Monday, November 28, 2011

PROSPerity

Prosperity. <The condition of being successful or thriving>

Prospal, Vinny. <The human embodiment of the condition of dedication, the desire to be more, and to enjoy it all along the way>

Thanks to reader, GaryG, I was reminded again, about what a revelation Vinny Prospal has been as part of the Blue Jackets organization. In fact Gary would nominate him to MVP to date for the season! To be honest, I've wanted to write my own little fan love letter to Vinny, but my wonderful colleague Greg over at Dark Blue Jacket beat me to the punch on the eve of Vinny's 1,000th game and I did not want to be too redundant.

And now, that specific moment has passed, but, as our team heads out on the road for a long 5 game, almost two-week stretch, now seems to be the right time to write another Prospal piece and focus on one of the brightest spots of our season thus far...because a) can you really have too many blogs about a player such as Vinny and b) I choose to focus on being positive, and to encourage the tremendous progress we've made in the past 6 games. So, let's stay focused on positives by pushing for more prosperity for our team and celebrating Vinny.

THE TOP TEN REASONS VINNY PROSPAL IS AMAZING
10. He's Czech (just like me!)
9. He's allowed us coin phrases like "Vinning!" and "Live Long and Prospal!"
8. He has challenged our locker room to step up and want to win and hate to lose. Publicly. Boom.
7. Goal celebrations. Nuff Said.
6. He's serving as a leader to the future of our organization. JOHAN cites him as a go to
5. His wife is gorgeous and his little kids wear #22 jerseys with "Vinny" on the back (ADORBS!)
4. He says things like "This kind of stuff I talk about, it works against any goalie if you execute properly." (he's talking...and he's RIGHT)
3. He is a monster player - playing his 1000th game in the Blue Jacket's 22nd, game, wearing number 22 (HT Gary!)
2. He's scored 19 points. Always making an impact.
1. He gets it - Vinny knows that every minute he gets to play hockey is a minute to be enjoyed! As you can (hopefully) see below, he was the only player who smiled at the fans walking through the tunnel of pride :) (huge HT to my friend Ken who invited me to tag along on this amazing experience :) Sorry you have to hear me cheer.)

Vinny - Blue Jackets fans love you!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Blog-Giving!!!

Today is the American Thanksgiving...and so, if you'll humor me, this is a post today that is more for me than probably for you readers...all 2 of you... ;) This is a post to thank those who have made blogging about the Jackets about so much more than the 0's and 1's on this page... [you Tweeters are so many and so great, it would take a novel to name you all so please know I'm not excluding you on this one ;) ]

On this day of giving thanks, I would like to name a few particularly great people. And do please know that I've now written, and re-written, this piece a million times stressing over people I may have forgotten or people I haven't adequately praised. Here's the deal, if I interact with you...you have made an impact on me. And I thank you for it. Now, on with the show!

First, what you may or may not know (dare I single them out lest you blame them), there are two people who are responsible for encouraging me to blog more than anyone else.

First, my good friend Rick. Rick is one of those go-to guys. If you don't know him already - get on that right now. He is a stand up guy in every sense of the word. He's a tremendous friend, an astute hockey mind, and a heck of a lot of fun. He was instrumental in helping me feel ok talking about hockey, meeting other hockey peeps, and loving the CBJ more than I had. First guy on the scene - first guy I can always count on.

Second, my friend over at Dark Blue Jacket. (i'm still not clear how secret that identity is!) I was recently humbled and honored to be invited to contribute to the DBJ blog and I'm still not sure those guys over at DBJ know what they're doing when it comes to letting me write there. But suffice it say that it was many private conversations and tweets that helped me think that putting my silly two cents out there into the CBJ blogosphere was worthwhile. Again, now as a contributor there, I sometimes can't believe that its really happening.

And so many others have had influence...stick around till the end...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pink at the Rink - BE THERE!

There are many things people will say about bloggers-we are arrogant, we are wrong, we are clueless, we are blogging just for the attention...well, give me this one post to embrace that last one for sure!

You see, I am diverting the focus of this blog for one moment to something bigger, something more important than Blue Jackets hockey...and that is a cause very close to my heart - the fight against Breast Cancer.

Unfortunately, I know all too well that I don't need to tell you a bunch of stories about breast cancer because too many of us already know them. As someone who has known far too many people who have faced this disease directly, it can be frustrating when there is nothing you can do to directly fight this evil thing - so why not find a way to combine two passions - hockey, and a way to make a difference?

Consider this your formal invite to join us at "Pink at the Rink" Friday, December 2nd. 

