Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat?

Happy Halloween, Jackets Fans! We've certainly had our share of scary and horrific behavior this year already, and so last night's return of "the team we thought we had" was a refreshing treat for a dismal season thus far...

But I think we all learned from Detroit, that great play last night by no means is an indicator of what we shall see in the immediate future - and some big things still lie ahead. Today (in theory) we shall find out if Ryan Johansen shall remain in the big leagues, and the rest of the season shall show if we'll now ever stop the conjecture about Arniel and/or Howson for the remainder of the year, if Wiz is, in fact, superhuman, and what this team is exactly all about. [For the record, I say let the Johan stay up, please stop the irresponsible rumor mongering about team leadership, and Wiz is a beast, and returning a full roster is a promise renewed IMO]

Finally, I'd like to cite the ultimate trick AND treat of the night last night. First, I will publicly thank the team for responding with heart and fire in last night's game. THAT is the team I've been desperate to see - complete with post game comments from more than one relevant player!!!...however, such Jekyll and Hyde behavior honestly had me believing that the trick is on us - and, at one point last night, I was convinced that Nash etc. have secret twitter accounts and were tracking the #CBJ comments about lack of heart and desire. Hey...whatever works right? ;)

Trick or Treat, folks, I'm not sure what lies ahead for our beloved team but I remain dedicated to supporting them throughout and believing we can achieve great things.

Go Jackets! #StandandFight #CalltoArms

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In which the walls come crashing down...

I had a whole concept to write about this morning...but then news comes across the Porty timeline that potentially Howson and Arniel could be gone by tomorrow.

Allow me to say, that as of right now, I do not support this decision.

First and foremost, while I know its the nature of the game in sports, announcing to the world that someone(s) may or may not be about to be fired is just crappy. Imagine if your boss went and told everyone in your company that they were considering firing you. In this action, you've basically neutralized any remaining effectiveness said employee has. That's a great idea for a team that is beyond struggling. /sarcasmfont

Secondarily, I can't argue that Howson has NOT done what he was asked to do. Many of you may offer counter points, and I welcome those, but he went out and filled our biggest holes, communicated to the public, and was agressive. I may take some issue with the trigger finger sending people up and down to Springfield in timeframes shorter than Cam Atkinson, but this alone is not basis for the firing.

And now to Arniel. I am not a coach. I have never been a coach of a sport team of any kind. But I have played on numerous sports teams (certainly not of a professional nature) so I believe I know enough to know that the coach is not alone in bearing the brunt of a teams' going ons. However the coach is certainly most always the fall guy.

Its been posited that if Arniel does in fact have to go, that we will look to Hitch, and by virtue of the fact that Howson fired Hitch (long pole, tent all that) that Howson has to go. Due to the points I raise above, I don't know that Howson should go, and, quite frankly, what happened to saying, "hey guys, be grown-ups. Kiss and make up and learn to work together." If Hitch and Howson really both want this team to win above all else, they can work together. Don't have to be best friends...but figure it out. Happens to me at work all the time.

And Hitch? Look, I like the guy. But we saw his stock is not highly esteemed in the league as it stands right now - as no team pulled him in to the fold during the off-season. But, is he the right option or just "an option" because he's on the payroll. As I said in an earlier post, change for change's sake is not the answer, and if we just keep changing stuff "to see what sticks" - well, we ARE the Cleveland Browns, my friends.

Ultimately, remember, that when Hitch was let go, Howson told us that next time, it would be the players. And, I to some extent, feel that the majority of the problems lie on the ice, not behind the bench. We've changed a lot...and yet some things just haven't changed, and if a coaching/management kind of change goes down or not, if we do NOT hear from the players - with passion (one way or another) - I fear that leadership changes of any kind will not fix our problem.

Why is it that an esteemed Veteran, Vinny Prospal, is already calling out issues of desire and fight on this team? And when does this become a question of finding the guys who have not only the skill but the HEART? A coach - no matter the caliber - can't MAKE a player care. Can't MAKE a player fight.

I remain a loyal fan of this team - and will support them because I just can't help it, but I want to see the desperation and focus coming from ALL levels of this organization and that includes every person that is currently on the roster.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Love you, Man!!!!

