Archive for the ‘CGMDM’ Category

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Summer Hockey

July 9, 2008

Many of you out there have been following and probably enjoying the escapades down in Tampa Bay under the new owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie.  A great read is this piece from James Mirtle and Puck Daddy, also known as Greg Wyshynski.  One writer labeled the situation in Tampa Bay a “gong show” and who knows what NHL insiders are calling it when they step out to have an adult beverage.  As entertaining as it is, can you imagine how things might be if our old friend Doug MacLean had been able to be part of the ownership group?  Gong show might be a favorable descriptor with Doug flexing his ego.

He would probably not have his own radio show in Tampa because with a Hollywood producer like Koules as a partner, television would be the logical next step for Doug.  Following that, he would start transplanting PEI friends to Florida to fill all the organizational jobs and potato fields.  Youth hockey would be rolled into the Lightning operations and a new junior team would be formed.  Barry Melrose would not be named as coach because with Doug in charge, the team wouldn’t need one.

Last night, I went to the Jackets Q & A to hear Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock talk about the team and take questions from the season ticket holders.  The fans were all very eager and listened to Howson give a nice, detailed presentation on the recent draft and the trades the Jackets made.  I learned a few things last night:

Brendan Morrison informed the team very early on that he would not be considering Columbus.  Howson and Hitch believe that he did so for personal, maybe family, reasons.

Ryan Malone was off the radar for Columbus well before the draft due to a combination of the Pittsburgh demands and Tampa Bay hiring his former agent and father.

The coaches and the scouts had many “debates” over the players out there and these debates were not always polite.

Hitchcock feels that the Jackets will be more competitive this season and should improve in the standings.  To his dismay, Detroit got even better along with Chicago and Edmonton, but some teams may have slipped and presented Columbus with an opportunity.

All in all, it was an informative event without a lot of bullshit.  I can’t wait for the season to begin.

-Truth Serum

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Brian Campbell is not coming here

June 23, 2008

Brian Campbell is not coming here.  In fact, I also find it unlikely that Marian Hossa will want to play for the Jackets, even though OSU has a thriving Czech and Slovakian department.  So maybe it’s time for Blue Jacket fans to look at reality, a reality that is going to sting.

As it became painfully obvious this draft weekend, the team does not have anything of value (players) that it can deal away as it rebuilds the wreckage from Doug MacLean.  But what should also be visible is that the team is not much better than they were last year, while others around us (Chicago, Phoenix) are getting better at a faster pace.  All the draft picks and plentiful salary cap money cannot get this team better in a season or two.  And we are only coming upon that first season.

Last year, I believe that Scott Howson watched Ken Hitchcock work with the players he had, seeing if there were some gems in the mix that could play at the level needed for the team to make the playoffs.  As we all know, the team tried hard most of the time and Hitchcock and the staff worked inhuman hours trying to find something that would work, but the improvements showed that the team was two or three years behind schedule.  The truth is that the team is not going to be ready in October to make a run for the playoffs, unless another team falls back and the Jackets can pull ahead.  Of the eight Western Conference teams that made the playoffs, perhaps Colorado may slip if Joe Sakic retires and Adam Foote can’t find his leadership act.  Maybe Nashville will lose a few games to Columbus this year, but that would defy the laws of probability.  As for the other seven teams who are members of the same club as Columbus, I see improvements in each one save Vancouver and Los Angeles.

So this coming season might even be more difficult to accept for us local fans because it may be a duplicate of the one that just finished.  The team will be in the hunt until March, winning some games against Detroit and Dallas, but not winning against the Chicago’s and the Edmonton’s and the Wild, teams that must be beaten in order to sell tickets in May.

I think I can be patient once again, but I can’t take all the talk out there regarding trades that don’t exist or acquisitions that aren’t even considered outside the 614 area code.  If you want to read that kind of stuff, there are plenty of places to do so around here, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that it might come true because you read it.

The local press is reluctant to say negative things about Columbus and its institutions.  The Blue Jackets are one of those institutions (for the time being) and I am glad that I’m not bombarded with a constant stream of bad/negative news.  But I also don’t want to have smoke blown up my ass all the time, hearing that a certain star is looking to play here or that the team is a center away from dominating the Central Division.  It’s going to be tough and progress might be two more seasons away, Columbus fans.