"Pink at the Rink" is an annual event that builds on tradition of the Upper Arlington High School's Breast Cancer skate. Starting at 6:30 at the Ice Haus, we have a JV match-up and Varsity game between Upper Arlington and St. Charles Prep.

Throughout the evening, we'll have raffles, a silent auction, chuck-a-puck, zamboni rides (!) and much much more.All our proceeds are going to the Young Survival Coalition and to the Stefanie Spielman Fund.

And, for all you Jackets fans, that game is a 9:30 start so you'll have perfect timing to join us for some local hockey, and then walk right around the corner to R-Bar for viewing and cheering on our boys in Union Blue! (See how thoughtfully this was all scheduled?! ;)

If you have any questions, need more information, or - have an item you'd like to donate for our auctions - please don't hesitate to contact me via comment on this blog or EMAIL.

Looking forward to seeing you all on the 2nd - and hey, when else can I guarantee that a local team will win at NWA? ;)






Thursday, November 17, 2011

Segments...

So looky there. The Blue Jackets get some press on NHL.com today. First a piece on how we are trying to stay confident and then a piece of Rick Nash's burden. For where we are right now, I honestly would like to thank Dan Rosen for actually being quite level in his commentary on the state of the team and organization.

But one of Rick Nash's comments stuck out to me. And it hearkened back to comments that started off the season. You see, Nash said this:

"One of the goals...was to take the season in game segments...now...we're down to minute segments..."

and then the even more ominous...

"We're worried about the first five minutes of (Thursday) night's game and that's it..."

Well many of us know the origin of this approach. Arniel spoke often about how he felt part of our downfall at the end of last year was getting too caught up in the playoff picture and not staying focused on the game at hand.

But combine this with the oft touted observation that the minute we get scored on, the air goes out of our tires. Mase slumps, we slump...and the other team scores to win. If the first five minutes of tonight's game go poorly - does that mean the team will believe we're doomed?

So while, in theory, game to game, seems like a good approach, period to period, or minute to minute, seems almost rife with problems. Because the issue isn't the segment, its the transition between the segments that in question-particularly with a team in a state such as ours. And while I'm no professional athlete, and we've all heard across sports the idea that "you have to let the bad plays go...", I question if this can be done in a game paced such as hockey. Football is different: quarterback throws a bad pass, but then he gets a whole new play clock, plus perhaps a timeout, to refocus, and by the way start to prepare for a new play. Hockey players do not have this luxury.

In addition to the lack of transition opportunity, one could argue that going minute to minute prevents you from maintaining focus - too much "the segment is ending. the segment just ended. a new segment is starting. repeat". Is this part of the problem - we are taking the victory of winning a period or just five minutes and forgetting its part of a bigger picture? Again, while my work process is vastly different than a professional hockey player, I question if one truly can shake something off in nano-seconds and reset that quickly. Just a question of human nature. You do have to be able to hit the reset button but are we now trying to do it too fast?

I do not know the answer to this quandry. Arguably, when the season started, I thought the "one game at a time" approach was good. Perhaps we should stick to that. With issues of mental toughness, let's hang the carrot at the end of what does in fact matter and that's an ENTIRE GAME, versus breaking it down into far too many segments that may in fact be too easy to lose and too difficult from which to recover.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who Will Step Up?

There's a lot going on in Blue Jackets land. None of it is good. I think in the past few days I have seen someone call for the firing of, in no certain order, Arniel, Howson, Nash, the team, Priest...what have you. Trades (or lack thereof) are simultaneously applauded and cursed.

I will not regurgitate to you now the various and sundry arguments that everyone has for who is to blame, but I will point out that noone (that I have seen) is saying we don't have talent (i will not go into the nuances of our goal tending situation here-and I acknowledge the door that leaves open for critics pre-disposed to that position).

For what its worth, I have always had a hiring philosophy in my work - I'd rather hire someone with the intangibles of fight, of perseverance, of willingness to learn versus just someone skilled in a line of work. I can teach them a trade, but I can't teach them the drive to apply that skill.

So, here is my point. WHO WILL STEP UP to turn the tide? Will it be our coaches? Will it be management? Will it be the fans? Will it be our captain? Will it be the men who wear the "A"? Will it be our new acquisitions who come from organizations such as the Pens? (like it or not, Letestu's opinion should bear weight) Because, if we are strong in our commitment, we can possibly overcome weakness. And any one of those parts of this team can make a difference if they are committed to it. A great team focused on winning can overcome a poor coach. A great coach can overcome poor work ethic and even sometimes poor skill level. Every variable is arguably possible of making, or breaking, the change this team needs.