Ah the sweet salve of a victory. We've gone, in less than 12 short hours from "do we blow the team up?" to "WE WON...AGAINST DETROIT!"

Its interesting the changes in lens that come from being on the right side of the goal tally...and, continuing the theme of my recent posts, consider this a love letter to everyone involved in last night...a few special highlights...

  • WIZ. Dude. I really really love you for bringing back some fire, for playing more than half the game, for having a wicked shot, for "seeing the ice" like no one else does (discuss the passing, people!) and for speaking out like you do. No wonder teams that have had you on their roster love you.
  • MASON. Dude squared. Not only did you win me over with demanding to come back in the game, but you played the game we know you can, and when you got that first star, not only did you linger on the ice to enjoy it, but you climbed OVER the visitor's bench to throw your stick to the fans. Own that swagger!
  • HOWSON. Stand and Fight. That is all.
  • BRASS: I don't know if it made TV, but in the third period, when you snowed Conklin, then wiped off his mask...and then turned around and smiled at him? Made. of. Awesome.
  • DEREK DORSETT: I always love ya, but, please, no more penalties in the final two-ish minutes. You aged me about 10 years. And don't give people more to rail on. For you alone, I'm thrilled we won. ;)
  • DUDE IN FRONT OF US: I am very thankful Dan didn't end up a) spilling your beer after numerous cheers b) spilling said beer all over YOU. You were fun...
  • THOSE WHO RESPECT THE MOJO: I'm superstitious. I can't help it. Thanks to those who played along.
And finally, and most importantly, to YOU my Fellow FANS. You showed up (the arena was not mostly red), and you responded with passion and excitement for our team. And all of us that came out got our just reward by seeing our team finally win! The game of hockey is exciting indeed, but the experience of a great crowd at a hockey game is even better. Last night, no matter what other people say, made me proud to be one of you - one of the Blue Jackets Faithful. To quote my friend, Dannie, there's still more than a few of us who can say "I STILL BELIEVE".

Let's Go Jackets! #StandandFight #CalltoArms

Monday, October 24, 2011

Don't be that guy....(or girl)

My last post contained some serious questions and concerns about the heart of this team, yet I ended it saying that I still believe. And, so, on Wizmas eve, I felt compelled to call out one last, quite important element of Blue Jackets land. And that, my friends is you and I.

Many of us are publicly questioning if this team "wants it enough", and how the biggest failure would be for this team to lose their desire...well, I argue that that same responsibility falls to us. A fan's job is to support their team - through good and bad. Yes, we've had a lot of bad, but if you're hinging your willingness to support this team on wins, well, why not just pack it up and go join Buckeye Nation (um, er, next year, I mean ;) )

Do you think these guys on the ice aren't frustrated? Do you think they don't know the impact this is having on the organization? Do you think they're not at least a little embarrassed and/or ticked off? Ok, so if we agree to those tenants, why pile on?

I chose to look up the word "support" today and found it rather interesting...I offer you this courtesy of Merriam Webster.

1. To endure bravely or quietly
2.a. To promote the interests of cause of...[ADVOCATE]
3. b. to provide a basis for the existence of...
6. to keep (something) going

To me, right now, as Blue Jackets fans I feel the above definition is our role to play.

I feel more urgency as a fan than ever, because, as many are saying, this team does have the potential to get things going and, as they struggle to find their footing, I'm sick of seeing attendance dwindle, "fans" berate the team/organization/coach (pick one) and start running around all "chicken little style". The only thing I can do is SUPPORT my team. While I can't explain it, I'm desperate to get back to NWA tomorrow, see Wiz on the ice for once, and hope to goodness that this team can get some things clicking.

So do you feel like the team is giving up? Does it tick you off? Well don't follow suit. Real fans stay.


edit: based on some quality feedback, I feel its important to note that this is not a mandate to blindly become Blue Jacket Lemmings (if I was a graphics person the imagery opportunities there are amazing). I will always support critical thinking - even in the realm of fandom :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Origin Story

As I mentioned the other day, the genesis and the name of this particular blog came from my belief that so much of success in any walk of life comes from one's spirit or "heart". What bothered me most last season was when I felt like I saw the guys let up on the ice or seemingly "not care" or "not try hard enough".

