Archive for April, 2006

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Looking back

April 30, 2006

After nine days of playoff hockey, I’m flipping back through to see how my predictions are going. Some are okay, others are slightly less. A quick review…

I had Ottawa taking Tampa Bay. Ottawa wins the series and looks pretty good doing it. Jason Spezza is quickly going to become a known commodity in the NHL. Unfortunately due to the unbalanced schedule, Jackets fans didn’t get to see the Senators play this year (actually, as I type this, maybe that’s not so bad). Consequently, we didn’t get a chance to see one of the more entertaining hockey teams on the ice right now. I’ve had the opportunity to catch a few games, and I’m impressed. If the Blue Jackets can build a team in a similar manner to Ottawa we may be a force to contend with. Of course, it may take five or so years. But it would be worth the wait.

I picked Carolina to oust Montreal. Despite going up 2-0 early in the series, Montreal has dropped three straight to fall to the brink of elimination. And as I knew would happen, I haven’t gotten to see any Canadiens games on television. They’ve been matched up against the Detroit-Edmonton series in the timeslots, and Detroit will win that battle in this neck of the woods any day.

I picked New Jersey over the Rangers. Four games, four Devil victories. Jaromir Jagr was hurt early on, and the Rangers lost whatever hope they had when the playoffs started. Enough said.

I predicted Philadelphia to take down Buffalo. After five games, Buffalo holds a 3-2 lead. The Sabres set the tone physically in Game 1, and put up eight goals in Game 2. The home team has won each game in the series to date, so I would not be surprised to see this one go seven games. Despite picking Philly, I’d really love to see the Sabres move on. It is good fun to watch them play hockey.

I had Detroit moving Edmonton out of the playoffs. Big Pronger has been a wing-eater in the series, earning a game star in four of five games. If Detroit cannot figure out how to win at home, the Wings will make their third straight playoff exit to an “inferior” team. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I would derive from this scenario. In general, the Red Wings “fans” are an interesting lot.

For two certain Wings fans (Mr. & Mrs. EOB, Sr.), I would feel bad. For the rest of Red Wings nation, I’ve seen you when your team is playing well and you support them. I’ve seen you when things go drastically wrong, and you’re silent or worse. I have little patience for fans with a sense of entitlement. There are many Buckeye fans here in Columbus with that problem, and believe me when I say that this fact really bothers me. Yes, the Red Wings are a fantastic hockey team. But that doesn’t mean that 1) Every team they play should roll over and play dead so you can realize your pre-destined Stanley Cup Championship, and 2) That when a team doesn’t roll over that you have the right to forsake your team. With the Wings down 2-1 in the series, there were more than a few fans ready to drink the Kool-Aid and jump out of a plane. Even great teams lose. The Oakland A’s in 1990. The Vikings in any Super Bowl they’ve ever been in. Karl Malone (ha!). Even the Red Wings. If it happens, go ahead and get rid of Legace (can you really say this guy has it or not after one year as a starter?), Datsyuk (he’s hurt… in the playoffs… bad combo… sorry), etc. While some pieces of the team will likely retire or move on soon, this team is built to be good for many years to come. Stay with your club. Yeah, you gave yourself the nickname “Hockeytown”, you should try to live up to it.

I picked Dallas to take down Colorado (and go on to win the Cup). So, apparently the Avs want to play against Brendan Morrow. Marty Turco looked like a video game goalie flopping around on the ice. Very sad. I blew it here. Oh well, like I said before, my predictions likely won’t mean squat.

I had Anaheim outlasting Calgary. The teams have exchanged wins, with Calgary currently holding the lead 3-2 after five. I haven’t had much of an opportunity to see games in this series, so I really don’t have much to say.

I picked the Sharks over the Predators. The Preds succumbed to the Shark attack in five games. Nashville won the series opener, and it looked like Chris Mason might have a chance. Four games later, Mason performed admirably for an unseasoned goalie, but not well enough. San Jose moves on.

