Archive for November 2011

PROSPerity

Prosperity.Prospal, Vinny.

Thanks to reader, GaryG, I was reminded again, about what a revelation Vinny Prospal has been as part of the Blue Jackets organization. In fact Gary would nominate him to MVP to date for the season! To be honest, I’ve wanted to write my own little fan love letter to Vinny, but my wonderful colleague Greg over at Dark Blue Jacket beat me to the punch on the eve of Vinny’s 1,000th game and I did not want to be too redundant.

And now, that specific moment has passed, but, as our team heads out on the road for a long 5 game, almost two-week stretch, now seems to be the right time to write another Prospal piece and focus on one of the brightest spots of our season thus far…because a) can you really have too many blogs about a player such as Vinny and b) I choose to focus on being positive, and to encourage the tremendous progress we’ve made in the past 6 games. So, let’s stay focused on positives by pushing for more prosperity for our team and celebrating Vinny.

THE TOP TEN REASONS VINNY PROSPAL IS AMAZING
10. He’s Czech (just like me!)
9. He’s allowed us coin phrases like “Vinning!” and “Live Long and Prospal!”
8. He has challenged our locker room to step up and want to win and hate to lose. Publicly. Boom.
7. Goal celebrations. Nuff Said.
6. He’s serving as a leader to the future of our organization. JOHAN cites him as a go to
5. His wife is gorgeous and his little kids wear #22 jerseys with “Vinny” on the back (ADORBS!)
4. He says things like “This kind of stuff I talk about, it works against any goalie if you execute properly.” (he’s talking…and he’s RIGHT)
3. He is a monster player – playing his 1000th game in the Blue Jacket’s 22nd, game, wearing number 22 (HT Gary!)
2. He’s scored 19 points. Always making an impact.
1. He gets it – Vinny knows that every minute he gets to play hockey is a minute to be enjoyed! As you can (hopefully) see below, he was the only player who smiled at the fans walking through the tunnel of pride :) (huge HT to my friend Ken who invited me to tag along on this amazing experience :) Sorry you have to hear me cheer.)

Vinny – Blue Jackets fans love you!!!

Happy Blog-Giving!!!

Today is the American Thanksgiving…and so, if you’ll humor me, this is a post today that is more for me than probably for you readers…all 2 of you… ;) This is a post to thank those who have made blogging about the Jackets about so much more than the 0′s and 1′s on this page… [you Tweeters are so many and so great, it would take a novel to name you all so please know I'm not excluding you on this one ;) ]On this day of giving thanks, I would like to name a few particularly great people. And do please know that I’ve now written, and re-written, this piece a million times stressing over people I may have forgotten or people I haven’t adequately praised. Here’s the deal, if I interact with you…you have made an impact on me. And I thank you for it. Now, on with the show!

First, what you may or may not know (dare I single them out lest you blame them), there are two people who are responsible for encouraging me to blog more than anyone else.

First, my good friend Rick. Rick is one of those go-to guys. If you don’t know him already – get on that right now. He is a stand up guy in every sense of the word. He’s a tremendous friend, an astute hockey mind, and a heck of a lot of fun. He was instrumental in helping me feel ok talking about hockey, meeting other hockey peeps, and loving the CBJ more than I had. First guy on the scene – first guy I can always count on.

Second, my friend over at Dark Blue Jacket. (i’m still not clear how secret that identity is!) I was recently humbled and honored to be invited to contribute to the DBJ blog and I’m still not sure those guys over at DBJ know what they’re doing when it comes to letting me write there. But suffice it say that it was many private conversations and tweets that helped me think that putting my silly two cents out there into the CBJ blogosphere was worthwhile. Again, now as a contributor there, I sometimes can’t believe that its really happening.

And so many others have had influence…stick around till the end…

Next, my great friends over at Carry the Flag. Dan and the mysterious “Coach” have always been willing to teach me the x’s and o’s of hockey, to encourage me, and, poor Dan has had to spend more than his fair share of time next to me at games and has known me since the early days of my CBJ fandom. These guys have forgotten more about hockey than I will ever learn. I know many respond with vigor to their pieces, but hey, that means they’re making us think, right? For being great hockey minds and even better friends I salute you CTF team.

Then there’s my girl, Dannie over at Strait Jackets. When you talk about finding friends through random places, well this is one of those stories. She’s a chick, she knows hockey up and down all the leagues, and understands what it means to have a hockey crush (stalker math). Thusly she’s my crush. Dannie is one of those people who I look forward to seeing – even for a second – and I value her as a person and as a CBJ fan. Dannie has also invited our dear Kat into the blogger fold – and this one? Well she can rattle of hockey history and knowledge like noone. And she’s always there to chat, hockey or otherwise. She’s a great find – get to know her!!!