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Puck-rakers cynical?

November 29, 2007

Puck-rakers had a post titled Absolute Mess and boy did it draw the comments. It was posted by Aaron Portzline, covering the unraveling of the Doug MacLean-led group that made an offer for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He mentioned that without MacLean buying the team, the Blue Jackets would still have to pay their former employee $450,00, which I fail to see of any importance, but his closing words were this:

A cynic would say this is MacLean’s last “gift” to the Blue Jackets’ fanbase. Good thing I’m not a cynic.

That is what got everyone talking. So far, the post has drawn 14 comments, with some of the commenter’s echoing Portzline and others calling him and The Dispatch to task for only now speaking up about MacLean’s tenure. It has been fun to read, kind of like watching strangers arguing in a tavern. So at considerable risk, I am going to jump in.

First off, I joined Drew at End of the Bench after we had a debate over the health of the franchise. I pointed out to Drew that not everyone was happy with MacLean and that there are other ways to manage a contemporary NHL team. The two of us discussed personalities, the PEI Old-Timers Club, the draft picks, the role of players within the organization, the marketing, where the NHL was moving compared to the Blue Jackets, and so. Drew stated very early on at EOB that he had concerns about the coverage of the CBJ by The Dispatch since the Wolfe family (and therefore The Dispatch) had an ownership stake in the team. He wanted EOB to show a viewpoint different than the corporate one presented by The Dispatch. It’s not that he picked on The Dispatch, but lets be honest, no other media outlet covers hockey in Central Ohio. That is also why there are so many hockey blogs in this area.

I have met and dealt with MacLean and found him to be knowledgeable but pompous, certain of his convictions and generous to his friends. I have witnessed his temper and found it odd and out of place for a professional of his age. I have friends in the hockey world who guard their opinions of him to outsiders, but have witnessed his foibles. I became a MacLean cynic after his second season in Columbus, but because at that time I worked in the hockey world, kept my guard up. But MacLean had nightly sell-outs going for him, so he had no restraints.

I am not a journalist nor do I pretend to be. I have no idea how difficult it must have been for The Dispatch staff to cover the Blue Jackets when their focal point, by design, was Doug MacLean. Maybe the other media outlets in this area, notably the TV stations, felt that it was a lost cause having to interview MacLean all the time and so they left the job to The Dispatch. It was not like ESPN or TSN or other sports media covered the team and MacLean would have to watch himself. A few journalists did call out MacLean (Eric Duhatschek and James Mirtle), but they did so with no frequency or continuity. So coverage of the team was left to Portzline and Michael Arace, with occasional columns from Bob Hunter. Since Arace and Portzline had to be with the team on a daily basis, they held their noses and wrote their stories. The fans kept coming and filling Nationwide and nobody wanted to hear about MacLean screaming at the officials after a game or screaming at a player in the locker room, or signing a player for too much money.

I do not agree that these writers are being cynical and serving no purpose by bashing MacLean after his departure. MacLean is gone and the team is better, but the attendance is down, revenue is not growing like it should, and losses continue. The team and those who cover it were fully prepared to move on after MacLean was fired, but he had to keep taking shots at Columbus and running his mouth. He had a single good year in Florida, he had a nice opening season in Columbus, but what has he done lately? That is the final judgment in business and professional sports, and that is the world that Doug MacLean lives in. His balance sheet is not something to brag about. Since we fans (I am a PSL owner since Day One) are stuck with the product that he left us, we have the right to bash him. The Dispatch gave MacLean the benefit of the doubt while he was here and was easy on him when he was terminated, but now have the right to (and must) report the truth and won’t suffer for it. They are making us aware of how deep a hole we are in, but named the guy who did most of the digging. They have also written that John McConnell bears ultimate responsibility for both the condition of the franchise and the future of it. I find nothing wrong with the current coverage or the personal blogs that they write.

Doug MacLean still has a home here and spends time in Columbus. Why can’t he take his money and quietly move on?

-Truth Serum

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A few tidbits

November 27, 2007

James Mirtle has a few items up over at his site that may be of interest to those of us in Blue Jacket Land.

