Archive for February 2012

February 20-26 CBJ Prospect Week in Review

Greetings Jacket fans sorry for the delay but with the trade deadline and the game last night my normal schedule is all out of wack.Starting off the in Springfield with a normal 3 in 3 weekend the Falcons went 3-0 including two wins over the top teams in its division. While not being a Blue Jacket’s prospect goalie Paul Dainton was in net for all three games being the first Falcons goalie since Scott Langkow in 1998 to win three games in three nights. Dainton was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the week the first time since Devan Dubnyk in April 2008. Dainton went 3-0 with a .964 save percentage and .975 GAA picking up his first AHL shutout on Saturday against Connecticut. On the weekend leading the way in scoring was Maksim Mayorov with three goals and three assists including two goals and two assists in a 6-2 win. Other Falcons with multiple points were Dane Byers(1-2-3) and Brent Regner(0-3-3) with three points. Alexandre Giroux had two goals helping him climb the AHL goal and scoring ranks his 359 goals rank him ninth only a goal out of eight and the two points moved him into 23rd place, Martin St. Pierre had two assists to move him into ninth in the AHL with 50 points(10-40-50) in 54 games. Hopefully with the addition of Taylor Ellington I can start updating you guys on the Express. Ellington was picked up in the Sammy Pahlsson trade with Vancouver, Eliington was third among Wings defenseman in scoring with seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 55 games.

Onto the CHL prospects, Boone Jenner remains out of the Generals lineup with concussion symptoms as the Generals went 0-1-1 last week. Brandon Archibald and the Spirit went 0-1-1 last week with Jackets prospect Brandon Archibald being held scoreless with a even rating and five penalty minutes. Dalton Smith went scoreless in three games last week as the 67s went 1-1-1 also missing in a shootout. Petr Straka and the Oceanic went 2-0 last week with Petr Straka picking up no points.

Lukas Sedlak-Chicoutimi Sagueneens(QMJHL)Stats 46GP 17-28-45 +21 57PIM
Lukas and Sags went 2-0 last week on a quick two game road trip losing to the Armada with Lukas being held scoreless then against the Olympiques had two assists assisting on two goals of Christain Ouellet’s hat trick.

Mathieu Corbeil-Saint John Sea Dogs(QMJHL)
Stats 43GP 34-9 .913Sv% 2.30GAA 6SO
With the Sea Dogs on the longest CHL winning streak of 15 games(quiet Penticton fans theyll catch you…next year) and only seven games remaining it appears as Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant has decided to alternate Corbeil and back up Sebastien Auger until its big game against Shawinigan that games Corbeil. In the Dogs three games last week Corbeil only started one. In a shootout win over rival Moncton Corbeil stopped 25 of 27 then stopping two more in a shootout to give him 33 on the season.

Michael Chaput-Shawinigan Cataractes(QMJHL)
Stats 50GP 19-37-56 +33 43PIM
Michael may have only scored in one game last week but he did put on a show. In the Cats 8-2 win Michael had a hat trick and a assist and was named 1st star. As I mentioned he scored in only one game but he showed why hes probably the Blue Jackets best prospect at the faceoff dots losing only 12 draws all weekend. In the win over Cape Breton Michael won 21 of 25 two days later against Halifax Chaput won 10 of 13. Michael closed out the weekend winning 20 of 25 so in other words Michael won 51 of 63 draws or 81% of his draws.

Austin Madaisky-Kamloops Blazers(WHL)
Stats 61GP 12-33-45 +22 79PIM
Austin missed his first games of the year serving a two game suspension when he recieved a cross checking major and a game misconduct in a game last week. In the one game he did play Austin had a assist giving him 33 on the year.

Oliver Gabriel-Portland Winterhawks(WHL)
Stats 30GP 16-17-33 +13 26PIM
Oliver was the busiest of all the prospects last week playing four games winning three of the four. In the three wins Oliver added to his point streak making all the way to 13 games scoring eight goals and 13 assists a for 21 points. In the games had a goal (2:55 into video) and three assists. On Sunday both the Hawks nine game winning streak and Oliver’s point streak came to an end.

Onto the team’s NCAA prospects last week was the final weekend of there regular season for the ECAC(Cornell and Colgate) and the CCHA(Miami, Michigan and Notre Dame) while the WCHA and Hockey East still play this weekend. Cornell went into the weekend tied with Union and defeated the Dutchmen but then lost to RPI in OT. Sean Collins went scoreless on the weekend, Cornell finished second and earned a bye playing next week. Thomas Larkin and Colgate 0-2 last week with Larkin going scoreless with six penalty minutes, Colgate finished fourth also earning a bye. As standard Martin Ouelette didnt make it into either of the Black Bears games with Northeastern, coach actually used the Bears 3rd goalie so he could play in his senior year for the first time since his freshman year. Maine has one more game to play but could clinch home rink for the playoffs in two weeks. Drew Olson went scoreless as usual in the Bulldogs wins over Colorado College. UMD will travel to St Cloud to play the Huskies for a chance to win the WCHA but Minnesota will have to stumble against rival Wisconsin. Seth Ambroz was held off the scoresheet in the Gophers sweep of Nebraska-Omaha and will face Wisconsin for a chance to clinch first overall in the WCHA. Trent Vogelhuber didn’t have a point in the Redhawks home and home sweep of Ohio State. Now unlike the other teams in the CCHA that got byes the Hawks know who they’ll be playing next as they will host Michigan St.

Will Weber-Miami(OH) (CCHA)
Stats 35GP 0-4-4 +4 59PIM
Weber was held scoreless on Saturday in his last regular season home game but when the Redhawks traveled to Columbus on Saturday Will did something he hadnt dont since November 19th he scored a point. In Saturday’s 5-1 win Will had a assist(3:29 in) in the first period. Will’s point shot was blocked by a OSU defenseman but Reilly Smith was there to pick up the rebound for his 26th goal of the season. On the weekend Will was a +5 including being a +4 on Saturday.

Kevin Lynch-Michigan(CCHA)
Stats 34GP 7-5-12 +1 28PIM
Michigan traveled to Bowling Green last week and earned a split with the Falcons. Like Will Kevin was held scoreless on Friday then on Saturday he scored his seventh(2:20 in) of the season. After a shot from the point the Falcons goalie thought he had it but slipped loose and all Kevin had to do was dive to hit the puck in.

Jake Hansen-Minnesota(WCHA)
Stats 35GP 11-19-30 +16 48PIM
Jake Hansen only had a assist in the Gophers sweep of Nebraska giving him 30 on the year which is 10 more than last year in the same amount of games.

