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Dose of Reality #43

April 15, 2007

Hockey fans are watching the playoffs and seeing some great hockey, but those who consider themselves to be just Blue Jacket fans are waiting for next season. I’ve had many, many conversations with the latter group about what needs to be done, who needs to be fired, who needs to be traded, and other issues that are preventing people from getting a good nights’ sleep. So lets take a look at some of the BIG issues.

“Doug MacLean should be fired/given another year.” Since it is already mid-April, I am back sitting on the fence here. As I have stated earlier (in 2004), the team needs a new General Manager. But the NHL Draft is only two months away and it is getting late, maybe too late, to find a replacement for MacLean at GM. So at the risk of creating a vacuum, somebody has to be in charge and unless Ken Hitchcock wants to run the show, we fans might be stuck with another MacLean-managed draft.

“Nikolai Zherdev should be traded.” He has two more years on his contract and all of his bad habits have been exposed for everyone to see. So who is going to take him from the Jackets and what will they trade in return? I doubt if anyone wants him for a fair price, so the team will have him on the ice next season. Maybe Ken Hitchcock can get the job done and get Zherdev to play NHL hockey instead of Ukrainian shinny.

“Next year looks promising with Pascal Leclaire and Freddy Norrena in net.” No, this means that next year looks like this year. Leclaire has yet to prove that he is a genuine NHL goalie, which he can do by posting a winning record and playing a whole season. Norrena has to prove that he can be counted on every game so that the team can focus more on winning and and not worry about who is in net. Norrena gave us a glimpse of that, but in reality he has only established himself as a solid NHL #2 who can hold the fort. He is better than Marc Denis, who in retrospect has turned out to be a poor goalie from some really bad Blue Jacket teams and then failed at Tampa Bay. But for the Jackets to get better next season and play above .500 hockey, they will need a dependable goalie.

“Next year will be much better and the Jackets will be in the playoffs.” This one is amazing, a tall order. All I want is to NOT be 19 points back in the standings for the final playoff slot. I hope the team is “in the hunt” for one of the spots in March, not out of the picture by Christmas. That would be a significant improvement and exciting for the fans, but it is not a guarantee of a playoff slot. As I write this, the two final teams in the West, Calgary and Minnesota, are both down 2-0 in their series’. These are two teams that are much better than the Jackets but not showing well in the opening round of the playoffs. Remember, playoff tickets will be priced at an average of $120 each, a lot of money to pay for a “just happy to be here” moment. To make the playoffs, the Jackets have to improve and several teams have to decline; both must happen.

As far as roster changes go, Boucher, Tollefsen, Berard, Aaron Johnson, Eriksson, Lindstrom, and Svitov are not signed for next season. Of that group, Tollefsen, Lindstrom and Svitov figure to be kept; Eriksson and Johnson are likely to move on. So Alexandre Picard and will collect his $985,000 again for zero goals. Dan Fritsche will earn every penny of his $750,000 salary. But Fedorov and Foote will take up 25% of the team payroll. And by the way, Doug MacLean will still make $1.6-$2 million if he is employed or not.

Talking about a new cannon for the arena, a new set of announcers, a new anthem singer, and other stuff is just what the management of the Jackets loves, a nice distraction to keep your mind away from the organization failures. The cannon will get old quickly, the announcers are hired and paid by the team, but at least I know what Leo Welsh is singing and that he is hitting the right notes. The old anthem singer, Don What’s-His-Name, is still serving time in prison for armed robbery and won’t be released for a few more years. I favor a lot less Mike Todd and more game highlights and replays, but will settle for a good center and improved defensemen.

-Truth Serum

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4 comments

  1. I’m going to present some radical and I think necessary changes to the Blue Jackets ;something in line to what has happened to the St. Louis Blues this season. First do bring a new General Manager. It was a huge leap of faith to bring in Ken Hitchcock ;this is the first time the coach is more capable than the GM. Whomever is brought in as the GM will be up to speed regarding the draft and what this team needs in terms of picks. Jim Clark (assisitant GM) was on the radio last night in a taped interview with the Syracuse announcer Bobby Mac and sounded like a dead man walking. Ironically Clark has done a pretty good job with the Crunch but still there is work to be done developing draft picks. Picard will need surgery to his left knee and will most likely miss the entire season recovering- he has torn ACL and MCL in this knee from a questionable hit in a game in Rochester Friday night.
    I agree that Zherdev should be traded if possible because of his(Nik’s) inability to follow Hitch’s system. If you cannot adapt to the style that Hitch wants then he won’t wait. Defence is always a concern for any team and each team that did not make the playoffs has similar needs to that of Columbus. Too many teams chasing the same players which means that there will be an overpayment for a free agent defenceman or a first line center.
    Finally, I agree that LeClaire is not a proven goalie in the NHL. Maclean thinks Pascal is ready but with so many injuries for such a young prospect is worriesome to say the least. There are goatenders in the system who will be ready in a couple of seasons but for now Noreena is the man with Pascal as the backup.
    Let Hitch work his sysytem and give him a General Manager that has a realistic vision for this team. MacLean has had more than enough time to prove what cannot do and that is get a team into the playoffs. By the way this team is at least two seaons away from 95-100 points to make the playoffs. There are too many good teams in the Western Conference to improve that quickly in one season.


  2. Eriksson – why are we getting rid of him? He is reliable, he doesn’t make much money, and he is a positive locker room influence, something this team sorely needs. He has one of the best plus/minuses on the team. Yes, he plays against other teams third and fourth lines but doesn’t it bite when the other team’s grinders score and the announcer says ‘their first goal of the season’. I hate it when the other team’s scrubs score. I would like to see him back.

    What about our scouts? Do they give bad advice? I don’t know anything about how that works and I’m curious.

    Please lose ‘Machinehead’. It was tired 3 years ago.


  3. The only thing I can say is that I’ve been watching many of the playoff games and I really want to have hope for this team for next year, but I keep imagining our current players (maybe somewhat improved) playing in the playoffs against teams like Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Buffalo, Detroit… and sorry, but I can only imagine it being very ugly. The way these teams play when they really want to win is about 6 levels above where the Blue Jackets are right now. And I think Norrena has been solid for us this year, but with the intensity and the amount and quality of shots these goalies are facing in the playoffs… sorry, but he wouldn’t have a chance. We need a lot of help, but I don’t really know where to start as far as suggestions – seems like way too large of a task at hand… 😦


  4. Patrick, Tara, and Jessica; excellent comments and points. Please allow me to address them, albeit briefly.

    Jim Clark is beholden to MacLean. He owes his job to Doug and is part of the PEI Mafia.

    I love your point about the coach being more capable than the GM. Surely this puts fear into MacLean’s heart.

    I think Eriksson should be back but for some reason he won’t. He does nearly everything that is asked of him at a reasonable price. In fact, he matches up well against Klesla in a lot of categories. And Tara, your point about the scouts is something that needs to be addressed soon. Just what have these guys been doing?

    Jessica really nails it (sorry, I just saw Blades of Glory) regarding the playoffs. We are light years away from competing at that level. Had the team somehow backed into the playoffs this year, we might have set a new record for futility.

    Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate it.



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