Two Losses

December 12, 2007

I’ve been out of town and missed the last two home games, the loss to Minnesota and the OT giveaway to Anaheim. My brother in-law is too cheap to buy Center Ice, so I went out to my car on Saturday to listen to the game against the Wild. For your information, George and Bill didn’t sound much better on XM Radio. I was able to watch the Anaheim game (thank you Slingbox) and was baffled by some of the roster moves of the Jackets.

I don’t understand why you would bench a promising rookie defenseman who is doing his job and meeting expectations with a guy who has a history of taking penalties and turning over the puck. The seasoned player who replaced the rookie is minus 4 while the rookie is only minus 2 in twice as many games. If you don’t want to put the rookie on the ice in situations where he could be overwhelmed, then put him on the ice in Syracuse where he can develop and build his knowledge base. But why put in a guy who has trouble playing NHL defense?

The Jacket defense has always been suspect, from the days of Frank Kucera and Lyle Odelein to Scott LaChance and Jamie Pushor and Cale Hulse. The foundation of the defense is Adam Foote, who unfortunately will be remembered for his contract instead of his play. The team took Rostislav Klesla as its first draft pick, but we are still waiting for him to establish himself and play accordingly. The knock on Kris Russell is that he is too small, but that is what the experts said about Brian Rafalski, John-Michael Liles, Mathieu Schneider, and Kimmo Timonen, all under six foot and all playing steady defense in the NHL. If the Jackets don’t have confidence in the 5’10” Russell, then they should move him and start playing the 5’11” Westcott all the time. But history shows that the Blue Jackets have yet to roster four NHL-quality defensemen.

Ron Hainsey is starting to show some promise and I think all in all, he will meet expectations and is the real foundation. He is putting points on the board and not making the mental mistakes that he has in the past and is playing like an NHL defenseman. Defense is all about skating and positioning, being able to read the situation and reacting with text-book efficiency, no puck skills required. Decision making is based upon applying pressure and risk-taking, a process that some Jacket defensemen have not figured out and that is more worrisome than a Zamboni fire. Until somebody comes along and outplays Hainsey, he is the guy.

A lot of fans out there are ranting about lack of secondary scoring or the need for another good centerman, but I would like to see better play from the defensive corps. The team needs guys who can put pressure on the opposition into turning over the puck or force them to take low-percentage chances, get the puck up to the forwards, and keep the play in the offensive zone. If it takes bigger players or more minutes from one of the team payroll leaders, I don’t care, but get the job done.

– Truth Serum

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