The Blue Jackets announced more cuts today trimming their roster to 26.
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:
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 camp...by 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
Klesla - Westcott
Hejda - Tollefsen
Hainsey/Methot - Russell
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!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The Blue Jackets announced more cuts today trimming their roster to 26.
The kid is a rookie so we have to remember that he'll have some up and downs as he works his way through the regular season.
Read more here.
Labels: Kris Russell
Despite getting outshot 41-17 the Jackets blanked the Predators 3-0 last night in Nashville evening their preseason record to 3-3-1 (3-0-1 on the road).
Fredrik Norrena (pictured right) earned the much deserved shutout after making countless saves off point blank shots and held the Jackets in the game during 11 PP opportunities for the Predators. He certainly made a strong statement for that #1 starter position last night.
Rick Nash capitalized on his opportunities tonight scoring a short handed goal and knocking one home off a Manny Malhotra faceoff win in the offensive zone. Nash ended the preseason scoring 4 goals in 5 games and for the first time appeared to be rounding into regular season form and becoming the best player on the ice for the Jackets. Nash's ability to kill penalties has been a tremendous asset that coach Ken Hitchcock has uncovered since his arrival. "(Nash) is a horse right now and we're going to ride him," coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Sergei Fedorov added the 3rd goal from Derick Brassard and Nikolai Zherdev 83 seconds after Nash scored his second.
This was the first time beating the Nashville Predators in preseason or the regular season in more than a full calendar year.
Lit it up
Outside of the Nash and Norrena there were a number of other players who played well, the first of which was Manny Malhotra. In the Columbus Dispatch this morning, coach Ken Hitchcock was quoted as saying "Malhotra has been the team's best all-around player in camp". Manny, who won 68% of his faceoffs last night going 11 for 5 in the circle, played a solid North American style game last night. Manny, who isn't known for his scoring prowess, may find himself in that #1 center position on opening night due mostly to the fact that nobody else has stepped up and b/c of his strong 2-way game and ability in the circle he won't be a liability as Nash and Vybes work their magic.
The kids are alright. Kris Russell continues to shine pulling 18+ minutes and going a +2 on the evening. He's been given a big test in the preseason and appears to be ready for the challenge of the NHL grind.
Derick Brassard, who tallied an assist last night off of Sergei Fedorov's 2nd period goal and was a +2 also is making a strong case - he has 5 points in 5 preseason games.
Finally, fireball Jared Boll did just about everything short of a score a point in the preseason to make his case for this team. He almost single handedly changed the momentum of last night's game getting under the skin of the entire Nashville team - this team needs his agitation and in-your-face style of play. He also fought Nashville tough guy Darcy Hordichuck (although I don't want this kid fighting every enforcer in this league).
All three of these kids should be in the lineup opening night and they have all earned it which is the key -- no inherited roles based on draft positions or individual biases here - that ship has sailed thankfully in this organization. Look for Derick Brassard to play further down the lineup as all signs point to Hitch not being ready to put the pressure of a #1 center job at the recently turned 20 year old's feet quite yet. Kris Russel should play in the top 4 but pull mostly even strength power play minutes - he won't see much PK time. Boll will be a fourth liner initially but could move up to the 3rd line as the season progresses.
Dim the light
Russians playing better. Both Nikolai Zherdev and Sergei Fedorov appear to have lifted their game's a notch or two. Fedorov has 3 points (2g, 1a) in his last 3 preseason games and Zherdev scored his first point of the preseason last night and has averaged 22 min in ice time his last two outings. So for a pair that had some real bad stretches during the preseason for them to start finding their games as the regular season approaches is a real plus for this team.
Defense and PK. The team defense and more specifically the PK continues to play strong. Last night was more of Norrena standing on his head but PK and team defense has been strong throughout the preseason which is an excellent sign of things to come. This team is not going to blow teams out of the water in the scoring department most nights so it must excel in goaltending and team defense and win those close games.
Penalties. This team continues to rack up the penalties and must reduce them as teams are too good in this league not to capitalize most nights. We also can't expect Leclaire and Norrena to stand on their heads night in and night out. I realize the referees are calling some extremely suspect penalties but the hooks, holds and trips must be limited especially in the offensive zone.