Our current predicament has raised this question again, but from a different angle. Last night on 97.1 the Fan, Porty shared some ridiculous stat that in the past (I think) 28 games the Blue Jackets have one - ONE - win in regulation. I almost wrecked my car. While the stat was shared in relation to the security of Arniel's position right now, it got me to these guys have the heart to win right now or have we forgotten what it takes?

This is not a question of skill, and this is not a dumping on the players, but I really wonder if somewhere along the way we lost that will to say "screw this, I'm fighting as hard as I can to win this &*&*()*$ game!" Is it possible that our veterans got too comfortable with the promise of our roster additions and thought "oh look! They will be the answer!" And, while they seemingly worked harder than ever at their physical readiness did they forget to overhaul their mental outlook?

I'm no psychologist but this sits heavy in my mind right now. My friend, Dan, raised similar questions in a recent post talking about Rick Nash. I'm going to over-emphasize some of Dan's key points by saying that in no way am I questioning the amazing talent, or captainship, of Nasher, but I don't see the fire - even in him. As our leader, should he go play hard for 60 minutes could - would? - the team follow suit?

I do believe its lying just under the surface. Even in our small crowds at Nationwide right now, the minute this team scores and is fighting, the fans roar to life - you can feel the change in energy even if you are watching on TV. Do we see the same in our players? Do we feel the "desire" in them?

It demands mention that a team cannot win on emotion alone, but it demands respect that it does, in fact, matter.

This is why I'm hinging more than a little hope on Wiz. And no, I'm not one of those who thinks his impact on the Power Play alone will help us win games (it will help tho ;) ). But, what we've unquestionably seen in Wiz is his swagger and attitude. He was all over the local media scene in the pre-season and his comments belie someone who is desperate for the attention and the opportunity to prove he can make a difference. I want that swagger on the ice. I want that swagger to permeate the locker room. I want that swagger to mesh with our skills and push us over the top. I cautiously believe, that in this way, Wiz can make a big impact. Fast.

I still believe, but I'm starting to question if it's going to take work on more than just what happens physically on the ice.

I still believe.

Let's Go Jackets! #CalltoArms

Fire the Cannon - Airs Tonight!

Courtesy of Eric Smith
'Fire The Cannon' show hosted by Eric Smith and Lori Schmidt is loaded up and ready to fire away even though the cannon at Nationwide Arena hasn't got too much work this season.

If you are looking for honesty and no sugar coated state of the CBJ, you'll want to listen in tonight as Scott Torgerson, "The Torg," will join the show. It won't be for the faint of heart but if you want cut threw all the garbage and hear it straight, no matter how bad it may be, tonight's your kind of show.

Little of This, Little of That," will bring in Jeff Little who will give us more Blue Jackets' perspective as well as he usually let's us know that the glass is half full. The question is when the glass is empty, how he will describe it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For.

So did ya miss me? ;D

Its amazing what can happen when one is fairly off the grid for five days. If you follow my twitter, well perhaps you got a taste of what all our non-hockey twitter peeps face when you were inundated by tweets NOT related to your topic of choice; but, since Thursday, as I was riding in a bike race to fight breast cancer, I've been on twitter only for short bursts, had no access to live hockey coverage or games and have yet to read a single blog post by my esteemed colleagues. SO! All that being said, I'm acknowledging that this post may be tone-deaf to the overarching themes of the Blue Jackets fan community today, but that's my point. (see what I did there, Dan?)

Look, I get the sturm and drang rolling around right now. I was literally sitting down on a plane to LAX when news of Cam being sent down hit. Ali was NOT pleased. Then I see the scores, injuries, NHL standings, and Calvert's fate as well...its not happy times in CBJ land.

But, I must revert to what I know. And what I know is I have consistently said, should you choose to be a fan of any team of any sport, your job is to SUPPORT. YOUR. TEAM. That does not mean that this doesn't come with expressing frustration. The very name of this blog was born from my concern last year that what our team was missing most was heart (also why DD is my favorite Jacket but I digress...HT Jeff). But, without super in-depth analysis that I have seen, and know, is going on in the blogger and analyst communities right now, the concept of abandoning the season and abandoning the team seem a bit premature.

