Archive for January, 2007

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If I were an NHL player

January 31, 2007

I saw this one started over at Hockey Rants a few days ago.  I checked again this evening, and just about everyone has gotten in on the action.  See a nice listing over at A Theory of Ice.

I played rec league hockey for two years, but never had any illusions of playing in the NHL aside from the characters I’d create in the NHL video games.  It always amazed me that my guy could net 90 goals a year, but I wasn’t seeing anyone do it in the NHL (kidding).

Without further ado, if I were an NHL player.

  • Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Jersey number: 17
  • Position: Left wing
  • Nickname: I never had a hockey nickname.  Drew would be fine.  Or “Killer”… yeah… Killer.  Or Drew.  whatever.
  • On my line: David Vyborny at right wing, and Steve Yzerman at center.
  • Rounding out the power play: Oh crap, I have to play on the power play?!?  Right, dream world.  Let’s put Lidstrom and my brother NOB (Not on the Bench) out there.  Yeah, NOB doesn’t play hockey, but he played as a hard-hitting defenseman in all my NHL video game dynasties.  And my youngest brother (no clever acronymical nickname as of yet) was always a goaltender, so let’s not forget him either.
  • Job: Going to the front of the net to screen, being a bit of an agitator, and picking up that one or two goals per year from four feet out.
  • Signature move: Tripping over the boards as I try to hit the ice on the fly.
  • Strengths: Tenacity, willingness to take the cross checks, hard hitting, ability to take opposing players off their game
  • Weaknesses: Stopping, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, right cross-overs, backward skating, shooting, passing, getting the puck more than four inches off the ice, need I go on?!?
  • Injury problems: That one spot in my shin guard / knee pad that doesn’t have much padding on the outside of my knee is like a magnet to slapshots from the point when I’m in front of the net.  It shuts off the nerves in my leg and I scoot like a shot puppy off the ice to get help from the trainer.
  • Equipment: CCM helmet with full cage (Mrs. EOB would crap if I played without it), full compliment of pads that take my look from 135 lbs to a whopping 150!!!  Wooden Easton stick with the gentle Mike Modano curve, and cheap Bauer skates (who needs expensive skates when you can’t stop with them anyways?!?)
  • Nemeses: Doug MacLean, Kirk Maltby, Sean Avery, Steve Sullivan, Kris Oliwa, Dwayne Roloson, Todd Bertuzzi, Tony Amonte, Scott Young, Keith Tkachuk, and stopping.
  • Scandal involvement: None off-ice.  On the ice, I’m the guy that everybody loves to see in the dressing room with them but not on the opposing bench.
  • Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Under a different schedule arrangement, the Detroit Red Wings.  As it stands now, the Montreal Canadiens.  Not because I’d want to see the Habs lose, but I’d like to play in Montreal for a SCF game.
  • What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after the victory: Take it to the local Children’s Hospital and share it with kids.
  • What would be the media’s opinion of me: I’m a good hearted guy, but if I’m making anything more than the league minimum I’ll get run out of town for being overpaid.  Lucky for me, I’m okay with that.

I’m not much of a tagger, but I encourage you to head over to A Theory of Ice and look at what everybody else has put up.

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A bit more rewarding

January 31, 2007

In late November, the Jackets had just hired Ken Hitchcock.  They had one game left against the Canucks in what had been a long 3-9-1 month.  Because of my inability to control my need to watch hockey, I stayed up for the late start.  As you can read here, I probably should have went to bed.

Last night, it was a little different.  After finishing up a show on the DVR, Mrs. EOB and I remembered that the boys were playing out West.  We switched to the game and settled in for the night.  She fell asleep after the first, but I stayed awake until the very end.  The hockey gods saw to it that I was rewarded for my diligence.

I missed the first four minutes of the game, so I didn’t get to see Anson Carter net his 200th career goal just 0:17 into the game for a 1-0 Jackets lead.  Seeing/hearing the reaction Carter drew the rest of the game each time he touched the puck, I’m sure it would have been worth it.  I like it when a former player who gets booed in his old home has the opportunity to stick it to the fans.  I’m sure most players would publicly deny that the opportunity to score in that type of circumstance would be any different than any other goal they’ve scored.  So I’ll say it for them (whoever they are)…

“Man that goal felt freakin’ sweet!”

Peter Griffin

(Click to enlarge this one)

Ok, sorry about that.  Back to hockey…

I’ll admit that there was a sense of impending doom in this writer’s view of the future when I realized that Ty Conklin would be getting the next two or three starts.  Sure, he played well in relief against the Wild.  But how long can that last?

