Well that was a disappointing way to get back into things. The Jackets were thoroughly outshot through the entire game, with the final tally of 35-19 . At least they were consistent, getting outshot by five or six shots every period. Oddly, I didn’t feel like New Jersey was actually dominating the play. For parts of the first and third periods, and most of the second period, the Jackets looked like the better team. They did look to be off in the positioning, and were definitely off in their passing. Those are both related, as I felt the team did an extremely poor job tonight of supporting the puck carrier, forcing players into making tougher passes than necessary. Oh well, not like this was a divisional game against a team they are battling for a playoff spot. Oh wait, New Jersey is now only two points back. Super. Continue reading Three Stars & Game in One Picture: CBJ @ NJ
The big picture is considerably more ambiguous than the small picture. It’s easy to look at my post from last week and agree or disagree with my thoughts. In fact, many did in various forms and places. But almost ever single one of those disagreements was focused too intently on the specific player I referenced, or the exact dollar figures for a free agent, etc., etc. The fact is, the small picture was almost totally through the filter of my ideas of the big picture. That sounds strange and confusing, so here is a more specific example:
Derek MacKenzie. He seemed to be the most divisive player in the reaction. I don’t underrate Derek MacKenzie. In fact, a major reason why I suggested they move on from DMac was because I rate him quite highly. I think he’s a player that will fetch decent money on the open market. A (close to) double digit goal scorer that kills penalties, works his ass off, and is a great guy? Every team in the league can use that. He’s also about to turn 33 years old this summer. His interest in signing a one year deal is probably low. If I’m him, I’m aiming for a three year deal, fully one-way, initially asking for something close to $2m. Does he get that? Probably not, but the cap is going up this summer and it only takes one desperate team.
How does this reflect the big picture though? Derek MacKenzie is a fourth liner. He’s a solid fourth liner, but he’s not the anchor of a good fourth line. Put two solid NHLers out there with him, and he performs admirably. Put him out there between Jared Boll and Colton Gillies and you have the worst line I’ve ever seen get regular shifts in the NHL. If he’s more than a team’s 12th best forward, that team needs to get better bottom six forwards. So what is the value of a 12th forward? Next to nothing, completely replaceable. He brings some value on the penalty kill, but the Jackets happen to have available in house replacements that would not be a large drop off.
So there it is. My analysis of Derek MacKenzie’s future has very little to do with Derek MacKenzie, but more to do with how many resources should be devoted to a teams 13th forward based on time on ice.
Let’s pull back even further for the REALLY big picture. Who do the Columbus Blue Jackets want to be? There are two franchises that I would be looking to, and both bear striking similarities in a number of ways. First, let’s travel back in time to the era of The Dead Wings.
Greetings all – This post covers the past TWO weeks for our prospects. I’m sorry for the delay – it just means there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get rolling.
Starting off in Springfi…wait no we don’t, we’re going for a change in venue as we start in St John’s Newfoundland at Mile One Centre. We head there for the AHL All Star Game. Unlike normal years, where it’s either the standard East-West or the older Canada-PlanetUSA format, this year the All Star Game was a team of AHL All Stars versus Farjestads of the Swedish Hockey League. Jackets Dmen Frederic St. Denis and Cody Goloubef represented the Falcons in the game with St. Denis serving as an alternate captain.
Starting on Tuesday with the Skills Competition, Cody and Frederic took part in the first event – the puck control relay – with both skating second of their trios. Brett Connolly gave the AHL a slight lead that Frederic then lost with Cody also finishing behind the Swedish skater. St. Denis’ group would lose but local boy Brenden Kichton, with the help of the Farjestads player falling, led to the AHL winning Cody’s heat. Cody and Frederic got the next four events off before taking part in the “Pass and Score” teaming up with Cam Atkinson’s college linemate, and current Albany forward, Joe Whitney. The group faced off against goaltender Frederik Pettersson-Wentzel. In the event all three players have to touch the puck before shooting within 30 seconds. Cody scored on the first attempt with a snapshot from the slot and St. Denis scored on the third when Wentzel went for the double pad stack but he didn’t leave them on the ice allowing the puck to trickle past. In the final event, “the breakaway relay,” every player took part in a group of five. Cody was part of the second AHL group, shooting fourth. He fired a shot into Pekka Tuokkola’s glove. St. Denis was part of the third AHL group, shooting third on Frederik Pettersson-Wentzel. He tried some fancy stickhandling but was stopped. The score was tied after all four groups so the competition went to a sudden death shootout with IceCaps captain Jason Jaffrey clinching the victory in the third round thus giving the AHL a 17-18 victory in the Skills Competition.
