directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Blue Biscuits

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blue Biscuits has a team-by-team preview of the Jackets. Not to worry, they have fallen right in line in panning the Jackets' chances like all the other "experts":

One of these days, the Blue Jackets will actually look like they're actually getting somewhere. Not this year unfortunately, although with the Doug MacLean era mercifully over, there is hope for the future.

Strengths Before we get to what these are, remember this is a franchise that has yet to sniff the playoffs in its six seasons of operation. There's a reason. This team has never been very good and it isn't now. Rick Nash is a talent, although he seemed a lot more exciting when he won the Rocket Richard Trophy three years ago at 19, and David Vyborny and Nikolai Zherdev can produce in spurts. Maybe Sergei Fedorov still has some gas in the tank, and Fredrik Modin is still at least a second-line winger. There are some prospects in the pipeline, but the Jackets haven't done a particularly good job of developing players, even though they've always drafted high.

Weaknesses They've had a country club atmosphere around Columbus for years, which will probably change under the new regime, but the effect will be down the road. For now, the team needs to find some offense to upgrade the 28th worst attack last season. It was nearly as bad on the power play where Columbus ranked 26th, and the defense, on the best of nights is no more than a mediocre collection of players. The goaltending is still an open question because one-time first rounder Pascal Leclaire hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to prove he can do the job.

Par for the course. The Jackets are going to have to earn their respect on the ice and it all starts with playing the in-your-face brand of hockey they brought to Carolina last night.

Not to be outdone of course, takes their shots at the Jackets with another prediced 5th place finish in the Central:

With a new regime in place, there is renewed optimism in Columbus that the Blue Jackets are finally going in the right direction. It all started last season when the team hired Ken Hitchcock as its head coach. The taskmaster took his new and mostly-young squad to task right away, steering the club to a 28-29-5 record in 62 games. While that may not seem like anything to get excited about, take into consideration that Columbus had only won five of its first 20 games before Hitchcock came onto the scene.

The other significant move the Blue Jackets made was bringing in Scott Howson as their new GM. Howson made a name for himself with the Edmonton Oilers, where as the team's assistant general manager for six years he helped rebuild the club through the draft and savvy transactions. During his time as Kevin Lowe's understudy, Edmonton had five straight winning seasons, averaging 37 wins and 89 points per campaign, and topping 90 points four times. Howson also had a hand in helping Edmonton advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.

The Jackets will also look to veterans like Sergei Fedorov, Michael Peca, David Vyborny, Fredrik Modin, Manny Malhotra, and Jason Chimera to do their part if the club is to make up any ground in the Central this coming season. The guess here is that the Jackets will improve on their point total from last year, but will finish the year in the division's basement.

The Dispatch also dispels any Zherdev trade rumors and offers some juicy quotes from Z's agent:

There were eight scouts in Nationwide Arena on Thursday, including two for the Pittsburgh Penguins, fueling rumors that Zherdev could be on the move.

Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson would not comment on the rumors, but he and Hedges said they were without merit.

"We realize it's preseason," Hedges said. "We realize there was a switch to center early in training camp, and now he's back on the wing. There's been an adjustment period there for Nikolai. We realize these things.

"Three weeks from now? If he's not on the top six, then you have to question the situation. But, no, not right now."

Read more here.

Portzline has says in his blog that he'll have some quotes from an Russian interview with Z sometime today.

I personally don't buy all the "Z not on the block" talk. I think he's been on the block but they are waiting for the right deal to come along. If Z picks up his game and starts playing like we know he can then either 1. we'll want even more for him or 2. we keep him. He showed signs of that last night playing over 26 minutes of good hockey which pleased the coaching staff. The question remains, can he sustain it and can he gain the trust of the locker room?

Its an uphill battle for #13. Any way I slice it I don't see him being a member of this team past this season.

I'll have a game preivew against the Predators later today.


No comments: