Archive for April, 2007

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Dose of Reality #46

April 26, 2007

Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail wrote a thoughtful piece on the problems of renting a player and used examples of Nashville and Atlanta. Both teams paid dearly for their rentals, Peter Forsberg and Keith Tkachuk, but both were quickly eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. The move by Nashville was somewhat out of character for them since they have been patient with their player development, bringing their stars along slowly and staying away from costly and unpredictable free agents.

I know, you’re a CBJ fan and are saying so what, we’ve never even had the need for a rental here in Columbus. You are absolutely correct, but instead our team has gone out and signed some high-cost player leases. Bear with me here for a moment.

You know someone who went out and leased a car for three, four, or five years and then painfully learns that the lease is not appropriate for them, but they are stuck for longer than they wish with an expensive car that they don’t want anymore.

Your friend went out and leased that big SUV back when gas was less than $2.00 per gallon. It was a good fit because he only had a five-mile commute, he was hauling his kids to all kinds of events, and it looked good, showing his neighbors that he had arrived.

That commute is now over 30 miles a day and gas is well over $2.60 a gallon. His kids don’t play three sports a year anymore and the wife complains about how it is not that easy to even stack groceries in the back of the vehicle. It doesn’t even have a navigation unit or satellite radio, and there are lots of newer models out there that are cheaper, more efficient, and better looking! Your friend even leaves the car parked in his driveway most days because he has too many miles on it and it really doesn’t fit his needs anymore.

So as the Blue Jackets look for a new general manager, I hope they ask the candidate how he feels about player leases. Does the candidate think taking on an expensive player who hasn’t put up good numbers in a few seasons while passing the age of 35 a good idea? How does the candidate feel about the taking on expensive player leases while the team is trying to develop their draft picks in Syracuse and Dayton?

This is the best part of Duhatschek’s article:

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: In a salary-cap world, the most valuable commodities are players that fit into three categories: Young, good and cheap. Every year, there’ll be a decent quantity of unrestricted free agents in the summer to tempt the discriminating shopper…

Young, good and cheap are criteria to look for, not the name of a marketing firm.

-Truth Serum

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2007 NHL Second Round Playoff Predictions

April 25, 2007

I didn’t do quite as well as Truth did in my picks for the first round.  I missed both of the 4 vs. 5 matchups.  Wiping the slate clean, I’m starting fresh for round two.  Here are my selections to advance in the conference semifinals.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres (#1) vs. New York Rangers (#6)

Drew’s take:  Henrik Lundqvist is my key to this series.  If he can slow down the four very viable lines of the Sabres, it may be enough for Jagr to lead the Rangers to the conference finals.  Something else to watch will be Sean Avery getting under the skin of Buffalo players and fans.  Should be fun.

Drew’s pick: Logo BUF

New Jersey Devils (#2) vs. Ottawa Senators (#4)

Drew’s take:  Marty, Marty, it’s a playoff party.  2.26 GAA, 0.917 Sv%, one shutout, and four wins.  An experienced Devil squad takes on a Senators team that finally seems to have shown up in the playoffs.  Strong defense against strong offense.  The adage is that defense wins championships.  My addendum is that you actually have to get to the finals to get your name on the Cup.

Drew’s pick: Logo OTT

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (#1) vs. San Jose Sharks (#5)

Drew’s take:  A lot of people were looking at Detroit’s first round matchup with Calgary to see how the Wings would hold up against the tough Flame team.  I think we can safely say at this point that Detroit is no pushover.  They played great hockey for most of the series, and put on quite a show with their puck-possession game.  San Jose dismissed the Predators for the second year in a row, and have earned the right to face the number one team in the conference.  Nicklas Lidstrom could be elevated to legendary status if he can shut down Joe Thornton and the Wings go on to win the whole thing.  But I’m thinking Joe will be doing all he can to shake the label of a great player who can’t win when it matters.

Drew’s pick: Logo SJS

Anaheim Ducks (#2) vs. Vancouver Canucks (#3)

Drew’s take: About ten months ago, I made some comparisons between Roberto Luongo and Marc Denis, or more accurately between their respective teams.  At the time, they were members of the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets.  It wasn’t my intention to say that Denis was of the same caliber as Luongo, but I’d understand if some people saw it that way.  Seeing what Luongo has done in Vancouver this season, now would be the time for anyone who misread the original post to email me with a “told ya so!”  On a team with mediocre scoring depth, Roberto Luongo has turned the Canucks into a contender.  The question for today is this: how will he fare against a team that has considerably more scoring depth (Anaheim) than did Dallas?  If the young Ducklings (Getzlaf, Perry, Penner, Beauchemin) can continue their strong play, Luongo may have to continue pining for that Cup inscription.

Drew’s pick: Logo ANA

Things get started tonight with the Sabres and Rangers at 7, and the Ducks and Canucks at 10.  Tomorrow night sees the Devils and Senators at 7, and the Wings and Sharks at 7:30.  Let’s all hope we continue to see good, solid hockey.

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Dose of Reality #45

April 24, 2007

Round 2 Playoff Picks

OK, how did I do in Round 1?  I got them all, even though I missed out on a few of my predictions of how long some of the series’ would go.

Buffalo vs. NY Rangers, Buffalo 4-3.  I thought Atlanta would give the Rangers a fight, but I didn’t account for their bad coaching.  And I should know better, I live in Columbus.

New Jersey vs. Ottawa, Ottawa 4-3.  I am taking a chance here.  Although I do not think that the Senators will win their next round, they have the scoring and toughness to win this series.  The Devils relied far too much on Martin Brodeur to bail them out against the Lightening, which is not a good idea against the Senators.

Detroit vs. San Jose, San Jose 4-3.  This prediction is really my toss-up.  The Wings showed their class and toughness against Calgary, but the Sharks are even tougher and, of course, better.  But if the Wings can stay healthy for this one, they may pull it out.

Anaheim vs. Vancouver, Anaheim 4-2.  Anaheim is tough and doesn’t have a glaring weakness.  Vancouver got stretched by Dallas and nearly coughed it up until finally breaking Marty Turco in game 7.

I don’t screen the comments, so let me have it.

-Truth Serum

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Open letter to Ohio State sports fans

April 23, 2007

Note: I wrote most of this on April 3rd, immediately after the NCAA tournament final and before I saw the reaction of the city.  So while not all contained below is still relevant, I still wanted to finish this up and get it out there. 

Dear Ohio State sports fan:

Please be aware of how lucky we are.  In the past seven months, we (yes, I’m included here) have been blessed as fans.  With the success of the university’s major sports programs, Buckeye fans should be grateful.

As everyone knows, OSU football rules in central Ohio, often to extremes.  In most years, OSU basketball is something to be followed while football is out of season.  A distant second, if you will.  Still, year in and year out we dutifully camp out at tailgate parties, line up at Ohio Stadium and Value City Arena, crowd in front of the television set, or huddle around the radio to enjoy our beloved Buckeyes.  Whether you’re an alum, born a Buckeye, or a convert: you know there’s nothing like watching and cheering the scarlet and gray.

Since September 2nd, 2006, the football and basketball Buckeyes have done the following:

  • Earned a combined (47-5) record. (12-1) for football and (35-4) for basketball.
  • Won a football and basketball Big Ten Championship.
  • Played in each sport’s National Championship game.
  • Been led by a Heisman Trophy winner in football and the National Defensive Player of the Year in basketball.
  • Provided a lot to be proud of for their mostly loyal fans.

Why do I say “mostly” loyal?  Those of you who didn’t want to face Florida in the final basketball game know why. 