Now look, I can't say this has been, or will be, all sunshine and butterflies. We've got a tough road ahead. But I personally am postponing major freakout status until Wiz is back (and yes, I'm aware of the fact that that means a few more games with tough opponents). But, I find myself having to demand some patience when it comes to this team because, guess what guys, a lot of this, well, it might be what we asked for...let's remember...

  • First, Hitch was the problem. Well, Hitch got fired
  • Then, last year, everyone was incensed that we kept the exact. same. roster. Well, the roster got blown up
  • During a last minute gasp to try and make the playoffs we demanded more significant moves when players weren't doing what we needed. Um yeah, hello AHL and NHL merry-go-round
  • We complained about developing young talent "too quickly" and not letting them develop an "attitude of winning" - well, did Cam go down perhaps in part to not getting burned by this skid and the "acceptance of losing"?
  • We said our scouting sucked - all of a sudden, our roster is so thick with rookies, that I don't think anyone got that first roster right when it came down to final cuts. Are we still trying to figure out the right chemistry?
Again - there are still things that give us pause, there are still things that are cringe worthy. And if we lose again tonight, will I be despondent? Yes. Yes I will. But I chose to support this team, and so support them I will. And I will acknowledge that I'm choosing not to be the hypocrite that is damning this organization for, in part, doing what we said we wanted them to do. Do I wish it happened faster? Do I wish it happened better? Do I hope this turns around...and quick? YES. YES. and YES.

Now I'm off to read all the blogs from the past few days that will tell me how wrong this is... ;)

Let's Go Jackets. #CALLTOARMS

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Night that Almost Was...

[Original theme and content redacted due to last 40 seconds of regulation play :-/ ]

Tonight was the one Blue Jackets game all year that was blacked out to any and all TV outlets-so, in direct response, the blogger community rose up in unison to fight the power (80's song reference...pertinent to the evening) and see the game anyway in person dammit. Operation #NOBLOGGERBLACKOUT was underway...
Matt, Alison, DBJ & Greg

Ok, so it was just four of us that could attend. And, as I walked out after such a drop-kick loss, I found myself struggling with what to say here because what was frustrating was that the night was soooo great-right up until it wasn't.

So here's what I've got guys...I've got a reminder to us all to stay true to what we've said we are - FANS of this team.  Fans support and encourage their team, they love them through the rough spots and they celebrate like heck for the good spots. So, while the night, rough, here's what I've got for you:

  • We saw arguably the best two periods of Blue Jackets hockey yet (that'd be 1 & 2 if we weren't already clear on that) - this says to me improvement - not decline - is on the horizon
  • Mason's play - in my eyes - is getting better and better
  • We got some free hockey 
  • There are some pretty sweet seats in The Greeg. Thanks to DBJ, we were right behind the bench and to see the game from that angle - well, its pretty insane
And its that last bullet point that brings me to the friends I sat with tonight.  Because if you want to ride through this patch of hockey, you couldn't find better "partners" then the bloggers we've got around this team. So many couldn't join us tonight - who all sit in my RSS feed and I diligently read everything you write (Rick, Dannie, Andy, many)...but if you'll allow me to highlight those who were in attendance...

Matt of The Cannon. I know very few fans who don't consider his daily Shrapnel posting required reading. One of my first questions tonight was "How do you do it?!?!?" But let me tell you, if you have the pleasure of attending a game with Matt, you won't forget it - the guy knows his hockey, will calm down a seatmate who gets quite nervous and talks through all defensive possessions (ahem, me), will keep fans on the path to cheering for their team, and quite frankly has the best singing voice 2nd only to Leo (Write in campaign for back up singer? I think so.)

Dark Blue Jacket. Another prolific CBJ blogger, who can sing along to any 80's song, make friends with pretty much anyone, (I think the two kids who sat in front of us want him to adopt them), and keep things on an even keel while offering some pretty unique insights on what's happening on the ice. Plus, it was DBJ who also got this evening together and got some rather kick-A** seats for all of us and is often one of the key voices in keeping the blogger community connected and involved with one another - even as we share all of our own perspectives.

