Kris Russell

Glaring Mistakes :: Columbus vs Detroit Recap

Posted by Canadan82 on October 22, 2011
Game Discussion / No Comments

This recap is going to focus on a couple of things (I could write for hours on my frustration of an 0-6-1 start, but I don’t think it’s all that constructive at this point), and I hope it reaches a number of the fans commenting on the #CBJ twitter feed as well as the Puck-Rakers piece that went up after the game.  While I find that many focus on the more obvious positions (aka Mason) it seems that glaring mistakes made which lead to sticky situations get completely ignored, so I will be exposing a couple of mistakes that cost them the game, and then reviewing Mason’s game to see which of them can really be directly his fault.

The Mistakes

To begin, Columbus needs some defense, and smarter passing/clearing in the defensive zone.  Of the many glaring mistakes made by the Blue Jackets last night, I have selected a few that I can share which made all the difference in the hockey game.

Mistake 1 :: Pahlsson grabs the puck behind the net and gets prepared to take a hit by a Detroit player. Instead of trapping the puck or playing it up the boards, he sends a soft fluttery pass through the middle of the ice that lands in the middle of the PK box, leaving Franzen to take the uncontested shot on Mason which becomes the first goal.  Fault Pahlsson (although kudos to Umberger for taking an extremely lazy, extremely bad penalty on Datsyuk to give Detroit the powerplay).  No bad pass, no easy shot, no goal.

Mistake 2 :: Johnson grabs the puck in front of the Blue Jackets net after a few decent saves by Mason, and rather than dumping it to the neutral zone or throwing it into the corner, he shovels it forward in an almost pass-like motion, directly onto the stick of Datsyuk, who scores easily.  Fault Johnson (and whoever should have been covering Datsyuk) for not being able to get the puck into a low scoring area. No bad pass, no easy shot, no goal.

Mistake 3 :: Grant Clitsome coughs the puck up late in the game, without a goalie to defend them, and Detroit scores easily.  I don’t even see the point of analyzing this.  Fault Clitsome.  No bad turnover, no easy shot, no goal.

As you can see, while the scapegoat style blame fest falls on Mason, it is teammate breakdowns which lead to three of the goals, and a really fortunate series of deflected pucks that lead to another.  Without these glaring mistakes, Mason would be hanging on to a one goal lead into the waning seconds of the third period.  But the easy thing to do is blame Mason (as of course the scoresheet tells the best tale) so let’s review..


He was tremendous on a number of occasions.  The two most notable saves of the game were on Helm on the breakaway (shorthanded for Detroit, as the CBJ defense watched on) and a ridiculous glove save on Franzen from slightly further out than where he scored his first goal of the game. He was not a Hall of Fame candidate last night, though, letting in four goals, so here’s the breakdown on them:

Goal 1 :: Franzen picks up the puck in the slot thanks to Pahlsson taking the puck behind the net and listlessly throwing it out in front on the penalty kill, and gets an uncontested shot on Mason from about 8 feet out, going far post.  For those who don’t know, Franzen is a tremendously talented shooter who has a knack for finding the back of the net.  He is a goal scorer who scored.  Give Mason a break.

Goal 2 :: Franzen attempts to make a pass across the crease during the powerplay.  Mason begins to cross with the puck when it is blocked by a Columbus defensemen’s stick and returned to Franzen’s stick.  He then makes ANOTHER attempt to pass it across the crease, and the puck deflects off of Johnson’s stick, off Mason’s pad (he scrambled to get back after the first pass was deflected) but it finds the back of the net.  Give Mason a break.

Goal 3 :: Two saves in tight had Mason out of the crease to the left of the net, hunting for the rebound to cover.  Johnson plays the puck directly onto the stick of Pavel Datsyuk (yes, THAT Pavel Datsyuk) and he buries into the empty net.  Give Mason a break.

Goal 4 :: Once again on the powerplay, Mason is fighting to get an eye on the puck as he is blocked by a Detroit forward and Marc Methot.  The Detroit winger with the puck fakes the shot (which causes Mason to go into a save position, while the puck is passed to Lidstrom at the point who bombs one far side shelf.  I’m not going to say give Mason a break on this one, as he made the mistake of reading the fake as a shot, but I can certainly understand why he did.  So alas, one goal out of four is questionably his fault.