Buoyed by the vocalized confidence from his teammates, Conklin put forth a respectable effort.  The huge number of juicy rebounds I’d expected were simply not there.  Many shots were either deflected to the outside or absorbed.  It was a textbook example of how a goalie should play not just on the road, but all the time. 

The two goals the Jackets allowed (let’s call them team goals against and not just Ty’s) to Daniel Sedin and Sammi Salo were both on the power play, and neither were particularly confidence draining from a fan’s point of view (at least this fan).  I know that if either of the goals had been one to put the Canucks ahead, that my story would be different.  Especially given that Roberto (seriously, Robber?  Is this Danny Gare making stuff up or do people in Vancouver call him that?) Luongo is a tough nut to crack.  But as it stood, each of the goals was deflating in a momentum sense, but I did not immediately start on a goaltender rant in my living room. 

How refreshing.

Long story short, the scoreless third period was comprised of stretches of boredom punctuated by brief moments of hard hitting, bile, and hate.  The five minute overtime was mostly ho-hum and it came down to the shootout, every hockey purist’s favorite event.

Me, I don’t mind the shootout.  But I know it’s not for everyone.  In the overtime period, Jeff Rimer commented that the Jackets needed to net one in the extra five because looming in the shootout was Roberto Luongo, one of the best in the business.  If I may nitpick a bit:

  1. Does Roberto (or goalies in general) get better in the shootout compared to ‘regular’ play?
  2. Would it not be just as difficult, if not more so, to get a puck past one of the “best in the business” when he has three to five players assisting him the goal of not allowing a puck to cross the end line?
  3. Was the comment less a commendation of Luongo than a marked concern with the considerably less battle tested Ty Conklin?

Whatever it was, when the graphic was displayed just before the shootout began that Luongo had stopped 13 of 18 shots in the one-on-one competition, color commentator Danny Gare remarked, “he’s not that good.” 

And one other thing that baffled me was the Canucks choice to shoot first.  This year, the home team is given the choice to shoot first or last in the shootout.  I’d be interested to do a little digging into which has worked better.  I know this topic has been addressed in the blogosphere at some point in time this year.

Naslund misses, Vyborny scores, Morrison scores (what a wrister, wow!), Nash is stuffed, Green is robbed, and Zherdev wins it.  Two points for the boys, and the win streak (yeah, we can use that term now) is at four.

Vyborny shooutout goal

Blue Jackets RW David Vyborny outlasts Roberto Luongo to put Columbus up 1-0 in the shootout (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

The boys skated off the ice in Vancouver and onto the plane to Edmonton, where they’ll face the Oilers tonight at Rexall Place.  I’m sure I’ll be up late watching.  Hopefully this Western Canada trip is even better than the last one.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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Blogroll additions

January 29, 2007

I added some new links to the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild categories on the right.  Unfortunately, as of right now you can’t see any of the Minnesota links due to a system glitch.  If this doesn’t get fixed soon…  well, I’ll probably sit and wait until it does.

Hockey posts coming soon!

UPDATE: Everything looks fine now.

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Dose of Reality #29

January 27, 2007

Dose of Reality

I went to Nationwide Arena last night and a hockey game broke out! Was it fun last night? The place was full of Buffalo Sabres fans and many of them had the advantage of drinking large amounts of adult beverages during their five-hour bus ride. The Buffalo people, the ones that I observed, were not obnoxious, not shouting obscenities, and fully supportive of their beloved Sabres. That means that they booed anyone and anything that had Blue Jackets on it, because they were there to cheer on their team. It was their duty.

I read in The Dispatch that some of the Buffalo fans in the upper bowl were throwing beer and I must say that I am skeptical about that. I know people from Buffalo, and believe me, they drink their beer. Beer is important to them and it is not for throwing.

During the past few days, I have been corresponding with other hockey bloggers and fans about the dismal state of the game and the state of hockey in Columbus. Last night, my faith was renewed. That was what going to a hockey game was all about.

The Jackets came out slow, but most teams look slow against Buffalo. Since this was the first game after the All-Star break, both teams were well rested, but the Blue Jackets had more energy in the third period. The home team overcame two power play goals to score two even-strength goals and win. I know that Adam Foote played like he developed a new definition of roughing, but the team got through his foolishness and once again gave us a peek at what might have been.

It would be great if the rest of the home season could capture the emotion and energy of last night. Cheering for the home team, yelling at the officials, booing the visitors, and even calling out a Blue Jacket when he does something selfish and detrimental. I doubt if very many Minnesota fans will make the 650-mile plus trip to Columbus tonight, but Columbus fans can still show the team that they can be counted on. Screaming at Detroit doesn’t count, though, because most fans in Columbus think that the whole state of Michigan are UM fans. They have other loyalties, too. But can you imagine Nationwide if the Penguins came to town a couple of times each season?

I can’t wait for tonight! If the team can play as well as it did last night and the fans support the team like they did last night, it will be a great experience. That is not an indictment of the Blue Jacket fans, because they haven’t had much to get excited about. I hope the players found out that their fans are starved for good hockey and will really show their appreciation when they see it. Yes, it was good for them, too.

– Truth Serum

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Dose of Reality #28

January 24, 2007

Dose of Reality

In some of the comments on this blog and others out there on the internets, I read about how selfish Nick Zherdev is and how bad he is for the Blue Jackets. On the second point I won’t I won’t argue much because it is hard to see any positives with Zherdev’s season. But I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions just because the team beat Detroit without him.

I do take issue with labeling Zherdev selfish. Is he selfish because he doesn’t score that much? Should he pass the puck to one of his teammates more so they can also not score? Should he play more like Vyborny and carry the puck up ice more but pass instead of shooting? Zherdev is a snapshot of the team and the team is not good this season. Maybe if he scored more the team wouldn’t be shut out so much. The season is bad when not being shut out so much is something to hope for.

All NHL players have egos and they all think they can skate around the defender waiting for them. Truthfully, most of them can skate around anyone in the NHL, but the coaches are so conservative that they beat it out of the players until they too, become conservative. I am sure that Ken Hitchcock will have Zherdev playing the NHL way next season. If not, he will be gone.

If Zherdev’s fellow Blue Jackets felt he was selfish, you would have heard about it by now. Every player that I have talked to has never said anything about him being selfish. They wish the best for him because when he starts clicking the team will be better and win. On the whole, this team gets along fine with each other and doesn’t do any finger pointing. They pass him the puck when he is open and they stick up for him on the ice.

Contrast Nikolai Zherdev’s entry into the NHL with that of Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. George McPhee, the team GM who does not have an ego, brought over the whole Ovechkin family so that the young Russian would have some stability in his new life in America. He worked on a plan so that people who supported him and spoke his language would surround Ovechkin. Remember, Zherdev was facing desertion charges from the Russian Army if he went to Columbus.

One writer commented that picking up both Anson Carter and Zherdev was a mistake. For different reasons, I agree. The team paid way too much for Carter and he has not put up the numbers that were expected. But who is putting up numbers on this team? Is everyone happy with Nash? How about Foote, who is constantly mentioned on the wrong lists that hockey writers come up with. Adam was just named to the Anti-All Star team by a writer at The Globe and Mail of Canada. You don’t want to brag about making that team.

This is not a good season here in Columbus, but it is hard to single out someone like Zherdev or anyone else. He is just one of the many under producing players that make up this year’s team. I think that Nikolai Zherdev should have put up 30-35 goals this season, so at this point he should have about 15-17 goals; he only has seven. Rick Nash has 13 goals; many people think he should score 40+ per season.

– Truth Serum

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CBJ Bloggers: Posts of the season

January 23, 2007

It’s the All-Star break.  Five days of relatively little hockey.  Yeah, we’ve got the Skills Competition and YoungStars game tonight, and the ‘big’ event tomorrow night.  All of which I’ll surely watch.  But not a whole lot to talk about.  I’ve got a few things planned for the next few days, starting with today’s feature.

There are now three full-time CBJ blogs I’m aware of:  (I’m ending sentences with prepositions… I think… so there!)  Army of the Ohio (Michael), The Jacket Times (Tyler and Yoder), and End of the Bench (Drew and Truth).  There are also two other sites that are more OSU related but have the regular feature on the Jackets: Death Cab for Woody (Herringbone) and Men of the Scarlet and Gray (sportsMonkey and el Kaiser).  I decided to go back through their archives and pick out my favorite posts from all of them for this season.

Without further ado, I present in chronological order, the End of the Bench picked CBJ blogger best posts of the season (so far…) (wow, what a sentence!):

  • October 11, 2006 at The Jacket Times – Tyler gives his take on enforcers, a dying breed?
  • November 14, 2006 at Army of the Ohio – Michael talks about a very trying week in Columbus.
  • November 17, 2006 at Army of the Ohio – Michael wonders how CGMDM has lasted this long.
  • November 22, 2006 at The Jacket Times – Yoder outlines his thoughts on the coaching search and selection.
  • November 29, 2006 at Death Cab for Woody – Herringbone beats me to the punch discussing the “Chimera Paradigm”.
  • December 1, 2006 at The Jacket Times – Tyler outlines one of the many goal controversies Jackets fans have lived through this season.
  • December 6, 2006 at Army of the Ohio – Michael sums up the great feeling we all had in Columbus in early December.
  • December 12, 2006 at The Jacket Times – Tyler dishes on casual use of the “P-word.”
  • December 20, 2006 at Army of the Ohio – I have a soft spot in my heart for rants against the CBJ.  It’s where this site originated, after all.
  • December 24, 2006 at Army of the Ohio – Santa Mike.  Remember visiting him at the mall?
  • December 26, 2006 at Death Cab for Woody – Herringbone gives his account of the exciting OT win over Boston.
  • December 30, 2006 at Men of the Scarlet and Gray – sportsMonkey discusses yet another referee/war room glitch.
  • January 4, 2007 at Army of the Ohio – Michael takes a closer look at those who call the game.
  • January 7, 2007 at The Jacket Times – The refereeing mistake of the year?  You decide.

With thirty-some games left to play, here’s hoping you’ll get to read about a few more wins from these guys.  Stop on over to their sites if you don’t already, and read some of the great fan writing about the Jackets.  If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t write.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the All-Star break

January 22, 2007

The Red Wings came to town this past Friday, and lost to the Jackets 3-1. 

Due to extreme laziness, I haven’t written anything about Friday, but I find it somewhat interesting that nobody else did either (okay, so in retrospect there was a blurb at The Jacket Times, but I didn’t see it until today).  Perhaps the Wings writers don’t think it’s much worth writing about (losing to an inferior team), and maybe the Blue Jackets writers all thought the All-Star break started after Thursday’s game?  Oh well… here goes.

I was hanging out with the guys after work on Friday, and one of my friends (the one who recorded the Blue Jackets’ Christmas album) came in asking if anyone wanted to go to the game that night.  My one friend, we’ll call him Cletus to preserve his anonymity, decided we’d go.  We arrived during the first intermission and sat down with our hot dogs (is there anything better than a mustard covered hot dog at a sporting event???) to watch the second period.

After watching and/or listening to most of the last few games, I was surprised to see the Jackets taking it to the Red Wings.  There were still issues with maintaining puck possession (Jason Chimera, please learn how to put the puck over the blueline so that your teammates aren’t offside… please!), but Columbus looked very composed in the second.  Alexander Svitov scored on a deflection in the second to put the team up 2-0.  As the lady next to me said during the intermission, “20 minutes is a lifetime against a team like Detroit.”  I had no doubt she was right.

Svitov Scores

(Columbus forward Alexander Svitov celebrates after putting the Jackets up 2-0.  AP Photo)

The Red Wings came out in the third determined to shoot, score, and win.  They put 22 pucks on net in the period, netted one, but it didn’t mean much in the end as Columbus held on to win 3-1.  The only two wins I’ve seen in Nationwide this year have come against the Red Wings, which pleases me greatly.  Now if we could just beat Nashville a time or two, we’d be cooking with gas.

shots on goal 1-19

Cletus and I were watching the game, and I remarked that Nikolai Zherdev wasn’t playing.  I didn’t recall hearing that he’d been injured the night before, and though I didn’t think to ask the people sitting next to me I had a strange suspicion that he had been scratched.  I talked about this a few weeks back, detailing what I would do with Zherdev.  According to Aaron Portzline in Saturday’s Sports section, Zherdev was a healthy scratch against the Wings.  Did Ken Hitchcock start reading the End of the Bench?

Zherdev has never been accused of being a two-way player.

“It’s about playing the game the right way,” Hitchcock said. “I expect everybody to adhere to that. … Everybody has a different (skill) level. But when the other team has the puck, we all need to look the same. All of us.”

As a co-worker of mine remarked today, “there’s something not right mentally with Zherdev.”  While I’m not sure I’d go that far, something is up.  After having a great stretch of games right around Thanksgiving, Zherdev seems to have abandoned the will to check and play defense and put all his energy into failed toe-drag moves.

EOB to Nikolai: You’ve been in the league three years now.  Your dipsy-doodle BS has worked about once each year,  it’s time for a new move.  Or maybe… just start playing defense.  Whatever.

Sarcasm aside, whatever efforts being made to reach out to Zherdev and create a sense of accountability do not seem to be working.  Whether it’s Fedorov, Svitov, or even another teammate/coach that doesn’t speak his language… it’s not happening.  With Zherdev’s new contract being signed prior to this season, I have no doubt that Doug MacLean will ride him at least another year before considering trading him.  Unfortunately, his on-ice value is so low compared to his contract value that we wouldn’t get much for him.  Potential is not very quantifiable in a trade.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.