Dose of Reality #77

October 16, 2007

The name of this series has not changed yet. Due to the huge number of suggestions and ideas from our readers, we here at EOB will need more time to properly evaluate them all.

So The Dispatch, some bloggers, and fans are worried about things like who will be the top center, the lack of goal scoring, Duvie Westcott, and the future of Jody Shelley. So lets take a look at these issues.

The team has never had a top center in its history. We traded away a good one, Todd Marchant, and have never replaced him. I’m not saying that Marchant was a Grade A centerman, but he was at least restaurant quality. I don’t really think having a Joe Thorton or Mats Sundin is realistic at this time and the team is competitive without one. Is Scott Howson out there shaking the trees looking to make a trade for one? I don’t think so, unless he can find a Thorton-type player out there that he can steal. I just don’t see the issue that important at this time because the season is young and the team is not scoring that much, a historic Columbus problem. Which leads to the next issue, scoring.

The undefeated Minnesota Wild have scored eleven goals in five games or 2.2 per game. The twice-beaten Jackets have scored ten goals in four games for a 2.5 clip. San Jose and Chicago are two teams in the West that have a better record than Columbus and above .500, are also scoring less than the Jackets. Obviously these three teams have winning records because they play better defense. So if we are going to be a low-scoring team, we better shore up the defense and goaltending or it will be a short season. In fact, Scott Burnside of ESPN has something to say about this:

So, when does “it’s early” become “it’s too late”? Well, if history is any indication, many teams will have crossed that all-important line by Halloween.

A quick look at the standings on Nov. 1, 2006 shows that teams that endured a rough start to the season found it very difficult to get back into a playoff spot, especially in the Western Conference. Of the top eight teams in the West, only one team didn’t maintain its standing within the top eight — the Edmonton Oilers, who held down the eighth and final playoff spot last Nov. 1 but tumbled all the way to 12th by the end of the season. The Calgary Flames (3-7-1 a month in) were the only team that managed to shake off a wobbly start and qualify for the postseason.

The wheels have come off in Nashville where, after two wins to open the season, Chris Mason has collapsed and the Preds have lost three straight. Phoenix and Columbus, both of whom have played surprisingly well out of the gate (2-3 and 2-2, respectively), simply don’t have the horses. Throw them all together and you’ve got five of seven teams likely to be sitting in about the same place when the season closes out next spring — outside the playoff dance hall.

The Blue Jackets are currently at .500 and their tenth game will be against the Sharks on October 27.

So lets jump to Duvie Westcott next. I get comments all the time saying that I am too hard on Duvie, I put too much value into Kris Russell, and that I should lose 30 pounds. Well, I do get upset with Westcott at time because of two things; his penchant for taking a penalty because he gets beat and the high number of turnovers that he creates. Both of these are fixable if he will play his position better (more conservatively) so that he does not get beat and if will come back to reality and play at the appropriate level of his skill set. I look at Kris Russell who is quite a bit younger than Westcott and he matches up to him in a number of ways. The two areas where Russell draws praise are A, his knack for being in the right position all the time and B, his puck carrying skills that create offensive opportunities. Before you all jump on me and point out the times when he has coughed up the puck, please note that Russell is even with two points and Westcott is minus two with no points. Russell has 2:00 and Westcott has 16:00 in penalties. And as I have said, it won’t take much for Westcott to change, just stay in position and pass the puck more.

And I’ve lost 15 pounds.

We all have known that Jody Shelley has a limited shelf life. He is a role player who took over an unfilled position on the team a few years ago to keep other teams honest. He has always worked hard and given us 100%. He is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and much more intelligent than you expect. Role players have short careers and Jody’s eyes are open, fully understanding this. I have been surprised by the fact that he has yet to make an appearance this season, but I understand what Ken Hitchcock is thinking by keeping him out of the lineup. But I am not worried about Jody because if his days here in the Columbus lineup are coming to an end, I will see and/or hear him on broadcasts, see him doing commercials, and see the kids all filled with joy as they attend his hockey schools. He will do well.

-Truth Serum



  1. Regarding Shelley and Westcott; one should stay and one should go. Westcott will improve as the season wears on and injuries occur. Westcott as you recall was out of hockey for a long time and will still need time to regain his timing. Hitch likes his defenceman big, real big and Westcott at 5’9″ does not fit that mold plus, Russell is that small defenceman with a huge upside.

    Shelley on the other side has no real upside and has been replaced by Boll who has a broader range of skills in a large frame. I saw Shelley this summer up in Mississauga skating with many of the locals and frankly he did not belong with even the average AHLer. On many occasions during these sessions Shelley played defence where he tried to carry the puck with limited success and this was basically shinny. I will acknowledge the fine chartiy work that Shelley brings but his usefulness as a full time NHLer has reached the expiry date. Time to pull the plug.

    Finally after seeing another weak crowd (11,800) in last nights game with Dallas on a week night, Howson clearly does not have the funds to go after a top notch center. The money is not there yet, if ever. Thank MacLean for the years of grief for the low crowd count. It will take a long string of wins to bring the casual fan back.

  2. […] agree with Patrick and blame Doug MacLean for the current mess of the franchise.  If this keeps up though, blaming […]

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