And of course Jeff over at Ten Minute Misconduct. Jeff never fails to think things through and make you realize a logical conclusion – even as an emotional fan – is the right one. I always look forward to Jeff’s pieces, and I always look forward even more to seeing Jeff in person. He’ll give me good natured jabs about my beloved #DD…but Jeff is solid and sound. You can’t help but love him, and Jeff’s a heck of a lot of fun…

We have Greg over at Full Mental Jackets. And what I love about Greg is that, in the span of a few hours, you can become fast friends. I’ve watched home and away games with Greg and I adore his passion. And I adore his humor. With this season, lest we forget his take on the Island of Misfit Toys (which holds a special place in the Lukan household) his outlook is always fun, even when our team is not.

People who are newer to my world but no less valuable include Cyrus and Andy. I hung out with Andy opening night and this guy is HI-LAR-I-OUS. He’s smart as heck so you know his snark is gonna deliver. And Cyrus? Well he’s just all around awesome. These guys are new on my blogging radar, but some of my go-to peeps. Love ‘em.

My girl, Mary. This woman comes up with the funniest (and yet smart) stuff in the world over at Fire that Cannon. I will never forget meeting Mary for the first time and she was 10 times as kind and welcoming as I could have imagined. So much so that I considered her an immediate friend. I don’t get to see Mary much – but when I do, its sunshine.

And finally, there’s Matt. Suffice it to say that Matt is someone who I will be writing about more and more as the days pass. This guy is simply. amazing. His work on the Cannon is TOP NOTCH. We all know Shrapnel is required reading for the CBJ fan and game recaps are exquisite as is, but to sit through a game with Matt and realize he takes nary a note? Well that makes him cool, funny, fan-tastic, and brilliant all in one.

[And if he'd only post more I could 100% shout out my boy, John. He's an eternal optimist. Like me. #twitch]

I’m sitting here cringing about hitting “post” because I still haven’t named you all and I still haven’t said enough about how great you each are. Seriously, I learn from each of you – you’re my AM required reading. And my go to resources for CBJ knowledge.

So on Thanksgiving, THANK YOU ALL for being you and sharing you and meaning so much to me.

Now Let’s Go Jackets! #CalltoArms

Columbus Players Look to Goalie for Confidence

This will not be an admission of being wrong.  In fact, I long discussed this fact last year while Mason and Garon shared time in net for the Jackets, but it is getting impressively accurate at this point.  The team flat out plays better when Mason is not in net.  I have read a lot of discussion regarding Mason’s time being done in Columbus, and I feel like I have been looking at it entirely the wrong way.  Where I looked at it as an inability for him to simply take over games the way he did in his Calder year, I really needed to start considering the simple mentality of the team in front of him.

I think this team can function with a mid level goaltender behind them.  When they are structurally sound in the defensive end, and the back checkers do their jobs by not allowing trailers to take free shots from the high slot, it seems that the system (when played correctly) allows for even a goalie like Sanford to come in and be competitive.  I’ve seen this before, with some of the goalies that have passed through the Philadelphia system over the last couple of years.  While they are in need of making quality saves, rarely is the focus solely on them to win games, at least until the playoffs arrive.

If that is the case in Columbus, where a thirty plus goalie who has never really been that significant in his NHL career can come in and create the type of effort in his teammates that Curtis Sanford has, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s worth making any significant change to the back end right now.  With Dekanich hurt, and Mason recovering from a concussion, the Jackets have the time to wait it out and see if Sanford can continue producing sound goaltending through solid positional hockey, while the players in front of him continue to step up.

That said, there are options. While Mason isn’t performing with Columbus this year, he remains around five years below the league wide goaltender average age, and has shown signs of the Mason of old this year.  At 2.9 million for this year and next year, it would not be the worst contract for a team to eat in order to obtain a Calder winning netminder with plenty of potential.  Include the flexibility to deal players like Pahlsson, Brassard, Clitsome, and Huselius, and it becomes reasonably clear that Columbus has the ability to be a viable trading partner to a team with a top tier goaltender, whether it is Backstrom out of Minnesota (with Harding playing well) or Luongo out of Vancouver (with Schneider playing well).

While my optimism for Mason remains consistent in that he can and most likely will become a top tier goaltender within the next few years, he probably needs a change of scenery to do so.  This team has shown their inability to work hard or play sound defensive hockey with him between the pipes (unless that was just them slumping hard) and I certainly wouldn’t blame management if they could swing a deal, but I do have expectations.  Sanford is not a number one goaltender and should not be relied on by this team for long stretches of hockey. I can appreciate what he has accomplished over the last couple of weeks, but he has been able to utilize quality positioning over acrobatics to make saves.  Should a team come in and begin moving the puck through the Columbus defense like they were a month ago, Sanford will suffer the same fate Mason did.