TJ Tynan-Notre Dame(CCHA)
Stats 35GP 13-27-40 -4 36PIM
TJ and the Irish welcomed Michigan St and like most of the prospects and his teammates he was held off the scoresheet in a 2-0 win over the Spartans then scoring on Saturday. In Saturday’s loss Tynan scored his 13th goal of the season and second shorthanded. Tynan tied for the CCHA scoring lead with Spartans Dman Torey Krug both had 29 points in league play. Tynan is the only prospect that will be in playoff action when the Irish host Ohio State. Tynan feasted on the Bucks earlier this year scoring a goal and three asists in the split which were the last games played in the Irish’s old home the Joyce Center.

Mike Reilly-Penticton(BCHL)
Stats 46GP 21-50-71 42PIM
Mike and the Vees went 3-0 last week to make it 37 in a row last week. In the three wins Mike had a goal and two assists. After beign held scoreless for the sixth time Mike had a assist in the Vees win over the Smoke Eaters(Im not kidding thats the team name). The next game Mike had something to do with both goals in the Vees double overtime win over Merritt. Yes you read that right double overtime listen to this first they do four on four like the NHL then they go to three on three for another five minutes if no one scores its like old time hockey and its a tie. In the game Mike scored the Vees only goal in regulation in the second period then adding a assist on Travis St Denis’ game winner(heres the audio of the game winner). Mike then was held scoreless in the Vees other game last week another win.

Anton Forsberg-MODO(Sweden)
Stats 13GP 4-4 .900Sv% 3.01GAA
Anton started one game for MODO last week and he stopped 18 of 22 in a loss to Skelleftea. Reading some of the translated tweets didnt sound like it was one of Anton’s best games. MODO went 1-1 in the other two games last week.

As for next week like I said the playoff start for two college leagues and Ill have full updates on the second round matchups. Thanks for reading and as always follow @CBJProspects for the most up to date info on all the propspects.

A Follow-up on the Nash Saga

Two days ago I wrote a pretty scathing piece upon hearing that it was Rick Nash, not the Columbus Blue Jackets management who decided that it was time for him to be traded.  It was received with very mixed emotions and I had anticipated that, but I do want to clarify a number of things that brought me to my opinion and why I was as bothered as I was.

To begin, I have followed Nash for over a decade. To say I have been a Rick Nash fan is a pretty heavy understatement.  I have watched him in juniors, playing for Team Canada in a number of different age groups as well as an Olympic team, and I have watched the better part of his career with the Blue Jackets.  I have watched him play some absolutely incredible hockey, and I have watched him play some pretty terrible hockey.  What I believe we have been watching this year, is something right in the middle, and to find out that he has even considered the idea of leaving Columbus in some form or another truly rocked me to my core.

I signed on for Nash’s contract extension just like everyone else did.  I wanted him here making brilliant plays and leading this team back to the playoffs, and two days ago, I went from thinking the club was simply doing everything they could to better position themselves, to realizing that it was generated by Nash himself.  Now, I get the argument that Nash didn’t ‘demand’ a trade (he offered it), but when something like this happens, there is no going back.  You can’t dangle a player of Nash’s caliber on the trade market and then shrug it off if a deal isn’t made.  The moment his availability became public was the moment I knew his time in Columbus had an expiry date.

It left me to truly ponder the reasons why Nash would suggest the trade. Why he would be willing to leave a city where he is idolized regardless of his play. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • He believes the assets he could provide would benefit the Jackets more than he would.  Therein, he thinks he isn’t good enough to be the Blue Jackets franchise player. He costs the team 7.8 million dollars every year on the cap, and has not been able to play to that level of quality.  In his Richard year scoring 41 goals, and the 08/09 season he and Mason put the team on their shoulders, however he has not come close to matching that output nor has he been even remotely as dominant with the puck
  • He doesn’t feel like going through another rebuild/reshape.  Feel free to add my name to that list as well, but Nash has decided he doesn’t want to have to work in Columbus to create a long term winner anymore.
  • He wants to play for contending team.  A better team.  He no longer wants to be the cornerstone of a franchise and wants to be a second tier player on a team already primed to make the playoffs and compete for a cup.

I really can’t fathom any other excuses for him, not to suggest that these are ‘good’ ones.  This is a guy who is basically never held accountable for a questionable leadership group, nor his poor performances of late.  He is a guy who is idolized in the city, not just for his efforts as a Blue Jacket, but as a member of the community.  He has truly been given everything, yet he doesn’t want to honour his deal and help Columbus become a winning hockey team.  The commitment he made only a couple of years ago.

These are the reasons why it cut into me so deep.  We have all as fans committed to him as the franchise cornerstone for eight years, and he doesn’t believe that he can deliver.  I don’t sympathize for him after his comments yesterday, and while I would never consider booing him, I am not going to attack the fans who feel strongly enough to do so.  I will also not feel sorry for him, because he has had every chance to win here, and considering has hasn’t played up to his own potential throughout, I have to think he’s only been a part of the enormous on ice problem for this team.

I’d like to share some interesting perspectives on the whole situation:

Rick Nash painted as the villain in Blue Jackets saga
      – Traikos at The National Post 
Traikos notes that Nash’s perception could change, and suggests there is some correlation between the situations of Dany Heatley and Lebron James.. And I am not so sure the puzzle pieces don’t miss by much

Jackets, Nash Continue to say all the Wrong Things
      – Arace at the Columbus Dispatch
This was a pretty rough shot at the handling of the entire situation, but it’s a perfectly fair argument.. This comment was most profound: “The fans are the only people who are ticked off, and they will tell you why. They know a lack of leadership when it pats them, patronizingly, on the back.” Sounds like Arace doesn’t buy the words of encouragement coming out of Nash.

Standing Behind Scott Howson (And not to Kick Him in the Butt)
- Ross of NHL Home Ice
Ross discusses the logic behind Howson’s honesty, and I agree with most of what he is saying.  There is a lot of great info in this so I won’t take an individual comment out – It’s worth the read.

Safe to say I am not calling Nash “Heatley” or “James,” and I won’t be chasing him out of town with a broom, but I do feel a disconnect to him now.  I wish he remained committed to the team, but he has made his decision to move on, and I’ll be doing the same. The assets that will be brought in for him in trade will be substantial, and they will work to quickly reshape this team into the playoff team the fans deserve.  Now all I need Nash to do is expand his list so Columbus can get the best return possible. At that point, my high opinion of him may very well return.

Carry the Flag.