The Aces’ November went much like their October, running circles around the league’s best and scoring video game like numbers of goals, points, hits and defensive totals. Their current record at the December 3rd mark is 26-2-0, sitting 1st in the Metro and NHL with 52 standings points. Their GFPG is over six at a 6.21 tick and their GAPG is down in the basement of the league at 1.32. Their home and away records are identical at 13-1-0.
Brian Bunka celebrates his 8th goal of the season in a rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I don’t know what to say really, we’re just running around like a Titan going haywire. There’s not much anyone can do to stop us; it’s like we’re running on walls while they’re still trying to figure out how to crawl,” said Aces captain Roger Garen, who himself had a middling, at least by Aces standards, November stretch. “I don’t think too much about it. I’m still wearing the C, the guys upstairs don’t seem to be worried and I’m not either.”
“There’s not much that I can really change or adjust to make things better,” head coach/player Morgan Ward admitted after a 24-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena. “We’re all scoring. We’re all hitting. We’re all playing well.” However, there is a small controversy brewing in the Aces’ dressing room. Goalies Rob Mixer and Micheal Wass are making it hard on Ward to pick a starter every night. Despite the better performance on the ice, Rob Mixer has been given less starts than his teammate Wass. “I’ll defer. It’s his decision,” a frustrated Mixer said after a 4-0 over the Boston Bruins.
The Olympic break is just that. A nice little break to take stock of the season so far. Looking back so far over the season, there are really two Blue Jackets squads. There is the injury riddled, under-performing bunch from the start of the year. Then there is the top ten team from the last couple months. Is any of this really that surprising though? We knew Nathan Horton would be out to start the year. We knew Sergei Bobrovsky would regress. We knew this was one of the youngest rosters in the league, one that had barely played together over the last couple of years. That has all the makings of a slow start.
However, the first few months of the year probably went worse than would be expected. Just check out the Jackets’ goal differential from the first few months (where they played like a borderline playoff team, with only a -2 goal differential through December 22nd), to now, where they have played like a legit playoff team (currently +9, good for 10th in the NHL). So injuries plus weak goaltending provides results worse than should be expected. That’s all the makings for a turnaround. Aka the last two months are not a fluke.
So where do we go from here? I’ve got two views of it. The first, to follow in this post, is the small picture. It’s the trade deadline and this current offseason. You can’t fully discuss one without talking about the other. Player re-signings, rentals, prospects, draft picks; they are all just so intertwined, it makes sense to discuss both. The other view is the big picture, coming later this week. It’s based around a not-so-simple question: who do the Blue Jackets want to be?
With that being said, let’s look back to the current roster. Per CapGeek , the Jackets are currently sitting on around $2.5m in cap space, although they will have about $4m by the deadline. That means they can add up to that much in salary without sending any out. Basically, unless the Jackets are targeting one of a handful of premium rentals, they don’t need to move out anyone of significance. This picture gets even rosier this offseason. The team will have about $22m in cap space for next year, with ten forwards, four defensemen, one goalie signed. That is a lot of room to work with, and considering the young age of the roster, GM Jarmo Kekelainen and President John Davidson can take this team in just about any direction they want. I’m not Jarmo or JD, but here is the direction I would like to see them take, broken down by player status.
Well, it’s been an eventful October for the Columbus Aces. After losing their first game 3-4 to the Calgary Flames in a last minute meltdown the Aces have rocketed back and now hold 1st place in the Metropolitan Division with 20 pts in 11 games. Defensive issues are still lingering from that first game’s heartbreak but the Aces have more than made up for it in their scoring and physical play, with the Aces officially laying 448 hits over the course of 12 games. Though it has gotten them into some hot water (Erickson’s boarding call against Toronto for his hit on LA KINGS CLOCK GUY is a good example), the Aces press on. As a team their PK is 87.5% and their PP an unbelievable 47.1% efficient on the man advantage.