And then there's wonderful Greg from Full Mental Jackets. Greg will always find a place to sit at R-Bar, is one of the easiest people to talk to in the world, will ALWAYS stand to cheer his team (and encourage the people around him to do so - and those who know me know how I feel about that <3), serves some mean chicken wings and is fun to tease about blogs.

If you're even still reading, I've linked to each of their blogs above purely because I'm sure you'll find the hardcore hockey assessments you may be craving. But for now, consider this my love letter to my hockey team and my fellow bloggers. It's these things that make the CBJ experience so much more than just a record on the ice.

We'll get there guys, and its nice to know we have some pretty cool folks to help us along the way...Go Jackets!

Other points of interest:
  • CBJ hockey bloggers will chase down anyone in Boomer gear
  • You may or may not want hockey bloggers in their seats in order for the CBJ to score a goal
  • A fellow blogger will ALWAYS eat your potato chips
  • Certain bloggers have not ever paid for a drink at R-Bar
  • Not a single blogger took notes...clearly my post reflects this ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fire the Cannon

Hey Everyone!

You'll notice some new content here at "Heart of a Jacket". We're honored to feature the weekly show, "Fire the Cannon" hosted by some of our favorites, Eric Smith and Lori Schmidt. This year, every show will also have the new feature from my #DD sparring friend, Jeff Little in his "Little of This, Little of That" segment (tres tres clever!)

So be sure the check the player here on the left hand side of our friendly site whenever you want a listen to some good hockey chat, the list of past guests is quite distinguished and new episodes come every Thursday!!!

Thanks, Eric & Lori!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Subliminal Messaging?

Here we sit Blue Jacket Fans. 0-2 with Vancouver looming. The twittersphere has erupted blaming everything...from our power play to (yeah, guess who) Mason. And, while I agree - so far - that 0-3 seems fairly likely, and that our power play needs Wiz back in a MAJOR way, I would like to encourage Blue Jackets fans to allow some patience. If we as fans regress to thinking this year will be like the last, how can we expect more from our team? A few things to remember and consider...

  • last year, mid November - guess who was #1 +/- in the entire NHL - Rusty Klesla
  • last year, guess which team had a kick ass October and November only to be demolished in December - Blue Jackets
  • last year, which team kept the roster fairly - and uncomfortably - unchanged - Blue Jackets
  • last year, which team did not make the playoffs - well, you know THAT
While I agree that a win by now sure would have been nice, I would care to point out that we've overhauled our roster, coaching staff (somewhat) and that quite frankly, pre-season has little to do with real-game preparedness (NHL, NFL...all the same), nor does a first 5 game start have little to do with where we end up (at least in Blue Jackets land).

Its for these reasons that I'm not screaming harey carey yet. YET! This team needs time to gel (and no I don't know how long is too long) But we've got a lot of new guys who are trying to break habits from long ago. And honestly, I will go on record as saying that right now, Mason is honestly not even in the top five of things I'm concerned about for this team. His improvement is noticeable, even to me.

But - my point is (see what I did there, Dan?) that the team may know that its going to take a bit of time too. Noone can argue that this team isn't bending over backwards to keep current fans on board and grow the fan base to include folks who left and/or who were never here before, so did they send us a message on Friday? As a big fan of the importance of music - both in tone an lyrics - check out again the two songs that the Jackets chose for their 2011 intro.

First up - Walk by Foo Fighters. Sample lyrics:

I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over...
...I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough

Maybe its just me, but I think we need to wait a bit before jumping off a cliff. There's real talent on this team, there's a wealth of depth (finally!) and if we can figure this all out, we have a shot.

Because the second song that was part of the intro? Well THAT song is titled "Kick Ass" and it says:

now is the moment
I waited for
I can't be broken - I settled the score...
Stand up...get your hands up...are you ready to...kick ass

Let's hope our boys in Union Blue get through that whole learning part quick and come March we're on to the kicking of the asses....

