Archive for the ‘Scott Howson’ 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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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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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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You’ve had a day to sleep on it, but do you feel any more rational?

February 27, 2008

That’s a question to you, Columbus Joe/Jane Hockeyfan.  I had little issue with yesterday’s dealings, so I’m just as fine today as I was yesterday.  But I’m wondering how many of you really won’t watch tonight or think this season is now wasted (you know ’cause it wasn’t already done three weeks ago).

Foote to Colorado for conditional pick (or picks)

The facts: Blue Jacket captain Adam Foote was sent to Colorado yesterday.  In return, the Jackets will receive one or two picks.  If the Avs make the playoffs this year, we get their 2008 first round pick.  If not, we get their 2009 first round pick.  If Foote signs with Colorado (extension or in free agency), we also get a fourth round pick in 2009.

Money talks (financial analysis): The Blue Jackets are off the hook for the remaining portion of Foote’s 2007-08 salary, which roughly works out to $1,008,556.  #52 was to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so the money saved only applies to rest of this season.  The $4.6 million we won’t be paying him next year would have been available even without the trade, so I’m not buying the “now we have that money to spend in free agency this summer” line.  The money was going to be there anyway, whether GM Scott Howson chose to spend it on Foote or someone else is all hypothetical at this point.

Bullshit walks (Drew’s analysis):  Based on the vibes we’d been fed from the Dispatch and Puck Rakers up through the day or two before the deadline, signing Foote to an extension seemed all but a done deal.  Any day now, was the line.  The rumblings that have come out in the time since the trade (and I’m not speaking for the validity of these comments, just what I’ve heard from MSM sources) are that Foote wanted to go back to Colorado.  He wouldn’t budge on his salary number, just as Howson wouldn’t budge on his, and effectively forced a trade “back home”. 

A year ago, I would have been happy to get anything for Adam Foote.  I believed that he was not performing up to par.  This year, I think he has been a nice asset to have on the blueline and I am sorry to see him go as I don’t believe we have another defenseman in the organization right now who can fill his shoes.  That said, the return we received from Colorado is quite nice.  A first-rounder for a 36-year old defenseman, and maybe another pick as well?  The Dispatch guys had it right when they said that Adam Foote is probably more valuable to the Jackets than any other team in the NHL, in my opinion.  A year ago, Jackets fans were up in arms about receiving a sixth round pick for Anson Carter, and now they’re pissed about getting a first (and maybe fourth) for Adam Foote.  Jackets fans, it’s human nature to overrate players you like or that are on your team.  This is a good return, I truly believe this.  Do you think we should have asked for Paul Stastny?  Wojtek Wolski?  Not going to happen.  I know there are other related questions, and I’ll get to those in a bit.  On to the other move of the day.

Fedorov to Washington for defenseman Theo Ruth

The facts: Center Sergei Fedorov was sent to Washington in return for defenseman Theo Ruth, the Caps’ second round pick in the most recent draft.  Ruth currently skates for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Money talks: The Blue Jackets are off the hook for the remaining portion of Fedorov’s 2007-08 salary, which roughly works out to $1,333,048.  Again, this budget reduction only applies to the rest of this season.

Bullshit walks: My suspicion is that Fedorov would not be a Blue Jacket in 2008-09.  At least, if I were the GM I likely wouldn’t have signed him for much more than $1.5-2 million if even that.  I do not know much (okay, anything) about this Ruth kid, but I will say that getting something is better than what we would see when #91 walked at the end of the season.

I believe the Jackets were a better team with Fedorov in the lineup, but it was more an intangible thing than anything else.  Perhaps he survived more on his legacy than his current actions.  However you slice it, though, paying that much money for a marginally interested guy who’d missed 15 games due to injury this year, and has produced 28 only points in 49 games was a cement block of a contract.  Now… it’s gone.

Odds and Ends: My answers/responses to the questions/comments you’re not asking/making (at least not to me)

Comment: (Variations on a theme)  These trades mean no playoffs for the Jackets.

Response:  Actually, the season was killed in this 13 game stretch following the All Star break.  Giving up 4 or more goals six times, being outscored 27-39, and taking a whopping 11 of 26 possible points.  To reach the 95-point mark (roughly where the 8th place team in the West has been the last few years), the Jackets could only afford four losses in their remaining 18 games.  14-4.  13-2-2.  With or without Foote, Fedorov, or even Brad Richards… this is not going to happen. 

Impossible?  No.

Likely?  No.

Comment:  But we’re only five points out of eighth… why sell?  We’re still in it.