Here’s the kicker.  For those who read this and actually disagree with me, feel free to describe each play in the comments section.  Show me how it is Mason’s fault on any of the first three goals, and maybe I can be persuaded.  Until then, it is defense, NOT goaltending, that can fix this team in terms of goals against.  While I do not think Mason has been a Hall of Fame level goaltender, the team needs to make his job easier, especially on the third, and sometimes fourth shot in a row that finally end up making it into the back of the net.

The Rest of the Team

I don’t really feel the need to make this into a book so I’ll be brief with the rest of the team.  I thought Giroux had another solid game and is fitting in nicely with the Jackets lower lines.  Were it my choice, I’d drop MacKenzie and play Giroux in his role.

A prime example of why MacKenzie doesn’t belong in the NHL came when a fantastic pass from the corner landed on DMac’s stick in front of Howard, who was slightly out of position.  Rather than burying the puck far side post (not unlike Franzen) he panicked, and shoveled a shot directly into his pads.  That might have been one of the biggest game changers right there, and was easily Columbus’ best scoring chance of the night.

Brassard was moving around the ice with great effort for the second game in a row, and scored his second in as many games.  I think it’s great to see him get success as he is clearly one of the hardest working players right now.

Vermette and Umberger are still irrelevant.  Without question, having these two guys find success is absolutely crucial for the team to start winning, so whatever it takes, these two “team leaders” need to pull their heads out of their.. uhh.. off-season and get with the program.  Hard work and effort will reward.  Maybe they can sit down with Brassard to get some knowledge dropped on them.

Does Rick Nash still score goals? Does Rick Nash backcheck? Does Rick Nash care?

I think Vinny P was a fire ball out there, which is great after his scathing comments regarding the team effort on the ice.  As much as I do enjoy watching him work, I think it’s concerning that he is one of their best players right now, and he was brought in to be a depth forward that benefited from Nash and Carter taking the spotlight.  I also saw him getting frustrated by terrible low percentage shots, and I love it. I hope he had a few choice words for the shooters once they reached the bench.

I am not touching the defense.  There’s just too much wrong right now.  Methot it a tank for finishing the game, and Russell’s flip out after the brutal call on him for checking Bertuzzi late in the game was fun to watch.  The rest of the defense are not even worth noting, as I am sure their names have already been mentioned a couple times in this blog.


While I am not a terribly patient guy, I will lose all of it if the team can’t win their first game tonight against Ottawa.  Maybe a part of it is pride, or just exhaustion from what we have been forced to watch, but I need something to give the fans hope that there could still be a season in Columbus worth watching.

I will be watching for the Vermette/Umberger tandem to start being relevant.  I will look to the “captain” to backcheck further than his blueline, and I am going to hold my breath while they start the game hoping to see some level of compete from the Jackets.  I may not need 55 wins a year to be a fan, but I most certainly need some sign that the compete level, the interest level, the heart, is there.

Carry the Flag.

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Recap :: Dallas vs. Columbus 10/18

Posted by Canadan82 on October 19, 2011
Game Discussion / No Comments

These are starting to write themselves.  Columbus begins the game while an anxious (and generally prepared for a disappointment) crowd watches on.  Kudos to the 9,157 other fans that joined me tonight at Nationwide instead of watching with the feet up at home. Despite outshooting the opposition 24-11 through two periods of play, the Jackets found themselves in a hole thanks to a ridiculous overcommit by Radek Martinek which gave Steve Ott a free shot from a high scoring area, beating Steve Mason about mid-level on the glove side.  Certainly one he would have liked to have back.

The third period offered no favours either, with Jamie Benn being left alone by Rick Nash (backchecking is only mostly overrated) took an inexcusable turnover by Aaron Johnson and beat a rather surprised Steve Mason after dragging the puck all the way through the slot.  Hard work brought the Jackets within one goal thanks to Brassard scoring his first of the year on a powerplay rebound, but the Stars came rolling right back thanks to more questionable defense by the Jackets.

Thoughtful of Kris Russell to bang home a fantastic point shot to bring it to within one again, but silly errors by Grant Clitsome spoiled the final two offensive pushes by the Jackets and once again, that 2-3 final score flashed before my eyes.

