Archive for December, 2007

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Merry Christmas, everyone

December 25, 2007

Most of this week has been and will be spent with the extended EOB family, but I wanted to stop by the shop briefly and wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all what have you during this festive time of year.

If you didn’t see it this morning, there was a nice feature in the Dispatch by Michael Arace on a particularly generous individual.  You should check it out. 

Well, that’s all for today.  Go eat, celebrate, and hope that Santa brought you everything you wanted.

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

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What if Nash …

December 21, 2007

Last night, Sidney Crosby has his first NHL fight.  In fact, he recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick in only 25 minutes.

What if Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby played against each other and dropped the gloves.  Nash is tough and has size over Sid, so the headline might read “Nash Whips Sid” or something like that.  But if Crosby won, would it say “Crosby Stills Nash”?  Of course, if this ever happened, our local TV stations would ask Jim Tressel what his thoughts are regarding the fight and what OSU plans to do about it.

-Truth Serum

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Post Calgary

December 20, 2007

I was busier than I planned yesterday and couldn’t get this post finished. But I’m back at it today and Drew has given me some coupons for a McDonald’s breakfast treat and the local restaurant happens to have free WiFi, so here goes.

I made a remark about officiating and to expand on that: When I saw Dave Jackson skate out on the ice Tuesday night for the Calgary game, my first thought was that, OK, we won’t see many calls tonight. Jackson is a senior official who worked some of the big games in the recent past. Cup Finals, All Star games, Olympics, he has done them all, but he is no longer a rising “star” among NHL officials and after 18 years as an official, he is established and set in his ways. His partner, Chris Rooney has about half of Jackson’s experience and would be the one to make the calls.

And they made a lot of calls and although I did not keep good records that night, it looked to me like Rooney made the majority of calls. Believe it or not, the calls were even, but the Jackets took calls at the wrong time. The call against Adam Foote for cross-checking only 25 seconds into Derek MacKenzie’s penalty was an example of this. I watched Foote raise his arms and push them as far as he could into the back of Dion Phaneuf with Chris Rooney standing about 10 feet away. Did Foote think that he was going to get away with that? If they had a video camera present, they could have shot this sequence for instructional purposes to show what cross-checking is. Foote was hosed because to make things worse, Phaneuf was not standing just outside the Blue Jacket goal crease but was further out and away from the “privileged area” that goaltenders have. As bad as this was, it did establish how the game was going to be called.

Except that later on in the game, Zherdev was clearly tripped on an offensive rush, but no call. Jason Chimera was hit in the face with a stick and probably got stitched up after the game, but no call. On the Glencross goal, Kris Russell was hauled down as he made the pass, but no call was made. So why did the officiating crew decide to call things differently after the Foote penalty? I have no idea, but want to hear what that crew was thinking.

The reason I mention the call against Foote is not to berate Adam for his poor decision, because Foote learned from that and did not commit another penalty the rest of the game. I mention it because it showed that at least ONE player on the Blue Jackets figured the officials out and then adjusted. What was Rick Nash’s problem? He earned a Slaymaker award with three costly penalties on the night when the team badly needed him to do something offensively.

People have remarked that the team has recently resembled a Gerard Gallant-coached edition, with the undisciplined play and lack of planning that marked his teams. I will agree that there are some similarities and that would be the roster, which is almost the same one that Gallant had to work with. Maybe we should re-sign Anson Carter to fill in for some of the injured players we have and the similarity would be complete.

I understand that the team is not very deep and not matching up to Calgary and others very well. If you take this game and the Boston loss together, it showed that the NHL has figured out that the way to beat the Jackets is to keep them away from the crease area and not allow them to follow-up on their shots. For both games, the Blue Jackets took more shots than their opponent, but have one goal to show for it. Instead of calling up Derick Brassard to help with the scoring issues, maybe they should consider Tommy Sestito and his size. A lot of you are saying that Ken Hitchcock needs to send a message to the players, but he did that by benching the 6’3″ Kris Beech in the third period. The team has to compete better for offensive opportunities in the crease area and you do that by establishing position and taking the punishment that comes with it. Beech and the other forward have to play this way.

The team is competing better this year, but as the season goes along, I see a few guys who won’t go into no man’s land to get some chances. Calling guys up from Syracuse is not going to help because those guys aren’t ready yet. We’ve tried Alexandre Picard many times and he still is not ready. If you think Marc Methot is ready, do you honestly think he will put up better numbers than Kris Russell?

