Archive for October, 2008

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NHL out to get Columbus? Really?

October 31, 2008

OK, by now you know that Jared Boll was suspended one game and Ken Hitchcock was fined $10,000.  The reason:

The disciplinary action is pursuant to NHL Rule 47.22, which states “a player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime, shall automatically be suspended for one game … in addition, the player’s coach shall be fined $10,000 – a fine that will double for each subsequent incident.”

I have to say that this is a real rule and it was applied appropriately in this situation.  I can’t wait to read the comments now.  But there are other things that need examined.

Everyone (in Columbus) is talking about the penalty given to Derek Dorsett last night for holding the stick.  I watched the game and have it recorded and I don’t see any stick holding, although I’m sure it was off-camera.  What I did see, like everyone else with two eyes, is Milan Hejduk taking a free shot at Dorsett’s mouth with his stick AFTER the call was made.  This is a real problem in the NHL and the league better crack down.  In the current NHL, once a referee raises his arm to signal a delayed penalty call, a lot of players on the offending team think that they have the right to take a free shot before play is stopped.  We certainly saw that last night when Hejduk popped Dorsett in the mouth, but another example occurred on Wednesday.  Our good friend Chris Pronger decided to take a free shot at Pavel Datsyuk’s head on and got away with it.  Watch it here.  No calls on the secondary penalties in Denver or Anaheim; Can you tell me why, NHL?  Do you think calling one penalty is enough?  Is this another example of the old, comfortable way of doing things that you haven’t changed yet?  Will you form a committee to study it and come up with a recommendation?

But getting back to the original question, is the NHL out to get Columbus?  I don’t know, but the Jackets do lead the league in PIMs per game with 22.6, more than Anaheim, the role model for chippy and rough play.  The Jackets also have 74 penalties, a distant third to Anaheim’s 92, but the way things are going, they can catch up.  But is that the only criteria for evaluating a league screw job?

What about questionable goals?  First, there was the NY Ranger’s Brandon Dubinsky scoring a skate directed but not kicked in goal against the Jackets on October 24th.  You remember that one, those of you who watched it on TV.  (Those of you who went to the game didn’t get to see it due to the idiotic Blue Jacket policy of NO REPLAYS!!!)  Dubinsky clearly moved his skate into a postion to direct the puck.  As I watched the game, I figured this was an easy, no goal call against the visiting team.  So much for easy calls.  Toronto didn’t even blink, allowing the goal and telling everyone to get on with the game and shut up.

And of course there was last Saturday night, when the video officials decided they couldn’t overturn Rick Nash’s goal against Minnesota, so they let the on-ice crew overturn their own decision.  Here was the easy, no goal call against the visiting team.  One of those officals, Dan Marouelli, worked last night’s game, but was not involved in the Dorsett-Hejduk non call. He also didn’t see Ian Laperriere cross-check/interfere/elbow Jared Boll a minute before the two of them squared off, either.  But hey, you can’t see them all, right?  But you can see more of them if you make an effort to be consistant and not just mail it in, Dan!

It was great last night to see the Jackets play up to expectations and I hope they can build from this.  But the team has to wonder what they need to do to get a break from the officials.  Winning more games will give them more breaks, but overcoming pre-disposed officals is another battle.

-Truth Serum

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And now it is getting dark

October 30, 2008

Aaron Portzline blogged last night about the Blue Jackets and he is disturbed.  He wrote about his friend who used to be enthusiastic about the team, a PSL holder, going to all the games, etc.  But now his friend is done with the team, not being able to absorb the pain that the team gives him.

When I read the post, my first thought was, Portzline has no financial investment in the team like the PSL holders, he actually gets paid to watch and report on the games, and he is tired of the Blue Jackets?  Or is he simply bored?  Has the team detected his attitude and stopped talking to him, making his job more difficult?  This is a guy who caused a minor shit-storm last year when he reported that Adam Foote threatened to quit the team unless his wishes were granted.  I believe that Portzline was probably accurate about Foote, but he didn’t provide actual quotes or facts to back the story up.  Now he is blogging (NOT REPORTING) that things are not good and the future is dark.

It is probably fair to say that a lot of PSL holders, both current and former, are tired of the team and not enthusiastic as they used to be.  I am an early member of the blame Doug MacLean club and have not joined the blame Scott Howson club yet, although their membership is growing.  I think MacLean put the team in a hole that was much deeper than people realized.  I think that ownership let him stay here too long and were not honest with the public about the damage he did to the organization and the length of time it would take to correct things.  Last year was an example of how the team should have been preforming in year four or five and it gave me hope for the future.  No, the team didn’t make the playoffs, but it was in the playoff hunt in February, longer than any past Blue Jackets team.

This season has gotten off to a poor start, but it is early.  I do look at some of the new players and wonder what Howson was thinking when he acquired them, but I’ll wait another ten games before I come to a conclusion.  I hear about how bad we need a center, but if we had wings that could score and check, it wouldn’t matter.  I hear about the need for a puck moving defenseman, but he was sent to Syracuse and the other one is playing in Atlanta.  I won’t even mention Dick Tarnstrom.

The team needs to win and if they don’t have the most goals at the final horn, they need to show the fans that they fought hard and gave 100% until the end.  They have to stop taking all the penalties, they have to take more quality shots on goal, and they have to play strong in front our goal.  Our goalies have to be consistent and make all of the routine plays, like saves and clearing the puck.  They have to be in shape to play in the NHL and if they’re not, the team has to find someone else.

The fans need to show up, too.  Not the ones who hate the team, or Nationwide, or hockey.  I mean the fans who say they like the game, but either don’t bother or depend on free tickets.  You can buy a ticket for less than $10 and sit anywhere you want these days.  You can park on the streets nearby for free.  If you like hockey or are simply curious, you can see a game for a reasonable amount of money and then go to a bar afterward to have a cheap beer.  If the fans show up, the pressure is on the team to perform.  A bad team playing in an empty building has a life expectancy of about one more season, and then Aaron Portzline will be covering the OSU band if he is still here.

I’ll have more comments later.  I actually agree with a lot of what Portzline wrote, but I think there are other things to consider.

-Truth Serum

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It was so bad …

October 28, 2008

It was so bad last night and the crowd was so small that Nationwide didn’t even open the large concession stand near section 119.  That’s right near the windows overlooking the Ice Haus. AEP complained about the loss of revenue from all the unplugged microwaves.  But what about the loss to the chemical food preservative industry?

It was so bad last night because the Ducks were very undisciplined throughout the first two periods, taking enough penalties to hand the game over to the Blue Jackets, but we still couldn’t win.  Coach Randy Carlyle had to tear up the post-game tirade he was all set to deliver to his players.  But he did think about texting it to Ken Hitchcock.

It was so bad last night that Syracuse called Scott Howson after the game and begged him not send any more players back to the minors.  The Crunch management said that Columbus was hurting hockey by assigning so many players who could not produce in the NHL to their team.

It was so bad last night that many Red Wing fans are selling the tickets that they purchased for the upcoming game in January.  Many asked if they could trade them for Mite House games at the Dublin Chiller.

It was so bad last night that Ken Hitchcock tried to unplug the game clock shortly after the third period started.

It was so bad last night that Adam Foote is thinking about dressing for the Aves game in Columbus.

It was so bad last night that the comments at Puck-rakers made sense.

-Truth Serum

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I gotta blog something

October 26, 2008

I’ve been to the Vancouver and Nashville games at Nationwide, I watched/recorded the Rangers game, and watched the Wild game last night instead of the OSU-PSU game.  I even made all the home exhibition games.  I have a lot of questions.  Here are a few:

1.  What happened to Kris Russell?  I thought he was the D-man of the future, a guy who could rush the puck up ice and join in on the offensive attack.  Why is he suddenly not playing?  Is he the new Alexandre Picard?  If the team doesn’t want to play him, send him to another team where former Jackets always seem to thrive.  Like Ron Hainsey, who has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in eight games and is PLUS 3.