The Rick Nash Mess

The trade deadline completed this afternoon without the Blue Jackets finding a quality suitor for current captain and franchise winger Rick Nash.  In a post deadline interview, General Manager Scott Howson acknowledged the origin of the Rick Nash trade was brought upon by the captain himself, not the team.  Some would argue the decision by Howson would lead to diminished value for Nash on the trade market, but I am under the impression this will force Nash’s hand, causing him to increase the number of teams he would be willing to be traded to.  The revelation of Nash wanting out however, leaves confusion and dissatisfaction among the fan base, and at least in my case, a serious concern as to how Rick Nash should be managed from this point of the season until the day he is traded.

First, I want to discuss what this bit of information means to me, mostly as a fan, but simply as a viewer of the team trying to exist in a league full of history and tradition.  I believe the decision by Rick Nash to demand (or I suppose ‘ask’) for a trade is an act of quitting on his part, and a very selfish one at that.  He signed an eight year 62.4 million dollar contract extension (making him the 5th highest cap hit in the NHL) with most of the current management group in place less than two seasons ago.  He committed himself to eight years of Columbus Blue Jackets with the understanding that it would be a process, and I believe fans should be furious with him for not honouring that deal.  Some will argue that he ‘deserves better’ and has ‘given the team enough’ but I think he had every chance to make his luck during the last couple years with this team.

As much as I can understand the secrecy of the situation at hand, I believe that fans deserved to know that Nash was not willing to play out the contract he signed, and lead this team back to the playoffs.  I found his captaincy to be seriously lacking recently, and CTF has posted a number of pieces this year acknowledging the feeling that Nash was playing well below his true potential.  These pieces were not designed to spit venom on him as a person, but simply point out that his best games could still be ahead of him, pending a serious amount of effort on his part.  It is that early season acknowledgement of mediocrity  that solidifies my opinion that he has given up on this team.

Further on today, I believe Howson felt his decision was forced by the comments made by Rick Nash’s agent this weekend, suggesting that the list of teams provided by them would not change by the summer.  It seemed from the beginning to be a situation where neither the team nor Nash would admit to being the catalyst in the decision to move him, and it was up until the comments made by Resnick that both sides respected the delicacy of the situation.  With that, I have absolutely no issue with Scott Howson clarifying who was driving this trade necessity, and I am very glad to know that Nash wants out, not the other way around.  This move clearly removes Nash as the victim in this situation, and will make it easier for fans to not resent the team for making the move.

Where to go from here

At this point, all remaining games played by Rick Nash in a Blue Jackets jersey are hollow.  With a pending trade on the horizon in likely the early off season, he is no longer the face of the franchise.  He is no longer a leader of the team, and I hope the captaincy is removed.  They have a very capable leader in Prospal who can take “C” for the remainder of the season, and possibly continue that position through his additional year with the team.  What can begin happening at this point, is full accountability of every player in the locker room.

They have brought in pure character players in Johnson, Prospal, and Wisniewski.  These are in addition to current character players like MacKenzie and Dorsett who play with full effort in almost every shift of every game.  They are building the framework of a team that works for each other and plays as a full unit, rather than relying solely on certain talents to take over games.  While I don’t have access to Howson/Patrick’s intentions on their building process, it would seem that players like Nash are not going to be a part of it.  Where Nash couldn’t find a linemate to make him better, I suspect the additions to the lineup will be players who make those around them better.

To the presentation of the team, I believe this is an excellent step in the right direction.  There has long been commentary about the team not having an identity, and I wonder if Nash has been hindering that.  Where people see him as being above many of his teammates, they can now work as a core to create their own image.  With that in mind, it is not to suggest that star players will not exist on the team, considering guys like Johansen and likely soon to be drafted Yakupov appear to have top tier upsides.  With the production of an identity in the next year or so, the team can open the door to top tier players who will work to fit into their system, rather than them trying to fit the system to a couple of players.

This commentary is not designed to completely remove all blame from Scott Howson and his team in hockey operations.  He has taken some risks and very few have truly panned out, but I believe with the addition of a first overall pick, and the plethora of top tier talent returning in a deal for Rick Nash, he will have the quality pieces needed to really design a team worth watching.  He will also be out from under an eight million dollar cap hit, among other contracts (Huselius, I’m looking at you) that have made this a cap team only on paper, rarely on the ice.  I am prepared to see what type of atmosphere can be created without the Nash captaincy leading the charge, and I think based on Howson’s refusal to receive less than fair value for Nash gives him through the summer and into next season before I join the group demanding a GM change.

Carry the Flag.

One Thing the Blue Jackets are Always Good At…

Ignore the dangling participle there in the title, but in this slide towards the end of the season, I wanted to give a spotlight to one positive this season which is an annual event that the Blue Jackets Foundation holds: the “Black Tie Blue Jackets Style Show” (or as many of us call it:: #CBJBlackTie)

Kim and Sharon

I have a dream to be able to attend this event some day, but in the interim, I turn this blog post over to my dear friends Kim and Sharon who were able to attend this year and they were gracious enough to share their experiences with me about the night. Special recognition to these women as Kim is currently waging her own amazing battle against cancer – so her perspective is particular precious in my eyes. Thank you BOTH for taking the time to share your memories and photos from a great great

We’ve seen the evening mentioned on Jackets TV, and on Fox Sports Ohio coverage, but I’m always a fan of those first-hand perspectives…so here we go!

