Andrew Murray

Matt Calvert

Posted by Canadan82 on February 26, 2011
Roster Talk / 1 Comment

There is no question in my mind that Matt Calvert is a major bright spot on the Columbus roster of late, and could easily be considered the top prospect that has brought the most upside to the main club this year.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to believe anyone who claimed that the 127th pick in the 2008 draft would make such a substantial difference with the big club next year, let alone this year.  His hattrick last night upped his goal total to nine this year, in the twenty games he has spent with the big club.

As much as I am personally excited to see his success, I have focused on a couple different aspects of how his play has made a difference on the team dynamic, and I wanted to share them.

First, this makes Nikita Filatov 100% expendable.  At the beginning of the year, I had a tremendous amount of confidence in the potential star power Fily is capable of bringing to the Columbus top six.  I can admit being both wrong, and was completely devastated when it became clear that he had a great deal of developing to do before he would become a viable top six forward.  What makes him expendable, is the current Jackets lineup.  With the addition of Calvert to the top six, the Jackets first two lines look like some form of the following:

Nash – Brassard – Voracek
Umberger – Vermette – Calvert
IR: Huselius

Not only does this allow Arniel to force Juice down to the third line, it gives him room to bring in a legit top six player if someone is taking advantage of their position with lazy or foolish play.  This lineup of course would be my ideal option once Brassard returns from injury, which should be somewhere within the next two weeks.

Second, it makes Huselius expendable.  I have long badgered his lazy play, and I feel like Calvert is about as non-Huselius as a player can get.  The kid flat out hustles, taking great advantage of every opportunity he is given, and forcing the issue when the opposition has the puck.  While his size would lead you to believe he would be more of a finesse player, his 5’9 frame actually ends up giving the presence of a 6’3 player the way he throws his body around on the ice.  Essentially, this roster swap changes the ‘patience’ of Juice to the frenetic, exciting play of Calvert, a player who was noticeably on the shoulders of the entire fanbase Friday night against Phoenix.

As it stands, Calvert has 9 goals in 20 games.  He also has 5 goals in his last 3 games, and 6 goals in his last 4.  These numbers are not familiar to fourth round picks who are brought up to the main club as a rookie over halfway into the season.  It leads me to my final comment about his rise with the Jackets, and it relates to the quality drafting done by the Jackets over the last few seasons.  Notably, on their current roster, they have (of those they have drafted) Methot (168th – 2003), Calvert (127th – 2008), Clitsome (271st – 2004), Dorsett (189th – 2006), Boll (101st – 2005), Murray (242nd – 2001).  Obviously excluded are the players drafted in the top 100 who are finding great success (Nash, Brassard, Russell, Mason, Voracek) on the roster and most of whom are signed to fairly reasonable extensions with the club.

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Deadline Time – Ranking Who Should Go

Posted by Canadan82 on February 23, 2011
Roster Talk / No Comments

It has been a while since I formally took some time to voice my opinion via blog specific, rather than just 140 twitter characters, but I thought it might be refreshing to put onto paper who I’d most like to see go, if Howson is looking to deal towards the deadline.  Important things to note: This does NOT mean I want them to be sellers, specifically.  I think the Blue Jackets can move about three of these players without even having to make a move to bring someone in, and while I want to see some of these guys gone, I expect that a move would be made to replace some of them before the deadline.

At short last, here we go:

1 – Kristian Huselius; Make no secret, I am 100% a Juice pessimist.  I have been actively negative about him from around the halfway mark of his first season as a Blue Jacket to present, originally accepting his contract and playing style as ‘necessary’ for a team building a league-wide rep for quality places to play hockey.  At this point, however, his lazy, unsuccessful on ice effort has me convinced that he is FINALLY taking up a roster spot in the top six that could be better utilized by another player.  I would be completely satisfied if Howson could bring in a young forward or draft pick for the aging winger, who strongly relies on passes from his linemates to generate goals and rarely goes out of his way to make the play that his talent would permit him to with a sliver of effort.

2 – Jan Hejda; One piece of the shutdown pairing that lead Columbus to the playoffs two years ago, Hejda is a shadow of his former self, and is constantly making decisions that would make rookie defensemen shake their head with confusion.  Terrible pinches, and blown assignments have burned the CBJ goaltenders thanks to Hejda, and offensively, horrible mistakes have caused injury to teammates because of point shots that should have been taken low, but instead were fired above waist level (see: Brassard injury).  Again, a young foward or draft pick would more than suffice, as Clitsome has shown himself to be more than capable.

3 – Rusty Klesla; It would be interesting to see who would win in a career long bandaid competition, Rusty or Pazzy.  While his potential has always been worth discussing, his inability to stay healthy has plagued the Blue Jacket defensive core for a handful of years.  With the excellent collection of potential NHLers waiting in the prospect wing of the CBJ franchise, I would strongly insist that Howson take advantage of a team looking for potential defensive depth with a handful of picks in the upcoming draft.

4 – Anton Stralman; aka Mr. “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?!”  Nothing more telling than last night, when he carried the puck behind his net while the Jackets clung to a small lead, only to turn it over to two Nashville players in the slot because he opted to cut to the middle.  Stralman is simply one of those players who you can’t trust with the puck, and while his play has been slightly better in the recent weeks, it is not worth the defensive gaffs and turnovers to keep him in the lineup.  Allow the Moore experiment continue by dealing him for a late round pick.

5 – Ethan Moreau; Brought to the Blue Jackets this year to provide quality depth with leadership capabilities, Moreau has been another who spends more time nursing injuries than he does leading the team from the third or fourth line.  In a situation where the Jackets can bring in a player like Sestito to ruffle the oppositions feathers, Moreau would not be a terrible loss assuming the return was a decent draft pick or a young forward prospect.

6 – Chris Clark; Another situation where limited leadership and even more limited on ice production has plagued the Blue Jackets, Clark could easily be moved to a team looking for forward depth for a prospect or pick.  Certainly his leadership potential would be missed in Columbus, but his spot on the roster could easily be replaced by a younger, harder working player considering how little the team seemed to have utilized his leadership ability.

7 – Andrew Murray; A player who has always frustrated me.  He is what I like to consider a bubble player with no real ability to be more than that.   Consistently being scratched, and when he is in the lineup, rarely takes a chance with the puck.  While I can appreciate the value in a player who believe in sound hockey, the few times he does take a chance are usually when his inabilities as a player are magnified.  Bring in a late pick for him and allow the depth to be replaced this year by a guy like Wilson.

8 – Mike Commodore;  Admittedly low on the list, but mostly because I don’t personally have any optimism that he’ll be going anywhere, any time soon.  From the minute his deal with the Blue Jackets was announced, I was a naysayer.  I ate crow during the Blue Jackets playoff run, admitting that he and Hejda were without question our top defensive pairing, but from that point, could not have been any more painfully correct about how irrelevant, lazy, and incapable he is in the ice.  If the Jackets could convince a team to take on his salary, even for a broom, bag of pucks, or free chili card, I would be impressed.

Eight players.  Obviously I am not sitting here demanding they trade all of them, but I am trying to make a case as to why the Blue Jackets need to shuffle their depth a bit.  Guys like Clitsome and Calvert have made it very clear that prospects are not that far out in Columbus, and that positive impact should open the door for Howson to make the necessary moves to recycle the irrelevance and replace it with futures or playoff hungry talent.

I maintain that a lack of killer instinct from a number of players (many of them mentioned above) are causing the Blue Jackets the ability to play a sixty minute game.  When you watch a guy like Calvert come in, infiltrate the bottom end of the lineup, and make waves so loud that powerplay time and top six minutes are awarded, it’s a fairly clear indication that there is room for improvement in our depth.

Carry the Flag!

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Rounding Out the Week..

Posted by Canadan82 on March 15, 2009
Game Discussion / 1 Comment

Tonight, the Jackets finish one of their biggest statement weeks of the year against the Detroit Red Wings, who they beat 8-2 last weekend.  Confidence will not be of short order, as both teams are coming off wins.

That being said, the Jackets had better acknowledge what they did to Detroit last weekend rarely ever happens to them, and they will most likely take offense to the drubbing.  Hitchcock has stated that Mason will make the start tonight, and there are some mistakes to point out.
Aaron Rome is scratched in favour of Christian Backman, who is arguably one of the worst defenders to suit up for the Jackets.  Backman is the cause of many turnovers, and for whatever reason, Hitchcock likes to put him on the ice during pressure situations.  With a team like Detroit playing in town, there are four lines that will take advantage of a defensive breakdown when the opportunity is there.
Andrew Murray is replacing Derek Dorsett in the lineup.  Murray is a neutral player who rarely adds anything to the lineup, but usually takes nothing away.  When you think about depth, Murray is the last guy you think of, and by taking out a guy like Dorsett, who plays with an edge, you have to consider it digression.
There is also the potential for Jiri Novotny to replace Chris Gratton in the lineup.  Consider this the trifecta of things I would most certainly not do against a team like Detroit.  Hopefully these players are not a huge detriment on the ice, but it certainly does not provoke optimism in this fan.
Carry the Flag!

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Deadline Day…

Posted by Canadan82 on March 03, 2009
Roster Talk / No Comments

We all know the Jackets are not going to be sellers this year, and Howson has made it very clear that he will not lose roster players, or young players at the deadline..  Now, do not expect many teams to jump on the few options he has left on the table, but expect there to be plenty of talk regarding Leclaire and possibly Klesla.

