Dose of Reality #36

March 28, 2007

The Jackets whipped St. Louis for their fourth in a row.  That’s great, but you know what would be even better?  If they have one of these streaks in October or November of next season.  That would go along nicely with the concession stand discount that I look forward to next year.

I’m going to go off on some other topics now because what more needs to be said about the current Blue Jacket team?

I read a local blog, The Neutral Zone Trap, and recommend it to everyone.  Sarah, the blogger, does a fine job covering hockey, food, and culture in the Columbus area.  She blogged about high school hockey the other day, mentioning Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky programs, and I wanted to share some things with her.  I have had experience with high school hockey in these two areas and I wanted to let her know that teams in Cincinnati are very competitive with Columbus area teams and easily hold their own.  I have seen one Kentucky team play, Trinity from Louisville.  They also were pretty tough, but did not have the depth of our local teams and ran out of gas in the two games I saw them play.  But the programs from the South are very respectable and will only get better.  The same can be said about Columbus; our teams still don’t have the depth of the Cleveland and Toledo area teams and need to develop overall quality to go along with the increasing numbers.

One other issue that Sarah brought up was girls playing high school hockey.  The three Dublin high schools have a lot of kids playing and they had two girls playing JV and one on the Scioto varsity this year.  Hilliard had a girl playing on their varsity.  UA has had girls in the past.  Gahanna had a girl go through their varsity program and she now plays at OSU.  Centerville Club had two sisters playing on their team who were pretty good matches against the boys.  My point is that there are lots of girls playing high school hockey in the Columbus area and they are not just taking up a roster spot.

Moving on, Patrick made an interesting comment on my last post.  He talked about the MacLean factor on the Blue Jackets.  He said, and I agree, that MacLean does not have the ear of the players in the dressing room because the team now belongs to Ken Hitchcock.  I’m not sure if MacLean ever had “the ear” of the players, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try.  I often wondered why I could never see the strings attached to Gallant that MacLean was pulling when Turk was coaching the team.

Patrick’s comments and Drew’s post about Vyborny leaving the Columbus team and area in a year made me think about the organization and the signings of MacLean.  Many of us fans and bloggers have discussed about how MacLean has a tendency to over-pay for players.  Marchant, Carter, Foote, Fedorov, and others come to mind when you consider that category.  But what if MacLean himself, with his meddling and ego, is the reason why these players get more to come play in Columbus?  If you are a top tier free agent and your choice is Columbus (with Doug MacLean) and Minnesota or St. Louis or Phoenix or any other middle-of-the road North American city, would you factor in a surcharge to play here?  Think about real life; if you are comfortable in your current job, but another company shows interest in you, would you factor in the cost to start all over with a new organization, new people, new management, and new values?  What if you knew that although the other company pays more, their turnover rate is higher due to things like pressure and management style?  You would figure out a cost for this and if you don’t get it, you won’t move.

Now if you are Anson Carter and you looking around, how much more will you need to see from Columbus before you take them seriously?  To cut to the chase, does having Doug MacLean as GM, with his record of under-performing, drive up the cost of free agents for Columbus?  Does the team’s reputation of not having a strong coach, of going after players that they want instead of what they need, and of having a moody GM drive up the cost of doing business here in Columbus?

As Patrick states, Hitch is now the leader of the team, but unfortunately his rival will not just fade into the background.  Next season will give us some answers, but it probably will raise a lot of questions, too.  One question is what would it take to get David Vyborny to stay a bit longer?

– Truth Serum



  1. David Vyborny has played inspired hockey over the last three months just as the “culture” within the Jackets has nicely evolved under Hitch. For Vyborny to stay say, another couple of seasons, I believe it will take a solid commitment from management to put a winning team on the ice. Arguably, Vyborny has on many nights been the Jackets most reliable player with honorable mentions going lately to Freddie Modin and Freddie Noreena. Over the last month the pieces to the puzzle, that being the playoffs for Columbus, seem better attainable than ever. To keep Vyborny for 2 more years, MacLean or whomever will need to demonstrate a more orthodox approach to icing a winning team. On the radio today MacLean was hesitant to outline a gameplan especially for a top center. But the real need is for a top defenceman, which is key for any elite team (look at Anaheim or Buffalo or Detroit or Nashville as examples). Sergei Federov on defence is a bandaid and an expensive one at that.

    It’s a cliche`,but all Vyborny wants to do is win more than 30 odd games a year. Winning for Vyborny is the Stanley Cup or the Olympics or the World Championships not establishing some minor win total like the Jackets have right now. It just doesn’t matter to Vyborny unless he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. MacLean has used up all of his goodwill with the Columbus faithful and with the new sherrif in town (Hitchcock) there’s no fooling around. Hitch is about winning and nothing less. Last night on the St.Louis feed, John Davidson ( new president of the Blues and ex employee of MSG) looked straight into the camera and said that nothing less than a Stanley Cup for the Blues is acceptable. Talk about putting your stones against the wall. If MacLean were to do that with the Jackets, then maybe Vyborny will spend a few more years in the Buckeye State.

    p.s. I know Vyborny was slighted at the selection of Rick Nash for the All Star team this year. Clearly David Vyborny was the obvious selection and don’t tell me that David did not notice the kick in the rear. It’s a little thing, but they add up over time.I get most feeds from the opposing telecasts and they all start with Freddie Modin and Vyborny as the leaders up front. They then go to Nash and say what a down year he has had. Is perception in this case reality?

  2. Patrick-

    I think you’re correct.

    I have no doubt that at this point in their respective careers, Fredrik Modin and David Vyborny are bigger leaders in the clubhouse than Rick Nash. I suspect that they are more leaders by example (especially Vyborny), but that they likely carry the room.

    I think we’d all like to think that Rick can be that guy right now, but I bet a lot of people in Florida wished that Vinny Lecavalier would’ve been that guy a few years back as well.

    Talent at that age is a special thing, but I think that the combination of talent and leadership when you’re that young is extremely rare. Most people find it hard to believe that someone who is so good at the physical aspects of a game/sport is incapable of being an effective leader at the age of 21.

    I think Rick can grow into that role, but it will take a little time with him.

  3. Drew, I think your questions about whether we have to pay players more to come here is legitimate. ESPECIALLY, now that the players’ survey has come out, and Columbus didn’t get A SINGLE vote for being a team that players would want to play for (other than their own). I don’t know what the exact reasons are for this (McLean, the losing, the city itself?), but I find it very interesting. Here’s the link… http://www.thehockeynews.com/en/news/news.asp?idNews=24100

  4. Jessica, I think the main reason is indifference or little knowledge of Columbus, and probably the losing. If you look at the next question (which team would you least want to be traded to?), CBJ is near the bottom, tied suprisingly with Montreal. That tells me that though CBJ is not a top desire, it’s by no means a dreaded one either. At least publicly, most of the guys that come to the team say the love the area and the fans. I think once CBJ starts winning on a more consistant basis, there’ll be more top free agents wanting to come here without a premium price tag.

  5. Jessica-

    It was actually Truth Serum who brought that up, but I agree with you that it is a thought provoking idea. Guys may not want to come here at first (other than for money), but I haven’t heard anyone say bad things about the city, fans, or the media (the last two of which may be partial reasons that some guys don’t want to go to Montreal) as Jeff also mentioned.

    Thanks both for dropping by. Come back soon.

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