Again, this is not an attempt to downplay his success, but he is riding the solid play of Marc Methot, Nikita Nikitin, and a number of other Jackets defensemen who have made a big difference in the way they play the game in their current stretch of success.  In fact, it was Methot who made a number of tremendous plays to block shots that appeared to have Sanford beat.  Shots that we are used to seeing go uncovered and uncontested by the Jackets defense.  Were it not for swift clears, strong positional hockey, and limited blown assignments, I believe a lot of the same experience would be seen with the Sandman in net.  Plays like St Louis’ second goal on Sunday are a prime example. Oshie makes a tremendous play to pass it through his legs, however Sanford is overcommitted to a poor percentage angle, and does not have the ability to come back across to make the save on Backes.  I will also fault over commits by Nikitin (he was covering for Clitsome who apparently just wanted to watch the play) and Dorsett for not adjusting to the pinch (although I think this was more of a defensive breakdown).  While I would like to see that save made, I see this as a prime example of a save that hasn’t been asked for in the last 5-6 games.

What I do believe, is that age, or background, or whatever statistical feature it is, this team relies on reliability.  That sounds ridiculous, I know, but I think it makes a ton of sense.  They simply cannot function with Mason in net, regardless of what kind of quality he can bring to the ice.  He has folded on them before (for good reason – see: Dallas game) and it would seem that they cannot overcome that.  As much as I think he will succeed, I am finally ready to see a trade involving him, in order to bring in someone who has had strong success and provide the crutch the team needs to play quality hockey.  I think it’s an assessment of a fragile team, but I would much rather see them find some success and grow out of it than watch Mason get quit on 60 more times before his current contract expires.

Carry the Flag.

Pink at the Rink – BE THERE!

There are many things people will say about bloggers-we are arrogant, we are wrong, we are clueless, we are blogging just for the attention…well, give me this one post to embrace that last one for sure!

You see, I am diverting the focus of this blog for one moment to something bigger, something more important than Blue Jackets hockey…and that is a cause very close to my heart – the fight against Breast Cancer.

Unfortunately, I know all too well that I don’t need to tell you a bunch of stories about breast cancer because too many of us already know them. As someone who has known far too many people who have faced this disease directly, it can be frustrating when there is nothing you can do to directly fight this evil thing – so why not find a way to combine two passions – hockey, and a way to make a difference?

Consider this your formal invite to join us at “Pink at the Rink Friday, December 2nd. 

Pink at the Rink” is an annual event that builds on tradition of the Upper Arlington High School’s Breast Cancer skate. Starting at 6:30 at the Ice Haus, we have a JV match-up and Varsity game between Upper Arlington and St. Charles Prep.

Throughout the evening, we’ll have raffles, a silent auction, chuck-a-puck, zamboni rides (!) and much much more.All our proceeds are going to the Young Survival Coalition and to the Stefanie Spielman Fund.

And, for all you Jackets fans, that game is a 9:30 start so you’ll have perfect timing to join us for some local hockey, and then walk right around the corner to R-Bar for viewing and cheering on our boys in Union Blue! (See how thoughtfully this was all scheduled?! ;)

If you have any questions, need more information, or – have an item you’d like to donate for our auctions – please don’t hesitate to contact me via comment on this blog or EMAIL.

Looking forward to seeing you all on the 2nd – and hey, when else can I guarantee that a local team will win at NWA? ;)

 

Game Recap :: Columbus vs. Boston 11/17

At some point in the last couple weeks, my expectations for the Blue Jackets on ice quality changed.  Admittedly I am still in the opinion that when playing to their potential, they can compete with any team in the National Hockey League, but that effort is so rarely seen, it’s hardly even worth discussing at this point of the season.

They took the ice last night, but they didn’t really show up.  More perimeter hockey for long stretches of the game left me bored and frustrated, and once again the secondary line of Letestu, Johansen, and Prospal appeared to be the most effective line for the Jackets.  I was pretty surprised when they didn’t come out with lots of passion, as they have brought their dads on the trip to watch the suck.  I can remember playing in front of my dad as a youth and I will readily say I fought with every ounce of effort to get into his good graces.  It would seem those days are gone for most of the Jackets players.

A hot topic for most of the night was the success that goaltender Curtis Sanford had between the pipes, which is true.  With that said, I think there was a lot of overreaction regarding what his spot in the depth chart should be.  Certainly he played well enough to win THAT game, but he faced a truly listless Boston team that really didn’t force him to make more than a handful of tough saves, including a couple shots in overtime that more hit him than forced him to make an actual save on the play.  If you want to gage the true quality of the Boston play, look no further than Joe Haggerty breaking down the weak effort by the Bruins on Bruins Talk.  With that in mind, I have to look at this next laughable quote from Portzline who apparently wasn’t watching the same game as Haggerty or me:

@APortzline: No matter the outcome, #CBJ G Curtis Stanford has given his club the best played game in net this season.

