After last night’s game I was looking forward to writing tonight’s stars of the night and predicted we’d have some Blue Jackets to write about. Without further ado:
3rd Star: Joe Colborne
I have no issue with Colborne being considered for a star of the game. He netted Calgary’s only score and put in a good 12 minute effort.
Continue reading Stars of Night: CBJ @ Calgary
Have no fear, we’re not about to start humming Nadia’s Theme here (if you don’t know what that is youngsters, Google it), but with the NHL’s first games in the books, Patrick Roy’s inaugural tirade dully documented, and Nationwide Arena gearing up for its own debut tonight, it’s time to get down to the business of hockey in earnest.
The young, of course, are the Blue Jackets players themselves, who once again will be in the running for the youngest team in the league. How young? Only five on the roster (McElhinney, Gaborik, Tyutin, MacKenzie and Umberger) have ages beginning with a “3″, and two (Murray, Jenner) entered their 20′s. Feel old yet? No? Let’s try this one — not a single Blue Jacket player was alive for the USA’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. I’ll wait while you retrieve your hearing aids and shawls . . . More on this in a bit. Continue reading The Young & The Restless — Hockey Time in Columbus!
In the previous installment, we focused on the offensive zone — examining how much scoring would likely be needed, and where those goals might come from. We now turn our sights to the other side of center ice — between the trapezoid and the blue line. Seven players spend the majority of their ice time here, with their primary purpose to prevent the other side from finding the back of the net. If they do that well, the pressure on the scoring end goes down. Of course, if the scorers don’t uphold their side of the bargain, the pressure on the blue line and in goal increases as well. One of the key attributes for defensemen and goalies alike is just how well they can handle that pressure over the course of an 82-game season.
Goal differential is a key metric for determining success. After all, you need to score more than your opponent to win a game, so it should not be shocking that most teams that make the playoffs have positive goal differentials. It’s not universal — the Islanders made the playoffs last year with an even goal differential, and Washington made the playoffs the prior season with an eight-goal deficit. However, if the post-season is your goal, you’d better plan on a positive number for this statistic. Note that not a single club with a positive differential missed the playoffs in the 11-12 campaign, and only one squad had that fate last year. That’s right . . . the Columbus Blue Jackets. The club ended up with a positive goal differential (+1) for the first time in franchise history last year . . . and was edged out by Minnesota (differential minus -5 ) for the playoffs. Columbus was minus-4 in its 2008-09 playoff run, while the Wild missed the dance, despite having a differential of +19. So, the Minnesotans likely viewed last season as sweet revenge.
Continue reading Inquiring Minds: Defending the Home Front
Seriously folks. I know I seem to come across like the biggest Dalton Prout hater that ever lived, but I swear this has nothing to do with anything I’ve previously said on the man (or kid). I’ve usually had good things to say about Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray (and think Murray is legit), but those three guys have a much bigger hill to climb than you probably expect. Continue reading CBJ Fans, Prepare Yourself for a Different Defense Than You Expect
Last year I put together a series of posts centered around my expectations for the various Blue Jackets players goal totals, with one running before the season, one at midseason reviewing how I did and predicting the remainder of the season, and one after the year was over looking back at the first two pieces. I was pretty happy with how my method worked out, so I figured I’d do this for the entire league. You can find my preliminary post on it here, along with an update after the Capitals signed Grabovski. Here at the Union Blue, you’re going to get everything I’ve put together regarding the Jackets.
Unfortunately, I don’t think most of you will be happy with me. I have the Jackets finishing 15th in the NHL in goal differential. However, I also have the Metropolitan division as the league’s most difficult. If the season proceeds this way, the Jackets will finish 6th in the Metro, behind the Rangers, Devils, Penguins, Islanders, and Capitals. The Grabovski signing actually pushed the Caps above the Jackets for the final playoff spot in the East. Consolation prize: I also have the Red Wings missing the playoffs. So there’s that.
Continue reading 2013-14 Blue Jackets Goal Predictions
The signs are all there. The “back to school traffic jams” are in full flower, the pools are closed, and the hockey players are returning to Nationwide Boulevard, just as the swallows to San Juan Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley. The youngest among them will head north to Traverse City late this afternoon (where our own @CBJProspects is also headed), while training camp awaits in just a week’s time. Hockey is in the air, without the foul stench of a lockout, and its time to start taking a critical look at the key questions confronting the Blue Jackets as they wind down the final 30 days to the season opener, and the club’s Eastern Conference debut.
