directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: THN Vol 61 No. 3-4: Jackets Team Report

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

THN Vol 61 No. 3-4: Jackets Team Report

The Hockey News team reports are basically short team previews for the 07-08 season. Here are some snippets from the Jackets report:

It starts with Vyborny's (pictured left) quote that we heard early this season when he says "It's read now. It feels real" and then goes:

Real. The team has a coach, Ken Hitchcock, with Hall of Fame credentials and a firm grip on the dressing room.

Real. New GM Scott Howson brought with him from Edmonton a deliberate, proven plan for building a winning club in a smaller market, signaling an end to the wasteful, aimless "plans" of the previous administration.

Real. After six losing seasons of abject losing - the Jackets have the worse cumulative record in the NHL since they've joined the league - an identify has been forged; the overall physical fitness of the club has been improved; and expectations have been lifted.

The Blue Jackets aren't quite ready to be a Western Conference power, not with the many questions marks throughout their lineup. But it's high time they learn to compete on a nightly basis, and it appears those days have arrived.

Hitchock met with every player last April, sending them into the summer with detailed plans for their offseason workouts.

By July he was irascible, already looking forward to camp with a promise that "the pedal will be pushed to the floor right from Day 1."

The first challenge is to make the Jackets tougher, more resilient. The second is to grow their abundance of young talent through more reasonable expectations. What the Blue Jackets did to Gilbert Brule last season - No. 2 center? - was almost criminal.

Finally, the vets - Adam Foote, Sergei Fedorov, Michael Peca - are being urged to assume leadership roles, without fear of being clipped by heavy-handed management.

As one player noted: "The dark days are over."

There's no reason this club shouldn't be competitive - finally - in 2007-208.

Rick Nash, a blooming power forward is poised to assume his spot among the NHL elite. He'll be captain when Foote hangs em up.

The rest of the roster may not "fit" perfectly, but they'll be competent. That, in itself, is a marked improvement.

Real. Vyborny planned to return to the Czeck Republic after this season; now he wants a long-term contract.

The Hockey News also ranks the top 20 players by position. The Jackets have two players listed. They have Nash at number 10 as a right winger? They also have Fedorov ranked as the 19th best center in this league which is very hard to believe.

They also list 10 Calder candidates - no Jackets listed and not a word about Brassard or Russell.

...and of course no NHL prediction piece would be complete without absolutely panning the Jackets' chances. They have us finishing 14th in the conference (yet they have St. Louis 9th and Chicago 10th) and here is what they say:

Key Arrivals: Jan Hejda, Jiri Novotny, Michael Peca

Key Departures: Bryan Berard, Brian Boucher, Andres Eriksson, Aaron Johnson

What's new: Hard to get too excited about a new GM, Scott Howson, who wasn't the first choice for the job, but he does have the Jackets heading in the right direction.

Hot topic: Take this to the bank: When the season ends, Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote will be playing for new teams.

So there you have it. Lots of bulletin board material here if the organization ever wanted to use it but I think they'll be motivated plenty without it.

Oh...and they pick the Sharks to win it all this season.


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