Archive for the ‘Chicago Blackhawks’ Category

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Random Thoughts

August 10, 2008

Things have slowed down in the hockey world to the point that most people don’t care where Mats Sundin is going to play, or even if he bothers to play at all.  It would be nice if he signs with a Western Conference team so that we Blue Jacket fans can see him, but we may lose out on that.  Either Sundin doesn’t have the drive anymore or he is listening to his accountants instead of his heart.

How did Casey Jones get out of town without a mention from the local media?  Casey has been John Markel’s top assistant on the OSU Men’s hockey team and a great recruiter.  He was the favorite of every kid who attended the summer OSU hockey school with his corny jokes, his breaking a puck in half with his slap shot, and other antics that appealed to ten year-olds everywhere.  By the way, Casey would saw a puck almost in half, put it in his pocket, and then when teaching how to shoot, would pull it out and shoot it against the boards, where it would completely break.  You should have seen the looks on the faces of all those young kids.  Anyway, Casey is back at his alma mater, Cornell, as associate coach.  He will be missed.

It’s great to see the Jackets working hard to get ready for the upcoming season.  I can’t wait for it to start, but the fans in Chicago are just as anxious as we are.  I usually attend a game or two at the United Center every season, but it looks like tickets are going to be difficult to obtain this year.  Great to see them back from the dead and I look forward to playing them.

Thank goodness it’s August, because that means the season is almost here.

-Truth Serum

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Your 2008-2009 Columbus Blue Jackets

April 3, 2008

With the Blue Jacket season about to end, I start to think about next year. I did this a lot growing up a Red Wing fan. The Detroit team that I cheered on 25 years ago was pathetic, finding all sorts of ways to lose games, hiring bad coaches, playing to half-empty arenas, and working desperately to hold the fan base. Even after Mike Ilitch bought the team and hired Jim Devellano, there were some false starts that kept the team from becoming the juggernaut that it is today. But things worked out and you know the rest.

So when I think about next year, I examine this year’s roster and wonder who will be back. I hear all kinds of grumbling from disenchanted fans, but I haven’t heard much from the organization itself. I never heard Ken Hitchcock complain about the loss of Adam Foote or Sergei Fedorov. That tells me that Hitch is a coach who will work with what he has and not bug his GM to go out and get somebody else. Not everyone liked Hitch in Dallas, but he never played mind games with his players in the media. I can’t speak for what went on in private, but unlike Doug MacLean, he does not publicly ream his players.

It has been said frequently that we need a good center. Really? Who doesn’t need a good center? A Hitchcock team plays defense first, preferring to frustrate the opposition into turning over the puck. Detroit plays puck possession, believing that if you own the puck, the other team can’t score. It is easy do this when you have Nick Lidstrom playing defense for you. If a Detroit opponent gets the puck, they have to get by Lidstrom and the other capable defensemen before they can even get an offensive chance.

So with Columbus needing a certain type of center, can they either grow their own or obtain one? The first option is certainly the most cost-efficient, but who fits that description? A case can be made for Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek to become that type of center, but I don’t see a member of the current roster fitting that description. Michael Peca and David Vyborny were that style of player, but they are finishing their careers. So signing a free agent or trading for one will have to be considered. So which fast, strong, free agent defensive centerman will want to play in Columbus? Before you give me an answer, think about this: All NHLer’s want to win and play for the Cup, so what will attract them to Columbus? If they can get the same money from Vancouver, Chicago, the Islanders, Toronto, or one of the other second tier clubs, why would they come here? For the streetcar system? There is only one thing to offer them, a bigger paycheck. I don’t question Mr. McConnell’s willingness to pay a premium, but I do wonder how much of a premium he is willing to pay, even with Howson and Hitchcock running things. Fedorov will look like a bargain compared to what the available talent will command.

There are other things that I am thinking about for next year and I will get into them in the near future. Obviously, the team needs to re-evaluate and take action with the defense. Who will be in goal next year, the same pair or do we roll the dice? Will there be any turnover in the coaching department? The team only offers one-year coaching contracts that all expire on July 1. Meanwhile, all of the other teams in the Western Conference are going to make some changes that directly affect Columbus. You know Chicago will be better next season and there is always Detroit. Nashville is stabilized and St. Louis is right behind us.