Personally, I think Dan LaCosta can become our secondary goaltender, and a guy like Pazzy is far too talented to be the secondary goaltender on an NHL team.  Based on that, I think using Leclaire as trade bait either this week or during the off-season would be of great value to them.  They can easily cite his poor ankle as the cause of his dip in play, and suggest that his surgery repaired any error in said play.
Second on the block has to be Klesla.  His inconsistency in health this year is extremely exhausting for fans.  While he is a strong player when on the ice, he does not have chemistry on this roster, and could easily bring back a big name, most notably, Tim Connolly out of Buffalo.  That would make the Jackets a far more complete team considering how great Nash and Connolly could play together, and he is a position the Jackets have sorely sought after throughout the last couple years.
There are other options for the Jackets, most notably Vermette and Antropov, but I think the best option is Connolly.  If not Connolly, I really think the only other positive option is Vermette, who could give a much needed boost in the center position and their special teams.  Optimistically, Vermette or Connolly would only cost them one of either Leclaire or Klesla, which means they could still have off-season ‘sellables’.
Considering the last couple games, it is rather clear that while chemistry is still fairly good within the team, but having this kind of shakeup, even if we need to sweeten the deal with a Novotny or Murray would be extremely beneficial for a playoff push.  We will see extremely soon whether Howson is seriously pursuing a trade, and when it happens, I will make sure you all know.
Carry the Flag!

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Get Ready for a Rumble

Posted by Canadan82 on February 24, 2009
Game Discussion / No Comments

Last time Columbus visited Calgary, they saw Phaneuf get thrown out for a hit from behind, Roy making throating slitting gestures, and Regehr cross checking Dorse in the face.  If anyone thinks this game will not be full of emotion, you might want to rethink.

This could come as a positive.  The Jackets have played some seriously uninspired hockey over the last couple games, and a rock em sock em game like this one could be exactly what they need to get back on track.
While Calgary is quite far ahead in the standings, Columbus likes to play well against big name teams.  Maybe it is the daunting task of slaying the giant, but I am starting to wonder if they are better off finishing 8th rather than 4th.
The big disappointment for me tonight is that we will not be seeing Gratton play.  Chimera was cleared to play after struggling with a groin injury, which means Hitch ‘decided’ that Gratton needed a few more practices before joining the game time roster.  If he was smart, he would give Murray or Peca the night off to see what Grats can do.  Murray does not seem to be much more than a neutral body on the ice, not making anything happen, but also not allowing anything to happen.  In Peca’s case, I think giving him a game off would remind him that his ‘veteran’ presence is not enough.  He needs to be more prolific on the ice, whether it is with or without the puck.
Finally, to our netminder.  I said this yesterday, and I will say it again today, Mason has to be better than average.
Carry the Flag!

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Crunch Time! (Not the Syracuse Flavor)

Posted by Canadan82 on February 23, 2009
Game Discussion / 1 Comment

With every good home stand, there looms a road trip.  The Jackets have travelled to the other side of the continent to play three teams that have just as much to lose as they do.  Games against Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver (respectively) will really show the Jackets faithful where this team stands in the ‘likely to’ or ‘likely NOT to’ fight for a strong playoff spot.

They will be spirited games, and the last thing you will want to do is miss them.  While Edmonton has had their way with Leclaire this season, they are young and streaky, and can easily be beaten if the true Jackets team shows up.  Calgary is not unbeatable, and the Jackets proved that earlier this season with a big win at Calgary.  Vancouver has strong scorers, but have been known to throw in the towel early in games that seem out of reach.
These are the keys to the road trip for me:
1 – Strong goaltending.. I did not think I would have to write this at any point this year after Mason took to the net, but he needs to be competitive.  During the game against Anaheim, he looked beaten down and confused, saving only 9 of the 14 shots he faced.  They are likely to face at least two teams who will put around thirty shots on net, and he will need to stop close to all of them if they want to win games.
2 – Powerplay.. The only thing more demoralizing than a weak goal scored on a team, is not capitalizing on powerplay opportunities.  They need to stay competitive on each powerplay, keep the pressure deep, and bury their chances.  Playoff teams score on the powerplay, and the Jackets should be no exception, especially considering some of the fire power they have.
3 – Focus..  At times during the last couple games, the players looked unfocused and unprepared for certain rushes.  At least three of the goals scored in the Anaheim game could have been avoided if the trailing forward or defenseman had taken his man, and that mistake can not continue to happen.
4 – Competitive Edge..  There are players on this team that can flat out score goals, or make goals happen.  If the playoffs are meant to be, they need to be doing that naturally for the rest of the season.  If they chose to take nights off, well, I do not even want to say it.  Also, the players on the other end of the spectrum need to step it up.  Bubble players like Murrray, Novotny, Boll, and now Gratton need to step up and make big things happen.  Secondary scoring in the National Hockey League is a must.
So keep your chin up, and let’s hope for the best on this road trip!  Carry the Flag!

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