I really blew it on Dallas (just like the NCAA brackets, at least I’m consistent), and I’m hoping I’ll blow it on the Philly pick (I can’t stand them for some reason, either). All in all, it’s just good fun to see how little I actually know about the game. The playoffs change everything.

Until later, thanks for stopping by and reading.

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Spotlight on: Left Wings

April 28, 2006

In a continuation of the season-ending process, we will resume examining the various position players on the Blue Jackets. We’ll give our opinions on the pros and cons, a little bit of salary info (if we can find it) and any other tidbits we find interesting. Today, the left wingers get put under the microscope.

Left Wings

Rick Nash
– Age – 21
– Status – Signed through 2010 (I think)
– Pros – By far the most talented Blue Jacket in the offensive zone. Rick is able to use his size and strength to create goal scoring opportunities that other players cannot. Great hands and size will enable him to continue to score a lot of goals for many years to come.
– Cons – Still has not developed into a two-way player. Has shown more defensive responsibility this year than the past two, but still needs a lot of hard work to be on the ice in all game situations. It remains to be seen if Nash’s injury problems at the beginning of the season are cause for concern or are a thing of the past.
– If I were GM/Coach – Keep Rick Nash in Columbus for as long as you can. Allow him to develop as a leader, and he may be the next team captain when Adam Foote leaves. Nash is one of the top ten players in the NHL when he’s healthy, and the Columbus franchise needs him now to keep fans in the seats.

Nikolai Zherdev
– Age – 21
– Status – Still playing under his rookie contract (thank you Dispatch for taking down the information I was using. That’s what I get for taking to long to write these articles. Does anyone know where I can find NHL contract information on the internet?)
– Pros – Mastery of the puck, dazzling stickhandling skills. Zherdev has a quick shot that can sometimes surprise goaltenders because it comes from odd places (behind the defenseman). Nikolai is not afraid to handle the puck (sometimes to a fault, see below) and is adept at drawing a crowd away from his linemates.
– Cons – With a few exceptions, Zherdev is invisible in the defensive zone. Often seems to lack the discipline and sacrifice to forecheck and backcheck the opposition. Consistency of attitude is important to develop, as Zherdev has a tendency to look very disinterested if he is not performing up to his personal standards.
– If I were GM/Coach – Keep Nikolai on a forward line with fellow Russian Sergei Fedorov, who has seemed to be a good influence on the young winger. Lock him up to a long-term contract at the earliest convenience, as this youngster’s goals will translate into cash in the form of filled seats. There is nobody on the roster that keeps you on the edge of your seat like Zherdev does.

Jason Chimera
– Age – 27
– Status – Restricted free agent
– Pros – A speedy winger with good size, Chimera is not afraid to throw his body around and bang with the opposing team’s top line. An important character player, Jason chipped in 17 goals this season which was a nice surprise.
– Cons – Those 17 goals are a career-high, and it remains to be seen if Chimera will be able to increase that high or not. Constantly using his body as a battering ram will eventually wear him down, but that is what third and fourth line guys are for (if we’re being honest).
– If I were GM/Coach – Try to keep Chimera with the squad. His size and willingness to get physical are very important to a team that also ices quite a few smaller players. If he can continue to be an effective checking line winger while netting 15-20 per year, he is more than worth the investment.

Jody Shelley
– Age – 30
– Status – I think he has one year left on his current contract.
– Pros – Shelley can pound somebody’s face in with the best of them. Oh yeah, he can take a punch, too.
– Cons – Usually only sees four to six minutes a night, for very good reason. Shelley does not contribute much in the offensive or defensive zone. His lack of speed could become a liability in the “new NHL”.
– If I were GM/Coach – Shelley is a great guy to have on your team. The fans love him, his teammates probably enjoy having him in the locker room and on their team. Unfortunately, for the Jackets to make the slow conversion from pretender to contender, Shelley will have to go. I would let him play out the final year of his contract if no one else wins the spot, and then let him live on in Blue Jackets lore as our first legitimate enforcer.

