Archive for August, 2006

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You think your Friday was tough?

August 25, 2006

How hard did it have to be for the Acid Queen to publish this one?  I’ve stayed away from talking about the Mike Danton / David Frost saga for many reasons.  But this post shows why AQ can’t do the same.

Major kudos for stepping outside the usual August (or any month for that matter) banter and posting something that matters.

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MacLean squashes rumor talks

August 25, 2006

I was sitting at home the other night writing a great post about my thoughts on the Zherdev situation, and my computer crashed.  Disappointed with myself for not saving my work, I decided (for the time being) to let my thoughts rot.

Today’s Dispatch article on the topic reignited the flame.  The article isn’t incendiary or all that exciting, but I have a few spare minutes so I’m getting out my thoughts while I can. 

Dispatch writer Michael Arace confirms with GM Doug MacLean that the following is only a rumor: Restricted free-agent winger Nikolai Zherdev to the Maple Leafs for 22-year-old forward Matt Stajan and a draft pick.

MacLean goes on to state that not only is it not true, but it “is totally, absolutely false. On my father’s grave, I would swear that.”

I’m being facetious here, but that sounds very similar to the dreaded “vote of confidence” that a manager or coach will receive from upper management right before he is fired.  Okay, on to my real thoughts on the situation.

According to reports, the Jackets have two offers on the table.  One year for just under a million dollars, or two years for about $3.5 million.  The Zherdev camp has stated that it should be very clear that Nikolai is willing to play in Russia this year if he does not get a deal he feels he is worth.  MacLean and company are confused.  After working so hard to get Zherdev to the States in the first place, why would he want to go back?

I’m having a hard time reconciling my feelings towards this particular situation.  As a fan, obviously I’d like to see Nikolai attempt to realize his potential in a CBJ sweater.  He is an incredibly exciting player to watch (while very frustrating at the same time), and I’d like him to be a part of the continuing growth process in Columbus. 

On the other hand, I do not like my emotional attachment to the team being held hostage by greedy players.  I’ve never been a big fan of holdout situations.  Taking my fan attachment out of the equation, holding out for a better contract usually only helps a player in one sense, the almighty dollar.  It hurts him the following season by not being in tune with his team.  It hurts his team in the same way.  And it hurts his reputation (we all now how concerned today’s athlete is with his/her “rep”) because the fans are likely to think that he is a greedy a-hole. 

So what is my point??  If I’m Doug MacLean (and most days I’m thankful I’m not), here’s what I’d do.  I’ve got a nice two year deal on the table.  If Nik and his camp don’t like it, go ahead and play in Russia.  He can play against lesser competition for a year, possibly come back to the States next year to collect his windfall in free agency, and probably still have the same problems (culture assimilation trouble, lack of backchecking and defense in general, selfish attitude shown by excessive shift length, etc.) when he returns.

Mini-rant alert!  What is it with hot-dogs from Russia (Zherdev, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk) being singled out for excessive shift length anyways?  Do I selectively ignore it when a North American does this?  End of mini-rant.

Nikolai has an opportunity to play with one of the greatest centers in the last 15 years (not to mention a fellow Russian) in Sergei Fedorov.  He could learn, grow, and become the player that (apparently) he already thinks he is.

But if you’re going to hold my team (and remember, I stick with teams, not players) hostage, you can take a hike.

Thanks for stopping by the end of the bench.  Have a great Friday.

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Lack of info

August 23, 2006

Sorry for the lack of writing lately.  Work has been absolutely grueling lately as I’m trying to make sure I’m ahead of the game before I go on vacation in September.

As things become known in the Zherdev situation and camp gets closer, I’ll have a few blurbs to put up.  But it looks like the schedule at the office is combining with a lack of hockey news to keep things pretty slow here at the End of the Bench.

Make sure to visit the great sites on the sidebar.  Just because I’m not posting, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing going on.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Not that you asked, but…

August 18, 2006

I added two “About” pages to the top of the sidebar.  One is about me, and the other is about the site in general.

I hope to have some other material up with these soon.

Have a great weekend.

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Revisiting the newsletter -or- An actual hockey-related post

August 15, 2006

Four years ago, I started a Columbus Blue Jackets “newsletter” called The End of the Bench.  I put the word newsletter in quotes because although it may have been in that format, I didn’t distribute it to more than five people.

Herringbone over at Death Cab for Woody had a little update on his site recently updating everyone on my new address, and he asked when I was going to have my review of Steve Maltais’ contributions to the CBJ (0-3-3 in 26 games in the inaugural season) and the defensive prowess of Derrick Walser.

While Maltais never had a chance even with an expansion team, Walser had potential.  Late in the 2002-03 season (Vol. 1, Issue 3 if you’re counting), I had a comparison between Walser and Duvie Westcott.

At Herringbone’s request and without further delay, here were my thoughts on Derrick Walser’s defensive skills:

 

Youth blueline report

 

Derrick Walser:  Derrick is a puck moving defenseman who holds the point well on the man-advantage.  If Derrick can improve his decision making in his own zone and be a little more confident in the offensive zone, he will become a fine addition to a currently suspect blueline. 

 

Duvie Westcott:  Duvie has many attributes in common with Walser, but has a decided advantage in one area, he can hold his own and is not afraid to do so.  His December bouts with Sean Avery were classic battles between two budding rookies, but Duvie will surprise some people in this league with his toughness.  The Bluejackets will be looking forward to Westcott rejoining the club soon after suffering a concussion in early February.

 

Fast forward three years.  The blueline is still suspect (did we really re-sign Anders Erickkson???), Duvie is an established blueliner who I think will be the best defenseman in the Jackets’ system within two years, and Walser will be hoping to break into the rotation with the Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes.  Judging from the blurb on Walser over at TSN.ca, I think I made a pretty good assessment (there is a first time for everything).  Hopefully everything will work out for Derrick in Carolina.  Cason, Penalty Killer… your thoughts?

Well, there is my two posts in one day.  I didn’t want to, but Herringbone made me.

Thanks for stopping by the end of the bench.

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Unpacking the appliances

August 15, 2006

As you can see by the lengthy last post and the slightly new look, I’ve moved. I took (a copy of) my stuff and ran over here to WordPress. I’d been thinking about doing this for a while, and when I helped someone set up another WordPress blog on Friday, I knew that I had to take the plunge.

There were two major reasons for the switch, and I believe they’re related. The first is the ability to add categories to posts. In looking at some other non-Blogger blogs, I really liked the opportunity to filter related posts right from the front page. While my writing generally centers around the Blue Jackets, I also talk about other things. It would be nice for people who visit to be able to look at items in the archives that are related to their interests. If anyone has any suggestions on how I can make the categories more helpful (by way of assigning posts), please let me know.

The second reason for my move was the ease of organization and administration. The writing is the meat and potatoes of any blog, and I think that at least for me the ease of system use and presentation is the platter you serve them on. While the old site may have been functional, it is a bit tedious to have to go into the code to add a link to my page. With WordPress I may sacrifice the ability to add and edit my own code and forfeit most of the customization I had (but didn’t use) with Blogger, but I’m more comfortable with the administrative ease at WordPress.

I’m also thinking about adding a few pages (or sticky posts) to the site so I can have a few different things that are static. Maybe a “Greatest Hits” type section, a more detailed “About EOB” page, and a few other things that will make this a more comprehensive Blue Jackets and hockey blog. I’m open to suggestions here as well.

 

Special thanks to iwocpo at Abel to Yzerman for talking with me briefly about wordpress a few weeks ago, and to Scott at CasonBlog for reminding me that I was thinking about it.

What I’m really looking forward to is coming in less than two months when teams hit the ice for the regular season. The lack of hockey news in Columbus the last two weeks has been a little troublesome. Thanks for sticking with me here at the End of the Bench, and I hope that I can continue to be on your reading list.

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Welcome!

August 12, 2006

Welcome to the new home for End of the Bench. I hope you’ll be back soon!

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Reds back on track?

August 9, 2006

Since nothing is happening on the hockey front in Columbus, EOB turns it’s attention to baseball for a day.

With the Cincinnati Reds about to begin a crucial series with the division leading Cardinals, GM Wayne Krivsky and the management team put together a plan to get fans in the seats to support their team. They’re offering half-price tickets and $1 hot dogs, in an effort to drum up a little noise in the park.

Since the turn of the century, August and September in Cincinnati have been difficult months. The only reason to head out to the ballpark was to catch a glimpse of the other team’s stars, as the home team was long out of the race. This particular season, the Reds have hung close in the Central Division race (3 1/2 back right now) and are tied for the lead in the Wild Card race. While it may be a few weeks early to start calling it “pennant fever”, there was something going on in the Great American Ballpark last night.

When it comes to baseball (specifically the Reds) the last decade, I’ve been the rock-solid pessimist. Whatever promise the team shows through May, I’m sure they’ll come crashing back to earth before the All-Star break (and I’m usually right, which oddly doesn’t make me feel very good). This year has been different. Prior to the series with the Cardinals, I stated that this would be the set of games that would likely determine the Reds’ fate for the rest of the year. Losing the series opener 13-1 was not a good start.

Last night, the team nursing a 4-1 lead with one out in the top of the fifth, Cincinnati starter Eric “The Human Batting Tee” Milton was facing Albert Pujols at the plate with runners on first and second. Phat Albert goes with an outside pitch and it looks like a sure double (if not worse) to the gap in right center. The producer switches to a high camera behind the plate, and this cameraman is tracking Griffey lumbering towards the ball.

As it became apparent that Griff wouldn’t get there, I started mentally writing the obit for the team. After losing in grand fashion the night before, this sure hit would score two and take whatever momentum the Redlegs had acquired and plant it firmly on the Cardinals’ bench. Before I could finish my mental article, right fielder Ryan Freel (Charlie Hustle, Jr.?) comes flying into the screen. Literally… flying (for an incredibly short time, you literalists). He dove for the ball, and needed every inch of his body to make the catch. Number six hit the ground hard, but managed to hang on. In typical Freel fashion, he sprung right up and fired a rocket into second base. No runs score on the play, the crowd is going nuts, and the EOB editorial team is standing in the living room having already yelled “nice [flipping] catch” four times before the ball made it to second (EOB quotes are paraphrased for family friendliness).

If you only saw replays, or highlights on SportsCenter, I don’t think it’s possible to understand what that play may have meant to the game and maybe the season (Hyperbole is acceptable here based on the information provided in the Sports Blog Writers Handbook, Section 7, paragraph 4). I mentioned at the beginning of the article that the team was selling half-price tickets and cheap hot dogs. Well, those tactics got fans in the seats and the sell-out crowd let the team know what they thought. I have not heard energy like that in Cincinnati for a ball game in many years, through a television no less. There was a playoff atmosphere in the park for over half the game last night.

If the Reds make the post-season, many will look to the moment when Ryan Freel is stretched out over the field as a key element in tasting the playoffs. Of course, if the team stumbles in the next six weeks, you’ll always be able to stop by the End of the Bench and hear the familiar, “I told you so.”

Go Reds!

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Five weird things

August 4, 2006

So I got tagged by Christy at Behind the Jersey and Scott at CasonBlog to list five weird things about me. I don’t usually participate in stuff like this, but I’m getting a huge kick out of the fact that hockey bloggers everywhere are doing the same thing at the same time. Who wants to be the loner? I already sit at the End of the Bench, but I’ll play along.

1) I learned to play hockey at the age of 24, never having ice-skated before. The only bruises I ever got were on my shoulders from the straps on my hockey bag.

2) I work in the insurance industry, but I have a degree in Music Education. This is as unrelated as you can get.

3) I first got into hockey while playing NHL ’94 on the Sega Genesis (The Red Wings rule this game). Because you would choose lines by pressing ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ buttons, I thought that’s what the ‘A’ and ‘C’ on the jerseys stood for. I always wondered why I never saw anyone wearing the letter ‘B’. This might make me sound incredibly stupid, but none of my parents (all four of them) followed hockey at the time so I didn’t have anyone to ask. When Columbus was awarded an NHL franchise in 1997, I started to seriously follow hockey (yes, compared to most people in the community I’m very new to the game) and I learned the true meaning of the ‘C’ and ‘A’.

4) I love “running” things. I’ve been in charge of a softball team for years, a fantasy football league, a poker league, various game tournaments, and get-togethers of all kinds. I can organize all these things fairly easily, but I can’t find the electric bill in my office.

5) As a young sports fan, I followed the Buckeyes. In late elementary school through early high school, I cheered for the Wolverines. When it became apparent that I would be attending OSU, I cheered again for the Buckeyes.

There are tons more things that I think are weird about me, but I was only asked for five. I don’t think there’s anyone left on my blogroll that hasn’t done this (that would), so I’m letting the dog die.

Thanks for the Friday diversion. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you soon at the End of the Bench.

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Another sidebar update

August 2, 2006

With little actually happening in the hockey world right now, you’re likely to see a few more posts of this nature in the coming weeks.

I’ve added the Battle of California to the blogroll. The quartet of bloggers follows the California hockey scene with a good dose of humor mixed in with good analysis. I’m looking forward to following these guys in the upcoming season, especially during the long road trips the Jackets have out West.

Cheers from the End of the Bench, guys.