1. Talk a little bit about the schedule for the night…how was the evening set up? I know you’ve been to other events such as Hockey N Heels and post-game autograph sessions – how did this night compare?
 We arrived at the event and were greeted by free valet parking. We were instantly surprised by the red carpet laid out for everyone to walk on. From 5:30 to 7:00pm was a cocktail reception and hors d’oeuvres, both of which were delicious. During that time it was very casual as you could eat and drink alongside the Blue Jackets players. There were several tables of silent auction items, ranging from golf packages, signed hockey sticks and pads, vacation getaways, and gift baskets. We would both have to agree that this was probably the most fun part of the evening because we witnessed the players selecting their drinks and having casual conversations with those attending. For the record, we did see several players texting and playing around on twitter. This should put a smile on the faces of the Twitter faithful. :)
2. Tell me how they wove the mission of the charity into the evening?
Love you #50
This year’s theme of the event was Strength, Hope, and Courage. For the word Strength they had a performer, like the ones you see at cirque De Solei, who performed on bilateral ropes to show off her strength. Hope was spotlighted by the Ohio State ukulele club playing Over the Rainbow. Their performance was uplifting, to say the least. Courage brought the most tears as they had two former heroes, who are now cancer free, read a poem by Dr Seuss. Everything was appropriate in proportion. Then the mission of giving was represented by a live auction with an auctioneer. Items auctioned included a Greenbrier golf package which went for $18,000, Brody the  Labradoodle at $7000.00, All-Star Weekend package, and donations to improve the foundation center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
As a cancer fighter, I found myself in tears on several occasions. The whole event was handled beautifully. It was very sad to see how different the views of a cancer diagnosis are handled. Children do not take the diagnosis of cancer as a death sentence, unlike adults who think they are going to die. They are truly courageous and strong.
3. Obviously, we all love to interact with the CBJ players – did you get to spend time with a lot of them? Who was your favorite? Who really stood out as part of the event (who was “getting it”)
During the actual dinner event you really do not get to interact with the players. Most of the interactions took place during the cocktail reception. I was shocked at how casual the players were. Standing in line behind Wisniewski, as he selected his drink for the evening, it was funny because as fans, you forget that they are people just like us. During the runway show, Huselius and his wife stole the spotlight by dancing like fools with their hero. Most the players got into the runway show by strutting their stuff.
Um DELICIOUS!
4. As a hockey fan, what does the night mean to you?
Sharon: It means to me that the Columbus Blue Jackets stand for more than just hockey. They stand for service and charity to the entire city of Columbus. The players give freely of their time on AND off the ice, and that is something that we, as fans, can all be proud of.
Kim: The night was a time to celebrate the amazing courage of this year’s heroes. They have endured the hard chemotherapy, radiation and surgery at such a young age. For three hours they were the spotlight and they enjoyed it.
5. What will be your favorite memory of the whole night?
Kim and Cappy #61
 Kim: It’s hard for me to pick one favorite memory, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the hug that Rick Nash gave  me. One of the funniest things was that I almost ran into Sanford.
Sharon and Steve Mason
Sharon: For me, my favorite memory of the night was the conversation I had with Steve Mason. It wasn’t because he’s my favorite player or a fan girl moment, but because we had a conversation that I hope left him aware that not everybody blames all the team’s problems on him. We seemed to connect and agree on issues with the team. I did not feel like I was having a conversation with a “celebrity,” more like a friend

Johnson Acquisition Adds Confusion to Defensive Structure

In one of the worst kept secrets of Scott Howson’s trading career, Jeff Carter was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings last night for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick.  If the Kings make the playoffs this year, the Blue Jackets have the option of taking Los Angeles’ first round pick for either the 2012 or 2013 draft.  If the Kings fail to make the playoffs, Columbus will receive the 2013 first round pick.

In terms of player value, it is reasonably close to fair market value, especially when you factor in the supposed problems between Columbus and Carter.  Johnson is signed through the 2017/2018 season at a cap hit of 4.357 million, which is comparable to Fedor Tyutin’s extension at 4.5 million during the same time period.  He has a strong offensive upside and shows quality puck possession skills.  His numbers also give him the appearance of a solid powerplay quarterback. Here are some quick stats from this year:

Games Played :: 61
Goals :: 8
Assists :: 16
Points :: 24
Plus/Minus :: -12
Penalty Minutes :: 24
Shots on Goal :: 120
Shooting Percentage :: 6.7
Powerplay Goals :: 5
Powerplay Assists :: 9
Average TOI :: 22:31

These numbers are telling of quite a few things.  He will be a strong offensive addition to the blueline, with his eight goals four better than the next best Blue Jacket defenseman.  He can log lots of minutes and can really produce on the powerplay.  On the other side of the coin, his -12 was -4 worse than anyone else on the Kings, and he has only managed ten points at even strength (3 goals – 7 assists) which is an immediate concern to me.  I have also read a number of reports that suggest his +/- over the last number of seasons is very poor in league comparison, and his CORSI rating over the last four years has been at the bottom of the Kings defensive core consistently.

Beyond his statistics, one of his major assets is his compete level, which I feel has usually been very high. He seems to have a lot of passion for the game, and I certainly expect to see Howson bring in more guys like him before the start of next season.  If this move had something to do with changing the attitude in the locker room, many will argue the Blue Jackets won big time.  On top of that, Johnson wasted no time saying he was excited to play for a team that wants him on the roster, and I am sure the fans will welcome that enthusiasm in the wake of all the Carter speculation.

What I believe to be the more strange part of this trade, is how similar Johnson’s game is to current Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski.  I personally believe a glaring need in Columbus is a quality defensive minded defenseman who can either play in, or have the upside to play in the top defensive slot alongside one of John Moore (eventually) or James Wisniewski.  What we acquired instead, was another top four player with some suggested potential to be a top tier defenseman, but more often than not the defined qualities of a top four player who needs to be protected by his playing partner to avoid being scored on.

It makes me really wonder what the plan is for Columbus during the next couple months.  It would surprise me to see this current defensive lineup (with the inclusion of Johnson) show up untouched in late September, and with that, I have a hard time pondering who is more inclined to be moved.  Certainly Methot is serviceable as the teams lone top four defensive defenseman, leading me to think Tyutin may be playing his last season with the team.

Further, I really struggle to figure out where John Moore fits into the mix, whether he is expected to modify his game to play atop the roster with Wisniewski, or whether he will continue to build on what I happily define as the “Moorethot”experience.  In either case, there are definitely decisions that need to be made regarding the logical defensive structure of the Blue Jackets for next season, and I believe that adding a player of Johnson’s style only compounds that problem.

I am going to hold off full judgement of Johnson as a player until such time that I get to watch him play in Columbus, and I am excited to use the final twenty games of the season to get a good read on his abilities.  I am going to do the same with Scott Howson at least until the deadline, possibly even beyond the free agency period to see what kind of plan he has and how it will impact the roster in the short term.  As someone who believed that Carter needed time more than he needed a change of scenery to get over his Philly experience, I am not pleased to see him go.  As noted however, I believe Howson etc have a plan, and I eagerly await the the next piece to fall into place.

Carry the Flag.