Alexandre Picard
Age – 20
– Status – Signed through 2007-08
– Pros – Picard showed us in his late season call up that he loves to hit. At 190 lbs, he needs to add another 20-25 lbs to become a major physical menace. He has not scored in the NHL to date, but he has shown vision and promise.
– Cons – Seems to have a confidence issue with the puck, but I would attribute it at this point to lack of experience and youth. Once Picard scores a goal, he will “know that he belongs” and continue to play that way. Needs to play with the big club and gain familiarity with linemates to feel comfortable.
– If I were GM/Coach – Picard has shown that he wants to play in the NHL and is willing to work hard to be there. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to be on the club next year, nor would it be a disaster for him to have another season in Syracuse.

In a flash
I haven’t seen enough of any left wingers in Syracuse to speak on those on the farm team. This might be an area that Columbus will look at in free agency to fill a second line spot to play with Zherdev (probably a true right winger despite playing often on the left side) and Fedorov. The hope is probably that when Shelley is let go (it will happen), that Picard will be ready to step up and be an NHL regular.

Up next, the right wingers.

Thanks for reading.

Drop a line, or a comment. I try to respond to most things either on the site or via email.

Have a great Friday.

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Hockey by the rules

April 26, 2006

Before the playoffs started, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmann issued a memo to the referees who would be working the playoffs. Paraphrased, the memo stated that if the officials did not call the game as they had throughout the regular season (where hooking actually is hooking), they would not be refereeing any more playoff games.

In years past, fans have become accustomed to the difference between regular season hockey and playoff hockey. The major difference is that in playoff hockey, there are much fewer trips to the penalty box. No referee wanted to “be responsible” for calling a power play for a team at a crucial moment and thus jeopardizing the “integrity” of the game. Never mind that this essentially allowed cheating in playoff hockey.

The crackdown on obstruction penalties seemed to result in more power play opportunities during the regular season this year, and it is apparent after five days that the playoffs will be no different. It takes a bit of getting used to, seeing the players wear a trail to the sin bin, but I think in the long run it will be healthy for the game. While there are some questionable calls (I still don’t understand how you can have a hooking call on one player and a diving call on the other. Either the hook was a penalty, or it wasn’t) being made, I’m not sure I’d label the officials as overzealous. I’m choosing to see it as the players not catching up to the reality of the rules of hockey.

If you don’t have position and you impede your opponent’s progress, it’s a penalty. Is that they way the rules are written? Yes. Is that they way the game has been called in past years? No. Did I commit these sins when I played? Yes. Should they have been called penalties? Definitely. NHL players are used to a standard (two years removed) of being able to get away with breaking the rules, especially in the playoffs. The look of incredulity on so many faces of the accused makes me laugh. One can tell by their expressions that they know they did wrong, but absolutely cannot believe that the call is being made.

My more sensible side implores me to remind hockey players that they 1) are getting paid to play a game and should relax; and 2) will rarely if ever change a referees mind by arguing. But my realistic side says this will never happen. The competitive nature of the game takes over when you step over the boards and hit the ice. Everybody complains about getting called for a penalty, that’s the way it works. (Mostly because the ref didn’t call the big lug on the other team when he whacked you in the back three times with his stick right in front of their goalie, and that makes what you did justified.)

Where am I going with all this? I’m glad I asked. I’ve seen opinions on both sides of the “Are all these penalties good for the game?” question. A good game has to have rules. And for the game to thrive as intended, the rules have to be followed. Because human nature sees the will to win higher on the food chain than the will to play fair, we need someone to enforce the penalties for breaking the rules of a good game.

While the tickertape parade to the penalty box seen in many arenas is odd to see, I’d argue that this is how we should be seeing hockey.

Thanks for stopping by the end of the bench. Come back soon.