Response:  You’re not listening.  We’re only five points out, but we’d also need to leap three teams to make it.

Comment:  Three wins and that’s all we’d need.

Response: (wow, this is a tough sell, huh)  If every team we need to pass loses their next three games in regulation, it could happen, yes.  As I said, it’s not impossible.  We’ll likely not be “mathematically eliminated” from the post season for at least another 25-30 days.  But when you see where we are and where we need to be, it’s already done.

Comment:  But Washington is only five points out of the race in the East, and they were buye…

Response:  Listen, I’m trying to save you from yourself.  Just stop.  As a fan, you should be enjoying the most successful season in Blue Jacket history.  Instead, you (Joe/Jane Fan) are complaining that we’re not going to win the President’s Trophy.  Remember that post I had a while back about franchises that had to wait to make the post season?  Be glad you’re not the Saints.  We are not (likely) going to make the playoffs this year, but we’re poised for a run of decent-to-great years.  I’m going to enjoy them when they’re here, and not sit and mope because Howson is still having to work with what is mostly ex-CGMDM’s team.

Comment: (I heard this one multiple times from Speilman and Herbstreit on the radio last night)  Now that the Jackets have given up on the playoffs (see comments/responses above), they have to suffer through the shame of being the only hockey franchise never to make the post season.

Response: Who cares?!?  We’re finishing our seventh year, and we will get there.  Not likely this year, and maybe not next year, but we will get there.  If it really hurts your feelings as a fan when this is mentioned, get a life.  I guess I have to keep in mind that a lot of these people who “feel the shame” are also Buckeye fans who are not satisfied with making the BCS title game two years in a row (yeah, you didn’t win either time, but I’m not greedy).  Seriously… get over it.

Comment: I heard that we could’ve gotten X pick/player/whatever for Fedorov/Foote/Vyborny/whoever.  Why didn’t we make this deal?

Response:  As much fun as playing armchair GM is, it’s worth remembering two things.  One, it’s not as easy as it looks.  Two, I “heard” a lot of stuff yesterday, too.  Until things are signed, sealed, and delivered… they’re just rumors.  Pissed we didn’t get Marleau/Jokinen/Hossa?  It’s likely we’ll never know how close we came to any of these deals, if they were even discussed.

In summary

Yeah, I’m a little touchy after yesterday.  Not because the Jackets didn’t make a big splash, but because the media is painting the Jackets as a big loser in the trade deadline and a select number of fans are making it sound like all Blue Jacket fans are shallow and ignorant.  To the media: we didn’t land Richards, but we did purge over $2 million in salary commitment while adding a first round pick (at a bare minimum).  For a franchise that is not rolling in the dough, this is a big deal.  To the “fans”: losing the Richards Sweepstakes was tough, but the other moves will not make a difference in our playoff chances, which rested between slim and none regardless of what happened before 3 PM yesterday.

I leave you with three words: Fourteen and four.  Okay… three more: not gonna happen.  But I’ll still watch and cheer.

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

– Drew

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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 #74

October 2, 2007

The Jackets put Michael Peca, Fredrik Modin, and Adam Foote on the IR today in order to get the roster down to 23. Since none of the trio have suited up for any of the pre-season games, the move served to confirm what most of us have suspected. There were two other roster moves today: Sheldon Brookbank was placed on waivers and quickly picked up by the New Jersey Devils. Kris Beech is also on waivers.

If Adam Foote is not ready to play, the loss of Brookbank will hurt the team. Foote has not been able to have a complete Blue Jacket camp in a few years, but his recovery this year is taking longer than usual. With Brookbank gone, the call-up is most likely Marc Methot. That is not too much wiggle room for the team if Foote can’t answer the bell.

I never thought Kris Beech would stay with the team and when Peca was signed, the end was near for him. Making the odds even tougher for Beech, Jared Boll surprised the team with his strong showing and made the varsity. I also think that Derick Brassard will be back in Columbus this season. So Beech would have to beat out these three players to stay here in Columbus on the forth line.

We await the opener on Friday, but the real benchmark will be around the U.S. Thanksgiving. If the team is around .500, we can all sing the praises of Ken Hitchcock and Scott Howson. Heck, we can even think of the 2009 playoffs in a more substantial manner. This season will be a sober one, a time for the fans to quietly look for signs of progress, for the players to develop confidence in the Hitchcock plan, and for Scott Howson to start targeting the candidates to play here in the next few years. It appears to me that Jakub Voracek will be with us next season. Adam Pineault, Andrew Murray, Trevor Hendrix, and Tommy Sestito may join him.

-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.