Back Up Goalies: A Risky Proposition

Trade talk has been the focal point of all things Blue Jackets lately. In nearly every rumored deal a goaltender is seen coming back to Columbus. In the Vermette trade there were a few brief moments where some people thought Curtis McElhinney was actually going to tend goal for the Blue Jackets. Obviously Rick Nash is the big fish being dangled, and nearly every trade possibility floated has a goaltender being brought back. The three goalies most often mentioned have been Cory Schneider, Jon Bernier and Tuuka Rask. While all three have been very good in net with their current teams, I hesitate to think any one of them would be the answer for the Blue Jackets. Historically speaking, it has been a very risky move to bring in a career back-up netminder to be a starter. Numbers drop dramatically and in many cases the goalie flames out horribly. I took a look back at all goaltenders who went from a primarily back-up role to being a starter elsewhere, and this is what I found:

  • Semyon Varlamov: Played 59 games for the Capitals, sporting a .917 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average. He also had some playoff experience as a starter with the Caps. He was traded for 1st & 2nd round picks, and put up a .902, 2.90 post-trade. He also managed to lose his starting spot to J.S. Gigure.
  • Jaroslav Halak: Played 101 games for the Canadiens, although 45 his final year as part of a tandem with Carey Price. He put up a .919, 2.62 in Montreal. Traded for Lars Eller & Ian Schultz. His save percentage dropped slightly while his GAA actually improved with the Blues to a .915, 2.29.
  • Craig Anderson: 109 games as a back-up in Florida and Chicago, where he had a .911, 2.87. He signed as a UFA with the Avs for 2 years, $1.8m. He was excellent his first year in Colorado and then given away his second year. Since becoming a starter, his numbers have jumped slightly to .914, 2.78.
  • Dan Ellis: 111 games with Nashville and Dallas, sporting a .912, 2.64. He signed as a UFA with the Lightning for 2 years, $1.5m. As a starter he put up a 0.900, 2.76; and lost his job to Mike Smith, then traded to Anaheim where he reclaimed a role as a back-up goalie.
  • Ilya Bryzgalov: 69 games as a back-up in Anaheim, although he had some playoff starting experience. In Anaheim he had a .909, 2.48. After being claimed by the Coyotes on waivers he has put up a .915, 2.57 as a starter. Since leaving Phoenix his numbers have plummeted, raising the question of whether he is as good as everyone thought, or whether the system played a major role in his stellar play.
  • Mike Smith: In 44 games as a back-up in Dallas, he had a 0.909, 2.34. Traded to the Lightning for Brad Richards (along with Jussi Jokinen). In 118 games primarily as a starter with Tampa he had a .905, 2.85. He lost his starting job to Dan Ellis (although he won it back again, then lost it when they traded for Dwayne Roloson), and wasn’t re-signed.  He has since been excellent in Phoenix this year, which raises the questions mentioned earlier about Bryzgalov.
  • Vesa Toskala: Played 115 games as a back-up in San Jose, sporting a .914, 2.34. The Leafs traded a 1st, 2nd & 4th to acquire him. He put up an abysmal .895, 3.06, lost his starting job to Jonas Gustavsson, was dumped to Anaheim, then subesequently dumped to Calgary. Toskala is now out of the NHL.
  • Mathieu Garon: 43 games as Canadiens back-up, with 0.914, 2.49. Traded to the Kings for Radek Bonk and Cristobel Huet (who was still a prospect in Europe then). In 95 games with LA, Garon had a brutal .898, 3.03, lost his starting job to Dan Cloutier, and then let go as a free agent after two years.
  • Marc Denis: 28 games as the Avalanche back-up, with a 0.916, 2.55. The Blue Jackets traded a 2nd round pick for him, and he put up a .904, 3.01 as the starter in Columbus and later Tampa. Afterwards he started in the AHL for a couple of years, and was out of hockey at age 31.
  • Miikka Kiprusoff: The prime example of how trading for a back-up can be a success. While this was pre-lockout, Calgary traded a 2nd round pick for the San Jose back-up.
  • Cristobel Huet: Huet started in Montreal for a short time and then in Washington, although he primarily had been a back up/tandem. In Chicago he failed spectacularly when leaned on to be a full time starter. He was signed to a 4 year, $5.625m per season contract, and is still the 7th highest paid goalie in the NHL.
  • Andrew Raycroft, Martin Biron, Alex Auld, Ty Conklin, Manny Legace, Martin Gerber were all close, but started at some point with their prior team before going somewhere else to be the go to guy and failing miserably.

That is not a very pretty list of names. Historically speaking, it has been a terrible idea to poach another team’s back-up to be a starter. Also of note, the low prices to acquire these players. Only Mike Smith was acquired for a big name player, which worked out terribly for Tampa. It is interesting to note the Lightning have acquired four of the goalies on this list, and none of them are even their current starter. Also interesting that they are the only team that has had worse goaltending this year than the Blue Jackets. Look at the goaltenders above who were a success: Halak, Bryzgalov and Kiprusoff. They are the only three who really became goaltenders anywhere near the “franchise” caliber goaltending that every team pines after. Halak was traded for a good prospect and a mediocre prospect (think Boone Jenner & Dalton Prout), Bryzgalov was acquired on waivers, and Kipper was traded for a 2nd round pick.

Judging from those players above, it’s a crapshoot to grab another teams back-up and make him your starter. Two teams traded for a San Jose back-up with stellar numbers. One got Miika Kiprusoff and he carried them to the Cup finals. The other got Vesa Toskala, and even paid a much steeper price for him. In general, goalies play worse when leaned on for the starting job after being a back-up elsewhere. Some stats:

Average games played as back-up: 75gp
Average save percentage as back-up: .913
Average goals against average as back-up: 2.52
Average save percentage as starter: .905
Average goals against average as a starter: 2.81

That turns into a drop of .08 in save percentage and 0.29 in goals against average. Now let’s look at the rumored goaltenders and see where they would end up if their numbers dropped the average amount:

Jonathan Bernier: $1.25m, with 1 year remaining before RFA status. Has played 43 games as a back-up in Los Angeles, sports a career .908, 2.57 numbers. Would drop to .900, 2.86 (very similar to the .899 put up by Steve Mason since his rookie year).

Cory Schneider: RFA after this season, played 56 games as the Canucks back-up. Has a .922 sv%, 2.42 gaa. He would drop to .914, 2.71 (worse than Sanford’s .915, 2.52 this year).

Tuuka Rask RFA after this season. Played 100 games mostly as the back-up, although stole the starting job from Tim Thomas for most of the season in 2009-10. Sports a career .926. 2.22. Rask would end up at .918, 2.51.

Now of course their numbers aren’t going to fall exactly at the average. But the Blue Jackets have been a terrible defensive team for three seasons now. These three goaltenders have been playing in front of three of the better defensive teams in the league. There is no way their numbers don’t drop in union blue. Would marginally better goaltending than Curtis Sanford really be worth Rick Nash? Absolutely no way.

Furthermore, the only two I would be looking at (I wouldn’t even be considering Bernier) are both restricted free agents this offseason. They Jackets could simply wait until the offseason and tender and offer sheet to either Rask or Schneider for the max level at the 2nd round compensation, which would be near $3.25m per season. Or a better idea is to tell the Bruins or Canucks they plan on placing an offer sheet but would prefer to make a trade. They could then offer them slightly more (say the Ottawa 2nd acquired from Phoenix along with the Blue Jackets 2nd), and then sign the acquired goalie for a longer term at lower cap hit. This would also stop any other goalie hungry team (cough*Tampa*cough) from trying the same offer sheet move.