Evaluating the preseason as a whole there a lot of signs here to get excited about. We've had some young talent emerge - especially in key areas that are lacking on this team like a highly offensively skilled defensemen in Russell and a playmaking center in Brassard.
More importantly we are seeing strong signs of the style of play that Hitch is installing which is an intense, checking, strong team defense in your face style of play. Checking, according to Hitch, is what generates offense and as you watch this team thus far they have shown that to be true. There was only one preseason game where this team did not play this style and that was Thursday's game against Carolina - the positive is that they bounced back from that effort on the road the following two games.
Now lets see if this momentum and style carries over to the regular season and this team gets off to a good start.
Injury update: Peca is expected to practice Monday for the first time in two weeks, Hitchcock said. The coach offered no timetable on a return for Modin and defenseman Adam Foote (hamstring).
I think the odds of Foote and Modin playing in the season opener on Friday are low. So if your wondering where kids like Brassard and Boll fit in the lineup you can start piecing it together from there.
The Dispatch also has an excellent piece on Ken Hitchcock regarding the similarities between how he turned Dallas around 10 years ago to how he looks to turn Columbus around:
"There's nobody talking about our team who is picking us in the top 12 of the conference," Hitchcock said. "There's nobody. What they're missing is that this is a very competitive group of players. I can see it. I know it's there. But you can't measure it until we start the competition."
Read more of that here.
Look for final cuts to be made today or Monday. Final 23 man rosters are due to the NHL by this Tuesday.
On a final note, are we ever going to see the Jackets play in their road white uniforms? I don't believe they broke those out once this preseason.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch has listed the starting lineup for tonight's game against the Nashville Predators:
The other two lines are:
Kris Beech-Derick Brassard-Gilbert Brule
Jason Chimera-Dan Fritsche-Jason Boll
Kris Russell-Rostislav Klesla
Jan Hejda-Duvie Westcott
Marc Methot-Sheldon Brookbank
Edit: Here is Nashville's lineup:
Martin Erat - David Legwand - Jed Ortmeyer
Dan Hamhuis - Shea Weber
Looks like they are dressing their full roster tonight.
Thanks for the bogus pre-season schedule MacLean - I can gurantee you next year's pre-season schedule will have a little more thought behind it and it certainly won't include 3 games in 4 nights for the final games.
This is the first time the NHL has ever played a regular season game outside of North America. This is a two game series which will continue and conclude tomorrow.
The game can be seen today on Center Ice and HD Net. If you can't get it at home then head on out the RBar Arena in the Arena District to check out!
Up next is MSNBC's season preivew. The same predictions as the rest but at least the tell a slightly different story and actually note players like Boll.
Goaltending: When Marc Denis was dealt to Tampa Bay last season, it was to make the way clear for former top draft pick Pascal Leclaire to become No. 1 goalie. Instead, Finnish veteran Norrena, 32, stepped in and made the job his own. The only goalie to post a winning season in Blue Jackets history, Norrena is an aggressive butterfly goalie who loves to charge out of his crease to challenge shooters and take away the angles.
Player to watch: RW Jared Boll (pictured left). That's Boll as in bowl you over. Played in the Memorial Cup with Plymouth (OHL) last season and kept opponents on their toes during the pre-season with his aggressive, physical game. He'll never be a big scorer, but can be a physical presence and is willing to drop the gloves and go.
Outlook: The Blue Jackets will be a more difficult team to play against under Ken Hitchcock's tutelage. They will play a better brand of defensive hockey. But with little changed from a team that stumbled home 24th overall last season, not much else will be different.
Prediction: 71 points (5th in Central, 14th seed in West)
I still don't get how these writers think we are actually going to regress from last year's point totals -- this is a team that Hitch took over in shambles and brought them home with one win shy of a .500 record yet now with some fat trimmed in Carter and Berard, some solid NHL depth added, Hitch with a full preseason to work with and countless changes made behind the scenes they actually think we'll actually get worse? Not gonna happen.
I'm certainly not predicting playoffs for this team but I will guarantee you this team finishes with a better point total than last year. I think they'll put up between 85-90 points. That's a record slightly better than .500. They'll be in the mix for that .500 spot. Next week I will have a complete prediction on what I think this team is capable of next year.