I’ve got fingers pointed in a number of directions, but I won’t get ahead of myself too quick with the negative.  On the positive note, I think Kris Russell had another noticeably decent game, scoring his first of the year and making a tremendous play to avoid the empty netter in the final minutes of the third period.  Certainly when it comes to the Jackets defense right now, upwards of five spots seem to be as solid as jello, and I think Russell has done a fine job of making himself a strong candidates for one of the six.

On the other hand, Grant Clitsome has seemed to string together a series of truly mediocre games, making himself noticeable in a number of key situations, and faltering heavily on more than one occasion.  Specifically, I can think of two within the last two minutes that were definitively glaring, coughing up the puck to Dallas while fiddling around at the blueline almost leading to an empty net goal, and then skating up the ice with the puck only to fire up down for an icing call with 18 seconds left on the clock thanks to no passing options.  Frankly, I am disappointed.  Between the bad decision making while looking for the pass, and skating across the blueline to shoot on net only to STILL find a shin pad, Clitsome and his excellent name are dropping heavily on my depth chart.

Hard to not be positive about forty shots on goal, but were they all that tremendous?  I think rebounds and forcing difficult saves on account of traffic were two scenarios that Kari Lehtonen did not have on his mind.  There were some solid shots, along with some absolutely atrocious misses (Pahlsson, I am looking at you after receiving a great pass from behind the net and missing shortside with at LEAST 40% of the net to work with) leaving me once again somewhat underwhelmed with the effort offensively.  40 shots are great, but make them 20 GOOD shots, and I’ll be a happy guy.

Defensively I still don’t understand Arniel’s logic.  The center seems to follow the puck regardless of how deep the puck goes in the defensive end, as well as at least one of the defenders typically.  This leaves the two wingers dropping from the point down to pretty much the faceoff circle.  I can certainly understand closing down the scoring zone, but when the passes reach the point (and more often than not they do) it leads to an excellent opportunity for the opposition.  I just don’t get it, and I can’t get on board with that kind of coverage.  I am tired of seeing that passing option.

Offensively I thought Brassard had a great night, along with the entire Giroux – Vermette – Prospal line which was an absolute pleasure to watch at times.  I know people are getting down on Brassy a bit for losing the puck and falling over, but I see that as a guy who is giving it everything he’s got, trying to do a little too much to create a scoring opportunity.  In time, if he keeps up that level of confidence, I think those efforts will turn into excellent scoring opportunities (assuming all of these trade rumours are just rumours).  I also have a bit of a bone to pick with Nasher, but there will be plenty more on that when I get a chance to sleep on some of the thoughts brewing in my head.  I understand he’s the face of the franchise, so I will be making a point of picking my words carefully.

Finally, Steve Mason.  Certainly the kid would like to have goal one back, but it was a solid shot from a scoring position with no defensive coverage to back him up.  The other two, well, 18 shots, and I think I could think of at least 4-5 that should have never even come close to Mase.  I am getting a bit bored of the fan base claiming that he needs to be traded, so I won’t really go into depth on this, but I felt that he gave them a chance to win again tonight, making a few very tough saves to keep them above water.

Carry the Flag!

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Why the Jackets Should Not be Buyers or Sellers at the Deadline

Posted by Canadan82 on February 25, 2011
Roster Talk / 4 Comments

In tonight’s game the Jackets absolutely dominated the Phoenix Coyotes for the majority of the game. This has been the standard over nearly the last two months. What is even more notable about tonight’s game was the play of Rick Nash. He was invisible. When he was visible he was turning the puck over or making poor decisions. This may have been Nash’s worst game of 2011. For much of the Jackets history, Nash had to play great or the team had to grind out a win over a better team. Lately, the Jackets have simply been better than their opponents. The Jackets team that we have been watching over the last twenty games or so has been the best Jackets team in franchise history.

Those are weighty words that sound hyperbolic. Yet they are not. While part of this is related to Doug MacLean’s reign of terror, the other part has to do with the well balanced team currently being iced by the Blue Jackets and the maturation of their younger players. It would be really tempting for the Jackets to make a major move at the trade deadline. This would be a mistake. A hockey team is a fickle experiment in chemistry. Right now, this Jackets team is clicking in a way that makes them very dangerous. A major addition to their top nine forwards or top four defensemen could very well do more harm than good.

