Archive for the ‘Gilbert Brule’ Category

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OK, I’ve calmed down.

July 4, 2008

I’ve caught my breath and had time to think about the Jacket roster moves over the past few days.  It’s not easy to take them in single servings, not knowing what else is going on or negotiated without all the servings on the dinner plate.  And as I write this, the team is working on other trades, so things could change even more.

First off, the team replaced David Vyborny’s numbers with Raffi Torres.  Torres is a tougher player who will certainly hit harder than Vyborny and will play adequate defense.

With the signing of Kristian Huselius, the team has picked up the numbers that Zherdev had and a little more.  Huselius won’t make me forget Nick and I admit that I think Z will get better, but he won’t have the mental lapses like Zherdev did, and will pass the puck a bit sooner and shoot quicker.

RJ Umberger will get his 20 goals and maybe (negative comment coming) get Jason Chimera to improve his game.  If Fredrik Modin can play a full season and get his 25 goals, things look bright.

On defense, the team certainly improved.  The team is now bigger, even if Kris Russell stays on the roster.  Ron Hainsey is gone, but it would have been interesting to see what kind of numbers he would have put up on this new 2008 team.  Tyutin is now the guy, unless Klesla can find more goals or someone like Clay Wilson can fill that role.  The team definitely is stronger at the blue line.  Can they score a few more goals?

Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek have replaced Gilbert Brule and Dan Fritsche, even if they don’t make the team in October.   I liked Brule, but he needed a change of address and he too, will probably have better numbers in Edmonton.

Pascal Leclaire has to put up the same numbers and Fredrik Norrena has to improve his game.  Two or three more wins from Freddy would be great.

The team looks better now, but what about the other factors?  If the team can play as well as or better than last season, it needs to also play even against Nashville and win half those games.  It needs to continue to play well against Detroit.  It needs to win against Chicago and St. Louis and stay even with them in the standings.  Five more wins will go a long way, in the standings and at the bank.

The team is now different, but they are not out of the MacLean hole yet. They are on their way to fixing that with a few more roster subtractions and scouting changes. It will finally be Scott Howson’s team at that point, resembling a modern NHL franchise instead of a PEI social club.  That will be a nice way to show John McConnell our thanks and that we won’t forget him.

-Truth Serum

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Well, well …

February 28, 2008

Well, well, the Jackets did have a game last night after all. I was under the impression that they were going to fold the team after failing to land Brad Richards. How could they possibly think of playing hockey without Richards or Adam Foote? I’m going to put my “Loser” hat away for the time being and follow the team, but I am willing to turn on them if necessary.

So let me get this straight; Tampa Bay was willing to trade Brad Richards to Columbus, but they wanted a goalie in the deal. It’s safe to conclude that they did not mean Freddy Norrena even though our local media did not report that item. So the Jackets put together a deal that included Gilbert Brule, Dan Fritsche, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. Unless I’m mistaken, none of them has seen time between the pipes this season and that imbecile Scott Howson did not throw in Pascal Leclaire or Steve Mason. Howson probably has some notion that he doesn’t want to mortgage the future to appease the local media, but I could be wrong. So no goalie, no trade. Pretty simple, and I think most people would agree that Leclaire and Mason are worth holding on to.

By not making this deal, Scott Howson gets castigated. Who’d have figured that?

Then, he dumps the aging mercenary Adam Foote for a #1 draft pick, also cutting payroll at the same time. The only people who are probably unhappy with this are the Realtors in Tartan Fields who now have another over-priced property to peddle. I never thought we could get a #1 for Adam Foote, but what do I know? I try to keep up with hockey and read Puck Rakers every day, but that may not be enough.  I will miss the untimely penalties that Foote used to take, however.

Sergei Fedorov is now gone and in return we got some kid who is confused about his first name. All season, people have talked about dumping Fedorov and the team has finally complied, even getting something for him. But they didn’t move Peca or Vyborny, so I shouldn’t be happy with the millions that the team has saved. Maybe nobody wanted Peca or Vyborny, so that is why they are still here.

I’m going to keep attending Blue Jacket games and support them. Even if Rick Nash picks a useless fight, I’m going to support them, but ask Rick if he would not follow the Adam Foote leadership model.

-Truth Serum

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Yawn… how ’bout a few meaningless lists?

January 19, 2008

So, is winter hibernation over yet? 

Heh, yeah, I’ve been quiet for a while.  You don’t want excuses, but here are a few reasons I haven’t written since last year:

  • Work finally got smart and blocked WordPress from our servers.
  • That little California trip where there was no TV.  This was good for my sleep schedule, but bad for my hockey fix.
  • I had an extended vacation from work, which should have meant more EOB time, but it ended up meaning more hours sitting around on the couch.
  • I simply got lazy.