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Former Buckeye needs the smelling salts

April 23, 2006

If you are weak in the stomach, do not watch this video. Every time I see the look in RJ Umberger’s eyes on the ice, I feel very queasy. But I can’t stop watching. And to think, I thought it would be Duhrian Hatcher and the Broad Street Bullies laying the wood in this series.

Enjoy


				
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What good is a hockey blog without them?!?

April 21, 2006

Just in time, here are the playoff predictions from the EOB desk.

Eastern Conference

Round One

Ottawa (#1) vs. Tampa Bay (#8)
Dominik Hasek is still questionable for the Sens, though from the sounds of it Ray Emery may be the next goalie to come out of nowhere to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. The defending Cup champion Lightning have not impressed me in the little I’ve seen them this year, and I don’t think that their net-minders are ready for the offensive juggernaut coming at them from Ontario. EOB says Ottawa takes the series. (That’s right, I’m not predicting how many games it will take. It’s likely my predictions won’t be worth squat anyway, so why include more minutiae you really don’t care about?)

Carolina (#2) vs. Montreal (#7)
A true battle of untested goalies, this series will see Martin Gerber face Cristobal Huet for the right to move on. Carolina seems to be a fairly well rounded team that may have fallen under the radar in the last few weeks (all I’ve heard about in Columbus is Jagr, Thornton, and the Calder race which isn’t really a race). I really know nothing about Montreal, other than I really like their uniforms and how they look on ice. Yeah, I like watching the Canadiens skate around in their pretty little uniforms and wish I could watch them go all the way to the finals to squash Detroit. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. Carolina takes the series.

New Jersey (#3) vs. New York Rangers (#6) (*yeah, I had to qualify “Rangers” here. I know that the Islander contingent is pretty heavy in reading this blog, and I didn’t want any of you to forget that your season washed out with the plumbing in Nassau this winter. I know it’s the pot calling the kettle black, but I love picking on the Islanders)
One of the hottest teams in the NHL at this point, the Devils are looking very ready to make a run. Patrick Elias is back, Brian Gionta nearly netted 50 goals, and Marty Brodeur is looking as devilish as ever. Up the road, the Rangers have looked lost the last two weeks. I saw them play a few weeks ago on NBC against the Flyers, and they looked okay. Henrik Lundqvist has been out injured recently, and Jaromir Jagr has not been able to carry the team on his shoulders (though I suppose we have to give him credit for at least trying?). New Jersey takes the series.

Buffalo (#4) vs. Philadelphia (#5)
This is a series that us “small market” fans should enjoy watching, because Buffalo has a chance. A few months ago, I would have picked the Sabres without question simply based on the play of net-minders Ryan Miller and Martin Biron. I don’t know much about the skill players outside of Chris Drury, but I know what he’s worth in April and May (quite a bit). Philadelphia is another team I’d like to see squashed, but they might have the mettle to make it to round two. Any team with Peter Forsberg deserves a look. A punishing Flyer defensive corps can make the difference if they can keep up, and Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki might be the best one-two punch in net in the entire field. EOB sees Philadelphia taking the series.

Round Two

Ottawa (#1) vs. Philadelphia (#5) – Ottawa utilizes speed up front to overtake the less-than-mobile Flyers D and takes the series.

Carolina (#2) vs. New Jersey (#3) – Peter Laviolette coerces his Hurricane team to return to mid-season form and the Devils can’t hold on. Carolina advances.

Conference Finals

Ottawa (#1) vs. Carolina (#2) – The Dany Heatley trade gets even better for the Ottawa faithful as he leads the Senators past the tired Canes to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Western Conference

Detroit (#1) vs. Edmonton (#8)
Mike Babcock gets to play on the cool side of the playground this year, coach the Wings as opposed to against the Wings. The biggest question (Pavel Datsyuk aside) the Wings have to answer is why they shouldn’t be in the Stanley Cup Finals automatically. Dwayne Roloson and the Oilers have the first opportunity to answer. If “Big” Pronger (my Dad’s nickname for him, get well soon!) can clear Tomas Holmstrom from the net and the Oilers can score on the formidable Wings defense and I can win the lottery this weekend without playing, the Wings will go home. As it stands, Detroit will see action in the second round.

