Posts tagged Mike Commodore

Some Thoughts on Mike Commodore

In an attempt to bring a bit of clarity to my personal opinion of Mike Commodore, and an overall disinterest on my part to feel any sort of empathy for the guy, I am going to lay out my thoughts on his situation in Columbus, rather than saying little to nothing in 140 twitter segments.  This whole idea came about when I got a friendly direct message from Dark Blue Jacket noting some of his thoughts, who I believe to be one of the stronger Blue Jackets bloggers and advocates out there.  I seriously recommend bookmarking the blog, found here (and in the CTF blog roll).

To begin, I have always had a bit of a notion that Commodore was a bit sluggish to be considered a top 4 defensemen.  He showed excellent promise in Carolina, but during his time in Ottawa (a team I often watched growing up) he struggled to keep pace, and was often on the wrong end of plays.  In fact, I claimed a number of warnings when Columbus took a chance on him, and happily ate a giant load of crow during his first year with the team, as he and Jan Hejda made a very clear case as the teams number one pairing.

Fast forward to year two of his five year contract, which runs the Blue Jackets at a cap hit of $3,750,000 annually.  Early season struggles by the team showed some major gaps in a number of team areas, none more glaring than the defense.  Commodore only saw 57 games in that season, after deeming himself unfit to play at the pace and rigors of the NHL, and that is where he lost me.

—- Now, I wish I could put a spoiler in here so those un-interested in my own personal history could skip forward, but I do feel it is necessary, especially after the discussion that lead to this post.  Like most average people, I am not what you would deem a ‘skilled’ hockey player, however, I do have a lot of playing experience.  That said, my talents (and bank account) found competitive inline hockey to be the most feasible for my lifestyle, and I enjoyed two years of high school inline hockey (won the league MVP my senior year), two years of Division 1 competitive inline hockey traveling up and down the East coast with the Cincinnati Storm (our best finish was 4th place at USA u17 nationals hosted by “the Cooler” in Alpharetta GA), and Cincinnati Fighting Hellfish, as well as 3 years of Division 1 inline hockey with Miami University (of Ohio), one of the years which found our team finishing 14th place in the Country, Nationals being hosted by the beautiful city of Boulder Colorado.  In my experiences playing inline hockey, I was consistently a second or third line player (outside of high school), rarely having the teams success fall directly on my shoulder.  In each tryout, I would have to fight for a roster spot, and have a very distinct understanding of the feeling that those who unsuccessfully fight for NHL roster spots feel.  The major difference of course being that I paid to play, while they get paid to play. —-

The relevance there, is my complete lack of sympathy for Commodore’s poor conditioning, which I believe to be one of the major contributors to his lack of success with Columbus over the last couple seasons.  I am well aware of the rigors of conditioning, the level of commitment it takes to be in peak physical shape, and the ridiculous hours of time that are put in by those who take it seriously.  For me, I simply can not respect or understand the lack of commitment made by Commodore, who literally took himself out of the lineup, – one that he was paid millions of dollars to perform in – to get himself back into shape, which I do not believe ever happened.

The one unspoken comment is that I do feel bad for him as a person for taking the heat he has over the last two years.  It can not be an easy thing to deal with the level of scrutiny he has been subjected to, but I am a firm believer in people being able to chose their own path, and short of giving the money back, he does owe the franchise his best effort, which I do not personally believe he has given.

Another major complaint with his overall appearance of someone who does not care, is the negative role model he becomes for some of the other players in the locker room, especially considering he was at one point in time deemed a team leader.  Matt Wagner had a very good piece on Voracek over at The Cannon, where he went into detail noting that Mike Commodore had become a major off-ice mentor of the budding winger.  While I do feel like Voracek has largely benefited from the experience, it was noted that his conditioning was possibly hindered by the Commodore weight training regimen.  It certainly remains to be seen whether that will be a hinderance on Voracek as he continues to grow, the concern for a player to slack on conditioning in favour of weight training or another aspect of the game is certainly a cause for concern.

Finally, I am a firm believer in comebacks and second chances.  If Mike wants to go out of his way to try to bring himself back to form, I will strongly support it.  I would love nothing more than to see him earn every cent of his contract and entrench himself back in the top two defensive pairings, but at this time, it is awfully hard to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.  Until that time, all I see is another guy who is making his millions, not respecting the value of being an NHL player, and letting down the Columbus fans and players.

(..and for the record, I would absolutely love rebuttals to this, so please share your thoughts!!  I’ll be happy to share links if you opt to share on your own blogs)

Deadline Time – Ranking Who Should Go

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!

Possible Trade Looming: Thoughts

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?

Tidbits: Commodore Requests Trade/Wilson waived

After being scratched for a handful of the recent Blue Jackets games, Mike Commodore has requested a trade from the team.  Both laughable and not surprising, efforts are being made by General Manager Scott Howson to accomodate the request and shore up the defensive woes of the Jackets.