So, as the month-long countdown proceeds, I’ll be providing new installments of this Inquiring Minds series, focusing on specific questions that hold special significance for the organization as we eagerly anticipate the curtain rising on a new season. This first installment focuses on scoring — Who’s going to do it? How often does it need to happen? How likely is it to occur?
Continue reading Inquiring Minds: The Quest for Scoring
One of the comforting aspects of being an NHL fan is the almost ritualistic sequence of events that mark the progression from season to vacation, from regular season to playoffs, from “regular” years to Olympic years. Sure, labor stoppages are insinuating themselves into the regular rotation, but enough time has been spent wringing hands over those events.
With the Stanley Cup in the hands of the Blackhawks, the stars of tomorrow plucked from the draft pool, and the feeding frenzy of free agency past its peak, the off-season enters a period of relative quiescence. Sure, some deals will get done, but for the most part the Canadian hockey scribes and pundits have departed for their cottages, and their American counterparts are on the golf course. Fortunately, with 2014 being an Olympic year, there is some intrigue remaining, as the dominant hockey countries extend their invitations to Olympic Orientation Camp. By all accounts, the Blue Jackets will be more than adequately represented. Let’s take a look at those who have invitations in hand, and those likely to be joining the quest for Olympic gold in Sochi:
Continue reading Blue Jackets Prominent In Olympic Quest
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen (Courtesy Columbus Blue Jackets)
Welcome to my début here at The Union Blue. To those who followed me from Ten Minute Misconduct and The Hockey Writers — a big thanks — both of you. (I’ll still be chipping in with a guest article at THW from time to time, but The Union Blue is home.) To those just discovering my writing, strap in. I’m not shy about expressing opinions, digging deep into issues and counseling patience and perspective when the gut reaction is to panic. Thanks to all of my colleagues here for swallowing hard and allowing me to use of space on the site. Enough of that — on to the topic at hand.We’re just about 50 hours from the NHL Entry Draft, and just a week away from the beginning of free agency. The compressed timeline — brought to you by your friends at the NHL and NHLPA — will make the next ten days a tense and action-filled time. As Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson have been preaching for the past month — the options are wide open. That makes this both a time of peril and opportunity for the Blue Jackets at a lot of levels. While much of the focus is on the draft itself, and the three first round picks the Blue Jackets have stockpiled, I’ll leave the discussion of the draft prospects to my colleague @CBJProspects, who eats, sleeps and lives with that data. Instead, I want to focus on the other side of the equation — the trade and free agency prospects — made all the more intriguing this season by the advent of the compliance buyout. Continue reading Trading Spaces: Draft Table Deals Likely for Columbus
At the halfway point of the season I wrote about the second half expectations for the Blue Jackets. I looked at my preseason goal predictions for each player, then predicted how I thought they would perform over the second half of the season. Before I got to that point, I briefly discussed the team results. At the outset of the season, I had predicted a total of 128 goals scored on the season. I was off by a bit here, as they came in at only 120. However, I was off by the same amount in their goals against, as I had predicted they would come in at 127 goals allowed over the full 48 game season. Instead, they finished with 119 goals against. Excuse me for a second while I pat myself on the bat for exactly nailing their goal differential. In my preseason predictions, I hit another point that I think probably raised some eyebrows at the time: that the Jackets offense would actually improve with Rick Nash off in New York. And believe it or not it did (barely). The Jackets scored 120 goals this season, or the equivalent pace of 205 goals over 82 games. Not a great number, but better than the 202 goals the Jackets scored in 2011-12. Continue reading Looking Back to Look Back: Reviewing Preseason and Second Half Predictions
Ah the Lady Byng. Every NHLer’s least favorite award. The official description reads as such: ”Outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” In general, this award tends to go to the good player with the least number of penalty minutes. Or, as many think of it, the good player who is also the biggest pansy. I object to that description, as there are a number of Jacket players who fit the bill this year, while also playing very hard shift in, and shift out, taking abuse, going to the corners, and playing a tough game in general. However, what sets those players apart from the Matt Calverts and Brandon Dubinskys is their ability to do so without putting the Jackets shorthanded very often, constantly being good sports, and playing like gentlemen. And the award goes to…… Continue reading 2013 tUB Awards: The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy