Archive for September, 2006

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Johnson and Tverdovsky to LA; Belanger and Gleason to Carolina

September 29, 2006

Man, I can’t wait to see what The Caniac Nation has to say about this one.

Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson, drafted 3rd overall by the Hurricanes in 2005, has rebuffed two requests to turn pro in the last year.  He’s just been traded to the Kings along with Oleg Tverdovsky and his big contract for two younger players that will step right into the lineup for the ‘Canes.  If Johnson makes the leap to LA before the season is out, you might be able to hear the mob from here in Columbus.

I brought it up regarding Deion Branch and the Patriots situation, and I have to ask it again here: Why would anyone not want to jump onto (or stay on, in Branch’s case) a team that has a recent track record of being quite successful?  Even if Johnson wants to finish school as he says (which is admirable given today’s NFL and NBA landscape), why not finish your amateur career with the Wolverines and the US National team and then go to play for the ‘Canes? 

Beats me.

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Perfect timing

September 29, 2006

Now that we’ve all gotten the giggles out of our system for the Blue Jackets finally coming to terms with winger Nikolai Zherdev, let’s examine the emotional landscape here in Columbus.

After running the spectrum of accepted super-fan emotions on the Zherdev saga (casual disinterest, anger, disbelief, anger, relief – I left out ‘reason’ for a good cause), the eternal pessimist in me has to examine the greatest force in all fandom… timing. 

Right now, Blue Jacket fans are excited about the season.  Zherdev is signed, Brule is ready to go, Nash is healthy.  LET’S ROCK! 

How soon we’ve forgotten the nightmares we were all having during the last week.  Sergei Fedorov goes down for four to six weeks, Alexander Svitov goes out two to three weeks, we’ve got no more than one proven center (a third-liner at that) on the roster.  WHAT THE HECK ARE WE GOING TO DO???

I have to think that if Zherdev had signed earlier in the summer, and all other moves had proceeded as they have that fans would be up in arms regarding our chances out of the gate.  Last year, early season injuries proved to be the noose that fortune hung from the branches while the Jackets dutifully accepted their fate.  This preseason saw Fedorov and Svitov injured, Berard still iffy-at-best, and Foote not playing in an exhibition contest to date.  Cue the 2005-06 tape, and play.

But as it stands, most folks are able to let a little reason creep in.  Our two Russian centers will be back by mid-to-late October at the latest, so they’re not really missing that much time.  Zherdev is signed eight days before the season starts, so the fans can rejoice in the streets and be overly optimistic.  He may not be in Columbus for another week to ten days due to visa issues, but he’ll be here. 

Knowing now what I do, I’d much rather have a positive outlook from fans as we do than the “here we go again” attitude that likely would have prevailed otherwise.  As Rick Nash stated in today’s Columbus Dispatch, “There has been playoff talk ever since I got here, we have to quit [talking about it] and start doing it.”  This team needs leadership as much as anything else, and this kid looks to be stepping up to the plate.

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Nikolai Zherdev signs… finally

September 28, 2006

After all the blustering on both sides, the Columbus Blue Jackets finally came to terms with young winger Nikolai Zherdev (full story at TSN.ca).  While terms have not been disclosed at this time, it’s rumored that the deal is in excess of $7 million over three years.  It remains to be seen if Zherdev will be able to make it back to Columbus to suit up for next Friday’s season opener.

This certainly is a positive note in a week full of subtle downers for Columbus fans.  With Fedorov and Svitov out with injuries (short-term, but still missing games), Blue Jacket fans were looking towards October 6 with a mix of excitement and trepidation.  There are still questions for the CBJ, but at least one thunder cloud has lifted.

Now, the interesting question is how will the lines shake out once all in question have returned from injury?  I’ll examine my thoughts on this in an upcoming post.

Hat tip to Paul at Kukla’s Korner, for telling me months ago that Zherdev would sign.

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Klesla suspended, and other miscellany

September 26, 2006

A lot of little things have been going on in the last week or so if you’re a CBJ fan.  Here’s what’s interesting to me:

  • Rusty Klesla has been suspended for two games for his knee to knee hit on Tuomo Ruutu (full story at CBS Sportsline).  I have mixed emotions on this one.  First of all, kneeing is dirty pool, and not acceptable under any circumstances.  Rusty probably didn’t mean to do it, but I haven’t (and likely won’t for a while) see any video so I don’t know for sure.  The suspension is warranted, for sure.  I hope that Tuomo is okay, and will be able to make it back to the ice soon.  On the other hand, perhaps this is Rusty turning the corner into a more physical defenseman.  The legacy of Adam Foote aside, the Blue Jackets don’t have a defenseman who makes you shudder at the thought of having to play against him.  I cringe when I know that the CBJ forwards have to play against very physical D-men (especially borderline dirty players like Bryan Marchment or Vitaly Vishnevski, it seems those guys are always ‘hunting’), and it would be nice to have one or two of those types of players on our bench.  Kneeing is not the way to go, but it would be nice to see a couple more checks like the one Rusty laid on a Flame last February (I wish I could find a YouTube of this). 
  • Alexander Svitov suffered a shoulder separation in Sunday’s pre-season win over the Hurricanes (full story from Columbus Dispatch) and will be out two to three weeks (yet another story from the Dispatch, here) according to reports released Monday.  It’s looking like rookie Gilbert Brule will be the top line center on opening night.  If he’s as good as everyone says, this could be a huge step for him.  I still think that the Blue Jackets will struggle to top .500 until Sergei Fedorov returns, and even that is not a guarantee (as I’m sure so many Jackets detractors will point out to me).
  • Rick Nash, Alexandre Picard, and Geoff Platt all appear on James Mirtle’s list of top pre-season scorers.  Nash is obviously a lock for the regular season roster when play starts in ten days.  Picard and Platt both received extended auditions last year, and both are apparently out to show that they’d really like to be considered for regular duty.  Picard was a first round pick in 2004, and will likely make the team either this year or next.  His bang-em-up style lacked a scoring punch last season, and his bout with vertigo probably didn’t help his cause.  Platt is a small center (5’9″, 180 lbs) who possesses quite a bit of speed.  Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere, Martin St. Louis, Steve Sullivan, and others have shown that it’s not impossible to play in the NHL if you’re undersized.  Whether Platt can develop into a player of this caliber is yet to be determined, but judging from listening to him speak and watching him play I have to think he has the proper mind set.
  • For recaps of the exhibition games, be sure to head on over to Army of the Ohio where Michael has all the action covered.
  • Jes Golbez has reset the Balastik monitor for the 2006-07 season.  Let the goal parade begin!
  • Congratulations go out to the Tigers, and to the fans (I know a few who lurk around here) that have stuck with them through the thick and thin of the last many years.  Detroit has clinched a post-season bid and will look to make it to their first World Series in over twenty years.
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Why I wish Rolly Hedges was my neighbor

September 21, 2006

Rolly Hedges, agent for missing Blue Jackets star Nikolai Zherdev, was quoted in the Ottawa Sun today (found via Kukla) as saying,

“We’re dealing with (Columbus GM) Doug MacLean here,” said Hedges. “My sense is (Zherdev’s) going to be playing in Russia (this season).”

This sounds like a guy I could chat with over the fence.  We’d stand around sipping our beverage of choice and laugh for hours while playing the game “How crappy of a GM is Doug MacLean?”  I can see it now…

Drew: Okay, okay… my turn!!

Rolly:  Alright, fine.  Drew, if Doug MacLean were to manage your lawn, how crappy of a lawn GM would he be?

Drew:  Oooh, tough one.  Let’s think.  Well, he’s going to need a few things.  Like a lawnmower (the basic yard care tool), and a trimmer (the highly skilled and specialized mower, if you will). 

Rolly:  Good start, keep it going.

Drew:  He’s got a decent sized yard, so crappy GM Doug MacLean (CGMDM) decides he needs a riding mower.  While shopping around, he finds that there are two kinds of riding mowers.  1) Really good ones that cost a lot of money.  2) Mediocre to bad ones that don’t cost all that much.  Rather than spend a little coin to get the cherry mower that will do the job right the first time, CGMDM decides to pay “good mower money” for a mediocre to bad mower, all the while expecting the crappy mower to do the same quality job as he’s paying it to do.  You can imagine how this works out.

Rolly:  Nice, you’re doing better than I thought.

Drew:  Pipe down Secret Agent Man, I’ve got more coming.  Okay, so CGMDM sees this trimmer that looks awesome.  The box at the store tells him all the fantastic things the trimmer can do, which might help make up a bit for the mower he purchased.  The only problem is, the paperwork involved in getting the trimmer home is complicated.  All sorts of warranties, release forms, and other various things are required for CGMDM to get this fabulous trimmer into his garage.  Finally, about halfway through his grass-cutting season, the trimmer appears on his doorstep ready to go.  He takes it out and fires it up.  And oh man is it sweet!  It’s the Swiss Army knife/Ginsu/universal remote of trimmers.  It’s extremely flashy, wows the neighbors, the works.  It can’t prevent (or defend if you prefer…) the whole yard from looking crappy (only the best of the super trimmers can do that), but boy does it look flashy.  Then, trouble strikes.  The trimmer has a mechanical problem.  While it didn’t cost too much money to actually get the trimmer (just a lot of paperwork), it’s going to cost a lot to get it back into action.

Rolly:  Do I know this trimmer?

Drew:  Hang on, I’m almost done.  So CGMDM decides that he’ll lowball the trimmer repairman and see if he’ll do the job for a third of the cost, take it or leave it.  Part of the trimmer paperwork included a clause that if the trimmer didn’t get fixed properly when broken, it would return to the dealer for use by someone who will pay to get it fixed.  CGMDM doesn’t seem to care.  He’s not going to pay that much to get the trimmer fixed.  That trimmer can do yardwork in Russia for all he cares.  It might make the yard look great, and all the neighbors love it, but it’s not worth it.  CGMDM compensates for the trimmer loss by overpaying for another crappy mower.

Rolly:  Wow, A-plus for you dude.  You’ve proved today that Doug MacLean is a really crappy GM.

Drew:  Thanks, man.

Rolly:  Sure thing.  Hey, want to try out my sweet trimmer?

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Fedorov hurt in exhibition game

September 20, 2006

Shortly into the second period against a pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres, Blue Jackets center Sergei Fedorov went shoulder first into the boards.  He left the ice, not to return for the game.  Full story from the Dispatch here.

Fedorov Hurt

Tests will be performed today to determine the severity of the injury.  While Fedorov is not playing at the same level he was ten years ago (or even five for that matter), it is arguable that he means as much or more to this CBJ team than he did to past Detroit squads.  If he is sidelined for an appreciable amount of time, it could mean another gloomy start to a season.  The only good thing that might come from another poor season would be increasing pressure on ownership to oust Doug MacLean. 

The hope for Columbus fans is that the injury is not major, and Sergei can return to the ice within a few weeks.  The Blue Jackets have only four games in the first fourteen days of the season (and seven in the first twenty-one days), so even if he has to miss a month from today, that’s only four or five games.  That would be a sight better than the 35 missed by Rick Nash at the beginning of last season.

What hasn’t gone unnoticed after last night is the fact that the Blue Jackets are a bit thin through the middle.  The probable centers at this point would be Fedorov, Brule, Malhotra, and Svitov.  Anson Carter filled in on face-offs following Sergei’s departure, but I’m not sure if he’s able to play the position on a regular basis.  Other centermen gunning for the big club would be Mark Hartigan, Joakim Lindstrom, Geoff Platt, and Ben Simon.  Yes, I can hear the collective “who?!?” from the crowd.  It scares me too.

Update (9/21 9:00 AM) According to multiple media sources (seen here at TSN), Fedorov is out four to six weeks.  So it looks like we’ll be without our #1 center for roughly four to ten games.

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Adding some more links before we get started

September 20, 2006

I’ve added a few more sites to the sidebar.

First up, we’ve got Tyler over at mc79hockey.  An Oilers blogger who is not afraid to dig deep into statistics and do his analysis, Tyler crafts his arguments carefully and does not spare any space in getting his point across.  You may not like what he has to say, but it’s tough to argue against numbers.

Next, I’ve finally gotten around to adding the guys over at Battle of Alberta.  With one writer covering covering each of the Alberta teams (both Calgary and Edmonton), these guys often have a back-and-forth that reminds me of two bickering brothers or best friends.  Humor, knowledge, passion, and frequent updates all help the uninitiated transform to daily readers.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.