C’est la vie.

If I were an NHL player:

  • Team: The Blue Jackets, of course
  • Jersey number: 21
  • Position: Defense
  • Nickname: Don’t really have a hockey-esque nickname. One of my friends called me T-Spizzy in college, so we’ll roll with that.
  • On my line: Zdeno Chara. I’m not what you’d call a tall guy, so the contrast would be pretty amusing.
  • Rounding out the power play: Sergei Fedorov is a must because of his all-around ability, then probably Anson Carter for his playmaking and timeliness, and Alex Ovechkin for style points
  • Job: Sliding around the blue line on offense setting up the perfect assist.
  • Signature move: Sudden rush to the net from the point when the opponent’s PK line is tangled up.
  • Strengths: Speed, ability to slip in-between attackers to break up a play.
  • Weaknesses: Weak slapshot from the point, pretty lightweight
  • Injury problems: Nothing reoccurring, but more than likely a bunch of bumps and bruises from flying pucks
  • Equipment: Standard issue helmet with clear plastic visor, extra long stick with a medium curve.
  • Nemeses: Todd Bertuzzi (gotta watch my back), Sidney Crosby, Marcus Naslund, Keith Tkchuk.
  • Scandal involvement: None. I’m pretty clean-cut. Definitely no ‘roids. I might back date some stock options a-la Steve Jobs, but hey, nobody gets two minutes or a suspension for that.
  • Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Toronto Maple Leafs. Their tradition makes them a fierce opponent for any team. On the way to the cup, I’d love to go through Detroit though… and have given Nashville the smackdown during the season.
  • What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after the victory: Eat ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese out of it. Then take it to the C.I. (Athens bar) and drink beer out of it all night while shooting pool.
  • What would be the media’s opinion of me: A solid player, though not an All-Star. Hard worker, student of the game, but not a trouble maker. Always up for sharing my opinions on-air and ready to make a public appearance.

Alright Yoder, your turn.

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