I don’t mean to laugh, but this thought is flat out ridiculous.  All three of the Jackets wins came on solid if not excellent games by Steve Mason.  I have long been criticized in my defense of Mason during his bad games, but I would be shocked to see someone put any of those wins side by side with this game and say Sanford came even close to seeing the same quality of shots Mason did.  It’s no wonder people read the above quote and think the Jackets have found a real gem in a career backup.

I do think it is important to get Mason out of games and let him recharge.  My off-season wish was to see the Jackets acquire a solid secondary goaltender who could steal time from Mason and force him to play competitive hockey. While I think Dekanich has those tools, his injuries have exhausted much of that opportunity and while Sanford didn’t fall apart last night, the best save remained in the hands of Marc Methot, who took one off the calf while Sanford was laying on the top of the wrong side of the crease.  I wouldn’t mind seeing them give Sanford the next start, but I really hope they didn’t put too much weight into his effort against Boston.

Now on to the Carter ‘stuff’ that has been floating around.  Apparently people didn’t get enough out of the “Carter hates Columbus” word vomit this summer, and have resurfaced complaints regarding his lack of interest in playing there and an unconfirmed request for a trade.  What IS true, is that he has had a pretty mediocre start to the season, but what Jackets forward hasn’t?  He had some real opportunities to score on Rask last night, and made a few great plays with the puck.  In my books, he was more relevant than captain Nash, who had all of maybe one real gem of an effort that lead to a post being rung.  That said, I am not going to focus on his efforts on ice.

The simple point remains that Columbus and the fanbase fought like crazy to acquire a top line center, and they have one now.  One who is locked into an extremely reasonable contract (locked in a 5.27 million for the next umpteen years) and has the potential to be on one of the most explosive lines in the National Hockey League.  Unless they were given a golden farm by another team, I see very few scenarios where he finds himself leaving Columbus.  He and Nash are just going to have to find ways to be more successful when on the ice.

I think last night was yet another step in the wrong direction. Where the Minnesota game featured one competitive period from the Jackets, last night featured a Boston team content on stooping to Columbus’ barely competitive level, and sneaking out the win in the shootout.  It would seem that I fall into a rather small percentage of the viewership in thinking they did not play well, but what I saw was not a team at the top of their game.  They came out pretty flat, failed to take advantage of some really awful defensive breakdowns from Boston, and never bothered to close out the game while it was being delivered on a silver platter.  Is that really the kind of hockey you think they should be playing?

Carry the Flag.

Segments…

So looky there. The Blue Jackets get some press on NHL.com today. First a piece on how we are trying to stay confidentand then a piece of Rick Nash’s burden. For where we are right now, I honestly would like to thank Dan Rosen for actually being quite level in his commentary on the state of the team and organization.But one of Rick Nash’s comments stuck out to me. And it hearkened back to comments that started off the season. You see, Nash said this:

“One of the goals…was to take the season in game segments…now…we’re down to minute segments…”

and then the even more ominous…

“We’re worried about the first five minutes of (Thursday) night’s game and that’s it…”

Well many of us know the origin of this approach. Arniel spoke often about how he felt part of our downfall at the end of last year was getting too caught up in the playoff picture and not staying focused on the game at hand.

But combine this with the oft touted observation that the minute we get scored on, the air goes out of our tires. Mase slumps, we slump…and the other team scores to win. If the first five minutes of tonight’s game go poorly – does that mean the team will believe we’re doomed?

So while, in theory, game to game, seems like a good approach, period to period, or minute to minute, seems almost rife with problems. Because the issue isn’t the segment, its the transition between the segments that in question-particularly with a team in a state such as ours. And while I’m no professional athlete, and we’ve all heard across sports the idea that “you have to let the bad plays go…”, I question if this can be done in a game paced such as hockey. Football is different: quarterback throws a bad pass, but then he gets a whole new play clock, plus perhaps a timeout, to refocus, and by the way start to prepare for a new play. Hockey players do not have this luxury.

In addition to the lack of transition opportunity, one could argue that going minute to minute prevents you from maintaining focus – too much “the segment is ending. the segment just ended. a new segment is starting. repeat”. Is this part of the problem – we are taking the victory of winning a period or just five minutes and forgetting its part of a bigger picture? Again, while my work process is vastly different than a professional hockey player, I question if one truly can shake something off in nano-seconds and reset that quickly. Just a question of human nature. You do have to be able to hit the reset button but are we now trying to do it too fast?

I do not know the answer to this quandry. Arguably, when the season started, I thought the “one game at a time” approach was good. Perhaps we should stick to that. With issues of mental toughness, let’s hang the carrot at the end of what does in fact matter and that’s an ENTIRE GAME, versus breaking it down into far too many segments that may in fact be too easy to lose and too difficult from which to recover.

Who Will Step Up?