-Truth Serum

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A rant even my mother probably doesn’t love

December 19, 2007

In general, the Blue Jackets have not impressed me much in the last few weeks.  They’ve had games where they look good (most recent win against Colorado), and games where they look very nearly bad (the ineffective outing to Bahston).  Somebody asked me the other day, “how are the Jackets doing?”  I thought for a half second, and gave the following assessment: If you look at the trend over the last few weeks, things are not good.  They can’t string wins together and nobody but Rick Nash looks remotely dangerous.  But if you look at what I expected before the season, I’d say they’re slightly ahead of where I anticipated.

The problem?

Life, especially related to sports, is a “what have you done for me lately” thing.  And the Jackets haven’t done much for anyone but the opposition goalie’s save percentage lately.  If you had told me on October 1st that the team would be over .500 (of available points) on December 18th, I’d be happy with that.  I realized last week that I never did put up my predictions for the 2007-08 season, but I can tell you in all honesty that I would have placed the Jackets somewhere in the 9 to 11 spot in the West.  We’re currently in the 11th spot.

Continuing the same line, it’s interesting to see the reaction of people who ostensibly like hockey (and the Blue Jackets) as they are wiggling their way through this past inconsistent month plus.  I have to wonder what people would be thinking if this team had been bad right out of the gate.  As it stands, the team has slid back to mediocrity from unprecedented dizzying heights, and at least the masses that are comfortable committing their anonymous thoughts to the internet are pissed.

The guys over at the Dispatch have made a good show of joining the “blog revolution”, and they are putting up good bits of information at least once a day.  It’s nice to have their information provided to us, no doubt.  What is truly priceless, however, are some of the golden comments that can be mined from the readers.

My favorite so far (edited for spelling):

This is the worst expansion team in the history of professional sport….

I think it’s a bit early to be giving out awards like that, but let’s consider a few alternatives (and I’m not saying any of these teams mentioned would be the worst in their particular sport, just making the point that there is some “competition” out there):

  •  Atlanta Thrashers.  One complaint CBJ fans have is “no playoffs”.  The Thrashers didn’t make the playoffs until their seventh season (which the Jackets are currently playing), and then suffered a first round exit.  Pure winning percentage (PWP) after six seasons (wins divided by total games): 32.7%
  • Washington Capitals.  First playoff run came in season nine.  PWP after six seasons: 23.1%
  • Ottawa Senators.  Actually had a playoff run in season five, but still only managed a PWP after six seasons of 25.1%.
  • Alright, enough hockey.  Toronto Raptors. First playoff run came in season five.  PWP after six seasons: 39.6% (No pesky ties or OTL’s to fudge my calculations here)
  • Memphis Grizzlies.  First playoff run came in season nine.  PWP after six seasons: 22% (wow!)
  • Seattle Seahawks.  First playoff run came in season eight.  PWP after six seasons: 36.1%
  • Cleveland Browns (yes, I cheer for losers!)  First playoff run (for the “new” Browns) came in season four (spoiled brats!).  PWP after six seasons: 31.2%
  • New Orleans Saints (this is going to be awesome!)  First playoff run came in… wait for it (cause their fans had to)… season twenty one!  PWP after six seasons: 23.8%
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  First playoff run in season four (despite only winning two of the first twenty eight games in franchise history).  PWP after six seasons: 33.7%
  • (Almost done) Seattle Mariners.  First playoff run in season nineteen (guess the weather isn’t the only thing depressing in Seattle).  PWP after six seasons: 39.9%
  • Tampa Bay Rays.  First playoff run… still waiting.  PWP after six seasons: 39.2%
  • Texas Rangers (formerly the Washington Senators).  First playoff run in season thirty four!  PWP after six seasons: 39.2%
  • And lastly, “Your Columbus Bluuuuuue Jackets!”  Still waiting on that first playoff run.  PWP after six seasons: 35%.

So what’s the point of this little exercise?  First and foremost, it’s that if you make stupid comments that are obviously grossly exaggerated, somebody you don’t know and probably don’t read will berate you with loads of evidence to the contrary.  Secondly, even in the modern age of instant gratification, we don’t have it all that bad.

For years, people complained because Columbus didn’t have a major sport franchise in town.  Now maybe hockey isn’t your bag, but I’m guessing if that’s the case you’re probably not here and not over at Puck Rakers making boasts about the worst expansion team ever.  Now, we have a major league club in town, and people are complaining because things aren’t happening NOW NOW NOW!  I sometimes wonder if people won’t be happy until we get a franchise from the NFL (not going to happen with two teams in state already), MLB (see previous note), or NBA (I don’t see this happening with the Cavs right up the road, not to say there haven’t been rumblings in the past on this topic).