Even though the numbers favor Rask, I think Schneider is the better target than Rask. The Bruins have more cap room and more impetus to keep Rask, as Thomas is older than Luongo. The age of Thomas and the future of the Bruins makes it more likely that Rask wants to stick around in Boston. Schneider will likely want a starting job this offseason. And how many starting jobs are going to be available? A couple of teams could use an upgrade in net, but really only Columbus and Tampa have wide open starting jobs for next year. If I were running the Blue Jackets, I would be waiting for the offseason to find a goaltender. I would make a play for Rask, then go after Schneider hard. If neither of those work out, I’d take a long look at Josh Harding and Al Montoya as unrestricted free agents. If I’m rolling the dice on a starting goalie, I’m not giving up Rick Nash to do it. I’m making a shrewd deal at the going rate for a back-up tender (~2nd round pick) or signing Harding/Montoya and hoping for a Craig Anderson-esque performance.

Vermette Traded to Phoenix

As twitter so thoughtfully put it… over, and over and over, and over again… “And so it begins.”

Antoine Vermette was traded earlier today to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for a second round pick in 2012, a 5th round pick in 2013 (that could be a 4th round pick if the Coyotes win a playoff round) and goaltender Curtis McEhlinney.

For those paying close attention to the team and media commentary throughout the league, this move was expected from the Blue Jackets.  At 18-35-7 and well out of the playoff hunt, Columbus is and will continue to be sellers in hopes of retooling the roster before next season.  With a team bursting at the seams with centers, it came as no surprise to me that Vermette was one of the first names on the trade list.  Vermette has also been considered to be in the latter stages of a very poor year, and has not really come close to competing with his best year (not surprisingly a contract year) of 2009/2010.

I am going to take a bit of time breaking down why I believe things happened the way they did, and what we can expect for the rest of the week.

First, in terms of a player for player (or I suppose in this case picks) comparison, I think Scott Howson came out on the losing end.  While picks have great potential of landing a solid player, I have not personally read any reports that suggest this will be a deep draft, and hold little hope that the 5th round pick in 2013 will net much gain either.  For a 29 year old player with additional years on his contract, I had hoped the deal would land a prospect of some kind in Columbus.  To be clear on this, I am not under the assumption that Curtis McEhlinney will play in Columbus or Springfield, let alone re-sign for an any additional amount of time with the organization. I believe the addition of him was simply a move to allow Phoenix to stay within the fifty player contract max.

In terms of how I believe the deal went, I would argue they broke about even.  I am under the impression that of the players (especially centers) in the locker room, Vermette was one of the less valuable pieces of the puzzle, with players like Brassard and Johansen appearing to be the future top two centers of the team.  With that in mind, Howson likely wanting to remove the additional three years of Vermette at 3.75 million in cap space before this summer. He could then find a less costly option, or a different style of player for that third line centerman role.

Secondary to that, Vermette has worn the “A” for various parts of the last two seasons leading me to believe that he was one of the more respected leaders on the roster.  I believe this is one of a number of trades that will set the tone in the locker room and reduce the possibility of a ‘country club’ atmosphere that I have heard so much about over the last few months.  Certainly this is nothing more than speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me, considering the comments made by Scott Howson wanting to reshape the team and move forward from this season.  I think that is a strong indication of where he held Vermette on his personal depth chart, and someone who he believed was not providing enough of the right intangibles to merit a position on the roster.

I can understand the dissatisfaction regarding the deal, and the return, but I believe that it is a long process, and Columbus management has a plan that will be months in the making.  I can also appreciate that few have the confidence in Howson to put together a winning hockey club, but frankly, I am not going to throw pessimism at someone who is more than likely going to be the general manager of this hockey club for the next year and possibly beyond.  If moving Vermette and his 3.75 million dollar cap hit is what it takes to make room for new talent, count me in.  I have been a Vermette fan for a long time and I wish him well in Phoenix, but it is time for change here.

I would love to hear your thoughts, concerns, and ideas about where the Columbus Blue Jackets should go from here. Feel free to share them in the comments section, and get ready for some more fireworks in the coming week.

Carry the Flag.

Game Recap :: Columbus vs. San Jose 2/21

Amidst all the trade deadline turmoil, a record that makes most Blue Jackets fans red in the face, and directly following a shameful home loss to Chicago, the boys in union blue put on a show.  In front of another ‘more than they deserve’ crowd of 14,625, they handed San Jose a beating.  This is the same San Jose who beat Columbus 6-0 in their arena twenty days ago.  The same San Jose team who went into the game 3-0 against Columbus this year. The same San Jose team currently leading the Pacific division.

But all of this didn’t matter. Columbus came out firing and only let off the gas briefly in the early stages of the second period.  They played with tenacity, and the fire it takes to win hockey games.  The defense stymied opportunities and for the most part kept the slot void of free sticks.  Mason managed 38 saves to break a Blue Jackets record, and they did all of this without gaining a point on Edmonton in the Nail sweepstakes (who also beat a team soundly last night).

There are quite a few players I want to highlight:

Derick Brassard – How about this kid.  After the rocky start beneath Scott Arniel, Brassard has been on tear as Richards top line center, and is currently enjoying a streak of ten points in his last ten games, including a pair of excellent assists last night.  His vision on the ice keeps getting better and better, with really only Umberger’s execution causing him to miss out on a couple more points.  His generosity with the puck is still a bit of a concern, but the fact that his passes are crisp and usually hit a stick leaves me less worried about it.

Further, his possession on the powerplay and breaking into the zone have increased in quality in a big way.  Where he used to lose speed trying to make a move to beat the first defender, he is now using already built up speed to burst past them.  He controls the puck into the offensive zone and either maintains possession while his linemates join him in the zone, or he finds an open player along the blueline to create additional space.  Basically, where he was turning over the puck, is now where he is creating opportunity.  This is something the Jackets are in great need of.

Jeff Carter – I don’t think enough can be said about his shot.  He took what appeared to be at least by his standards a weak wrister about a minute into the game and it still seemed to give Niemi fits.  Scoring a hattrick, thanks in large part to some tremendous passing, will always get the crowd rolling.  It was capped by a great (and very thoughtful) pass by Nash who appeared to have Greiss beat in front of the net.

While I could talk all day about his shot, I also want to point out his ability to find the open lane in the high slot.  Two of the goals he scored were due in large part to his creativity in selecting a path to the net that will leave him open.  A prime example is his first goal last night:

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

What you see here is a pass by Carter skating backwards towards the blueline to Prospal along the boards.  Rather than maintaining his position at the point, Carter recognizes that at least one of the San Jose players will pressure Prospal and begins a path directly to the net.  Prospal feeds him the puck and he fires an awesome wrist shot that beats Niemi clean.