Whatever has happened to date, I’m pleased to see that Truth Serum has kept things going with a series of good posts.

So we’re nearing the end of January, and the Blue Jackets are still very much in the playoff picture.  A lot of the reason the team is still up there has to be the current 4-game winning streak.  After getting waxed in St. Louis 6-1, the team has reeled off three home wins and a rare road victory.  The team is in the middle of a five-game road trip, and the excursion outside Nationwide will give a good picture of what we can look forward to for the rest of the season: hope, or a long slow slide out of it. 

Why do I say this?  Well, for all the things this team “is”, one thing it’s not is a good road team.  15 of their next 21 games are away from the friendly confines.  Their 7-12-2 record on the road is not going to get them to the playoffs, and they will need more efforts like they produced against Phoenix if they expect to still be smelling so sweet in March.

(Yeah, you missed me, didn’t you?)

What have I “missed”?  How about personnel moves?

  • Andrew Murray gets called up from Syracuse and reportedly looks good (I haven’t really seen him play) before suffering from a concussion. 
  • Gilbert Brule gets sent down to Syracuse to find himself.  Let’s hope the kid does well, gains confidence, and is able to return when he’s ready.  All accounts are that the guy is full of talent, but it cannot be said that we’ve seen it in Columbus.
  • Derick Brassard is currently playing in his fifth NHL game, having been called up from Syracuse a few games after making his return from sitting out over a month with a facial injury.
  • Duvie Westcott is sent down to Syracuse (pending no waiver claim), when Ole-Kristian Tollefsen made an unexpected comeback (at least, if you’ve been reading the Dispatch or Puck-rakers).  Marc Methot took Tollefsen’s place, and it appears the OKT’s return may be the end of Westcott in Columbus.  Even Ron Hainsey’s (hopefully minor) back injury couldn’t save Duvie.  I’m sure Mrs. EOB will be crushed.  I’ll break it to her gently.

And lastly, here are a few things I’ll remember about the last three or so weeks since we’ve talked:

  • I hate to complalin because it’s one of my favorite sports, but there are too many bowl games.  I simply lack the desire to watch BGSU get annihilated by Tulsa, or Purdue outlast Central Michigan.  Not fun.
  • While we’re at it, the BCS needs a reform.  No, the Buckeyes probably shouldn’t have been in the title game if we were to pick the two best teams at the time, but neither should LSU have been there.  I would have picked USC and Georgia.
  • Okay, one last college football note.  Kudos to Kansas for sticking up to the big boys when nobody (including myself) gave them a chance.
  • OSU basketball is being shown mostly on the Big Ten network, and I don’t care.  Moving on…
  • Nikolai Zherdev is a slick, sick SOB.  Whatever Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock said to him and his agent over the summer, they should bottle that stuff and administer it regularly for as long as #13 is a member of the organization.  Zherdev is, as coach Hitchcock recently opined, one of the top players in the league.  He had the opportunity for a hat-trick before the end of 2007, and passed off to a teammate for the empty netter.  Some in the public panned the pass, saying that Nationwide needs a hat-trick.  I applauded Z for his unselfish play (yes, I physically applauded in my living room, you should expect this from me) and think that team play (especially in a win) is more important than a hat-trick.  He’s doing what’s necessary to help his team win: passing, scoring (that end-to-ender a week or two ago), and defending (the blocked shot last week in the final minute).
  • Rick Nash.  Earlier this year he had the between the legs madness, and two nights ago he pulled the dipsy-dangle-dip-deke-kick-score move to win the game that caused me to involuntarily yell, scaring my cat and waking my wife.  He’s produced two of the slickest goals in the NHL this year, and I’m sure he’s enjoying the attention that Zherdev is drawing as it takes a bit off of him.
  • The NHL Winter Classic.  This was a fun game to watch, as much for the falling snow and slow ice as the roar of the 70,000+ crowd and the child-like joy on so many of the player’s faces.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these.
  • A win streak.  Not just two games, it currently stands at four.  These are fun, and let you enjoy being a fan.  I really like it when the non-hockey fans come in to the office in the morning and feel the need to talk to me about how the team is doing.  You non-believers are welcome on the wagon whenever you please.

I’ll try to be a little more “present” as the days wear on.  I hope we all have something good to talk about.

