Nikita Filatov

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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Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL Power Rankings Dunce Once More

Posted by Canadan82 on September 07, 2010
Team Discussion / No Comments

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.

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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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Weighing in on the Hitchcockian Style..

Posted by Canadan82 on November 26, 2009
Coaching / No Comments

Considering I have been one of Hitchcock’s biggest critics throughout his recent tenure with the Blue Jackets, I feel it necessary to weigh in on the growing conversation regarding his validity as coach. Whether this transfers well to the overall opinion is something I will hope to gain through comments, but I feel that most of what I will say is reflective of the current season.

When Hitch first arrived in Columbus, he had a quiet dream team of players that fall into his comfort category. Mid-range in caliber, and heavy set grinders who will put an emphasis on the body to make up for a lack of skill. Current Jacket players that reflect their abilities would be players like Andrew Murray, Derek Dorsett, and Raffi Torres. But with the change in head coach, so too brought on a change in management, and management style, with the likes of Scott Howson now pulling the reigns and deciding on the draft and trade future of the club.

Enter Derick Brassard, Kris Russell, Jake Voracek, and Nikita Filatov. Four players who in their youth were quite small in stature, their play was far more reflective of their skill and speed with the puck rather than their capacity to be physical. Enter Huselius, who I am still unsure of whether I have seen take the body, let alone throw a bodycheck on anyone, and raise that a Vermette, who (with his playmaking and penalty killing abilities) is a step above the highly physical Umberger. All players with unique abilities that do not really function under a Hitchcockian system.

It is not that I personally do not see Hitchcock as a strong coach. His record is his pillar, with over 500 wins and over 1000 games coached, he is one of the most storied coaches in the NHL still coaching. That being said, his coaching system has been present for some of the more rough edged teams, like the Stars team or the Philly team he coached very successfully in the late 90s. In the new NHL, the margin for error in a system of his nature is both difficulty small, and displaced among a league’s worth of high scoring, high momentum coaching styles that have fed on their style of play this year.

I believe the Jackets are headed in a differnet direction from the Hitchcock style. Their draft class does not correctly match up with his coaching style, and some of the current forwards are struggling to match up with his requested style and their designated linemates. Losing Filatov to Russia on account of low playing time will forever be an issue for me, thanks in large part to the brutal linemates he was given, with skillsets that do not come even close to comparing to what Filatov was comfortable playing with. While he made his share of rookie mistakes, he was never really given a chance to gel with another scorer the way Voracek and Brassard were able to do last year, in their first seasons.

Carry the Flag!

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A Bit of Youthful Banter Around Nationwide..

Posted by Canadan82 on September 23, 2009
Roster Talk / No Comments

The Columbus youth movement was not just shaking Nationwide last night, but then again, there is only so much that can be said about beating a rather complete Boston roster without the entire first line and four of the top six defenders.

I have said my piece about line structuring for the Jackets, and I can not help but take some pride in the fact that Hitch had my second line assembled last night (Voracek – Vermette – Filatov) and they certainly did not disappoint. What is even more exciting, is the fact that they kicked their quality into high gear, scoring goals and turning heads. While Vermette is not all that ‘young’ anymore, he is in an interesting position that gives the feeling as though he is currently developing into the career player his initial potential had suggested. Also, playing the ever positive and complimentary Voracek and the young sniper Filatov, Vermette will also get to take a leadership role and embrace some serious talent through his linemates. It certainly opens for the opportunity to carry the puck more and really become a big player.
Also exciting from last night is the way John Moore continues to impress management and pretty much anyone watching. Not only has he prolonged his stay in Columbus with his game, he is getting better every single game, making his case more and more interesting. While he will likely have to continue to blow people’s minds to make the roster, he has been the definition of a puck moving, smart defensemen…. Something GM Scott Howson has spent the last year pursuing throughout the league. Regardless of the result of this years training camp, Moore can take solace in the fact that he is far and away the best thing to happen to Columbus this year.
Hopefully some of the players nursing hip flexors will be able to get back to action before the season begins. Columbus needs a deep defensive core, one without injury or excuse. Columbus is back in action Thursday against Pittsburgh and will look to continue their strong play… Go Moore!!
Carry the Flag!!!!

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Columbus vs. Pittsburgh 9/15