Rather than bore you with the standardized blurbs about why he wanted to be traded and what the team reaction was, I’m simply going to voice my opinion on it.  Commodore has been a horrible burden on the Jackets over the last two seasons, both on the cap, and on the ice.  In his career, he has shown an incredibly ability to play excellent at times, and absolutely horrendous at times.

When he signed in Columbus, I was in large part one of the bigger naysayers about both the contract, and his on ice abilities.  I ate a lot of my words the first year he was in town, as the team found great success pairing him with Hejda as the top shutdown line.  Forward to year two, and finally my frustrations and disdain for him showed in full colour, as he was unable to stay physical fit and deemed himself a scratch due to the rigors and physical demands of the game.  3.75 MILLION dollars on a healthy scratch, it was hard to imagine he would ever return to form.

Enter summer of 2010, and we (as Jackets fans) had the opportunity to enjoy his personality on twitter, an experience I embraced with open arms, even offering him my support on regaining his first year form.  I can honestly say that even when on the ice this year (outside of his injury) he played mediocre at best, proving to once again be one of the more frustrating players to watch.  And yet some still feel sympathy for him.  I happily open the comments section of this post to those of you who feel he never got a fair shot at becoming a top tier defensemen on this team.

It will be interesting to see if Howson can piece together a trade rather than simply waiving Commodore.  At his current salary, with his minimal upside, it is hard for me to imagine that another NHL club will be willing to swallow his contract without taking on a top tier prospect, which is something I am personally not comfortable in seeing happen.  This team has spent years building from the ground up, and I would hate for that concept to be thrown out the door just for some short term potential success.

Moving on, the other issue I was faced with yesterday was Wilson being placed on waivers.  He has been a reasonable bright spot on the back end of this team, and deserves a fair shot at retaining a roster spot with the big club.  I find it incredibly strange that he was waived over MacKenzie, who is both older, and in my opinion, less suited for NHL play.  I can’t help but wonder if MacKenzie’s injury caused the brass to think to themselves that he really hasn’t proven himself and are giving him the opportunity to do so.

In any case, I am going to try and stay positive today and see what comes of it (if anything).  Howson has not made a hasty trade since becoming GM, and I seriously doubt a guy like Commodore flexing his complaint muscle will change that.  My bigger concern right now remains with the team not being able to play a full sixty minutes.

Carry the Flag.

Game Recap: Minnesota @ Columbus

It is always easier to recap a loss than it is to recap a victory.  Singling out players for making mistakes is a much harder thing to do (and have people agree with you) when the team blows a two goal lead and loses than it has ever been when they hang on to win.  With that said, there was a whole lot of positive coming out of Nationwide Arena last night after Huselius buried his shootout chance, ending the game and taking home two points for the home team.

I was fortunate enough to attend the game, something I had yet to enjoy the luxury of this year.  The place was far more packed than I thought it would be after some of their recent performances, and the 14,500 noted attendance was a very fair assessment of the total number in the seats.  We sat on the attack once side, which is kind of great for me, as I was hoping to watch Mase up close, and that I did..

The Positives:
- Derick Brassard: scored on a solid pass from Huselius, causing the building to erupt.  It was a great shot, and the kind of goal that good teams score.  No fluke, just a strong play on the puck, and a quick shot to beat Theodore.  I was very happy with Brassard’s play last night.
- Steve Mason: kept the Jackets in the game with fantastic saves, especially down the stretch.  All three goals were caused by defensemen not tying up their man, and unfortunately Mase could not make the secondary saves needed to preserve any sort of shutout.  He also made an excellent save on Koivu in the shootout.
- Fedor Tyutin:  While I don’t know that I would give him too much credit for his defensive play, he has been the first defender to get a point shot to the net in as long as I can remember.  While I wish he’d work on a quick release shot, his cannon from the point kept the Jackets momentum going and was a big contributor in the win.

The Negatives:
- The Columbus defense (but only to an extent!!):  They played solid hockey for probably 50 minutes of the game, but really and truly need to work on covering a man and tying up sticks in the slot.  It seemed like Minnesota was intentionally taking the puck behind the Jackets net to make a pass out into the middle.
- Mike Commodore:  Took a pretty bad penalty to force his team down a man for five minutes, and made a couple foolish plays throughout the game.  Not his worst game, but that penalty can’t happen.
- Rick Nash:  For being as explosive as he is, Nash was pretty tame last night.  Only a few big moves on the puck, all of which ended up flubbing shots or missing passes.  I really wish someone would sit down with him and give him a roadmap of when to shoot and when to make the pass.  He’d do well to look for seams, but when you’ve got the shot he’s got, and you’re cutting through the high slot with speed, you need to be ripping a shot low and hard for a rebound (at worst)….
- Kristian Huselius:  I don’t really have enough words for the disdain I feel for this guy.  Refuses to make smart plays on the rush, basically gave the puck away on a breakaway (which lead to a MIN goal) and made a BRUTAL and unnecessary play causing a turnover which lead to another MIN goal.  It is so hard for me to watch a player with that much talent not work hard on the ice or off the ice.
- The Referees: This was a pathetic game to watch in regards to officiating.  I don’t think the CBJ had a single powerplay, and there was one play specifically that stuck in my head.  Methot was carrying the puck behind his own net, and a MIN player shoved his stick under Methot’s skates, spilling him (obviously) with a ref looking blankly at the play.  No call.  Wow NHL, get your zebras sorted out!!!