It takes time to build a winner, folks.  Understand that.  People keep saying, we need to get rid of X, Y, and Z player and get some real talent in the door.  In the long run, that’s true.  But that doesn’t help the situation today.  We’re more or less stuck with the players we have right now.  I guess if the proverbial “you” were GM, you could release Shelley, Westcott, Brule, Foote, Fedorov, or whomever is the whipping boy of the moment, if you so desired.  But then, o’ personnel sage, then what are you going to do?

  • Bring up minor league talent?  You think we’re getting beat now?  Try this and see how you like it.
  • Trade for better players?  You have to give to get, certain one-sided trades in the past to the contrary.  Nobody is going to just hand us the keys to the Lecavalier Ferrari, you’ve got to pay for it.  Simply put, we don’t have the human capital to do this.  And furthermore, big trades almost never happen during the season.  Actually, most player movement for the All-Star types occurs with UFA signings.  So calm down, Sparky.  Do you really think somebody is going to do a 4, 5, 6 or more for 1 deal?  And as it’s been noted, do we even have that many guys that would help those teams?
  • Spend more money?  On what?  What’s left?  Seriously, tell me?  A smart GM, which I’m willing to give Scott Howson another couple seasons before I say he is or isn’t, spends money on players who are worth it.  Those claiming we should go out and spend money to bring in talent right now are borderline delusional.  There is no unsigned talent out there that would immediately improve the Jackets chances of the playoffs.

We’ve been told all along that due to previously awarded contracts, this would mostly be a season to figure things out, improve from last year, and then when we can renegotiate/release the Fedorov and Foote contracts we’ll look at bringing in higher priced talent.  A sampling of the under-30 crowd expected to be available in the UFA market next summer (list more of notable names rather than any one hockey metric): Marion Hossa, Mike Comrie, JP Dumont, Barret Jackman, Sean Avery (ha!), Ryan Malone, Kristian Huselius, Bryan Berard (kidding!).  So maybe it’s not the names of last year with Drury, Gomez, Briere, etc., but there are guys out there who could make the CBJ a better team.

Patience is a virtue, as I’m sure any fan of the New Orleans Saints or Texas Rangers will tell you.

Also, if you haven’t taken the unscientific attendance survey we’re doing, head on over and fill it out.  30 seconds… tops.

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

– Drew

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Two More Losses

December 19, 2007

I need to take care of some business issues today and will post more later, but the Boston game was a dud and the game against Calgary was even worse. Yes, there were some referee issues, but the games were not very good. You can always inflate your shot totals if you take most of them from outside the circles, but the fans will wise up.

Speaking of fans, this is all I am going to say for now. I have been the one standing on a soapbox shouting about the low attendance numbers. But if the Blue Jackets play many more home games like they did last night, the building is going to be empty! I’ve seen more excitement at a local Mite House game. Ken Hitchcock said the effort was better, but Hitch, what about the execution? If the Jackets only have two guys, Nash and Zherdev, who can score, and the NHL has figured this out, then all they have to do is shut those two down and cruise to victory.

-Truth Serum

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Attendance survey

December 16, 2007

At Truth Serum’s request, I’ve put together a very basic (and unscientific) survey regarding reader attendance.  So if you don’t mind, please click the link below and take our survey.  If you know of CBJ fans who may not regularly visit the End of the Bench, we’d really appreciate it if you could either direct them here or send them to the survey.

Link removed, survey no longer available.

Final disclaimer: we know this isn’t a scientific survey, please help us by only taking the survey once.  Thanks for your help.  We will publish the results in a week or two.

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

Edit: As of January 17th, the survey is closed.  Results will be coming soon.

– Drew

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Bad Press

December 15, 2007

Columbus is getting noticed in Toronto, but not for good reasons.  From James Mirtle:

The Blue Jackets’ plummet in attendance, all the way down to 26th so far this season, hasn’t made many headlines — but it should be almost as big a story as Detroit’s similar fall. Columbus was seen to be a precarious market going into the 2000 round of expansion but managed plenty of sellouts early, and there seemed to be some early positive momentum there.

Now, they’re looking like another Nashville.

Read the rest here.

Nashville?   Have we fallen that far?

-Truth Serum