directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Larry Wiggie - Central News & Notes

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Larry Wiggie - Central News & Notes

Larry Wiggie has some interesting tidbits this afternoon regarding the central -- there are a couple of nuggets we Jacket fans should pay special attention to:

"Rick Nash wasn’t a star as a rookie in Columbus. Nor was Vinny Lecavalier, Joe Thornton or Mike Modano – all of whom were first overall picks in the annual NHL Entry Draft.
Entering the NHL is not a skate in the park. Most players need to get bigger, stronger or faster. And most need to see how things work up close and personal in the big time before they truly get it. Some of the best coaches in the game, in fact, have always wanted to see how a young player reacts to NHL life and then assess what he needs to work on to make it in the big leagues. Sometimes the trek is a little easier the second time around."

Any player come to mind when reading that quote? Maybe a 6th overall pick from the 2005 NHL Draft who didn't quite make the impact many (including myself) were expecting last year? Yep, you guessed it - Gilbert Brule. Remember Joe Thornton had a total of 7 points, yes 7 points, his first year in this league. The he went 41, 60, 71 & 68 over the next four. So keep that in mind if your already writing off this kid. I predict big things from him this coming year.

Wiggie goes on to talk about Sophomores who could make an impact and brings up Novotny for the CBJ:

"Jiri Novotny, Columbus – He was around for four playoff games for Buffalo in 2006 and spent enough time in that highly competitive, high-energy offense of the Sabres over the past two seasons to be ready for the opportunity he’ll be given by the Blue Jackets this season. The six goals and 13 assists he had in 68 combined games at Buffalo and Washington last season only served to peak this playmaker’s hunger to play – and play a lot – in the NHL."

Wiggie also talked about defensemen in the Central and this is what he had to say about the Jackets:

"All successful coaches employ at least two players as shutdown defensemen, sometimes they play them together. Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock did that with Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk when he coached in Dallas. Of course, he had the best of both worlds with two skilled guys – Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor – as well. The makeup of his defense in Columbus is yet unidentified. If he can keep Adam Foote and Duvie Westcott healthy, he had one gritty stopper and one talented puck-rusher. Up to now, Ron Hainsey has filled the other push-mover role. So where does that put Rusty Klesla? That’s what Hitchcock has to figure out. That, plus which of the other D-men – Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Marc Methot and high draft choice Kris Russell – will make the Jackets defense stronger."

I personally don't think our defense was that bad last year -- certainly not as bad as our forward group. The Jackets ranked 16th in the league in goals against with 249. While certainly from an individual defensemen standpoint we could most certainly do better (our collective +/- is terrible) its clear that the team certainly made some strides playing as a defensive unit. I contribute the biggest reason for that to Hitchcock's arrival and his emphasis on strong two way team play. Considering the amount of injuries we had on that blueline and in net, I think this team is poised to better that goals against number especially with the defensive depth we have now - this is how I see the blueline:

1. Foote
2. Klesla
3. Wescott
4. Hejda
5. Tollefsen
6. Hainsey
7. Brookbank
8. Methot
9. Russell

Alot of people have been mentioning Russell as having a good chance to make this team. This team desperately needs a player with his skillset which some compare to Scott Neidermeyer - he's a phenomenal skater and defines the term "puck moving defensemen" - but we've been down the rushing prospect road before. I'm confident with the new regime that Russell's development is in good hands (i.e. they'll do what's best for him short and long term).


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