I still believe. Let's Go Jackets!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

2011 Season Opener Video

My apologies in advance for the size, and I'm sure this will ultimately be on the Blue Jackets site, but for now, enjoy our iPhone recording of the sweet kickoff to the can also heartily enjoy what a few Yuengling's do to Stephen and the obnoxious cheers that a Derek Dorsett intro will always bring out from our household ;)


There Was a Victory Last Night

You can haz tickets

Well, yesterday was the Jackets home opener. And while we wanted the win, I'm not cliff-jumping, or celebrating, the fate of this team yet. We've got a lot of games left to play...but, wrapped around 60 of the most exciting minutes of hockey that "The Greeg" has ever seen, was also a great night. Kudos to the Blue Jackets for a fun pre-game party, thanks to the weather gods for an absolutely gorgeous day, super gold stars to everyone who came to our tweet up, and props to all of YOU because, last night, you came out in droves to support the 50/50 Raffle that benefited St. Charles Hockey and the Dominic Gregory foundation.

This will buy many drinks
As promised, I let Stephen buy waaaay too many tickets. And, as guaranteed, we did not win. BUT, a St. Charles alum, and CAHL teammate of Stephen did. Congrats to Chris Taza for his big win!! (and no, it wasn't fixed, if it was fixed clearly I would have won. ;) ) And, in fun circles, pre-game, Chris said he had seen my post advertising the Raffle. (Or perhaps this was a defensive move as I was accosting all of "Team Beer" to not forget to buy 50/50 Raffle tickets for the thousandth time.)

The Raffle brought in just under $9,000 (based on preliminary numbers). Chris (as he was being penalized by teammates by knowingly or unknowingly buying post-game drinks) also said "its just great to help a good cause."

The Coach of St. Charles' Varsity squad, Art Roehrenbeck, summed it up: "We're so thankful for all the support for the raffle. Even though the Jackets didn't quite pull out the win, we did win and it was because of all of you who played the raffle to support our cause".

On behalf of Art, Dominic's family, and all the St. Charles players, I want to thank all of you who helped spread the word, who shared my blog post about the raffle, who bought tickets and made this one of the most successful 50/50 Raffles ever!

Coach Art Represents
Go Jackets! #CalltoArms

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here we are at the Start...

It's time!! It's TIME!!! It's time for HOCKEY!! Its time for BLUE JACKETS HOCKEY!!!

Here's to a season low in injuries, short in attention from Shanahan, long on celebrations, and high in goals and wins.

I'll be at "The Greeg" tonight, and if you're going, give to the 50/50 Raffle and I hope to see anyone and everyone at the meetup/tweetup tonight, and in case you are not already beyond excited, here's something to get you going...

#CalltoArms #CBJMAS

Blue Jackets Blogger Roundtable Part 4

Welcome CBJ Fans! I am honored to be hosting Part 4 of the CBJ Blogger Roundtable (Here are Parts ONE, TWO, and THREE). Consider yourself one of the lucky to hit this blog one of the only times it will ever feature insightful, real hockey analysis* (coming completely from my esteemed colleagues.)

I'm honored to be hosting commentary from bloggers that I read daily and from whom I have learned so much (and all of whom are pretty cool people as well!):
Andy Krygier of CBJ Blog
Mike MacLean and Dan P. from The Cannon
Greg May from Full Mental Jackets
J. Martin Postin from Martini Hockey
Jeff Little (one of the best guys I know) from Ten Minute Misconduct

I'd also like to give a special shout out to the coordinator of this entire project, Matt Wagner from The Cannon. I don't know how he does what he does, but he does it unbelievably well and is a constant force of keeping the CBJ blogging community together and involved.

With no further ramblings - I give you, the blogger insights (and if you have feedback PLEASE comment or tweet away - tell us what YOU think!)
*This is a blog from a fan-perspective only. Pervasive knowledge of hockey? Well, I'm working on that ;)

Question #7: Where do you see the team’s revamped power play this season? Above average? Average? Or back in the basement?

Jeff:  With the added talent and the addition of Todd Richards, I'm thinking the power play will be in the top third of the league.  Richards got results in Minnesota, with nowhere near the offensive talent he has here.  There is always a certain amount of luck involved, and pretty narrow margins, where a really good unit only scores at the Mendoza Line (.200), but I think it will be very good.