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

– Drew

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A Post

January 3, 2008

It’s 2008 and I don’t want to be lazy, but I’ve been working a lot and on the road. I made it to the Carolina and Edmonton games and watched the Anaheim game last night. I predicted at the beginning of the month that the Jackets would win seven games, but that they would also match up better against Nashville and Minnesota. The two losses to Nashville hurt them in the standings. If the Jackets are still in the hunt during the final week of the season, these two losses will haunt them.

I love the Blogs at The Dispatch, but the negativity of the fans is something else. I didn’t hear or read anything back in October that said the Jackets had made a quantum leap and would be a solid playoff team. What I remember is that the Jackets would be more like a .500 team, which can sometimes mean a playoff spot. So far, the team is living up to these words. When some of the commenter’s are called out, they claim that they played hockey in St. Paul or grew up in Toronto. I’ve been involved with youth hockey in this area since 1997 and I don’t see these experts helping out around here. We need coaches, officials, instructors, operations people, and others, so when I hear people make their claims of experience or expertise, I can’t wait to meet them.

A lot of people are talking about Gilbert Brule and his assignment to Syracuse. I hope it works out for him and that he can get his career back on track. He is a hard worker, down-to-earth, and talented. If it doesn’t work in Syracuse, he will be playing somewhere else next year.

The attendance at Nationwide has picked up some and that is good to see. The team plays much better in a full house and the game experience of the fans is much better. However, could the Blue Jackets please show some f*#@kin’ replays or highlights!? If I had a choice to spend $40 plus for a single seat at Nationwide or stay home with some friends and watch the game on HD and invest the $40 in food and beverages, the TV would win. Come on Jackets, take care of your paying customers. The worst example happened last week when Zherdev went coast-to-coast for his first goal against Carolina and Nationwide only showed him after he crossed the red line. Like his earlier puck movement was just a simple breakout.

If Adam Foote wants to be known as a leader, he better motivate a few of his teammates to play every game and focus on their jobs. It is disturbing to watch a few of the veterans play one style in one game and get quiet in the next. It starts with little things, like being on-side, keeping your composure, and not looking for a perfect pass all the time. Morning glories are not needed in Columbus. That last sentence was for all you experts out there: I will define a “Morning Glory” in a future post.

-Truth Serum

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2007 Spotlight On: Centers

June 12, 2007

In a reprise of something I enjoyed doing last season, I will be examining the Blue Jackets roster from top to bottom, by position.  I’ll give a little data on each player, some pros and cons (as seen from the EOB desk), and what I would do if I were the GM or coach.  Without further delay (if anyone still actually visits here, you’ve waited long enough).

Centers

Sergei Fedorov

– Age – 37

-Status – Signed through 2007-08

-Pros – When he’s healthy (stop laughing Red Wing and Duck fans), he can still be one of the top two centers on his team.  Good grief… first player in my analysis and I’m stretching for material.  This is going to be a long process.

– Cons – At 37, doesn’t possess the passing skill of Joe Sakic, the scoring touch of Teemu Selanne or Brendan Shanahan, or the locker room presence of Nick Lidstrom.  At $6.08 million per season, Fedorov has to do more than “be a positive influence on the younger Russian players on the team” (and we all saw how well that’s worked out, right?) and start to produce more.  That’s too much money to pony up for a poorly functioning morale booster.

– If I were GM/Coach – Let this $6 million dollar mistake finish out his contract, and let him sail off into the sea of unrestricted free agency in July.  These need to be the problems that Columbus “used” to have.  A new GM who is conscious and able to build a team properly cannot re-sign Sergei Fedorov.  And no, if he has a 30+ goal season, I will not change my mind.

Alexander Svitov

– Age – 24

-Status – Restricted Free Agent

-Pros – Has good size, though lacks the guts to use it properly.  Every once in a while, Svitov will show why Doug MacLean thought he won the Sydor trade to get him.  Though he doesn’t use his size in gameplay as much as some would like, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates.

– Cons – Lacks the consistent touch, scoring and playmaking, to be a true second line centerman.  And in some part due to his willingness to drop the gloves he is injured a bit more than I’d like.

– If I were GM/Coach – When Alexander Svitov is involved in a scoring play, you often notice.  He possesses the skill to make things happen, but it seems that the competitive fire is not there with him.  If I can keep him around at or below his current $800,000 salary, I’d do so on a one year basis.  Otherwise, shop hard for a first or second line center and let Svitov work the market.

Gilbert Brule

– Age – 20

-Status – Signed through 2007-08

-Pros – At times shows that he is living up to his top-10 drafting, Brule was probably thrust into the NHL a little too soon (that’s being kind).  He plays the body well, and can see the ice to distribute the puck to his teammates.