Dallas (#2) vs. Colorado (#7)
What’s so great about this series? Yeah, seeing the Avalanche as the seventh seed. Sure, the only two teams I’d like to see there right now (in no particular order) are Detroit and Columbus, but it’s still pretty sweet. Dallas has a tough group of veterans (who really wants to play against Brendan Morrow?) and a goaltender in Marty Turco who is ready to have his “breakout” playoff year. Colorado has the always dangerous Joe Sakic, and… ummm… crap. Lost my notes. Peter Budaj and Jose Theodore will backstop the Avs. Budaj? I haven’t heard his name on TV enough to know how to pronounce it. And the last I heard Theodore slipped on the ice outside his house and hurt himself. Umm… you’re a professional ice hockey player? Nice. Dallas will crush the poor Avalanche.

Calgary (#3) vs. Anaheim (#6)
A team that can’t score (Flames) against a team with a vastly underrated defense (Ducks), this should be fun. This series is being touted by many experts as the one to watch in the first round (though EOB has already stated his preference to watch the Habs) as the toughest match-up. Jarome Iginla has not had the scoring touch that helped him to a share of the ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy in 2003-04, but Miikka Kiprusoff has been stellar in net in this season of offensive rebirth and this has to be the largest reason the Flames won the Northwest. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is showing a bit of the flash he displayed four years ago in the playoffs, and Scott Niedermayer is garnering some Norris talk in Anaheim. Will Teemu and the boys crack the Miikka Code, or will Iginla and the gang solve JS? EOB picks Anaheim to come out on top.

Nashville (#4) vs. San Jose (#5)
The Predators picked up defenseman Brendan Witt at the trade deadline from Washington. I’m sure they had no idea that it could be this big of a deal in April, or for what reason. With regular Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun out with a blood disorder, the Preds will have to rely on untested Chris Mason to keep the offensively-gifted Sharks from circling in on their net for the kill. With Joe Thornton in the mix, the Sharks might be the most dangerous offensive team in the West. The ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy winner for the 2005-06 season, Jonathan Cheechoo (56 goals) will look to net a few against Mason and the Predators D. Can Witt, Kimmo Timmonen and company stop Mason from (pick bad goalie cliché from: a) getting sunburnt from the goal lamp; b) whiplash from looking back in the net for the puck; or c) looking like he’d be better served on a club sandwich), or will the Predators be golfing by next weekend? EOB suggests that the Sharks have it in them to take the series.

Round Two

Detroit (#1) vs. Anaheim (#6) – This rematch of the great 2002 Western Conference Finals series will be as hotly contested as the one we remember. This one will have a slightly different ending as the Ducks upend the aging and tired Red Wings (how many Olympians on the team? I know I made the same argument in 2002, but surely one of my predictions has to come true???).

Dallas (#2) vs. San Jose (#3) – The Cheechoo train derails against a very good Dallas team. Seriously, who wants to play against these guys?

Conference Finals

Dallas (#2) vs. Anaheim (#6) – Dallas rides its leaders and their grit, determination, and tenacity to a series win over the Ducks.

Stanley Cup Finals

Ottawa (#1 East) vs. Dallas (#2 West) – The offensive firepower of the East with questions in net faces off against the road tested Stars who are as balanced as anyone. Sergei Zubov and Willie Mitchell are able to slow down the Senators enough for Mike Modano and Bill Guerin to take one last run at the Cup before they decide to hang around “too long”. Ray Emery will make a great stand, and we’ll all believe in the power of the untested playoff goaltender. But in the end, Marty Turco brushes aside the tag of a non-playoff goalie to spur the Stars to a Stanley Cup.

Tomorrow, I’ll resume my look at the Blue Jackets roster. Until then, enjoy the first bit of playoff hockey in almost two years. Thanks for reading.