-Truth Serum

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Doom and Gloom

January 9, 2008

Things aren’t looking too good for local sports fans. The Blue Jackets seem to be in a funk (or perhaps merely playing to the best of their ability), the OSU Buckeyes received another pounding in the BCS Championship, and there is some squabbling that might delay building the new Huntington Park where the Clippers (hint; a baseball team) will play. I will limit this post to hockey, except to state that Jody Shelley had nothing to do with the loss in New Orleans, despite what some people think.

OK, the Jackets got beat pretty good last night by St. Louis, 6-1. The Blues are now three points ahead of Columbus in the standings, 47 to 44, and the Jackets’ record in the last ten games is 5-5-0, the same as first place Dallas. People are up in arms about Steve Mason being called up, but the reality is that Mason will not play a minute for the team and will be back in Junior. So now the fans can go back to worrying about Shelley getting too much ice time or Scott Howson not trading away one of our players for someone of greater value.

The Dispatch ran a story earlier this week and they mentioned the “P” word, or playoffs. I will admit that the playoffs have been in the back of my mind, but it is one of the things you keep quiet about until the right moment, like the latter part of the season when it matters. Nevertheless, it is out and some fans are demanding their playoff tickets now. By the way, for those of you who pay retail for your seats, do you have any idea what a playoff ticket costs? Standard pricing is double face value, and PSL holders will be required to buy the series, not just a single game. You’re welcome.

I have said in the past that I would like the Blue Jackets to be in the hunt after Christmas, preferably at the end of February. Since it is not February, the team is meeting my expectations. The Jackets have been lumped together with Chicago and St. Louis by a lot of (non Dispatch) hockey writers and if you look at the standings, they are still in that “lump”. As much as we anguish over the Jackets, the Blackhawks have been even more inconsistent, and they possess two of the most exciting rookies out there. Like Fredrik Modin, the Hawks have been missing one of their superstars, injury-plagued Martin Havlat, for most of the season. They have a dependable roster that some might argue is stronger than Columbus. The Blue Jackets have a better coach, but as we all know coaches do not lace them up.

St. Louis finally has stabilized, but it took most of the season. They did make a deal for Andy McDonald, but the deal itself was for the benefit of Anaheim. It was one-sided, with the Blues getting am immediate fix. Could Columbus have dealt away a low-cost aging forward for McDonald? Be honest! So a one-sided deal may help St. Louis get out of the lump and into the post season. Too bad we couldn’t have picked up the injured Petr Prucha for Vyborny.

I am counseling patience here and asking for you to wait another 45 days before you give up on the season. You could even say that I am waiting until next year, when the team is fully under the control of Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock. For now, I just hope that the Blue Jackets break out of the lump in the midst of the franchise do-over.

-Truth Serum

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Dose of Reality #81

November 16, 2007

Yes, I’m still alive and following the Blue Jackets and hockey.  I’ve been on the road lately and to my surprise, Marriott Hotels do not carry the Jacket broadcasts as part of their room package.  And I couldn’t talk the young woman at the front desk into signing my room up for Center Ice during my stay.

The team is showing that it is indeed going to be a year for growth, learning how to play Ken Hitchcock’s game, how to compete in every game, and discovering ways to win at the NHL level.  The loss to Chicago last week was painful and the loss at Nashville was discouraging.  But other than the commenters at Puck Rakers, most of the fans are showing patience.

In one of the games, some of the veteran leadership on the team reverted back to seasons past and lost their composure, taking stupid and costly penalties.  In another game, the Jackets looked like a Mite House team, carrying the puck without any thoughts of passing to a player wearing the same color jersey.

Things got back to normal against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, with the team playing calm and steady, cutting back on the penalties, and getting the goals when they were offered.  The only people who didn’t remain calm were the fans in section 102, a small group of Jacket and Blackhawk fans.  It was entertaining to watch and the girl with the blue-green hair should wear a tighter belt so those around her don’t get grossed out.