I would argue there's no one answer to this question. Leadership comes to bear in many different ways. It only takes the right spark to light a fire. We just need to find that spark. Whether inside or outside the current organization, if we don't find the right spark, we'll continue down this path on which we are headed. And in this case, to me, spark isn't just about skill. Right now, our newest team members are standing out - Letestu and Nikitin (which I still can't pronounce). This to me says that our current resources weren't driving towards the right goals or perhaps just not in the right way. Instead of damning everyone, do we offer one last gasp of consideration in challenging the different parts of this team to STEP UP?

The fact is that losing is - and should be - unacceptable. Who will start to set this tone for this team?

Regardless of who said it, now is the time to truly ask...who will Stand and Fight?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Open Chat...

Yesterday was an Open Letter, today, is about an Open Chat. I went to the Season Ticket Holder Morning Skate and Q&A with Scott Howson.

The morning skate was just that...with free coffee and hot Chocolate (thank you Tim Hortons!). And after stalking #DD via my camera phone, it was time to move to the Q&A. Scott Howson started off by saying he welcomed any question and he knew he'd be facing the tought ones (which he "is asking himself every day")-and there were some snipes for sure-as many feel are justified right now. I wanted to share some salient points from the time we spent with Scott Howson...


  • GMSH started with a review of what was already trickling out - Carter will play, Dex is hurt (MRI this morning) and Kris Russell went to St. Louis
  • Scott spoke at length about the Russell trade. It actually was done before the game but he didn't want it announced prior, (and is still amazed it got out on Twitter). Kris was aware something was going on, and was obviously upset to be traded. Scott also spoke to Kris' character and dedication to this team and that he will be missed (Dannie sobbed quitely next to me...well not really but almost.)
  • In response to the need for more senior advisors, "we are moving down the path of hiring more senior people to advise this team"
  • In response to the Hitch question he flat out said "Hitch was not interested in coaching here....and his time here had passed".
  • In response to the Letestu trade: we can never have enough centers, and while not a precursor to any trade, GMSH hinted that we certainly don't have to worry about the position of center should we be making moves with others.
  • GMSH does still believe that Mason can be (note "Can") a good goalie but when pressed if he was thinking about another goalie perhaps a seasoned guy to mentor Mase for a bit (and yes the guy said "Nabokov") GMSH replied, with a smirk (the only of the day) "Every minute".
  • Realignment is still very much a topic. The GM meeting is upcoming, and while we still would petition to go to the east, it seems most are in favor of the "4 division" plan particularly as it eliminates at least two big west coast trips for us each year
  • GMSH said in hindsight, he felt he misjudged our D. He hoped to get at least 60 games from Martinek and felt that Savard and others would be more ready to step up
  • He also talked about Jan Hejda's non-signing (in response to an either very devastated or very nervous fan) and said the money just wasn't there as some was shifted to getting Wiz. He misses Jan and is glad he got what he got.
  • JOHAN: Scott said (as he did numerous times) that lineup decisions are the purview  of the coaching staff, and he would love to see RyJo playing every single night, but knows that he will have some games off where he will take the necessary time to adapt to the NHL game. (he also made a reference to the movie "Moneyball" and that if RyJo doesn't play for 10 straight games he might make trades to show Arniel his displeasure...it was a joke...but...)
  • Cam! (Yes, I asked this question!) Cam had issues of confidence after being sent down to Springfield the first time after making the team, but Scott has spoken with him and wants him to develop more in the AHL and to expect that he will be going back and forth between the clubs for a while. He also admitted that they do NOT want the young young guys around the crisis of confidence that is going on (OMG I hypothesized that a while back...I got something right!). But he spoke of Cam's undeniable skill and that two games ago in Springfield, when Howson was there that Cam was the best player on the ice - not on the team - on the ice.
  • The "Why Nash wears the C" question was asked. And the answer is that three years ago, Nash made a commitment to this team and the team made a commitment to him. And that includes wearing the "C". GMSH spoke to the fact that Nash feels the frustration more than anyone, and has the "weight of the world" on his shoulders. He believes Nash is an elite player and there is no question he is our captain.
  • Of course the "why is Arniel still coach?" question was raised. GMSH straight out said "we are not looking to make a coaching change".
  • In perhaps his most honest moments, Scott spoke to the attitude of the team. He spoke to the fact that Prospal's comments carried great weight in the organization and that this is a topic of strong conversation with the coaching staff. He knows this team has issues of confidence, fight and determination right now that must be fixed. His words were "mental weakness". 
  • He also, in response to the question "why should we have faith in YOU?" and "Can you give us any hope?" said he knows this feeling and understands. and that he is asking that of the players right now - what are we doing to give hope to this team's fans.
Now, I have tried to present the content as objectively as I can. If you'll allow me a bit of commentary.