Some Buckeye fans were so distraught at the January 8th drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators in the BCS title game (41-14 final for those keeping score), that they couldn’t bear the thought of losing to the basketball Gators in the basketball final and having to “suffer the ridicule” sure to be inflicted upon them from Florida fans.  Really, is that what it’s come to?

No other Division I program can say that their two money sports had a combined winning percentage of over 90% during this past school year.  Even Florida, who earned both national titles, can’t say that (they come in second at 88.9%).  I understand that the ultimate is winning the title, but when you have roughly 119 teams competing in D-I football and over 300 competing in D-I basketball I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to win either of these titles in any given year, let alone both.  (I understand that realistic expectations are not part of every Buckeye fan’s arsenal).

“But,” you say, “the Florida Gators have accomplished just that, beating my Buckeyes to win each title.” 

It’s true.  And the football and basketball programs in Gainesville should be receiving all the credit in the world for what they’ve accomplished.  Winning it all is the goal, and they’re batting 1.000 this year.

“So, Drew… what the hell is your point?”

I have two points, I guess. 

First, that I think it is shameful for any true Buckeye fan to not be supremely proud of our Ohio State athletes after the year they’ve given us.  Losing two title games in three months is nothing to cry about.  You’ve had the joy of watching guys who will be “one-namer’s” in Columbus for a long time: Troy, Teddy, Gonzo, Oden, and Conley.  You’ve jumped out of your chair in disbelief at hail mary passes, nail biting victories, lightning quick steals, and thunderous dunks.  You cheered and exhorted at every turn.  Losing a final game is no reason for these athletes to see your back turn, or to watch you crawl into a blanket because you can’t bear to watch another damn Gator Chomp.

Secondly, and I guess this is related to the above point, regardless of what many obsessed OSU fans may think: it’s not our God-given right to win every game, title, and award there is.  I was as disappointed as the next guy when the football Bucks got decimated in Glendale.  But from a purely sociological standpoint, I was fascinated.  In the span of 24-hours, the team went from being king to a failure.  Staunch supporters didn’t want to show up to work the next day because they didn’t have to think about how bad their team lost.  Then the basketball team, starting two freshmen, takes the team and the city on an unforgettable ride through the NCAA tournament only to lose in the final game to the same Florida school that dismantled their football brothers.  If you’re the sort of person who would go to the airport to welcome home a champion, I hope you made it to give the Buckeyes a hero’s return from Atlanta.

Before the tournament started, the prevailing attitude among Buckeye fans was this: we’ll be happy with a Sweet 16 berth, and anything beyond that is icing on the cake.  A Final Four appearance would almost be too much to ask and we’d be elated to play in the final game.  As the final weekend began, there were some callers to local sports radio shows who were ready to forsake the Buckeyes if they didn’t win it all. 

As I’ve seen since, Buckeye fans seemed to have taken the basketball loss better than the football loss.  The question we all wait to see answered now is how will these two teams after losing such notable players as Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook?  Some losses will hurt more than others, but my hope is that although the characters in the play have changed the audience will still cheer as hard at the curtain call.

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

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I’m looking forward

April 23, 2007

… to the time when seeing a story like this no longer makes me angry.

There’s so much I’d love to say, but I think it’s time for us all to move on.  The best thing that could happen at this point to Blue Jacket fans is that the new management team (when selected) will do their best to make us forget about these kinds of things.

I have hope.

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Ding dong…

April 22, 2007

Wicked Witch of the East

Doug MacLean discovers that the Vegas saying really is true, the house always wins.

 

I’ve been trying to think for a few days now of exactly where I wanted to take this post.  I’ve been vocal in my disappointment with Doug MacLean since I created this blog over 14 months ago.  My discontent with his management style was part of the reason I started writing at the End of the Bench.  Oddly, you might call CGMDM the root source of my inspiration.