Alison: I will admit, watching Wiz lead the PP during that first exhibition game was an eye opener. Between the optical illusion of that white stick on ice, the respect you saw the Jets show to him, his control with when to take a shot and the fluidity that existed that did not before, our PP is definitely improved and definitely above average. We've got a lot of new faces (Wiz, Prospal, Carter, Martinek, Savard (?) Mayorov) to add and if you throw Carter and / or Nash in there to get the rebound, we've improved. For now, I'm choosing to answer this question based on the season as a whole and disregard the Wiz suspension.

Andy:  I'm gonna go with top 10; this isn't your father's power play anymore.  Last year, all the opposing team had to do stop our power play was wait for Anton Stralman to take a penalty.  This year, Tyutin could be the fourth best d-man on the PP unit behind Wisniewski, Clitsome, and Savard; last year, Tyutin was running the power play.  I am a big Tyutin fan but Nicklas Lidstrom he is not.  Speaking of Lidstrom, I noticed at the last home exhibition game that our power play is doing the Lidstrom puck drop on the entry where one D fakes the entry and leaves the puck behind for the other D to bring in to the zone; I'm a big fan of that; we have had a legion of problems on the power play and zone entry is near or at the top of the list.

Dan: I see it above average. I did some calculating and speculating earlier in the summer, and I had them coming out between 19% and 20% success. That should be good enough for top 15, or even top 10. once Wisniewski is back, there's no reason the Power Play can't succeed at that clip with a coach who's coached successful units before and the skill players now on this roster.

Greg: To be average would be a tremendous improvement over last season. I think average is certainly obtainable. When you add Carter and the Wiz to the mix, and if Clitsome continues to get better, it is not difficult to imagine this group achieving above average numbers. But I feel greedy saying that.

Martin: Above average. Scott Howson added some good pieces this year. I’d look for the Jackets in the 8-to-12 area out of the 30 teams this season.

Mike: I think that barring an unforeseen disaster, the powerplay will be one of the better units in the league. Jeff Carter is a huge shot in the arm, joining Rick Nash to form a lethal duo up front. James Wisniewski, who finished fifth in the NHL in blueliner scoring last season, is the first ever true powerplay quarterback the Jackets have possessed. The Wiz has a booming shot, and keeps things calm on the back end. You can’t forget the hiring of Todd Richards as assistant coach-he was the architect behind successful powerplays in San Jose and Minnesota. 

Question #8: With the continued development of guys like Kubalik, Calvert, Mayorov, and Johansen, Is this team finally ready to roll multiple scoring lines?

Jeff:  Absolutely.  That will happen -- only the cast of characters remains undecided.

Alison: Yes, yes and yes. We've got our veterans competing for roster spots and that can only mean we can start to enjoy a wealth of talent. We're finally able to start saying we have depth and ability within the system. However, the 3rd scoring line will need to show it can play both ways in close games, where the coaches can have confidence giving them ice time in the 3rd period.

Andy: In the past, the lack of organizational talent has prevented a three scoring line attack.  Call me crazy, but If we had the players, I would go with four scoring lines.  I think Arniel ends up rolling two scoring lines and and two hybrid lines early on.  As the young guys get some experience that will probably shift to three scoring lines and one defense line.

Dan:  I think they have no choice, especially now with Jared Boll out. Perhaps players like Mayorov and Umberger could be used on a checking line that contributes offense, but I think the Jackets will shape up like this: two scoring lines, a checking line, and an energy/scoring hybrid line. If you consider that last one a true "scoring" line, then my answer is yes. But, I see it ending up with a fourth line of something like: Mayorov--Johansen--Atkinson/Calvert. That's a lot of inexperience, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a line like that only skate for 10-12 minutes a night at most.

Greg: Let's hope so, because that is what the post-lockout NHL is all about. This is the first time in years (ever?) that the Jackets have had so many talented youngsters so close to being NHL-ready. With the addition of veterans like Carter and Prospal, and the return of Huselius and Boll looming on the horizon, these kids will not be handed anything for long. If they make it and play, they will have to earn their keep. And if they do that, it will a) be a beautiful thing to behold and b) give Howson a lot of options come the trade deadline.