On the other hand, the Jackets have a number of upcoming unrestricted free agents. Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark and Jan Hejda are the exact type of player that could be dealt to a contender for picks or prospects at the deadline. Instead, the Columbus front office should be looking at these players as the Jackets deadline moves. The only type of addition that makes sense for the Jackets are the exact type of players they already have. Simply keep those players.

There has been a lot of discussion lately on adding a top six forward or a top defenseman. That would be a mistake. As great as the Jackets have been lately, this is not a championship team. The goal is to win the Stanley Cup, not make the playoffs. This team should make the playoffs. Any deal to bring in a player to significantly upgrade the top six forwards or top defense pairing would cost the team in players that will be needed in the future. The core of this Jackets team is locked in for a significant amount of time (Jake Voracek excepted).This team should be competing for the Cup in two or three years, with John Moore, Ryan Johansen, David Savard and their other top prospects as part of that team. To give up those pieces now to make it to the second round is asinine. It’s short sighted.

On the other hand, they need to make the playoffs this season. Young teams rarely win right away in the playoffs. They need to make the playoffs a couple of times and lose. They need to get those playoff reps. Once the talent and experience mesh, the team will truly be a contender. Nash, Brassard, Voracek, Russell, Calvert and company need to get that playoff experience now. Clark, Moreau, Hejda and Sammy Pahlsson are important parts of this team and necessary to make the playoffs. While those players likely won’t be in Columbus when the Jackets are Cup contenders, they will play a big part in getting them there.

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Possible Trade Looming: Thoughts

Posted by Canadan82 on January 07, 2011
Roster Talk / No Comments

A quick note;  This blog does not suggest to know anything more than what you can easily find on twitter. The speculation is and will be left to the bloggers who feel like being full of bull, and the beat writers who actually do hear things.

With that said, here are some of my thoughts on players named as possible trade bait for the Columbus Blue Jackets, likely trying to acquire a top line center or quality defensemen;

Derick Brassard: A likely candidate solely based on his functionality as a budding center in the league, but struggling to find his full capacity as a top line center in Columbus.  I personally attribute this to a learning curve where he will find his shot, but it seems few have the patience to let him do so.  Then again, when he’s lined up with Nash, and Nash gets his one track eyesight, there is no real need for Brassard.  Nasher can do that with Dorsett and Boll as his linemates.

Kris Russell:  To me, this is just not likely at all.  Russell is one of the few current Blue Jackets players who can functionally run Scott Arniel’s system.  He is also a player who will benefit by having a more useful linemate, and one he can have confidence in making the rush without worrying directly about coughing up the puck.  He needs to be able to go back to the ‘nothing to lose’ mentality that both he and Mason seemed to share during their playoff run.

Rick Nash:  As much as I would be satisfied with him staying, I really don’t see how Nash can benefit this team with his current mentality.  He is notably lazy on the ice, and there have been times where his inability to make the right passes have really truly cost this team.  As a leader on this team, it would seem that his ‘lead by example’ mentality either needs to be replaced by becoming a vocal leader, or he needs to step his game up in a big way.  For a team full of so many young players, he is a terrible example to lead by.

Jake Voracek/RJ Umberger:  I figure I’ll couple these two because of how similar I view them as players.  These are two guys who I feel take the game more seriously than others, and wear their hearts on their sleeves. Trading one of these character guys would impact me more than trading Nash.  If you allow Jake to continue his development in Columbus, I am reasonably confident he will become a top line forward, if he isn’t already.  What he needs, is a third linemate along with Brassard to get as creative as those two are, and then let them spend the next three months building direct chemistry with one another. This is something that can easily be resolved in house.

Players I would like to see off the Jackets:

Mike Commodore:  Not that he’s not already on the way out, but I will be very happy to see him go.  He made me look silly after bad mouthing him directly following his contract, but followed that year quickly with laughably poor performances in the last two years.

Kristian Huselius:  I am tired of Huselius making a career out of everyone else’s hard work, especially one who seems to have a ridiculously hard time hitting the net.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time he actually created his own goal, or a goal for a teammate.  They either need to get him and his contract off the team, or drop him to the second/third line for good and force him to become a useful team player again.

Tyutin/Stralman/Hejda: Or at least one of these three.  Assuming we’re going to have a decent shake up within the next couple days involving the blueline, I would hope that one of these players will be moved.  None have really been all that effective this year, and all of them are fully expendable.

What do you think?

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Welcome Back Russell..

Posted by Canadan82 on December 02, 2009
Roster Talk / No Comments

Last night was Kris Russell’s second game back after a five game stretch of healthy scratches thanks to Coach Hitchcock. His main issue prior to his return was his confidence, and his ability to rebound from a mistake while controlling the puck.

His play on Monday night was exactly what the doctor ordered. Getting immediately involved, he made a great move to get around BJ Crombeen, and shelfed Chris Mason, who appeared to leave the net far enough to cut off the angle. If that was not enough, Russell came out big on his next shift, making a long pass leading to the eventual 2-0 goal by Umberger.
What was not on his stat sheet was what really impressed me. First, one should note that he turned Commodore into a +4 player single handedly. Commodore was able to play his natural game and not worry about sending the puck forward. He also played one of his better games since returning from injury earlier in the season.
The next thing that was noticeable was Russell on the second powerplay unit with Brassard, Torres, Voracek and Vermette. They were by far the better grouping, maintaining pressure in the offensive zone every time they acquired possession, and really forcing Chris Mason to come up big for the Blues.
These positives can pretty much all extend into the Chicago game last night. Russell remained the best defenseman on the ice for the Jackets, and while he lost the initial possession leading to the Versteeg goal, he rebounded with a goal and an assist of his own.
All these examples should build a lot of confidence in the youngster, especially involving his confidence. I expect another great game from him tomorrow with Toronto in town, and hopefully Hitchcock can manage the lines enough to get him 20 minutes of ice time. He has been averaging 22 minutes since his return, and I do not think there is a person in that organization that would say he does not deserve it.
Carry the Flag!

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Klesla Injured.. Line Changes Upcoming

Posted by Canadan82 on December 01, 2009
Player Injuries / No Comments

Rusty Klesla has sustained a substantial injury to his groin, which will take him out of the lineup for upwards of four to six weeks. Coming on multiple injury proned seasons, this is the last thing the fans and Rusty wanted to deal with. Making matters worse, he has been far and away one of Columbus’ best defenders during this year.

The Jackets have recalled Roy from Syracuse, and the line jugglging will likely continue into Thursday. My personal preference for pairings are the following;

Hejda – Commodore
Tyutin – Russell
Stralman – Methot/Roy

That being said, one can not ignore that Russell being on the same line as Commodore brought the best out of Mike last night, playing in one of his better games of the season and producing a +4 rating. This could play dividends with the coach, leaving him and option such as;

Hejda – Tyutin
Russell – Commodore
Stralman – Methot/Roy

While this does not provide the Jackets with a clear shutdown pairing, it balances the offensive defensemen with the defensive first defensemen, and maintains the Commodore/Russell line in tact. In any case, if the pairings deviate from what I have listed, I will be shocked if we see any sort of success defensively.

Carry the Flag!

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Game Recap: CBJ vs. STL 11/30

Posted by Canadan82 on December 01, 2009
Game Discussion / No Comments

Last night, the Blue Jackets squared off with the St Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena. While St Louis has not had the breakout year they were hoping to, they are always difficult to handle, and play a similar style of hockey. Columbus brought a five game losing streak to the table, and a serious need to generate some pride for both the teams sake, and their number one goalie.

I felt their pressure and tenacity around the puck was very strong out of the gate. Kris Russell proved to everyone once again that he belongs on this roster as a regular (as I clearly stated in my previous entry) and got the Jackets on the board with a beautiful deke and an even more impressive shot. Moving along in Hitchcock style, when he returned to the ice for his next shift quickly after that, he managed a great stretch pass that turned into a great deflection by Umberger, getting his team quickly on top by a two goal margin.

Now, I really do not know what the deal is with Columbus and a two goal lead. Rarely is there a safe lead in the new NHL, but it seems that the two goal lead is a real killer for the Jackets defense, and it showed late in the first period, and for most of the second period. An injury to Rusty Klesla forced Columbus to run with only five defensemen, and the forced line combinations showed their confusion, allowing multiple odd man rushes, the most notable being the two on one that lead to the tying goal by Paul Kariya.