There’s a lot going on in Blue Jackets land. None of it is good. I think in the past few days I have seen someone call for the firing of, in no certain order, Arniel, Howson, Nash, the team, Priest…what have you. Trades (or lack thereof) are simultaneously applauded and cursed.I will not regurgitate to you now the various and sundry arguments that everyone has for who is to blame, but I will point out that noone (that I have seen) is saying we don’t have talent (i will not go into the nuances of our goal tending situation here-and I acknowledge the door that leaves open for critics pre-disposed to that position).

For what its worth, I have always had a hiring philosophy in my work – I’d rather hire someone with the intangibles of fight, of perseverance, of willingness to learn versus just someone skilled in a line of work. I can teach them a trade, but I can’t teach them the drive to apply that skill.

So, here is my point. WHO WILL STEP UP to turn the tide? Will it be our coaches? Will it be management? Will it be the fans? Will it be our captain? Will it be the men who wear the “A”? Will it be our new acquisitions who come from organizations such as the Pens? (like it or not, Letestu’s opinion should bear weight) Because, if we are strong in our commitment, we can possibly overcome weakness. And any one of those parts of this team can make a difference if they are committed to it. A great team focused on winning can overcome a poor coach. A great coach can overcome poor work ethic and even sometimes poor skill level. Every variable is arguably possible of making, or breaking, the change this team needs.

I would argue there’s no one answer to this question. Leadership comes to bear in many different ways. It only takes the right spark to light a fire. We just need to find that spark. Whether inside or outside the current organization, if we don’t find the right spark, we’ll continue down this path on which we are headed. And in this case, to me, spark isn’t just about skill. Right now, our newest team members are standing out – Letestu and Nikitin (which I still can’t pronounce). This to me says that our current resources weren’t driving towards the right goals or perhaps just not in the right way. Instead of damning everyone, do we offer one last gasp of consideration in challenging the different parts of this team to STEP UP?

The fact is that losing is – and should be – unacceptable. Who will start to set this tone for this team?

Regardless of who said it, now is the time to truly ask…who will Stand and Fight?

My Issues with Rick Nash: Minnesota Version

Earlier today, the excellent Matt Wagner posted a great piece on Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash over at the Cannon. He makes some excellent points about what may be weighing on Nash, but in my opinion there are many problems with Nash’s play lately that could be fixed easily. Both @Canadan82 and myself have been critical of Nash, so I thought I would break down Nash’s game from last night and try and show the aspects of his play that have been so frustrating. Before I get started let me say that I am still a huge fan of Rick Nash, as he has a package of size and talent that is matched by only a handful of players. I’ve watched Nash for over a decade now (starting during his time in the OHL with London) and have long thought that he would eventually break out into a true superstar and put up the numbers to go with it. However, his play as of late suggests a regression. This has nothing to do with an erosion of his skill, or his quiet leadership style, or Nash trying to do too much. Armed with the game film and Nash’s time on ice, let’s look for some examples from last nights game.

Shift One
Starts off an offensive zone draw, which Carter wins past Nikitin and deep into the neutral zone. Next we see Nash he is standing still on the opposing blue while Umberger and Carter are breaking through the neutral zone with the puck. After losing the puck on the dump, the Jackets then get the puck back in the neutral zone and head in on a 3 on 2 (although the Wild had two backchekcers). Nash throws a bad shot on net from a harmless angle.

This shot has almost no chance of going in. Carter is driving the net and Umberger is open for a pass for a split second. Either a pass to Umberger, or a shot to Carter for a deflection would have been better decisions. Or he could have used his strength and crashed the net with the puck. He even could have moved down low with the puck and either started the cycle or curled around and looked for a defenseman jumping into the play. This play lacked any semblance of creativity, drive or thought whatsoever. A similarly weak shot from that bad angle would have been okay if he put it low enough for a rebound. Instead he fires a shot directly at Backstrom’s catching glove.

Shift TwoShift began with the Blue Jackets first powerplay. Pretty non-descript, although it did feature some work by Nash on the half wall. This is another pet peeve of mine, as a player with Nash’s size and hands could be deadly down low or at the front of the net, but instead he prefers to stay on the half wall where he is not dangerous to shoot or score on a rebound.

Shift Five
Another powerplay shift sees Nash mostly on the perimeter and half wall again. During this shift Nash made another play that drives me crazy. While forechecking on a powerplay, Nash makes a half-assed effort to knock the puck away and then curls away from the Wild player and goes behind the net. If he played the man, the Jackets would have kept the puck in. If he stayed with the play, he would have picked the puck up. Instead he curls away instead of getting physical or stopping and the Wild send the puck down the ice. Since I can’t embed video of this play (or most of the plays I’m going to reference), here are a couple of before and after screenshots.

There is no defending that kind of effort on the powerplay. If Nash plays the man, Carter picks up the puck. If Nash plays the puck, it doesn’t get sent down the ice. Instead he just curls right past him.

Shift Seven
This shift featured some terrible neutral zone defense from Nash and a clear example of his aversion to backchecking. As the Wild are carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Nash is standing absolutely still, not covering a single Wild player or passing lnae and waving his stick around like he is attempting to break up a pass.