Martin: Oh, wow. This has been a dream for quite some time, hasn’t it? I think it’s possible this year, but we have to see how well and how quickly that third “scoring” line can come together. I think the Jackets are close… I think we’ll see some experimentation, and it could come together by January.

Mike: Short answer- yes. The key in my opinion to rolling three scoring lines is having three centers that can play an offensive style. For the first time in team history, the Jackets can do that. With Carter, Vermette and Johansen as the top three pivots, and scoring wingers like Nash, Prospal, Umberger, Brassard, Calvert, Huselius and Atkinson on the roster, three scoring lines is a possibility. In addition to having three centers that can carry offensive lines, each line needs to be reliable defensively. Columbus has these players on the roster.

Monday, October 3, 2011

How to Make Friday Count...Just a Little Bit More

Happy Monday, CBJ Friends. If you're anything like I am, Monday is just another collection of 24 hours that's getting in the way of our first Blue Jackets Game. I'm already anxious for the pre-game festivities, another meetup during the first intermission, and (hopefully!) our first Jackets win. Something that has also become part of our pre-game ritual, is participating in the 50/50 Raffle at Nationwide Arena. It goes something like this...

*walk through "security" holding your jersey up to your arm pits
*grab at free swag being offered while simultaneously wondering what you'll do with said swag throughout the game (I mean holding a box with a bobblehead in it for an entire game is annoying)
*Alison runs to get a drink
*Alison is waylaid by Stephen running (in the opposite direction) towards the first 50/50 Raffle rep he sees
*Stephen throws anywhere from 2-5 dollars at said rep
STEPHEN: "This is the winning ticket!"
ALISON: *eye roll*
STEPHEN: "I'm telling you!"
ALISON: "You do this every game and you NEVER. WIN"
STEPHEN: "This is the game!"

We then proceed to sit at our seats, and when the winning number is called, Stephen fumbles through his pockets excitedly only to see that, guess what, he did not win, and the process repeats itself game after game. At some time, I will point out that had he just saved all the money he's spent on the 50/50 raffles by now, he'd have equal $$s to some of the prizes awarded. Stephen will ignore me.


This week I will gladly watch Stephen buy as many tickets as he wants, I'll probably buy some and I'll encourage you to do the same. You see, the 50/50 Raffle is already a great idea, but this week, the cause is something near and dear to my heart.

Last year at this time, the St. Charles Cardinal Hockey team was preparing for another season. Dominic Gregory was a sophomore at St.Charles starting his second year of school and hockey and attending captain's practices for conditioning. Dominic became sick to his stomach at school and tragically, later that night, went into cardiac arrest, a coma, and eventually died as a result of a twisted intestine.  He was at school one day, and was gone the next. In less than 24 hours, everyone's world changed. And no one knew what to do or how to process it. The team attended a funeral before they played their first game.

As a friend of the St. Charles Hockey coach, I saw the anguish this brought to the team, the coaches and the St. Charles community. Now, a year later, Dominic's family has began the process of creating an endowed scholarship in Dominic's name (Dominic's brother also attended St. Charles and played hockey there). A portion of the proceeds raised by this week's 50/50 Raffle will go toward this scholarship. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds raised will go towards the St. Charles program to defray the costs of hockey for the team. Dominic's parents will be among the 50/50 Raffle reps as well other parents and coaches from the program. They will also have a table outside section 120 for people to learn more about the charity.

Look, I know many of us (my household included) often participate in the 50/50 Raffle week in week out simply for the sport of it, but there's always value in knowing who your dollars help (all good causes), and this Friday, of all days, I wanted to let you know that, should you choose to play, you're helping a good group of people turn something horrible into something positive.

Please consider showing your support for the youth hockey community, the St. Charles Hockey Community, and the Gregory family by participating in this Friday's 50/50 Raffle. And if you win, let me know! (It only helps bolster my argument to Stephen ;) )

Let's Go Jackets! #CallToArms