Overall I was very excited about the win.  Mase came up big when the team needed him to, although you could visibly tell that third goal rattled him.  He spent the next couple minutes fighting off some easier shots, but at the end of the day, that kind of resilience is something that will grow in time, and is something that we have not seen from him in recent games after he gets shelled a bit.

Carry the Flag!

Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL Power Rankings Dunce Once More

Every year I look forward to the ‘power’ rankings that flow out of the mainstream hockey sites, predicting yearly standings and stating their powerhouses. Every year, it seems, the number of fans outweighs the actual moves made, and team prestige is basically a pre-requisite for acquiring the coveted top 5 spot.

I am not tired of reading them. It actually gets me excited to step away from my fandom and read a more or less negative review of the team I have been following for a decade, and yet somehow, I always walk away disappointed.
This year, it is fairly consistent across the board that the Jackets will finish no better than 26th in the league. More often than not, excuses driving that number suggest that the only move Columbus has made this off-season is acquiring Moreau. Also not uncommon, discussions about Commodore’s conditioning, the health of Mason, and the mindset of Filatov. Call me a homer all you want, but really? Is that all it takes to make an NHL club?
Sometimes it is worth ignoring some of the developing youth on the team, but more often than not, the youth of a team becomes the driving force for the year. Colorado showed that adding two youngsters can truly help a team become a playoff contender, so why all the ignorance towards the Jackets youth? Russell had a banner year last year, not only with the puck, but without it as well. Voracek is showing more and more signs of being a full on 25g/50a workhorse. Brassard showed he can be healthy, even in a system that played to every weakness of his game.
These are all things that should be accounted for. Especially when the team hired a coach to play an offensive game, more suited for 80% of the current roster, including Nikita Filatov, who finally gets to play without the massive target on his back. Obviously these are all things that could (and may) be stretched into entire posts, but really are only the tip of the iceberg in Columbus’ development this year.
Finally, Mason. Many peg him as a one hit wonder with a sophomore slump, but I maintain it was a hitchcock slump. His numbers AFTER Hitch was fired were better than his rookie season (.923) and with a healthy defensive core, along with a hopefully conditioned Mike Commodore could spell a very strong return to the form shown in 2008/2009 by the Jackets defense.
Paint me homer all day long, but I can not come up with enough excuses why this team will not be good this year. There are too many logical pieces to the puzzle fitting too many pre-oiled holes. It’s game on in Ohio’s capital.

Klesla Injured.. Line Changes Upcoming


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!

The Weekly Burning Questions…


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!

Game Preview: CBJ vs. OTT


Tonight the Blue Jackets will complete their five game road trip against the Ottawa Senators, who have been playing strong hockey of late. While this could spell trouble for the Jackets, who have allowed 12 goals in their last two games, it may open the door for a high scoring affair, with Pascal Leclaire falling to a facial injury thanks to an errant puck.

While it is a shame Leclaire can not backstop the Senators against his old team, it will make for an interesting night for Antoine Vermette and Mike Commodore, who have both spent time in the Nation’s Capital. Vermette spent many years as a third line center in Ottawa, forced under the shadow of Spezza and Fisher, who maintained the top two centering positions. While this gave Antoine the opportunity to garner more minutes on the penalty kill, it gave little to his confidence and development.

Columbus has won the last three meetings between these two teams, including a 1-0 shutout victory last year at Nationwide. While the Senators home record is quite strong (9-3-3), they will be without the help of their leading goal scorer, Mike Fisher. Alexei Kovalev is expected to be re-inserted into the lineup.

For Columbus, it will be an opportunity to rebound from two very poor performances against New York and Montreal. It will be expected to see Mason in net, and the team will have to come together as a group if they want to shut down some of the bigger names on the Ottawa roster. One thing is for sure, we can expect an emphasis on possession and heavy forechecking AND backchecking by Coach Hitchcock. His blood was boiled after countless turnovers and defensive mistakes cost Columbus the lead in a tight game on Tuesday. Brian Elliott is expected to make the start for Ottawa.

Game time is 7.30pm EST. Drop us a line and let us know where your favorite place is to watch.

Carry the Flag!

2009/2010 Columbus Defense

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!