Even though he is the just outside their own end, once the Wild gain the Jackets zone Nash doesn’t appear again until they are starting to break out a few seconds later and Nash has barely crept back below the Jackets blueline.

Despite not hustling back, Nash doesn’t hustle to get up into the rush either, as Carter outskates him up the ice and Nash hangs way back on the perimeter, not crashing the net or even getting into a passing lane.

Shift Ten
An 11 second shift culminating in Nash taking a hooking penalty behind the Minnesota net. A lazy play and an absolutely terrible penalty.

Shift Twelve
Nikitin throws the puck around the boards to Nash at the hashmarks in his own end, who then fumbles the puck, gets hit, loses the puck and stands there adjusting his helmet for a second. The Jackets regain possession of the puck in their zone and Nash immediately takes off and forces Nikitin to try and make a bank pass past the Wild defender to hit Nash. The pass misses and Umberger beats the Wild down the ice to negate the icing (although Umberger got nailed after picking up the puck). After another trip back to the Jackets end, Umberger dumps the puck into Nash’s corner and changes. Despite getting to the puck first, Nash makes a weak play on the puck and Schultz knocks it out of the zone.


Nash beats him to the puck, but shies away from the contact and tries to chip it past. Instead of using his body to rag the puck for a couple second and allow the team to change and help to arrive, he shies away from contact, loses the puck and almost gives up an odd man rush (thwarted by half the Jackets halting their change).

Shift Fourteen
Nash starts the shift following Cullen scoring the Wild’s first goal. Nash isn’t really involved in the play at all, although he is standing near the front of the net as the Wild’s second goal is scored. Nash could have picked up Johnson at one point, but he was right in front of Umberger when he scored.

http://nhl.cdn.neulion.net/u/videocenter/embed.swf

Shift Seventeen
A lazy play by Nash on the break-out. Nash jumps too high in the zone and instead of coming back to the puck on the wraparound, he stands and waits for it, gets beat, and instead of hustling back tries to stickcheck the Wild player.

This leads to an extended forecheck for the Wild, followed by another lazy play by Nash along the boards in his own end.


Tyutin dumps the puck past Nick Johnson. Nash is very close to the hashmarks and should have no trouble getting to the puck.

Instead, Nash floats higher into the zone and gets beaten to the puck by two Wild players, one of whom was so much higher in the zone than Nash that he was out of the frame a second earlier.

Shift Eighteen
A lazy shift for Nash, literally coasting back twice.

There was also a third Wild rush off that shift, one that sees Nash as the trailer in the offensive zone, Wisniewski turn the puck over, and instead of Nash hustling back and picking up a man, he does a huge loop and is the last Jacket back into the defensive zone.


Just before the turnover by Wiz.


Immediately following the turnover (note Carter circling behind the net).


Just after Heatley’s shot is tipped over the glass. Note that Carter beat Nash back into their own end, even though he curled much deeper in the offensive zone before backchecking.

Shift Twenty Nash manages to turn a 2 on 2 into a 1 on 3 (with Umberger trapped low in the zone).

Instead of taking the puck wide and spreading the defense out, Nash skated right into both of them, did a big curl (allowed the backcheckers to get into the play) and then walked along the blueline surrounded by Wild players. Shocking that he lost the puck and turned a potential scoring opportunity into an odd man rush for the Wild

Shift Twenty-Three
Following consecutive excellent shifts, where Nash was crashing the net and the corners, almost scored three times and generally dominated the play, he had a bad forecheck, followed by a lazy backcheck and a bad change.


Look at the angle here. He is not taking away either passing lane, and he isn’t moving so he isn’t pressuring the defenseman. Plus he is deep in the zone, so if the puck gets past him the Jackets will have two guys caught up ice.


Shockingly, the puck gets passed right in front of Nash and the Wild’s most dangerous line breaks up ice. Carter and Nash were caught deep, so one would assume they would get on their horses and hustle back. Instead we see Nash slowly skating away from the play towards the bench.

Shift Twenty-Four
Nash loses the puck at the 2:44 mark of the third period. He then does a big loop and coasts all the way back into the Jackets end where he stands still along the hashmarks.

The next stride he takes is at the 2:30 mark of the period. Not the hustle you want from the captain late in a game, down by one.


There wasn’t too much he could do in this situation, but you would like to see some movement from him, moving to space and creating an out for the defenseman. Or at the very least move deeper in the defensive zone so he can curl up ice with some speed.

Shift Twenty-FiveThis was Nash’s final shift of the game, with the goalie pulled. This shift is what inspired me to write this post. I have never seen a supposed elite player this passive in this kind of situation. Nash is never a threat to score, never in a passing lane and never has the puck. He never goes to the front of the net. Mason still being in the net would have been better here, as at least the empty net goal wouldn’t have been scored. Here’s a bunch of screen caps of this atrocity.