Posted by Canadan82 on September 16, 2009
Game Discussion / No Comments

There are a lot of ways to look at pre-season hockey. Some teams use the opportunity to experiment with new line combos, other teams like to throw the load on young developing players to see how they handle themselves, and some teams use the experience to simply gear up for the season. I think for most Jackets fans, last night was a breath holder with the new back up netminder Garon between the pipes, hoping the goalie could impress Hitch enough to actually utilize more than just Steve Mason this year.
There was no question Garon could bear the weight. Stopping all 21 shots he faced, including a couple of very strong attempts from Crosby, Garon really built his credibility with at least this fan, and likely most others. While he was the bright spot in net, after removed for the third period in favour of a young Danny LaCosta, it showed that both Mason and Garon are going to have to remain healthy this year.
Pittsburgh brought a lot to the final frame, tying the game twice before winning early into overtime. While it was an unfortunate series of events and a true wakeup call for LaCosta and a couple young Jackets defenders, it was also the perfect opportunity to display the teams resilience. Losing a three goal lead is very hard on a team, and I will take a lot out of them coming back and scoring their fourth goal.
There were other positives to the game. The Jackets abysmal powerplay managed to score two goals on four opportunities. Mayorov had a pair, with Voracek netting the other goal. Young Filatov and Moore both had assists, looking strong on the ice, and Blunden, fighting for a roster spot, managed to impress with a solid game.
All in all, games like these are a lot more relevant in substance than in scoring. It will certainly be more clear how they have developed over the summer once their full roster dresses, but at this point, I am more than comfortable suggesting that last night was a strong success.
Carry the Flag!

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2009/2010 Columbus Offense

Posted by Canadan82 on September 12, 2009
Roster Talk / No Comments

One of the Blue Jackets main concerns over the years has been not only their lack of secondary scoring, but basically their lack of anyone scoring outside of the mighty Rick Nash. Over the off-season, the Blue Jackets welcomed Sammy Pahlsson to the mix, said their goodbyes to guys like Malhotra and Williams, and re-signed one of their budding young centermen, Derick Brassard. Also, considered to be this years ‘new face brightspot’, Nikita Filatov, fresh off a summer of weight gaining and conditioning will look to penetrate the roster in a big way.

Here are my preferred lines;

1 – Rick Nash – Derick Brassard – Kristian Huselius
2 – Jakub Voracek – Antoine Vermette – Nikita Filatov
3 – RJ Umberger – Sammy Pahlsson – Raffi Torres
4 – Jared Boll – Derek Dorsett – Chimera/Modin

Let me start with line one. Nash and Huselius are somewhat of a staple on the first line, especially this early in the season. Adding Brassard, which is what the coaching staff was toying with before his injury seems like the logical decision to make. He is good for a point per game and sees the ice well. That really translates into the perfect compliment for guys like Nash and Juice.

Moving on to the second line, I think it is important to explain the third line in conjunction, as the style of play from the two lines will be substantially different. Generally speaking, successful playoff teams can play a grit line against the opposing teams top line to stymie their offensive opportunities and wear them down with physical play. Last year, Columbus’ best line in the playoffs was Dorsett – Umberger – Torres because of their relentless forecheck. While I do not think Dorsett is deserving of a third line role, I think Pahlsson is exactly the replacement the Jackets needed. They can use their tenacity and high paced forecheck against some of the better lines in the NHL, not allowing them the time and space needed to make big plays. Because the third line is designed for power, I believe the second line should be built on playmaking. Both Vermette and Voracek seem to really pursue the pass before the shot. Bringing in a guy like Filatov is a perfect way to compliment two play makers. He has the ability to find the seam and get into the right positions, which will open the opportunity for big passes and even bigger goals.

Now to the fourth line. A lot of Jackets fans probably do not agree with my snubbing of Modin and Chimera, but I assure you, it is well warranted. Chimera playing well last year was a direst result of his linemates in Brassard and Voracek. Rather than placing him on a scoring line, why not throw him on an energy fourth line with Dorsett and Boll, and really let them pour on speed and punishment? In regards to Modin, I really think he is as relevant to the Jackets roster as Malhotra was. There are entirely too many confident and ready young players to sacrifice a roster spot for an aging, injury prone winger.

Collectively speaking, the quality of these lines may be mildly sacrificed by what I believe their main goal is, but at the same time, it may be the perfect way to distribute the talent and really play a 60 minute game.

Carry the Flag!

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Filatov Up With Columbus…

Posted by Canadan82 on April 04, 2009
Roster Talk / No Comments

An unexpected decision was made this past week by General Manager Scott Howson, bringing young Nikita Filatov up from the Syracuse Crunch to soak in the playoff atmosphere. Unclear towards his intentions, fans have been skeptical about the decision considering Syracuse is in a playoff race of their own, however, the decision was based on the ability to provide one of Columbus’ very promising young players a chance to get some unique experience.

Now, typically this would get me excited, as Filatov has shown the ability to hang with NHL caliber hockey teams.  He has already experienced the thrill of an hattrick and blended well and quickly with different players on the Jackets roster. His experience and size obviously need a boost, but I suspect Howson believes the place to gain that is with Columbus and not Syracuse.

I say typically because there is a catch involved if Nikita plays, which based on the need for scorers on the Jackets roster I would expect he would.  Any coach or GM will do whatever it takes to win, even if it means giving playing time to snipers like Filatov. That catch is obviously his NHL contract, which would kick in if he plays two more games with the big team this year. Not a big deal in the long run I suppose, considering Columbus has plenty of cap space and can spare it here and there, especially assuming Brassard, Voracek, and Filatov are their future up front.

