directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: ...and then there were 26

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

...and then there were 26

The Blue Jackets announced more cuts today trimming their roster to 26.

Out are:

Derrick Brassard - reassigned to the AHL
Tom Sestito - reassigned to the AHL
Joakim Lindstrom - reassigned to the AHL
Shedlon Brookbank - reassigned to the AHL (pending clearing waivers)
Derick MacKenzie - reassigned to the AHL (pending clearning waivers)
Jakub Voracek - reassigned to the QMJHL
Joel Bouchard - released from PTO (professional try out contract)

So that means some bubble players that are sticking, at least for now, are:

Gilbert Brule
Kris Russell
Jared Boll
Steve Mason
Marc Methot
Curtis Glencross

Definitely a couple of surprises here to discuss.

First the guys who were reassigned. Derick Brassard is definitely the name that sticks out the most here. He scored 5 points 6 preseason games, the majority of his points coming in the first couple of contests. The skill level is definitely there but it appears the staff felt it better to start him in the AHL and then go from there. I'm sure we'll see plenty of Brassard this year and I personally think this is a good decision - if there was any doubt then I'm glad they took the conservative approach with his development.

Jakum Voracek, 7th overall pick from this year's draft, really had a nice camp considering his age and experience. He actually exceeded my personal expectations and hung around until the very last moment. He'll go back, rip up the QMJHL this year for the Halifax Mooseheads, play in the World Juniors Championships and then come into camp next year full of confidence and then make a serious run at this team.

Tommy Sestito was another surprise, at least for me, to make it this far in camp. The coaches loved his size and willingness to mix it up out there. He and Jared Boll really brought a physical presence to the lineup. I suspect we'll see Tommy Sestito make his NHL debut sometime this year.

Sheldon Brookbank was a guy who at first seemed way to slow for the pro game, at least in practice, but as the games began it was clear that even though this guy wasn't very fleet of foot he was very sound positionally and had a nice shot from the point. He also brings alot of size and toughness to the lineup. He'll see plenty of time this year on the blueline for the Jackets as injuries start to mount.

The rest of the guys sent down; MacKenzie & Lindstrom were pretty much expected. Lindstrom's window of opportunity is definitely closing here in Columbus so he is going to have to have a strong year in the AHL to get another look with the big club. He needs to get to those dirty scoring areas and instead of playing just a perimeter game. MacKenzie was signed as a UFA this summer as a depth guy for the Crunch and that what it looks like he'll be.

Finally Joel Bouchard was not offered a contract. He played pretty good but I suspect more than anything it was a numbers game for Bouchard. With Foote/Klesla/Westcott/Hainsey/Hejda/Tollefsen all on 1-way contracts...and with Russell and Methot playing as well as they did, there just wasn't any room for another 1-way deal unless some trades are made.

Its also important to note that Brookbank and MacKenzie must clear waivers. Brookbank may be attractive to some teams looking for size and toughness on defense.

So one man's loss is another gain.

Gilbert Brule had a few questions coming into camp and he answered them in spades. He came into camp much more physically prepared...and mentally prepared...he battled hard in the corners, went to scoring areas and even prompted coach Ken Hitchcock to say "he looks like an NHL player out there now". He'll play wing.

Kris Russell was the talk of just about everyone. At times he was clearly this team's best defensemen in the preseason. He has a skill set this team desperately needs and that's a smooth skating, offensively aware and strong positionally defensemen. He is undersized but the way he plays the game it doesn't matter. His play tailed off in the last game but I think that was more to do with playing 3 games in 4 nights than anything else. He'll most likely start out playing on the bottom pairing and will see even strength and loads of PP time.

Jared Boll. Probably the biggest surprise of camp. This kid will never be a big time scorer but he's gonna excel at what he brings to the table and that annoying the crap out of the other team. This kid hit anything, fought anything and iritated anything in his path in preseason. He'll play on the fourth line and add a Darcy Tucker / Sean Avery presence to this team. Oh, and this kid can back it up with his fists if needed. He'll be a fan favorite in no time.

Steve Mason is a guy who I'm surprised is still here. This guy is the goalie of the future but with Norrena and Leclaire showing very well so far there isn't going to be any room for this guy on the roster. For now I suspect he's here as insurance in case Leclaire or Norrena need to take a practice or two off to get to 100% health. There is no denying this kid has had a great camp and could make this team permanently as early as next season.

Marc Methot (pictured right) is another guy who showed very well in camp. Each and every day he played his butt off letting it be known he's here to stay. He obviously got his taste of the big time last year and was going to do everything in his power to stick. With he and Russell though that makes 8 d-man on this roster when Foote gets healthy. Both he and Russell are AHL eligible so Methot may still see some AHL time this year as there is no benefit to letting him sit in the press box -- need to keep this guy playing and developing.

So as of today, this is how I see the lineup assuming Modin and Foote are out of the lineup on opening night:

Nash - Malhotra - Vyborny
Zherdev - Fedorov - Brule
Chimera - Peca - Fritsche
Shelley/Beech - Novonty - Boll
extra: Shelley/Beech

Klesla - Westcott
Hejda - Tollefsen
Hainsey/Methot - Russell
extra: Methot/Hainsey

Leclaire/Norrena (way to close to call here whose #1)

The defense will be a mix of those seven guys assuming Foote is still out but the line pairings are anyone's guess.

I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I'd be penciling in Manny as our #1 center on opening night but at this point it sure looks that way for the time being.

The roster will need to be trimmed to 23 on Tuesday but with Modin and Foote on the shelf for the foreseeable future there will only need to be one more cut and that's likely sending Steve Mason back to his junior team in London Ontario.

Its great to see management stick by their word that the best players will make this team. Congrats to Jared Boll and Kris Russell for becoming NHLers -- helluva an accomplishment by those two young men.

I think its safe to say now - welcome to your 2007-2008 Columbus Blue Jackets!


4 days until the puck drops for real!

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