First picture is showing Nash following a point shot, where he didn’t start to creep towards the net until well after the shot was taken.


If you are looking for Nash in this picture, you won’t find him. He is somewhere off screen in the other corner.


Barely back in the frame, not available for a pass, not screening the goalie, not helping out the Jackets forwards or affecting the Wild defense.


Not sure if you can tell, but Nash is standing straight up, stick at waist height, well away from the play, not helping Carter or Umberger get the puck or getting to a passing lane.


Puck is sent around the other side and Nash is still standing in the same spot, really looking like he wants to bury that game tying goal.


More of Nash standing still, straight up, stick at his waist, far away from the play.


The last relevant moment of the game. As Wisniewski is about to cough up the puck for the empty net goal, where is Rick Nash? He isn’t on the half wall at the strong side (that is Prospal). He isn’t providing an outlet for either Tyutin or Wisniewski. He isn’t in front of the net (Umberger and Carter). He is somewhere off the screen in the opposite corner.


There he is! Still standing straight up, stick at his waist, not even giving any kind of effort to get back and stop the empty netter.

Not sure what more to add after that last sequence. I was furious when it happened, and rewatching it again and focusing on Nash only furthered my frustration with him. The biggest issue I have watching him is that these are easily fixed problems. A little bit more hustle, a little more drive to the net, a little more desire at the end of the game. He had a two shift stretch right after the go ahead goal where he crashed the net with impunity. He hit a post, almost scored two more times and Umberger had a couple glorious chances. There is nothing stopping Rick Nash from playing like that every shift. Instead we get this kind of effort game after game. It’s disappointing. Over the last few years (and especially this season) mainstream media outlets have expressed the opinion that Nash deserves better than Columbus. I disagree. Columbus deserves a better effort from Nash.

An Open Chat…

Yesterday was an Open Letter, today, is about an Open Chat. I went to the Season Ticket Holder Morning Skate and Q&A with Scott Howson.The morning skate was just that…with free coffee and hot Chocolate (thank you Tim Hortons!). And after stalking #DD via my camera phone, it was time to move to the Q&A. Scott Howson started off by saying he welcomed any question and he knew he’d be facing the tought ones (which he “is asking himself every day”)-and there were some snipes for sure-as many feel are justified right now. I wanted to share some salient points from the time we spent with Scott Howson…

  • GMSH started with a review of what was already trickling out – Carter will play, Dex is hurt (MRI this morning) and Kris Russell went to St. Louis
  • Scott spoke at length about the Russell trade. It actually was done before the game but he didn’t want it announced prior, (and is still amazed it got out on Twitter). Kris was aware something was going on, and was obviously upset to be traded. Scott also spoke to Kris’ character and dedication to this team and that he will be missed (Dannie sobbed quitely next to me…well not really but almost.)
  • In response to the need for more senior advisors, “we are moving down the path of hiring more senior people to advise this team”
  • In response to the Hitch question he flat out said “Hitch was not interested in coaching here….and his time here had passed”.
  • In response to the Letestu trade: we can never have enough centers, and while not a precursor to any trade, GMSH hinted that we certainly don’t have to worry about the position of center should we be making moves with others.
  • GMSH does still believe that Mason can be (note “Can”) a good goalie but when pressed if he was thinking about another goalie perhaps a seasoned guy to mentor Mase for a bit (and yes the guy said “Nabokov”) GMSH replied, with a smirk (the only of the day) “Every minute”.
  • Realignment is still very much a topic. The GM meeting is upcoming, and while we still would petition to go to the east, it seems most are in favor of the “4 division” plan particularly as it eliminates at least two big west coast trips for us each year
  • GMSH said in hindsight, he felt he misjudged our D. He hoped to get at least 60 games from Martinek and felt that Savard and others would be more ready to step up
  • He also talked about Jan Hejda’s non-signing (in response to an either very devastated or very nervous fan) and said the money just wasn’t there as some was shifted to getting Wiz. He misses Jan and is glad he got what he got.
  • JOHAN: Scott said (as he did numerous times) that lineup decisions are the purview  of the coaching staff, and he would love to see RyJo playing every single night, but knows that he will have some games off where he will take the necessary time to adapt to the NHL game. (he also made a reference to the movie “Moneyball” and that if RyJo doesn’t play for 10 straight games he might make trades to show Arniel his displeasure…it was a joke…but…)
  • Cam! (Yes, I asked this question!) Cam had issues of confidence after being sent down to Springfield the first time after making the team, but Scott has spoken with him and wants him to develop more in the AHL and to expect that he will be going back and forth between the clubs for a while. He also admitted that they do NOT want the young young guys around the crisis of confidence that is going on (OMG I hypothesized that a while back…I got something right!). But he spoke of Cam’s undeniable skill and that two games ago in Springfield, when Howson was there that Cam was the best player on the ice – not on the team – on the ice.
  • The “Why Nash wears the C” question was asked. And the answer is that three years ago, Nash made a commitment to this team and the team made a commitment to him. And that includes wearing the “C”. GMSH spoke to the fact that Nash feels the frustration more than anyone, and has the “weight of the world” on his shoulders. He believes Nash is an elite player and there is no question he is our captain.
  • Of course the “why is Arniel still coach?” question was raised. GMSH straight out said “we are not looking to make a coaching change”.
  • In perhaps his most honest moments, Scott spoke to the attitude of the team. He spoke to the fact that Prospal’s comments carried great weight in the organization and that this is a topic of strong conversation with the coaching staff. He knows this team has issues of confidence, fight and determination right now that must be fixed. His words were “mental weakness”.
  • He also, in response to the question “why should we have faith in YOU?” and “Can you give us any hope?” said he knows this feeling and understands. and that he is asking that of the players right now – what are we doing to give hope to this team’s fans.