In reflection, regardless of your opinion of Scott Howson, I would like to say that he deserves respect for sitting in that room taking the questions he did for over an hour. He knows we're in bad shape. And, I would NOT want to have to answer to a large group of people who don't do a job like mine about why all my work has resulted in suckitude thus far. Scott answered every single question and looked every single person in the eye as he addressed their issue. As a crowd, the fans asked the same things many of us have asked and debated, and sometimes not too nicely. To remain composed and own up to what is going on right now, well in that, Scott Howson deserved my applause and thanks for showing up. 

That aside, the session crystallized for me my conflicting emotions so far this season. For this team, we are facing an issue of performance and an issue of character. I just spoke to the issue of character. Again, regardless of performance, Scott Howson faced up to his critics today in a mature, fair and very open manner when he didn't always get that in return. Also, in his sharing the back story to the Russell trade, he shared how devastated Russell was and how much he loved this team. Character. 

That leaves us with performance. Scott admitted to the fact that trading now is better than trading later, because it costs less to get what we need, but that teams are less likely to be willing to bargain since everyone still has high hopes and plans...(well except us? :( )  We have now officially acknowledged the issue of "mental toughness" but, with the talent we believe we have on the ice, I do have to say, its turning to coaching more and more. I have stayed completely away from the judgment of Arniel thus far. I have not felt informed enough to truly evaluate that. But, given Howson's statements of what is and is not his responsibility and what is and is not Arniel's, I have to wonder if Howson does in fact share many of opinions that Arniel is not right for this team. And I cringe even writing that, because, again, these are real people facing real challenges and I want to be clear that Howson stated that they are not looking to make a coaching change (of course what else would he say?)

The point was made vividly clear: the job of a GM is not the job of a coach and the job of a coach is not the job of a GM. It would seem that Howson did his job fairly well this year...and now it falls to coaching. And character....can our players rise to the occasion even if their leadership isn't all it can be.

Some in that room supported Howson, some did not. Right now, you can put me in the catagory of the former.

Oh and dang it Matt! You beat me to the punch!!! I'm sure you'll find better analysis over at the Cannon! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Open Letter...Part Deux

How do I get myself into these things? Well...many of us ask that as a fan of our beleaguered Blue Jackets. But this is a specific "thing".

Last night, our intrepid blogger, KRuss fangirl, and friend, Dannie posted An Open Letter to the Blue Jackets. It seemed to gain some traction as expressing the sentiments that some of us have right now.

Now - first, let me acknowledge, I know many of you may disagree. Some of you have opinions that relate more to management and/or coaching. I want to be clear that I respect your opinions and respect anyone who has differing opinions than in this letter, many of you have forgotten more about hockey than I'll ever know.

BUT. If you do agree with this letter...well, we have an outlet for you.

We have had a larger, more general (i.e. we don't all live in Cincinnati...plus, you Cincy friends should move here...but I digress) copy of this letter printed on a large sheet. Our intent is to have it at the season ticket holder skate tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 11) morning, as well as at the tweetup tomorrow night (Versus the Jets) and again at the tweetup Tuesday, November 15th (15!) versus the Wild. We invite anyone interested to come find us and sign the letter. 


If you cannot join us in person, and would like to sign "virtually", please tweet us (@AlisonL and @frickindannie) with your intent to sign and we'll print it out and attach it to the letter. Our goal is then to send this to the team.

I believe in this letter not only because I do agree with what it says, but because, hey, if it helps these guys at all to know that we still believe...we just want THEM to also...well, what's the harm in that? Look, I'm not delusional, I can see where this season is headed right now, but I still hope for improvement - in attitude, play and record.

Oh. And if you don't know who we are, well, I'm the tall one always in a Dorsett jersey, and Dannie is the cute one. Here's a pic for your reference (the things I do for my team...)

Dannie (L) Ali (R)


Thursday, November 10, 2011

There was a plan...

My fun little concept for tonight was that I was going to live blog this game...




...be thankful I didn't.






Oh. And Dannie wrote everything I've been thinking for a while and tried to say a bit ago. READ THIS.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Slice of Humanity With Your Bitter Pie?