– Cons – Gilbert plays on the edge, and did have two rather freak injuries in his first go-round (clavicle sprain and broken leg).  To many in the know (myself not one of them), it seems that the major con on Brule right now is that he’s probably going to take another year or two to truly “fit in” at the NHL level.  As we’re repeatedly told, all we have to do is wait for this kid to be great.

– If I were GM/Coach – I’ve already ruined my chance to let Gilbert season in the juniors and kept him with the big club.  Now that he’s here, I get him all the minutes I can and watch him develop.

Manny Malhotra

– Age – 26

-Status – Signed through 2008-09

-Pros – Solid defensive center.  Not in the John Madden league, but a serviceable fourth-line crowd favorite.  Not gigantic in stature, Malhotra will occasionally throw his body around to create space.

– Cons – After his 2005-06 performance that saw 31 points in 58 games, Manny only had 25 points in a full 82 game season.  After receiving his overvalued (not a surprise in the MacLean era) three-year contract, he was unable to maintain production last season.

– If I were GM/Coach – Malhotra is a fan favorite in Columbus.  He always appears to work hard, takes the tough assignments, and basically does what he’s asked.  What he is unable to do consistently is participate in the offensive zone.  Part of this is a lack of minutes, but a larger part is that he’s simply not skilled enough to be making $1.25 million.

Geoff Platt

– Age – 21

-Status – Signed through 2007-08

-Pros – A scrappy centerman who has speed to spare, Platt does not seem to fear playing against much larger defenseman.  Left untouched in open space, Geoff can be dangerous.

– Cons – Despite producing in the AHL (31-34-65 last year in 66 games), Platt is slowly adjusting to the NHL game.  He shows the promise of skill to possibly be a second-line center, but can he work around his lack of size (5’9″, 175 lbs)?

– If I were GM/Coach – Geoff is small, but then so are is Brian Gionta and Martin St. Louis.  It’s worth remembering that Platt is only 21.  He works hard, is willing to play hockey with toughness, and will hopefully get better.  I’d give Geoff as many minutes as I could afford, and hope that this is a breakthrough year.  He may be worth hanging onto for a few more years to see how he develops (on a two-way contract, of course).

Zenon Konopka

– Age – 28

-Status – Signed through 2007-08

-Pros – Normally being slightly insane is thought of as detrimental to your employment prospects.  But when your job is that of a hockey pest, it’s a sure sign you’ll have a job somewhere.  Konopka only played in six games for the Jackets last season after being acquired from Anaheim, but he got the crowd roaring with his willingness to sacrifice his body to hit people.

– Cons – He’s a fourth liner (at best) on a team stacked with fourth liners. 

– If I were GM/Coach – I’m guessing Zenon will see most of the 2007-08 season while wearing a Syracuse Crunch uniform.  It’s nice to have the zest he brings to the lineup, but it’s not like he’s offering much else.

Position overview

An aging All-NHL’er, a budding star, and a handful of maybe’s, won’t be’s, and never we’re’s.  After a full-time general manager, securing a top centerman is noted as one thing the club must secure in order to get better.  There will be notable options available, but it’s hard for me to see the Blue Jackets going after any of Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez, Dainius Zubrus, etc.

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Back in the WHL

May 9, 2006

Jes Golbez, over at Hockey Rants, recently attended a WHL title game (edited per attention of James Mirtle) between the Vancouver Giants and the Moose Jaw Warriors which saw the Giants win 7-5. Why should you care? Four words: future star Gilbert Brule. The whole story…

Quick hits

Ilja Bryzgalov? A few months ago, I thought he was the guy the Ducks put out against the Jackets to rest Giguere. Now, everyone is realizing that maybe JSG will be trade bait in the off-season.
– I wish that the playoff schedule would allow me to see more of the Buffalo/Ottawa series. This has to be some of the most entertaining hockey I’ve seen. The 7-6 games are fun, and the 2-1 thrillers are no less.

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Spotlight on: centers

April 20, 2006

As part of our season ending process here at EOB, we will be examining the various position players on the Blue Jackets. We’ll give our opinions on the pros and cons, a little bit of salary info (if we can find it) and any other tidbits we find interesting. Today, the centermen get put under the microscope.

Centers

Sergei Fedorov
– Age – 36
– Status – Signed through 2007-08
– Pros – Is a seasoned pro who plays a smart, calm game. Locker room influence should help rising stars, especially Nikolai Zherdev. Able to play a lot of minutes in all game situations.
– Cons – In the past has not played to potential at times (lazyness). He has not shown this in Columbus, yet. Obviously past his prime compared to his award winning seasons in Detroit, not producing points as prodigiously as hoped upon signing.
– If I were GM/Coach – Should continue to center a top line in Columbus as long as he’s under contract. His influence on developing players will likely be worth the heavy cap hit he levies.