Apparently, things are not going well down south with the sale of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Absolute Hockey Enterprises, of which former CBJ President/GM Doug MacLean is a partner, failed to come up with a required $5 million payment.  James links to Lightning Strikes, the St. Pete Times’ hockey blog.  From James Thorner and Jonathan Milton at LS:

…the investment group has splintered as Coral Springs real estate developer Jeff Sherrin and former Blue Jackets president Doug MacLean are suing Hollywood producer Oren Koules for allegedly failing to make a capital contribution of $4.17-million which was to be part of the $5-million payment.

The article states that Sherrin and MacLean are asking for $50 million in damages from their co-partner.  I’m guessing that’s not $50 million for each, as MacLean has reportedly not put in much money.  He was to be the brains of the operation.  Which makes sense since he’s asking for $50 million from a guy who couldn’t come up with $4.17 million.  Just sayin’.

CGMDM

Doug MacLean looks as happy to be here as we are to (still) have him.

Tampa hockey fans, you can breathe now.

And in other news, the media love for Jody Shelley and Jared Boll continues in Columbus.  Just now I’m watching the Jackets take on the Oilers, and there is a little segment on FSN where Shelley is interviewed to discuss what he and his linemates bring to the team.  Interestingly enough, James Mirtle put up a little article on Saturday discussing the contributions of “tough guys”.  So what do the goons/fighters/enforcers of the NHL provide for their teams?  I won’t butcher Mirtle’s work (go read it, will ya!), but I’ll summarize it by saying this… not much. 

The sample size of the data being used is a tad small (the most combined goals for and against any of the 20 players profiled so far this season is ten), but I’m not certain that the point won’t hold true as the season progresses.

Hockey fighting

Thankfully, they have the tie-down jerseys now so we don’t have to see this.

Now I’m no Shelley/Boll hater, and I’m not a Shelley/Boll apologist either.  I’ve seen Jody work hard in practice to improve his game, and I can understand why many people view him as a fan favorite.  I do think he’s the least skilled forward on the team (not a character indictment, just my opinion), and that he’s far from a favorite of mine.  Jared Boll I think has some promise, but my walls are echoing with the words, “why is he fighting again?”  I suppose it’s possible that he’s trying to make his mark and prove that he belongs, but I think he’s overdoing it just a little.  The energy, hard skating, and hitting I like.  The fighting (especially when Shelley is in the lineup), I don’t care for so much.  There have been a few I understood, but there are some I don’t.  His scrap on Saturday against Detroit’s Aaron Downey I didn’t understand.  Shelley was on the ice (and being corralled by the linesman) at the time, and I’m not sure that Boll’s bout helped the team. 

In any event, what I got from Mirtle’s post is that there may be better options for the fourth line than a guy who mostly fights.  What it made me remember is that we have Freddy Modin (avg 15:09 TOI/game) recuperating from injury while Jody Shelley (4:45 TOI/game) is “taking his place”.  Those nine and a half minutes have to be made up somewhere, don’t you think?

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

– Drew

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Dose of Reality #70

September 21, 2007

In case you haven’t heard, Absolute Hockey is having some difficulty getting their money together to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning.  None other than Doug MacLean himself is part of the Absolute group, but I doubt if he has any of his own money put up.  The Jackets are hoping that the sale goes through because they would be off the hook for his $800,000 buyout.  I have mixed feelings about this; I would love to see Doug get out of town and screw up another NHL franchise, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him assigned to some scouting duty in the prairies of Manitoba, either.

Maybe we Blue Jacket fans could get together and show our generosity and donate to Absolute Hockey.  It’s not tax deductible, but neither is a Blue Jacket PSL despite the sales line you hear from your customer service rep at Nationwide.  If you want to know more about what Doug has done for hockey in Central Ohio, check out his old blog, The Secret Diary of Doug MacLean.  This site has been around for a long time, long before the Fire Doug MacLean site,  but obviously is inactive.  But if you read the diary, it will help you appreciate our former GM much more and perhaps you will feel like making a contribution so that the good people of Tampa Bay can benefit from his management.

I’ll check with Huntingon, the official bank of the Blue Jackets, to see if a deposit account can be set up so that you can simply hit one of their branches and unload some money.

-Truth Serum

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The fans’ paradox

August 30, 2007

In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, it was easy to be both proud and ashamed to be a Cincinnati Reds fan. Proud, because the team was fairly successful during that time, winning a few division titles, one World Series, and dressing one of the great ball players of the last 25 years in Barry Larkin. Ashamed because of the mess in the front office, notably owner Marge Schott and the negative attention she brought to the organization.