That being said, if Filatov’s NHL contract kicks in this year, he becomes and unrestricted free agent the same year Brassard does. This is not terribly relevant towards cap implications, but it most certainly is an issue in terms of ‘matching’ or exceeding a contract. It is definitely likely that Filatov will have as much success as Brassard if not more prior to entry contract expiring, and because their styles are even minutely similar, this is personally a concern.

It is a double edged sword in reality, and even I can not make up my mind whether the idea of playing him and having his contract kick in is worth the extra round in the playoffs. Many teams do everything they can to win the cup every year, and having Filatov playing rather than Peca or Murray is certainly at the top of my list, but I really do not want to see any sort of animosity between the young players as their contracts expire.

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Some Negatives After a BIG Positive

Posted by Canadan82 on February 08, 2009
Game Discussion / 2 Comments

I do not like to be the person to downplay a very positive thing, but I have found that I single out players or coaches even in victory.  There are a couple things that I want to get out there and I would really like your (the fans) opinions on them as well.

1.  Ken Hitchcock and his “play em’ if they are hot” attitude.  Yes, playing a line a shift after they have scored can sometimes work, but doing it every time seems like overkill.  Not only does that wear out the line a bit more in the middle of the game, it makes three other lines go cold.  Until the Jackets have a number one center, I personally do not think there is a single line that stands out from the rest, unless you want to assume that any line Rick Nash plays on is the number one and should get the most playing time.  I think at this point of the season, and from what we have seen when the top guys are out, there are three capable lines that need equal time on the ice.
This attitude also extends to goaltenders.  He absolutely wore out Mason over the last couple months, and while mono was the real culprit, playing any goaltender in that many games can only lead to trouble.  I think Wade has not really found his bearings yet, but he has been a savior in New York, and I think he can be a savior in Columbus if given the right opportunity.
2.  Modin..  I know a lot of people like him for his ‘veteran presence’ and ‘leadership’ qualities, but I want to straighten something out right now.  He is lazy on the ice, makes big mistakes with the puck on the powerplay, and has a very hard time getting the puck to the net when the team needs the puck on/in the net.  Frankly, the team is better off with a young player like Jakub on the powerplay if not for his effort alone.  Modin is sluggish with the puck, and a shadow of his former self.  If ever a player that the team could do without, it is Modin, and he is in my opinion, the last player from the old Jackets era (the team we do not like to take about) that needs to be removed.
3.  Backman.  Yes, he scored the winner last night.  No, he did not deserve it.  The puck was floating in the crease, and he took advantage of a great shot by Umberger, and capitalized on a bad defensive effort and basically swatted in the winner.  This does not alleviate his lazy defensive play, and horrible inability to get the puck on net during offensive possession.  The Jackets offense needs to know that when they play the puck back to the point, the shot will be accurate, and through traffic, and Backman will never be able to provide that for him.
So I have ranted, and I have come to a conclusion that points 2 and 3 and what will really set this team apart.  As much as it may hurt the Jackets in terms of cap space and value of the dollar, Backman and Modin need to have limited roles for the rest of the season, and guys like Methot and Filatov need to get their opportunities with the big club.
Carry the Flag!

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February Reality Check

Posted by Canadan82 on February 05, 2009
Team Discussion / 3 Comments

Now, I should probably preface this with the fact that I tend to react quickly and frankly to things, although the playoff trance had me going there for a while.

Look back at last year.  At this time, their record was better, and the fans felt practically the same way – they could really get there – about the team.  Were you unrealistic?  No, not at all, but who could have possibly anticipated the Adam fo*te debacle, and the removal of Fedorov (necessary) right around deadline time, as the team waned away from any real post-season hopes.
But is this year the same?  So they lost a couple games in the past week.  Prior to that, they took down one of the league’s best (Detroit) and looked comfortable doing so.  Mason found out he has mono, which could easily be the only reason he has looked human since December.  Injuries have quietly dissipated, although the loss of young Filatov, and obviously having Brassard out for the remainder of the season hurts, but also consider the addition of Williams and the rise of young Voracek and you end up rounding out a confident team that fits with one another.
My February concerns are fairly simple.  
  • Acquiring a center, even at rental status to take up Brassard’s spot for the remainder of the season.  This will allow minimal line modifications, and let the players get set in positions they are comfortable with.  I do not care how much you want to think he might be capable of it, Malhotra is NOT a first line center. Who should go?  A prospect, and Modin.  I do not care how hard that will be to swing, Howson needs to swing it.
  • Continue to work with the powerplay to make it a POWERplay, rather than simply a man advantage.  Playoff teams have strong specialty teams.
  • Let Mason get healthy.  Mono is a horrible thing to deal with, and he should be on bedrest for at least a week to try and get back when his body is prepared to let him back.  What happened against Dallas and St Louis could easily have been avoided if Hitch would think with his head rather than Mason’s.
  • Trade a defensemen.  The logjam is going to be an issue with Klesla healthy again.  I personally do not want to see Backman dress again, and I would hate the idea of either Methot or Russell having to sit out games.  They all have their strengths, and they are all trying to build chemistry with their linemates.  No more juggling!
Enough from me fans.. What do YOU think?
Carry the Flag!

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