Additionally, his second goal of the game was nothing short of shockingly awesome.  I don’t know how many players in the NHL have the presence of mind to backhand a puck through their own legs into the open net, but this is one of the first times I’ve ever seen it accomplished, and did it ever get me out of my seat.  I just can’t speak enough to the creativity and poise he has with the puck.

Rick Nash – A lot has been said about Nash needing to be the second best player on a hockey team to perform, and frankly, I don’t disagree.  What I saw last night from him, after momentum was on the Jackets side, was the Rick Nash I came to love watching years ago.  Tremendous confidence on the puck, creative in his deking, and picking his spots to crash the net in a big way.  He finished with a goal and an assist, and both were very Rick Nash-esque in their own way.  Beyond that, he made some other quality passes and really just appeared to be comfortable throughout.  It was a treat to watch him return to that kind of form.

Steve Mason – 38 saves against — .927 save percentage — I would hope people were pleased with his effort, because I sure was.  He came up big at times and I personally heard a few people expect a goal and ‘wow’ at the puck flying off Mason and into the corner instead of going in.  He was beat a few times, which was disappointing, but they were solid goals. I had a great angle of the Couture shot and it was some kind of wicked, going top shelf in the blink of an eye.  This game was also Mason’s 85th career win as a Blue Jacket, which gave him the all time Blue Jackets win record.  If this season marks the end of his tenure with the team, I am personally glad to see him take hold of that record, and I personally hope they find a way to retain him for a few more years to give him ample time to develop behind a more prepared, older number one goalie.

Those players were standouts in my mind, but most of the team played lights out for the majority of the game.  It was a phenomenal atmosphere and I really don’t think anyone in the arena who has followed the Jackets all year took any of the win for granted.  Some truly excellent cheering, and a major shout out to a #CBJTweetUp member who purchased a hat during his visit, only to throw it on the ice for Carter’s hattrick.

Now THAT is what I call Carrying the Flag!!!

February 13-19 CBJ Prospect Week in Review

Hello all back again for the week in review, in Springfield it was a usual three in three with the Falcons going 1-2. Starting off on Friday the Falcons faced off against the Connecticut Whale going into the third period it was a 3-3 tie that’s when the wheels fell off Springfield ended up losing the game 6-3 with Paul Dainton taking the loss. Cam Atkinson scored his 28th of the season and Tomas Kubalik had three assists in the loss. Then it was back to Springfield to finish off the weekend. On Saturday it was a historical one for goaltender Manny Legace as he became the Falcons all time leader in wins with his 64th. Saturday it was a 4-1 win over Providence with the Falcons scoring four straight to pick up the victory including Cam scoring his 29th and Dane Byers scoring for the second straight night. On Sunday the Worchester Sharks came to town bringing a familiar name with them. In the 2-1 loss ex Jacket Andrew Murray scored his second of the season, scoring for the Falcons for the third straight game was captain Dame Byers to give him 13 on the season. On the weekend it was pretty much five players doing all the scoring with Cam Atkinson scoring two goals and two assists, Tomas Kubalik with four assists and Martin St Pierre adding a goal and three assists. Dane Byers as I said had three goals and Alexandre Giroux had a goal and 2 assists.
Boone Jenner has now missed the Generals last nine games missing two last week. Martin Ouelette did play last week but it was so short i’m just gonna include him in this. Martin Ouelette was given a whopping 5:49 of playing time stopping two of three in a 7-3 win over UMass.
Dalton Smith-Ottawa 67s(OHL)
Stats 41GP 15-10-25 -5 61PIM
After missing the 67s last five games Dalton returned to the lineup scoring his 15th of the season when he went behind the Otters net and stuffed the puck past Otter’s goalie Devin Williams.
Brandon Archibald-Saginaw Spirit(OHL)Stats 56GP 1-15-16 +2 56PIM
The Spirit went 2-0-1 last week starting off with a overtime loss to his old team the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds a game in which he had no points and was a -2 then Saturday and Sunday happened. In Saturday’s win over Sarnia picking up two assists for his third multi point game of the season and was a +4 on the night. The next day Owen Sound came to town and Brandon had a assist in a win over Owen Sound and was a +3. This was the first time since October 14-15th when he had points in back to back games.
Lukas Sedlak-Chicoutimi Sagueneens(QMJHL)
Stats 44GP 17-26-43 +19 53PIM
The Sags went 0-2 last week with Sedlak scoring a goal and a assist on the week. Lukas had a assist in a loss to Gatineau a game in which he won 24 of 32 faceoffs. Then when the Sags welcomed Michael Chaput and the Cataractes to town in the 3-2 loss Sedlak scored his 17th goal of the season winning 13 of 25 faceoffs.
Petr Straka-Rimouski Oceanic(QMJHL)
Stats 45GP 16-17-33 -8 27PIM
In the team’s first two games both losses Straka was quiet then in a 10-3 win over Cape Breton Straka had his best game of the year. Straka had two goals(:40 2:19 in video) and two assists and was named second star. The four point game was his first since October of last year.
Mathieu Corbeil-Saint John Sea Dogs(QMJHL)
Stats 41GP 32-9 .914Sv% 2.29GAA 6SO
First a retraction last week I said Mathieu lost a win because of a player not signing his player card well he only lost the win because of a goof up with the site that keep stats for the QMJHL, the only thing lost was the two standing points they got for the win. So back to last week Mathieu went 2-0 last week giving the Dogs 11 straight wins. Mathieu stopped 21 of 22 in a win over PEI also picking up his second assist of the season. On Friday in front of a national television audience the Sea Dogs picked up a 4-1 win over Quebec in which he stopped 25 of 26 shots he faced. On the weekend Corbeil went 2-0 stopped 46 of 48 with a .958 save percentage and 1.00 GAA.
Michael Chaput-Shawinigan Cataractes(QMJHL)
Stats 47GP 16-36-52 +30 41PIM
Michael and the Cataractes went 2-0-1 last week with Michael scoring a point in all three giving him a four game point streak. In a overtime loss to Baie-Comeau Michael had a assist matching his total of last season in 17 less games. Two days later in a rematch Michael had a part in each of the goals scoring one and addin two assists in a 3-2 win over the Drakkar. To finish off the weekend in a matchup with Lukas Sedlak and the Sagueneens Michael had the game winner scoring his 16th of the season. On the weekend Michael won 58% of his draws and continues to be amongst the league leaders.
Austin Madaisky-Kamlopps Blazers
Stats 59GP 12-32-44 +24 75PIM
The Blazers played three games last while Austin two games and a couple of shifts but more on that later. On Tuesday Austin had a goal(1:42) on blast from the point then added a assist on the game winner off another blast in a win over Edmonton. Then in a loss to Red Deer Austin was held off the scoresheet. On Saaturday in a loss to Calgary only six minutes in Austin was given a five minute major for cross checking and was given a game misconduct.
Oliver Gabriel-Portland Winterhawks
Stats 25GP 13-14-27 +13 26PIM
Oliver added to his point streak with points in each of the team’s three games last week including two multi point games. On Tuesday Oliver had a goal(:30 seconds) and a assist in a win over Americans. Then in a win over Everett Oliver had another goal and a assist and was named third star with his third multi point game in a row and eighth since being returned from Springfield. Then in a 11-2 win over Seattle Oliver scored his 13th of the season just 10 seconds into the third to make it 8-1.
Onto the NCAA prospects, the ones that didnt score any points were Thomas Larkin as the Red Raiders losses to St. Lawrence and Clarkson. Kevin Lynch didnt have any points in the Wolverines sweep of Northern Michigan and Will Weber was scoreless in a sweep of Notre Dame, he had a assist but the puck bounced off Tyler Biggs’ leg before the puck was shot in.
Sean Collins-Cornell(ECAC)
Stats 27GP 12-9-21 +3 30PIM
In a tie with Clarkson Sean was held off the scoresheet but in the game against St Lawrence Sean scored the game winner his first of the season 36 seconds into overtime to give him 12 on the season.
Trent Vogelhuber-Miami(CCHA)
Stats 32GP 3-10-13 +3 47PIM
In the Redhawks sweep of Notre Dame Trent went scoreless on Friday in a 3-0 win then on Saturday Trent scored his third(:50 seconds) of the season scoring his first game winner of the season. Next weekend is big one as Miami travels to Columbus on Friday then back to Oxford for Senior night on Saturday.
Seth Ambroz, Jake Hansen-Minnesota(WCHA)
Ambroz-32GP 5-3-8 -1 45PIM Hansen-33GP 11-18-29 +16 44PIM
In the Gopher’s sweep of Bemidji Jake and Seth were held scoreless but both figured into the scoring on Saturday. Jake had a assist and scored the game winner when he deflected a Justin Holl blast from the point. Seth cemented the win when he scored a empty net goal to make it 4-1 Gophers and sealed the sweep.
Drew Olson-Minnesota-Duluth(WCHA)
Stats 32GP 1-5-6 +7 49PIM
I think this is the first time ive written about Olson since I started on this site. Olson had assists on Friday and Saturday picking up points in back to back games for the first time ever then also had his first career multi point game with two assists on Saturday. So in one weekend Olson double his point total for the season.
TJ Tynan-Notre Dame(CCHA)
Stats 33GP 12-27-39 -8 32PIM
Tynan like all of Notre Dame was held off the scoresheet on Friday in a 3-0 loss but then added his 27th assist(same video in Vogelhuber update 1:08) of the season on the Irish’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to Miami.
Mike Reilly-Penticton(BCHL)
Stats 43GP 20-48-68 40PIM
Mike and the Vees’ win streak is up to 34 straight after going 2-0 last week. After his 17 game point streak was snapped Mike had a goal and a assist in a win over Vernon. But then was held scoreless in a win over Salmon Arm.
Anton Forsberg-MODO(Sweden)
Stats 12GP 4-3 .906Sv% 2.90GAA
Quickly another update from last week, I reported that MODO somehow got 10 days off between games but I didnt know why well I asked the team and its because the national team was playing. As for last week Forsberg made it into one of MODOs games making 26 saves in a 4-1 win over Lulea. On a off note Ian Clarke has been on a scouting trip and also he worked with MODO last year, heres a interview Ian did and it is in English
As for next week college hockey’s regualr season is done for every league except for the WCHA who still have 2 weekends of action. See you next week and if you missed it I did a post with a list of all the CBJ prospects and guys on Springfield who are on twitter that I will try to keep as up to date as possible.