***UPDATE***  Well, now we know.  Russell will now be playing in Syracuse.  Announcement here.

2.  Why did three of the four officials overrule the goal last night after video replay could not do so?  If they reached that conclusion immediately, why bother to use replay at all?  Did Dan Marouelli, a senior referee, along with the two linesmen, overrule Steve Kozari, the least experienced member of the crew?  If so, will Kozari face a hearing because of his original call?  As a referee, I have never, ever, overruled another official.  I’ve seen bad calls and made lots of them myself, but I would never show up another official on the ice.

3.  So we have Ken Hitchcock coaching a team that he feels is more competitive (his word, not mine) and yet I see a team that can’t play three consecutive periods of hockey.  Is the team still not the right mix of players?  Do they need more time to hear about Hitch’s system, even though it’s the same one he used in Dallas over ten years ago?  Or are the players not listening to him?

4.  Why did the fans at the Rangers game boo Nikolai Zherdev?  He was traded away.  He did not pull an Adam Foote, for cryin’ out loud!  Come on Columbus, you boo Todd Boeckman and now Zherdev?

Other than that, I’m fine with everything.

-Truth Serum

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George Parros

October 24, 2008

It’s quite sad, that the only thing that keeps people coming to this website is a Google Images hit on George Parros.

When he scored on that breakaway earlier in the week, our traffic here skyrocketed.  We went from an average of around 100 hits per day to 300.  I looked at the stats, and five of the top six posts of all-time here at the End of the Bench have little to nothing to do with the primary focus of the site: the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Four are predictions posts (the one with the picture of the Stanley Cup is the big winner in the most popular post contest, accounting for over 8,000 hits), one is a post about excessive celebrations in football, and one has a picture of George Parros in an article about the final game of the 2007 season.  It’s kind of depressing.  It makes me want to nuke the blog.  Electronic napalm.

I need to take my finger off the button.

Big game tonight, with the Rangers coming to town.  Let’s show ol’ Nikki how sad we are to see him gone, whaddyasay?

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Hope you’re wearing your clean suit and carrying a Geiger counter.

– Drew

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Boll on IR, Filatov to make his NHL debut

October 16, 2008

As reported in the Dispatch this morning, Jared Boll has been placed on the IR with head/neck issues and 18-year old Nikita Filatov will make his NHL debut in the Jackets’ home opener.  Mrs. EOB and I will be in attendance for the home opener (one of two games we get to almost every year), and look forward to seeing the kid on the ice.

The Predators are a rough and tumble bunch, especially when it comes to #22, Mr. Tootoo.  The Dispatch writers are speculating how the Jackets will counter the nastiness in terms of personnel packaging.  With Boll out, there isn’t a time-tested fighter/enforcer.  Perhaps OKT will get the nod tonight, as he’s already with the club.  Derek Dorsett has a reckless streak to him, Alex Picard hits anything that moves, and Mike Commodore has dished out a bit of physical punishment in his limited time with the club.  With management saying no other moves are likely, I’d think that Filatov skates for Boll, and all the defensive pairings remain as is.  I like OKT’s spirit, but I’m not sure he brings more to the table than any of the current six d-men.