Gilbert Brule
– Age – 19
– Status – Signed through 2008-09
– Pros – In his limited time with the Jackets, EOB was impressed with his ice vision and his two-way play (rare commodities at his age). Scoring has not been a problem with his WHL junior team (not surprising).
– Cons – It is tough to tell at this time. One might say injuries, just from the limited time we’ve been able to see him in Columbus, but I don’t know if we can saddle that tag on him at this time. The biggest obstacle he had six months ago was the pressure of being the best pure centerman in the franchise. With Fedorov available to tutor him, the sky is the limit for Brule.
– If I were GM/Coach – Barring injury/bizarre free agent moves, Brule will center the second line for the Blue Jackets. In two years, he is seasoned enough to move up to the first line.

Jan Hrdina
– Age – 30
– Status – Unrestricted free agent
– Pros – He’s in the top 35 in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 51.9%. Uhhh, that’s about it.
– Cons – Nickname: Captain Hook. Need I say more. In the “new NHL”, where penalties are called with more frequency than in the past, Hrdina is fifth on the team in PIM with 78 behind bigger hitters Shelley, Westcott, Chimera, and Foote. You don’t want a guy who is your number three forward in ice time (read: used in all game situations including penalty killing) to be that high on the list. Especially when each time it’s a cheap-o hooking, holding, or tripping call. Some people regard PIM’s as a stat worth seeing up high. I’m not a member of that school, and Hrdina gets a failing grade from me.
– If I were GM/Coach – It’s been a year, thanks for the try-out. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but there can’t be any doubt he’s gone from the team.

Manny Malhotra
– Age – 25
– Status – Unrestricted free agent
– Pros – Centers the checking line well and has developed a good chemistry with linemates Chimera and Letowski. Provides a good physical presence against the top opposition line and is smart on the penalty kill. Best faceoff artist on the team at 56%
– Cons – Sometimes finds himself in the right place at the right time, but doesn’t have a great scoring touch. What will be his asking salary as a free agent?
– If I were GM/Coach – If we can keep Manny at a reasonable price (he’s a little over a half million now, maybe we can afford him for around $750-850K?), it would be great to lock him up for a few more years and see how he develops. If he’s looking to receive over $1 million per, let him test the waters and bring in Dan Fritsche or Mark Hartigan to center the checking line.

Mark Hartigan
Age – 28
– Status – Signed through 2006-07
– Pros – The mystery minor leaguer of the past few years has finally showed his scoring touch in the NHL at the end of this year. He’s proving he can stick in the league, which has been his biggest problem in past season call-ups.
– Cons – Not a huge guy (6’0″, 200 lbs), but likes to throw his body around which could lead to future injuries. At age 28, he’s looking back on a lot of good hockey years.
– If I were GM/Coach – Hartigan makes the team as the third or fourth center, with the ability to play the point on the power play. If he keeps playing at his current level, he’s a 20 goal scorer. If he plays like he has in the past, he may be out of the NHL for good.

Mike Rupp
– Age – 26
– Status- Restricted free agent
– Pros – Was starting to find his niche on the team with Shelley on the fourth line and playing some on the penalty kill. Has good size and decent hockey sense.
– Cons – Health concerns. Rupp sat out the last few months of the season with heart problems. They were not described as serious, but given Hartigan’s play at the end of the season it would be hard to elevate Rupp above him on the depth chart.
– If I were GM/Coach – If you can hold on to Rupp for close to what he’s making now, keep him in the mix. Having five forwards on the team will enable you to scratch the cold hand, or move one to a wing slot if needed. Rupp is a big physical guy, which is an asset to a team that needs bulk.

In a flash
Geoff Platt was a scrappy 20 year old who flew around the ice for 15 games in the fall. He might be a bit small for the NHL, but I think he’ll get another shot or two with the Jackets before all is said and done.

Alexander Svitov has been playing well in Russia, and if the team can get him a good contract we could have a strong Russian threesome on the team. Svitov has shown creative potential and is a decent physical presence, but needs to show that he is willing to play at the NHL level (read: dedication) before I’d give him too much money up front.

Up next, the left wingers.

Thanks for reading, and sorry for the delay in recent posts.

Drop a line, or a comment. I try to respond to most things either on the site or via email.

Have a great Friday.