Don’t Go Away Mad…Just Go Away. (aka Alison’s Rant)

This post has been sitting in my queue for a while…it started when the Jeff Carter rumours first reached fever pitch. I looked at it again when the Nash availability “announcement” came out, and after what has been one of my lowest CBJ fan moods post-Chicago debacle yesterday, I’m just going to post it.Here’s the thing. As we sit poised for the trade deadline, and the off season moves, and we are inundated with “who will and will not come to Columbus” and “the joke of Columbus as a hockey market” (yes, thanks Chicago fans…how are your Cubbies?), I can immediately define the litmus test for every potential candidate for a trade, signing or drafting: I want only one thing from every single person who wears the Union Blue. Here is my mandate to the players that will be on this roster come puck drop in Fall 2012.

I WANT YOU TO HAVE HEART.

I’ve long espoused the value of “heart” as almost equal to the value of “skill”. Hence the name of this blog. As my hockey-smart friends always tell me, hockey is a game of inches, and, in my mind, a lot of times “heart” is the difference.

Here’s what having heart means: Does this organization have issues? Let’s take those on and fix them. Is a teammate slacking at practice? Call him out. Does your shot need some work (ahem)? Go shoot a couple more practice shots. Is there still time on the clock? PLAY THE GAME. This is your team. We the fans care – we want to see you care.

So, for 2012, I am done with the excuses, I want to see guys on the ice who are ready to do what it takes to win. Here’s my preemptive response to the same old same old that I’m not willing to put up with next year…

I am done with hearing its the coaches’ fault.  
<We’ve fired two because he “lost the room”. I remember the last time someone had to make me fulfill my responsibilities. I think it was 6th grade.>
I am done with hearing its chemistry-related.  
<This is your job. Do it. Do it well. We don’t get the luxury to like everyone we work with.>
I am done hearing this is just management’s fault.  

I am done hearing that if only we didn’t have all the injuries.  

I am done hearing its our goalie, its our defense, its Rick Nash.  

Here’s the brass tacks, gentlemen, you who wear the Union Blue – you guys are GOOD. AT. HOCKEY. You beat out thousands of guys who would kill to be as good as you. Here’s the trick, you also have to care. YOU HAVE TO HATE LOSING MORE THAN YOU LOVE WINNING. You have to have heart.

Don’t like these options? Don’t “want” to be part of the CBJ? Please continue on – do not pass go, do not collect $200 (or $5.25 million…). You are welcome to be part of the solution, but we don’t need to you be part of the problem.

Let’s Go Jackets.