I shall hope to be brief tonight...a weekend out of town to run a half marathon (who knew that the PHL game would be even more painful...) has given me some time to again, watch CBJ Nation from a slightly distanced perspective.

I am as angsty and bitter as many of you - a season for which I had such high hopes has disintegrated into nothingness is less than two months and the reasoning and the excuses are now hollow. But as I watch all of us from far away, I have a few important points - the only ones of which I am sure - that I would ask each of us to consider and hopefully remember...

  • NOONE associated with this organization is happy with how this season has gone
  • Changes - of either personnel, scheme, or attitude - must, and will, be made
  • NOONE except those making those changes knows when, where or who such decisions will be made
  • I am not one one of those people hired to - or qualified enough - to make such decisions
  • Regardless of culpability or innocence, real people will be involved
So, yes, friends and fellow fans, I understand your frustration. I deeply feel your pain. I, for one, have had to take an emotional break from these goings on a day here and there in the past few weeks.

So, I am choosing to live by that age old rule that my mother taught me "never say anything you wouldn't say to someone's face." I'm not going to publicly insult anyone or demand their job.

Hockey is a business, yes. But there are people at every level. People with spouses/partners, families, friends and hopes of their own. If and when any hammer drops, I have no doubt that many will have self-inflicted wounds far deeper than those our words can inflict. I will choose not to pile on.

#StandandFight

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shot Through the Heart...

And You're to Blame...
You Gave the Fans a Bad Game.

Friends, I have never pretended to understand the nuances of the game of hockey. But we have come to desperate times, and I'm going to give you some stats, because when I see something, you know its bad.

So here we go.
(and for the record, I saw this mid second period, but my twitter feed tells me we're all seeing the same ;) )
  • Shots on Goal: 18 (TOR)  39 (CBJ)
  • Power Plays: 2 (TOR) 4 (CBJ)
  • Face Offs: 21-51 [41%] (TOR) 30-51 [59%] (CBJ)
  • Hits: 12 (TOR) 28 (CBJ)
  • And don't think we didn't try to find the time in the offensive zone stat but I still have to pack and work before an early flight tomorrow
My point is this, the Blue Jackets controlled the majority of that game and for 39 shots, we scored once. ONCE. And that goalie was no Calder contender, our shot quality was beyond awful. I was shocked to see that Scrivens even had a logo on the front of his sweater by end of the game we hit it so many times. Back when I used to help keep stats for basketball (don't ask) we had a shot chart to track from where every shot was taken, had I access to such a chart that showed where every shot went from the Blue Jackets I'd wager a LOT of money (that I don't even have) that 90% of our shots went right at that logo. Its not a bullseye, boys. We are not playing darts.

And so - with too many literal "shots to the heart" our team shot us fans "through the heart". Once again, we leave depressed, frustrated, angry, and up in arms with what to do. Honestly, I doubt team leadership knows any better...and that is not a "shot" at them. How can we guess which Blue Jackets Team is going to show up any given night?

But this is not a night for all that. This is a night to point out that we. cannot. shoot. the. puck. effectively. Look, there are a million and one sports colloquialisms about scoring...

"Follow Your Shot"
"Wait for the right opportunity"
"Don't pass up a shot" 
blah blah blah

At this point, I don't care what philosophy we employ but perhaps some, no, a LOT of shooting drills, boys? Perhaps that fun drill from the All Star Game where you shoot until you hit all the plates in each of the four corners? And, just throwing this out there, when I wanted on the varsity lacrosse team, I went out, every day, and shot on goal and passed to myself (off my parent's roof mind you - god love 'em) until my skills got better. Go shoot boys. Go shoot often, and let me know when you're getting better. Its not just gonna happen without some hard work...

And, I offer this for your consideration - with this level of "quality" in our shooting, if this is what Mase faces in practice day in and day out, how ready can he be to face the snipers of the Western Conference? That, coupled with confidence issues and youth is certainly a combustible combination.

I know I am oversimplifying part of a larger issue, but you can't argue that this isn't a huge part of the problem. I continue to believe that right now we have significant issues on the ice. And I'm even more frustrated because this was the year to do something positive...we had room on the Columbus radar, and hockey is getting attention on the national sports radar (what will ESPN do without the NBA...pray we find out!) and we're squandering what appeared to be the best opportunity yet.

Stay Tuned for Future Entries in this Series...
Hey Now, Hey Now! Don't Dream its Over
End of the Innocence
Whisper to a Scream
What Have I Done to Deserve This
Ain't Too Proud to Beg