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Spotlight on: centers

April 20, 2006

As part of our season ending process here at EOB, we will be examining the various position players on the Blue Jackets. We’ll give our opinions on the pros and cons, a little bit of salary info (if we can find it) and any other tidbits we find interesting. Today, the centermen get put under the microscope.

Centers

Sergei Fedorov
– Age – 36
– Status – Signed through 2007-08
– Pros – Is a seasoned pro who plays a smart, calm game. Locker room influence should help rising stars, especially Nikolai Zherdev. Able to play a lot of minutes in all game situations.
– Cons – In the past has not played to potential at times (lazyness). He has not shown this in Columbus, yet. Obviously past his prime compared to his award winning seasons in Detroit, not producing points as prodigiously as hoped upon signing.
– If I were GM/Coach – Should continue to center a top line in Columbus as long as he’s under contract. His influence on developing players will likely be worth the heavy cap hit he levies.

Gilbert Brule
– Age – 19
– Status – Signed through 2008-09
– Pros – In his limited time with the Jackets, EOB was impressed with his ice vision and his two-way play (rare commodities at his age). Scoring has not been a problem with his WHL junior team (not surprising).
– Cons – It is tough to tell at this time. One might say injuries, just from the limited time we’ve been able to see him in Columbus, but I don’t know if we can saddle that tag on him at this time. The biggest obstacle he had six months ago was the pressure of being the best pure centerman in the franchise. With Fedorov available to tutor him, the sky is the limit for Brule.
– If I were GM/Coach – Barring injury/bizarre free agent moves, Brule will center the second line for the Blue Jackets. In two years, he is seasoned enough to move up to the first line.

Jan Hrdina
– Age – 30
– Status – Unrestricted free agent
– Pros – He’s in the top 35 in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 51.9%. Uhhh, that’s about it.
– Cons – Nickname: Captain Hook. Need I say more. In the “new NHL”, where penalties are called with more frequency than in the past, Hrdina is fifth on the team in PIM with 78 behind bigger hitters Shelley, Westcott, Chimera, and Foote. You don’t want a guy who is your number three forward in ice time (read: used in all game situations including penalty killing) to be that high on the list. Especially when each time it’s a cheap-o hooking, holding, or tripping call. Some people regard PIM’s as a stat worth seeing up high. I’m not a member of that school, and Hrdina gets a failing grade from me.
– If I were GM/Coach – It’s been a year, thanks for the try-out. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but there can’t be any doubt he’s gone from the team.

Manny Malhotra
– Age – 25
– Status – Unrestricted free agent
– Pros – Centers the checking line well and has developed a good chemistry with linemates Chimera and Letowski. Provides a good physical presence against the top opposition line and is smart on the penalty kill. Best faceoff artist on the team at 56%
– Cons – Sometimes finds himself in the right place at the right time, but doesn’t have a great scoring touch. What will be his asking salary as a free agent?
– If I were GM/Coach – If we can keep Manny at a reasonable price (he’s a little over a half million now, maybe we can afford him for around $750-850K?), it would be great to lock him up for a few more years and see how he develops. If he’s looking to receive over $1 million per, let him test the waters and bring in Dan Fritsche or Mark Hartigan to center the checking line.

Mark Hartigan
Age – 28
– Status – Signed through 2006-07
– Pros – The mystery minor leaguer of the past few years has finally showed his scoring touch in the NHL at the end of this year. He’s proving he can stick in the league, which has been his biggest problem in past season call-ups.
– Cons – Not a huge guy (6’0″, 200 lbs), but likes to throw his body around which could lead to future injuries. At age 28, he’s looking back on a lot of good hockey years.
– If I were GM/Coach – Hartigan makes the team as the third or fourth center, with the ability to play the point on the power play. If he keeps playing at his current level, he’s a 20 goal scorer. If he plays like he has in the past, he may be out of the NHL for good.