It is definitely folly for anyone to expect a person at any level in a sports organization, from clubhouse towel boy to player to general manager, to behave in a manner suitable to Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. Even so, it is still painful to watch those associated with the team you’ve chosen to support tarnish their organization with their actions or words.

All the on-field success in the world could not have swept the vehemence of Margie under the rug. From her public thoughts on Hitler, African-American athletes, and other topics (not to mention allowing one of her dogs to fertilize the turf in Riverfront Stadium), Schott turned what should be a classy organization into the butt of many jokes. What effect these actions should or did have on the players and fans of the Reds organization is debatable. As a fan who still harbors idealistic views of the sports world, the real issue is people who put themselves, or their pride, above the game or the success of their team.

An article in today’s Dispatch talks about Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson and his recent trip to Ottawa to meet with Nikolai Zherdev and his two agents. Howson schedule this “clean-the-slate” meeting to address club expectations and to extend the olive branch to Team Zherdev.

Howson sought to rectify the situation, perhaps heading off a messy divorce before it reached a point of no return.

I know a lot of the tone here at End of the Bench over the last 18 months of our existence has been negative towards the now former GM Doug MacLean. While the intent of this entry is not to further drag Doug through the mud, I strongly believe that this is not something that MacLean would have done (the peacekeeping).

As an aforementioned hopelessly idealistic fan, I’m pleased to see Howson put personal and organizational pride aside and try to reach an acceptable middle ground with his players. I don’t feel he abandoned his principles as much as I think he has realized that there is more than one way to skin a cat. One thing that always stuck with me from my background in education is that there are many different types of learners, and the best teachers are those who are able to develop ways to reach all students regardless of learning style.

What Howson, Zherdev, and all Blue Jacket fans presumably want is a competitive team on the ice. Bombast and bluster may work to motivate some players, but it’s become painfully apparent that in the hockey classroom Nikolai is not a student who responds to this type of teaching/management. Unfortunately, it often seemed like these were the only tools possessed by the previous management team (see how diplomatic and polite I’m being? Isn’t it nice!)

Scott Howson has taken the pithy saying “you catch more bees with honey than vinegar” (or however you heard it) out of his GM tool belt, and hopefully used it to his (and resultantly our) benefit. By all accounts in the article, Zherdev and his agents were extremely pleased that the GM reached out to the enigmatic winger. Let’s all cross our fingers that this is another step in turning #13 into the player he sometimes appears to be capable of becoming.

Between Marge Schott, Art Modell, and Doug MacLean, I’ve never been exactly blessed to have one of my sports teams run by selfless team oriented individuals. I’m not naïve enough to believe that Scott Howson is a saint, but at least his actions to date allow me to sleep at night proud to be a supporter of the Columbus Blue Jacket organization.

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Dose of Reality #63

August 7, 2007

He’s back, before we even had time to rearrange the furniture.  The Tampa Bay Lightning are being sold, pending NHL approval, to a group that has none other than Doug MacLean in it.  And Doug has already announced that he will be Chairman and CEO, according to TSN.  How about that!  Now Jim Clarke will have a place to go.  The local car dealers must be crying about this one, hoping that Doug would be here when the 2008 models are released.

Seriously, I do have a few comments.  First, I think Doug will do better this time around.  He surely has learned from the mistakes he made in Columbus and will be smarter.  Another thing is that he gets to run an existing team, not starting from scratch like he did with the Blue Jackets.  As much as this hurts, I think he will win the Cup before Columbus does.

The other side is this:  According to the local press, MacLean says his likes current Bolts coach John Tortorella.  Torts is a screamer and ass-kicker, so it will be interesting to see if Doug enjoys watching a clone of himself behind the bench, but a clone that has won the Cup.  And how do you think Marc Denis is feeling now?  MacLean has taken a lot of shots at Marc and now he gets to sign his paychecks, which are now much larger than they were in Columbus.  Will Denis find Post-It notes on his checks?

Finally, can you imagine how much fun the NHL meetings are going to be for the CBJ management now that they have to sit down next to Dougie again?

Look for a real estate transaction in the Arena District now with J. Douglass MacLean’s name on it.

Truth Serum