Now, I have tried to present the content as objectively as I can. If you’ll allow me a bit of commentary.

In reflection, regardless of your opinion of Scott Howson, I would like to say that he deserves respect for sitting in that room taking the questions he did for over an hour. He knows we’re in bad shape. And, I would NOT want to have to answer to a large group of people who don’t do a job like mine about why all my work has resulted in suckitude thus far. Scott answered every single question and looked every single person in the eye as he addressed their issue. As a crowd, the fans asked the same things many of us have asked and debated, and sometimes not too nicely. To remain composed and own up to what is going on right now, well in that, Scott Howson deserved my applause and thanks for showing up.

That aside, the session crystallized for me my conflicting emotions so far this season. For this team, we are facing an issue of performance and an issue of character. I just spoke to the issue of character. Again, regardless of performance, Scott Howson faced up to his critics today in a mature, fair and very open manner when he didn’t always get that in return. Also, in his sharing the back story to the Russell trade, he shared how devastated Russell was and how much he loved this team. Character.

That leaves us with performance. Scott admitted to the fact that trading now is better than trading later, because it costs less to get what we need, but that teams are less likely to be willing to bargain since everyone still has high hopes and plans…(well except us? :( )  We have now officially acknowledged the issue of “mental toughness” but, with the talent we believe we have on the ice, I do have to say, its turning to coaching more and more. I have stayed completely away from the judgment of Arniel thus far. I have not felt informed enough to truly evaluate that. But, given Howson’s statements of what is and is not his responsibility and what is and is not Arniel’s, I have to wonder if Howson does in fact share many of opinions that Arniel is not right for this team. And I cringe even writing that, because, again, these are real people facing real challenges and I want to be clear that Howson stated that they are not looking to make a coaching change (of course what else would he say?)

The point was made vividly clear: the job of a GM is not the job of a coach and the job of a coach is not the job of a GM. It would seem that Howson did his job fairly well this year…and now it falls to coaching. And character….can our players rise to the occasion even if their leadership isn’t all it can be.

Some in that room supported Howson, some did not. Right now, you can put me in the catagory of the former.

Oh and dang it Matt! You beat me to the punch!!! I’m sure you’ll find better analysis over at the Cannon! :)

An Open Letter…Part Deux

How do I get myself into these things? Well…many of us ask that as a fan of our beleaguered Blue Jackets. But this is a specific “thing”.Last night, our intrepid blogger, KRuss fangirl, and friend, Dannie posted An Open Letter to the Blue Jackets. It seemed to gain some traction as expressing the sentiments that some of us have right now.

Now – first, let me acknowledge, I know many of you may disagree. Some of you have opinions that relate more to management and/or coaching. I want to be clear that I respect your opinions and respect anyone who has differing opinions than in this letter, many of you have forgotten more about hockey than I’ll ever know.

BUT. If you do agree with this letter…well, we have an outlet for you.

We have had a larger, more general (i.e. we don’t all live in Cincinnati…plus, you Cincy friends should move here…but I digress) copy of this letter printed on a large sheet. Our intent is to have it at the season ticket holder skate tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 11) morning, as well as at the tweetup tomorrow night (Versus the Jets) and again at the tweetup Tuesday, November 15th (15!) versus the Wild. We invite anyone interested to come find us and sign the letter. 


If you cannot join us in person, and would like to sign “virtually”, please tweet us (@AlisonL and @frickindannie) with your intent to sign and we’ll print it out and attach it to the letter. Our goal is then to send this to the team.

I believe in this letter not only because I do agree with what it says, but because, hey, if it helps these guys at all to know that we still believe…we just want THEM to also…well, what’s the harm in that? Look, I’m not delusional, I can see where this season is headed right now, but I still hope for improvement – in attitude, play and record.

Oh. And if you don’t know who we are, well, I’m the tall one always in a Dorsett jersey, and Dannie is the cute one. Here’s a pic for your reference (the things I do for my team…)

Dannie (L) Ali (R)