Mike Rupp
– Age – 26
– Status- Restricted free agent
– Pros – Was starting to find his niche on the team with Shelley on the fourth line and playing some on the penalty kill. Has good size and decent hockey sense.
– Cons – Health concerns. Rupp sat out the last few months of the season with heart problems. They were not described as serious, but given Hartigan’s play at the end of the season it would be hard to elevate Rupp above him on the depth chart.
– If I were GM/Coach – If you can hold on to Rupp for close to what he’s making now, keep him in the mix. Having five forwards on the team will enable you to scratch the cold hand, or move one to a wing slot if needed. Rupp is a big physical guy, which is an asset to a team that needs bulk.

In a flash
Geoff Platt was a scrappy 20 year old who flew around the ice for 15 games in the fall. He might be a bit small for the NHL, but I think he’ll get another shot or two with the Jackets before all is said and done.

Alexander Svitov has been playing well in Russia, and if the team can get him a good contract we could have a strong Russian threesome on the team. Svitov has shown creative potential and is a decent physical presence, but needs to show that he is willing to play at the NHL level (read: dedication) before I’d give him too much money up front.

Up next, the left wingers.

Thanks for reading, and sorry for the delay in recent posts.

Drop a line, or a comment. I try to respond to most things either on the site or via email.

Have a great Friday.

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Looking back

April 8, 2006

It’s getting to that point in the season where the non-playoff teams look back and wonder what happened. For the Blue Jackets, there are a lot of things to ponder. What could have been? A quick glance states that maybe we’re not far off from where we should be (okay, maybe a little behind).

In his blog, James Mirtle uses the 95 point line as that which a team will need to reach in order to make the post-season. So many people involved with Blue Jackets media have stated how well the team has played since the return of Rick Nash from injury. While Nash was out with various leg injuries to start the season, the team was averaging 0.58 points per game. For those of you who are not big hockey fans, this refers to standing points, not goals scored. For each win (regulation/overtime/shootout), a hockey team receives two points; for each overtime or shootout loss, a team receives one point, and for a regulation loss there is the lovely zero. This runs out to about 48 points on the season. With Rick Nash returning on December 17, the Jackets have fared much better and are averaging 1.11 points per game. This projects to a 91 point season. Columbus fans would likely be ecstatic with such results. Obviously, Nash makes a big difference in how this team plays, but I would like readers to see beyond the initial results, and look at a few other statistics.

Looking at the season to date, the Jackets have amassed losing streaks of greater than four games five times. The Blue Jackets have only been able to win multiple games (two or more in a row) eight times all year. I would go so far as to define a winning streak as four wins or more (two shouldn’t be that hard, and three shouldn’t be unheard of). The team has only managed two all year. While Nash may drive the bus, the team as a whole has been maddeningly inconsistent. The team needs the younger players (Nash, Klesla, Leclaire, Denis) to step up and help this team be more consistent on the ice. Foote and Fedorov can only do so much. A level head and steady effort will do more than anything to improve this team. They have shown in their recent seven game point streak that they have the character and grit it takes, as they’ve come from behind in each of seven games to garner at least one point (including twice coming back from three goals down in Detroit). What needs to change is the attitude when the team loses a game or two.

Losses will happen in hockey. There has not been a perfect 82-0 season, yet. The Avalance, a team that will likely be somewhere between the fifth and eighth seed in the Western Conference (read: good enough to make it there, but not the best team in the league), have had only three losing streaks of three games each. No four plus streaks to be had. It’s the consistency that will get this team to the playoffs, and it’s consistency that the Columbus squad lacks.

If the team can make a 60 minute effort each night out, they will be competing against all teams in the NHL. The Jackets have the requisite skill to make the jump, but do they have the will? My next column will examine the potential roster for next season, and look at the pros and cons of each player going into the 2006-07 season.

I’d like to give a quick thanks to the website Abel to Yzerman for linking to my last story on my experience at Joe Louis Arena. I look forward to expanding my footprint in the hockey blogging world. Thanks again a2y!

Thanks for reading, come back soon. As always, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.