As the sharks swirled in the murky waters of the Scioto River the last many weeks, I’ve largely remained quiet on both the general manager and hockey in general fronts.  I sat on the couch Friday night watching San Jose eliminate Nashville, asking myself why I was not on the site every day waving my torch calling for MacLean’s head with the rest.  I also tried to figure out why I had only watched part of no more than three or four playoff games thus far.  I came to one conclusion.  Temporarily, at least, Doug MacLean killed hockey for me.

It’s sad, I know.  But that’s what I came up with.  I’ve watched the Blue Jackets franchise (that solidified my love of the game) be transformed from a promising first-year expansion team to the laughing stock of the NHL.  While the Jackets have never been statistically the worst team (in terms of points) at the end of any season, they’ve been awfully close each year.  The greatest thing any professional sports franchise can sell (especially in this age of free agency and salary caps) is hope.  Hope that your team can be competing for a championship at the end of each season.  Hope that you could witness the guys steal a seven game series and still be playing in May.  Hope that you’re not spending your hard-earned money on something that turns out to be gold-foil wrapped BS.  Hope… that’s all a fan needs.

From early October in 2000 to earlier this week, the hope rollercoaster in Columbus has had it’s rises and dips but has seen a pretty nasty net decline.  After finishing their first season with 71 points (an expansion club record), Blue Jacket fans packed themselves to the rafters 18,136 strong for every game of the second season.  Even suffering through a still-standing franchise record low of 57 points, the fans still showed up.  Hope was alive and well on Front Street, and all believed that there was nowhere to go but up.

Needless to say, it hasn’t happened that way.  The mismanagement of personnel, the rushing of prospects, the throwing of good money after bad players… it’s all been chronicled to exhaustion.  Truth Serum has done it here, the Dispatch has done a good job of laying it all out, and writers across the country have weighed in. 

I’m not here to pile on.  I’m here to remind my fellow Blue Jacket fans that hope has re-entered the equation.  It’s not likely to be this year that we as fans taste success, but at least we don’t have to feel like we’re lying to ourselves when we watch games and feel like there just might be a chance.

The Wicked Witch of the East is gone, it’s time to hit the Yellow Brick Road and set out for Oz.

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

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Dose of Reality #44

April 19, 2007

The Reign of Error is over. (Thank you, James Mirtle for that wonderful line!) J-Mac fired D-Mac. Daimler-Benz forecasts sales drop in the Columbus area. Remax is now hiring additional agents in anticipation of increased business activity in Central Ohio.

I would not be truthful if I didn’t admit to being ecstatic. I have been fired a few times in my life and I never like to see it happen to others, but believe me Doug, you will be a stronger person because of this. More importantly, many of us will be better off because of your absence. Except for the local luxury car dealers.

Until I know more, any comments I make on how MacLean was dismissed would be pointless. Sure, at this moment I believe that MacLean went into yesterday’s meeting thinking he had a chance to remain in a position of authority with the organization. I also know some of the people who sat in that meeting and I know one of them has been unhappy for some time. At this time, the only thing I want to say about that meeting is that the owners are people who earned their fortunes, men who also have egos, and they expect results from their employees. If Doug thought he was going to walk in with a smile and a shoeshine and do another sales job, he was badly mistaken.

With MacLean out, the team has a lot of work to do that they should have started as soon as the door closed when he left the room. The team will be competing with Phoenix for a new GM, and possibly Atlanta, Edmonton, and Toronto. The NHL Draft is two months away and the Jackets have nobody managing that process at this time. So the organization has to move fast.

After the General Manager is hired, someone with a strong disinfectant ought to call a meeting of the team scouting department and clean it out. Tell this group that they no longer have to look for ex-Florida Panthers to stock the team. PEI is a nice place to visit, but not necessarily a resource of NHL talent.

I will have more to say about this after I make a few calls and gather more information. But wake up, CBJ hockey fans, it was only a dream. The long nightmare is over. Of course, it will be another season before the New Guy can change things, but you get a mulligan on the last six seasons.

-Truth Serum