Yes, the feeling of another inevitable defeat was looming, both in the crowd and in my living room. The kind of situation where one would like to run away and talk about the Ballard slash on Vokoun or the Ovechkin knee rather than continue watching, but the guys pushed on. A forgettable second period lead to a third period worth the time of day, and it was yet another excellent deflection by Umberger that brought the Jackets back on top. Empty netters by Vermette and Umberger (completing his hattrick) sealed the deal for Steve Mason and the Jackets, and put an end to one of the rockiest patches of their recent history.

There was a lot to take out of the game. The secondary powerplay unit of Voracek, Brassard, Russell, Torres, and Vermette were by far the better unit, maintaining possession in the offensive zone and creating havoc in front of Chris Mason. The play of the top powerplay unit was forgettable and a detriment to their special teams all night long. Steve Mason looked somewhat shaky, but held his ground in key moments of the game, turning away a heavy number of shots midway through the game. Kris Russell impressed me last night, not in his play but in his resilience for sitting in the press box for five straight games, and finally getting his chance to make a difference. Believe me, any time you can get your team the boost he did leaves a resounding thud in the ear of the coach. Rusty Klesla’s injury is severe enough for a hospital visit, and Mathieu Roy has been recalled from Syracuse. Hopefully his time with the Jackets is traded with Methot only.

Carry the Flag!

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The Weekly Burning Questions…

Posted by Canadan82 on November 30, 2009
Team Discussion / No Comments

It took twenty five games this season to visualize the words I have been trying to produce regarding the Jackets play. Twenty five games, a dwindling +.500 record, and a whole little at which to look positively. There are a seasons worth of things to blame such as injuries, laziness, and bad coaching. Focusing on one thing or the next, while being sufficient for a given time period, rarely does the trick.

I will start with the coaching. While this is something that I have focused on in past entries, I feel it necessary to reiterate my distaste for the way this team is being coached currently. To begin, the right players are rarely the players that are given the most opportunity. Coach Hitchcock seems to overuse his veteran first mentality up until the boiling point, and will only in a dying effort bring in some youth to try and stoke the fire. Losing Filatov was inevitable based on his attitude toward youngsters, and that is not to say that Filatov does not have a lot of developing to do, but it does say that the wrong people were put in place to develop Niki as a player. Futhermore, putting Russell on the shelf after he single handedly held in the concept of puck moving defenseman late last year seems to be a horrible waste of talent, regardless of whether Stralman is a better all around player.

Yes, I am pushing hard, but so be it. Most of these players will earn more this year than I will see in my lifetime, and while I respect that, so should they. There is no desire for victory, no push for perfection, and certainly no accountability from the coaching staff that maybe their tactics are short of what this club needs.

Let us move on to laziness. There is no question that the better part of each game (especially each loss) is spent with our Jackets firing at maybe 70% of their actual capacity. It was obvious in the Calgary game, when they scored three goals in the final seven minutes of the second period, only to fall back asleep in the third. It has been obvious game after game that these players are finding little reason to force the issue and work extremely hard game in and game out. While this may seem like a trivial pursuit of the flawless victory, I do not believe it is out of the question to expect a high caliber of effort from each of these players.

In the previous couple games, horrible giveaways and brutal blown assignments have cost the Jackets costly goals and unnecessary losses. If the defense held strong, and the offense maintained their positioning in the defensive zone, there is little doubt in my mind that one of Garon or Mason could easily provide the goaltending needed to win a game or twenty.

Finally, we can chat about injury. I have heard and read more complaints about poor conditioning due to injury from some of the players in the Jackets organization than I can personally stand. Take a minute to consider a guy like Raffi Torres, who loses half of his mouth from a puck, and manages to return to form only a few games afterwards. Then, we look at a guy like Mike Commodore, who has complained over and over again about conditioning being a factor. Here is the simply truth. If a player is not in good enough condition to play, then do not play them! There are a multitude of bubble defensemen that would love to step in and play. We are not in a situation where there is a dying need for injured and unconditioned defensemen need to be playing in each game. Forget what the players can and can not do, it is time to start hearing that accountability is the number one factor in every game and practice. It is time to hear that the best players available are playing in each game, and are playing to their fullest capacity.

I am done hearing excuses. This is an extremely talented group of players who are heavily underachieving, despite a winning record they do not fully deserve. It is time to start playing for the fans. We deserve it.

Carry the Flag!

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2009/2010 Columbus Defense

Posted by Canadan82 on September 14, 2009
Roster Talk / No Comments

Columbus defensively may be the biggest question this year. With a decent showing last year, and young players like Methot and Russell showing their capacity to function at the NHL level, Columbus certainly has the cornerstone of what could be a very strong defensive core.

Obviously the biggest off-season effort was put into the Rick Nash signing, but I do believe finding a puck moving defensemen was second on their list all the way. While Rusty Klesla has shown signs of being a great player, his inability to stay healthy has cost the Blue Jackets much needed depth on the blueline. If they hope to acquire a quality defender, it is no doubt they will try and package Rusty with a forward (hopefully one of Chimera or Modin). Here are my preferred lines heading into the pre-season;

1 – Commodore – Hejda
2 – Russell – Tyutin
3 – Methot – Klesla

While I do think these combinations show a great deal of depth in their current state, I think it will be necessary for a couple of these guys to step it up and really force their play into the first pairing. I do not think any one of these players deserve the top spot more than another, although I do think their style of play may become a factor.

Commodore and Hejda became the ‘go-to’ pairing for Hitchcock last year. Both were able to prove their critics (including me) wrong and play a strong defensive game. They will have to up their game if they want to avoid losing their spot to one of the young guys still working on developing into their career style and ability.

Russell and Tyutin are a pairing we have seen before. Russell has a tremendous ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone, and draw pinching forward away from Tyutin. This will allow hopefully for a lot of open point shots from Fedor. While I think both can achieve top line status, I think the most opportunity lies with Russell and the level he can achieve this year.

Finally, we consider Methot and Klesla. Both seem to continuously have something to prove to the coaching staff. There will be no free rife for Methot, although with the release of Backman, it will give him the opportunity to truly own an NHL position. In Klesla’s case, everything rides on his summer development and how he can avoid injuries this year.

As I had previously mentioned, a lot of room for modification to the defensive lines may really force these six palyers to amp up their game. One thing I will personally anticipate is that these lines will look completely different after the first month of the season.

Carry the Flag!

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Welcome Back Klesla

Posted by Canadan82 on March 11, 2009
Roster Talk / 4 Comments

A familiar face returned to the Jackets lineup recently. Marred by injury this season, Rusty Klesla is finally off IR and making a difference on the ice. I personally was on the train that pegged Klesla as good deadline trade bait, but it is time for me to digress and appreciate his talent.

While the Columbus defensive corps are full of promise and potential, there is always room for a player like Klesla, who has the size advantage, and a lot of the time a hockey sense advantage over many of the other d-men on our depth chart. With Tollefson on IR with an injury, the need for physicality will be filled perfectly by either Mark Methot or Rusty Klesla, which leads me to wonder.. Who are the odd ones out?

I would be fairly comfortable in assuming Commodore and Hejda will be safe on the roster for the remainder of the season. Both are playing strong defensive games, and have been known to step it up against the opposition’s best lines. Tyutin and Russell are staples on the powerplay, and seem to have earned their spot on Hitchcock’s depth chart.

That leaves a recovering Klesla, injured Tollefson, Christian Backman, Aaron Rome, and Mark Methot in limbo. Based on any kind of consistency, Klesla will outplay every one of them, (unless something unexplainable happened to his abilities) and OKT will be recovering, which would leave the remaining four players competing for a single roster spot. Now, the fact that Hitch has had the common sense to sit Backman through multiple games gives me some confidence. I know his contract is robust for what he can (and clearly can not) do on the ice, which leads me to believe that when push comes to shove, the position will not go to him.

The concern I have is whether or not Hitchcock will be willing to sit Aaron Rome. He would have to clear waivers to return to Syracuse, and from what I have heard and read, the organization really likes what he can do, meaning that Methot will flat out have to be brilliant to obtain a position that in reality should be his.

What are your thoughts Jackets fans? Will Rome take the spot by default, or will Mehtot get a fair crack at the roster down the stretch?

Carry the Flag!

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