What I’ll be watching for:

  • What happens after the “hockey is back in Columbus” glow in the arena wears off, and how long does it take?  If the Preds score early, I see the crowd being out of this game.  If the Jackets are sound defensively, are hitting all the right people in the right places (read: don’t take themselves out of position in attempts at retribution), and can put together some offense, the high could last all game (remember last year when Anaheim came to town?)
  • How do the defensemen and goaltender work the puck out on dump-ins and manage the Predator forecheck?  This was a glaring problem in San Jose, and with enough new faces on the blueline, it could be a bit more time before they make me feel comfortable.
  • How does Leclaire, assuming he gets the start, rebound from the Tuesday night debacle?  He allowed five goals in less than sixty minutes of action, including two shorties.  One of which prompted Pascal to break his stick across the goal post.  A strong goalie can put sub-par outings behind him and move on.  The Predators are not a super-skilled team like some the team will face, and a buckled down netminder should be able to handle the load.  If…
  • The team can handle the physicality of the Predators in their own zone.  The Jackets have showed a slight inability to manage big, puck-possession lines in the d-zone, and need to be strong positionally and ready to break out and clear the puck when necessary.  Shifts of 2:00 or more for the blueliners are unacceptable, even on the PK.  Find the puck, fire it down the ice, and change up.  And to the crowd, when they do this properly: show your appreciation.  It may seem like such a small thing, but you saw in the last few games what happens when those small plays don’t happen.  Bad things.  Goals against.  Hockey is a simple game.  Put the puck in their net and stop it from going across your own end line.  If the other five are fresher than yours, you’re running uphill.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  How does two posts in two days strike you?  Look for more tomorrow with my game preview, and maybe I’ll have a few pictures up after the game from our trip to see the team on home ice.

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

– Drew

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Dear coaching staff

October 15, 2008

Well that didn’t take long.  Three games into the season, and I’ve already had my first “turn off the TV, toss the remote and go to bed” meltdown.  Which, you know, means I still had one less meltdown than the Jackets did last night.

Short-handed goals will happen.  When they’re the result of lazy offensive-zone passing that results in a breakaway, it’s understandable if still irritating.  When they’re the result of miscommunication between goaltender and defensemen retreiving a cleared puck from behind the goal line, it’s really not good for my blood pressure.  And when the same type of miscommunication happens twice in the same game, I want to put a remote control through the screen of my Panasonic.

There are new faces on the team, I get it.  But you’ve been together on the ice for practice and games for over a month now.  Learn your calls, talk to each other, and figure it out.  Giving the puck away below the goal line twice on a power play and then not having your backcheckers pick up the shooter who is wide open for target practice is unacceptable.  TWICE!!!

The first period last night, the team looked the best I’d seen them so far this year.  The passing was crisper (to sticks/skates, instead of to a general area the passer thought the recipient should be), puck possession was there, and the team was physical in each zone.  When the skates hit the ice for the second period, the wobble in the bicycle started before the wheels fell off in the third.

I missed watching almost all of Game 2 against Phoenix, but saw the entire opener against Dallas and all but the last ten minutes or so of the game late last night.  In each of the contests, I’ve coached the TV to calm down.  When things get away from the gameplan, the Jackets stop playing good positional hockey and start “freaking out”, chasing, and losing.  Playing cool, calm, collected hockey is not even close to a sixty minute affair at this point.

Against Dallas, lack of strong, sound play resulted in penalties and getting guys stuck out on the ice.  On the penalty kill, it is important to clear the puck from the offensive zone (even if only an inch), as this forces the offense out of the zone and gives a few seconds of repreive.  It’s also important to get the puck deep in the opponent’s defensive zone a few times, as this gives all four penalty killers a chance to change up.  Not having fresh legs on the ice hurts your penalty kill, and if you manage to survive the two minutes down a man, it can also hurt those critical seconds following the end of a penalty.  Not being able to get tired penalty killers off and put fresh legs on the ice can result in the team “not being at full strength while at full strength”.  Make sense?

So in closing, I’m hoping that a few minutes of work will be put in tomorrow on those lesser points of the power play.  Namely, getting the puck out from behind your own net.  If I see another short-handed goal as a result of the bad communication we all witnessed last night, I’m done with hockey.  You know, until the next game starts, anyway.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.  (Maybe I’ll even write more than once every two to three months, whaddya say?)

– Drew