The Aces’ average of 37 hits per game leads the NHL. Along with playing the body, the Aces have amassed a Goals For per Game of 6.17 a game (74 total) while also keeping the Goals Against per Game under 2; a 1.58 spot. I got a chance to ask Coach/Player Morgan Ward about the high numbers and he chuckled and quickly passed the praise to his players as a group: “They’re really kicking ass out there. I’ve stopped bothering to draw plays since [Garen] just kind does his own thing and we usually get a scoring chance off of it.” The Aces go into November on an 11 game winning streak, leading the Metropolitan Division with 22 points, ahead of the Hurriances who have tallied 19 so far in the 2013-2014 campaign. “We’ve got a good mix of people here…there’s not many people better than us on paper…and I think that’s something to be proud of.”, quipped Aces General Manager Steve Wisniewski, “They’re pretty much number 1 from the head to the toe. We’re forced to scratch people nightly that would be other teams’ captains.”
The Aces finish their home and home against the Toronto Hockey Bags tomorrow in Nationwide Arena. “Wow. So excite. Much score, many streak.”, said Doge. “Wow.”
Happy Olympic Break all! Back again with another light week in the CBJ prospect world. The Falcons were the busiest team last week with four games, a front office shake up and two roster moves before the Olympic roster freeze.
Before the team’s game on Tuesday against Albany, it was announced that President and Part owner Bruce Landon would be stepping down but will remain as Director of Hockey Operations. As for the game against the little Devils the Falcons picked up a 4-0 victory with Mike McKennna making 25 saves in the win for his third shutout of the season. In the win Alex Aleardi, Spencer Machacek, Frederic St Denis and Jonathan Marchessault scored with Marchessault also adding an assist.
On Thursday the team would trade forward Spencer Machacek for forward Paul Thompson. Thompson had a Cy Young season last year scoring 20 goals and adding nine assists in 58 games played. This year he only has seven points in 39 games before the trade. Before Friday night’s game/the Olympic Roster Freeze the Falcons swung a deal with Providence acquiring former Miami RedHawks star Carter Camper for defenseman Blake Parlett. Camper is a tiny offensive star who picked up 47 and 48 points in his first two full AHL seasons with at least 30 assists. In 41 games played this season Camper has 31 points with 23 being assists. Unfortunately, Camper has been out of the lineup since January 19th with a toe injury.
I’m going to just say it: the Olympic break, while fun…
…sucks. Yeah. It sucks. Hockey is on, sure, but once every day or so. (Even less if you’re just following one or two teams.) So I’d figure I’d help ease that lack of CBJ hockey with something pretty stupid: a bunch of 99 overall players with CBJ community members’ names in NHL 14. Along with the “Columbus Aces” I created a “heel” team taking the place of the Penguins that’s filled with people at the lowest skill possible in every setting, named after our favorite people ever.
SO, WHAT’S GOING ON?
During the Olympic break, I will be playing an entire 82 game season (perhaps not physically playing each game, but an 82 game season still) with the Blue Jackets swapped out for my super team of players as well as switching out the Penguins for my super bad team of such Columbus heart-throbs like Bruce Garrioch and Tim Peel.
Well that certainly isn’t the way we wanted our team to go out before the Olympic break. But, all things considered, 3 points and 1-1-1 on the west coast swing could have turned out a lot worse…it’s just that we started by beating an excellent team and then seemed to turn to battling the hangover from that from there on. After tonight, in the Metro, the Jackets are back behind Philly and four points behind New York (currently in 2nd)…not what we wanted but not insurmountable. What fans and the team seem to be battling to learn is that this is not your father’s Jackets any more and a loss doesn’t equal the end of everything. So enough philosophical thoughts, let’s get on to the three stars:
Robyn Regehr? Seriously? Robyn Regehr? Ugh. That part of this game sucked. Coughing up another late lead sucked. But on the bright side, the Jackets have taken three of four points so far on the California trip, and sit one point back of Detroit for the final wild card spot, one point back of Philadelphia for third place in the Metro, and two points back of the Rangers for second in the division. Oh, and they have a game in hand on each of those teams. So yeah, beat the Sharks, and get right back in that thing. Since it’s late, let’s get to the stars.
3rd Star: Jake Muzzin
Muzzin scored a goal. So he gets a star. I wrote Reghr’s section before I wrote Muzzin’s. Muzzin also was terrible territorially tonight, routinely getting outplayed. But at least he was crushed with defensive zone starts (only two o-zone starts all game) and was matched up against the Johansen line. They crushed him but he scored. So he gets a star.