Tonight the team plays in St. Louis and the game will be tough.  The Blues can be physical and our team better be ready for the usual stuff that happens after the whistle and in front of the net.  It’s not time to send Rick Nash Jody Shelley out to send a message, but the Jackets need to show St. Louis that they are a different team than in the past and will play hard until the final whistle.

I am curious to see if the Blue Jackets get back on track and play the next two games (St. Louis and Detroit) with the same energy and style that they played the first ten games.  They may lose both games, but I want to see how they play.  Will they keep their heads, work hard, implement their game plan, and take advantage of what their opponents give them.  If I want to see fighting, I’ll watch the replay of Wisconsin-OSU post game, because I don’t think the Blackhawk girl will be back.

-Truth Serum

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Dose of Reality #72

September 26, 2007

Bill Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and a powerful, behind-the-scenes member of the NHL, died early Wednesday of cancer.  I lived in Chicago and went to many hockey games during my long time there.  Wirtz was not a fan favorite with hockey people in that city, a situation that is probably the opposite of how well-liked John McConnell is here in Columbus.  Most of the reports that you have heard about Wirtz and the team are true:  He would not televise home games, was a penny-pincher who didn’t care about winning as long as he made a profit, drove Bobby Hull and other stars out of town, and other short-sighted stuff.  I recommend that you read Steve Rosenbloom’s piece with the understanding that Rosenbloom made a career writing critical stories about the guy.

Wirtz’s death will probably change the way the NHL does business.  By that, I mean the Chicago franchise will probably become a lot more progressive and fan-friendly, maybe even put itself up for sale.  If the sleeping Blackhawks wake up and start winning, the entire NHL will have to stop taking the team for granted.  Chicago is a great sports town and they love their teams.  Imagine a city of that size, 9.5 million in the metro area, loving hockey again.

-Truth Serum

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Dose of Reality #68

September 17, 2007

Last night I attended (along with 7,000 or so other fans) the Blue Jackets game against Nashville. I didn’t have any lofty expectations or expect to be impressed and the team didn’t disappoint me. It was a plain ‘ol exhibition game and they lost, 3-1. Some of the guys played well and others need to work on their game. Yes, the Zherdev-Nash-Vyborny line looked decent and Nikolai was making some nice passes and skated hard the whole game. Adam Foote is already in pre-season form with an injury, so I can’t praise him at this time. And Pascal Leclaire looked a lot like Pascal Leclaire and did not hold the fort when the team needed him to.

But hey, it was a pre-season game (with a regular season price tag) and I am looking forward to seeing Chicago come to town on Tuesday and hope that they dress Patrick Kane (#1 draft pick in 2007) and Jonathan Toews, another promising player and notorious whiner. Maybe the CBJ will dress Jared Boll again and the kid from the Chicago suburbs can show the Blackhawks what they passed up by not taking him. Boll looked about 500% better last night than he did a year ago and I look forward to seeing him develop. But the game will be even better if the Jackets dress Kris Russell and he defends against Kane and/or Toews.

Vyborny was injured and we will know more today about the seriousness of it. Other notable NHL regulars who were injured over the weekend were Mathieu Schneider of the Ducks with a broken ankle and Roberto Luongo of Vancouver after taking a high shot near the collarbone area.

Anson Carter is in Edmonton’s camp. I thought maybe he would be invited to Tampa Bay by their new ownership group, you know, as insurance.

***UPDATE***
Tim Sassone, one of the better hockey writers out there, is reporting that Patrick Kane will stay home and not make the trip to Columbus.  Jonathan Toews should be in the lineup.  You can read his piece here.

Also, we Blue Jacket fans get to see Kris Russell play tonight, which should be a real treat.  Tickets are available and it will be a great opportunity to see Russell get a lot of ice time.

-Truth Serum

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Previewing the Blackhawks

September 11, 2007

Chris over at The Third Man In starts off the Central Division Previews with his analysis on the Blackhawks.

Check it out!