At the end of the day, I guess they have to pick someone to finish 14th and why not the Jackets? Its an easy and safe target and a team that quite frankly hasn't earned anyone's respect. I can't wait for this team to serve up a giant platter of crow at the end of the year for all these "experts" and they realize that just because they didn't sign a big name free agent there were some significant changes and improvements to a roster that does have some talent but has never been molded correctly as a team.
I look at a team like Minnesota and then I look at the Jackets. Not a big difference in talent level -- the difference has always been the coaching and commitment towards defense and team play.
Remember two years ago nobody expected the Buffalo Sabres to become the contender they were. Two years nobody expected the Carolina Hurricanes to make the playoffs let alone win the cup.
The Jackets are going to creep up on a lot of teams this year. They can use being under the radar as a spring board to surprise some teams and get off to a good start this season. They keep playing the game they played last night and they'll be in the mix this year.
Oh and that Boll kid is gonna be something to watch this year.....an instant fan favorite.
Labels: Jared Boll
CBSSports.com 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.
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.
Labels: nikolai zherdev
Friday, September 28, 2007
Despite out shooting the Carolina 42 - 21, Hurricans' Andrew Ladd won the game in a shootout after 17 shooters. Curtis Glencross broke the stalemate late in the 2nd period notching a goal off a Fedorov redirection. That lead stood until Eric Cole was able to redirect a shot in the waning minutes of the 3rd period.
It was a strong physical bounce back game for the Jackets who really dominated the 2nd period and most of the 3rd. Unfortunately for the Jackets they only converted 1 of 10 PP chances. Pascal Leclaire made some game saving stops stopping 20 of 21 shots and was the 2nd star of the evening.
The Jackets lineup tonight was a mixed bag of veterans and rookies that went up against a Carolina Hurricanes lineup that is pretty much their full lineup they will take into the season.
Tommy Sestito, Ron Hainsey, OK Tollefsen and Curtis Glencross were all involved in fighting major so this one got physical.
Lit it up
Pascal Leclaire. From the sound of it Pascal Leclaire played a great game. In the interview after the game he said his knee, which held him out of most of last season, felt great and he doesn't even think about it. In fact, he said he's tired of talking about it. His game definitely looks on and I think right now he's got the inside edge at starting opening night. He also looked much better in the shootout tonight even though he was eventually beat by the 8th shooter.
Joel Bouchard (pictured right). Blocked 5 shots, had an assist and played close to 23 minutes. This was by far Bouchard's best game and he's making a case.
Physical game. The Jackets bounced back strong tonight bringing their anticipated style of in-your-face hockey. They got under the 'canes skin and they out hit them 19-9. The checking really opened up the ice for the Jackets and this mix bag of players really took it to the veteran lineup that 'canes iced.
Dim the light
Kris Beech. He played between between Glencross and Lindstom and really seemed to have a rebound game after a dismal performance the night before. He didn't light the world fire but had close to 20 min in ice time, 7 shots, and won 7 of 8 at the circle. Perhaps the pressure was off thus he was more relaxed and played more of his game?
PK. Penalty killing continues to be strong and its needed to be. The Jackets killed off 6 penalties tonight the majority of which coming in the first period.
Russians. Was hard to get a read on both Fedorov (who had an assist) and Zherdev. What amazes me is the amount of time they played tonight. Zherdev played over 26 minutes and Fedorov played over 24. Its clear Hitch is trying to figure just what do with these two playing them in every situation. He must have liked something tonight, especially with Z. Still though, only one point between them and 8 shots.
Offense. The offense continues to be anemic. They got plenty of shots on net but only one fell. This team has to learn to put away opponents when they've got them on the ropes - and they definitely had Carolina on the ropes tonight. Going 1 for 10 is simply unacceptable. Must.find.offense. To the 'canes credit though, Cam Ward played outstanding.
All in all though it was a very good sign to see this squad bounce back after a terrible performance last night. This is the brand of hockey they will be striving for each and every night.
Whats funny is that the Jackets during the preseason are 0-3-1 at home. On the road they are 2-0-1. For a team that has been historically awful on the road the early signs point to them being more loose. Perhaps its the schedule, perhaps its just coincidence but its certainly noteworthy.
Final game of the preseason is Saturday @ Nashville at 8 p.m. EST. No TV for this one, only radio.
Sorry no game preview tonight as the lines were not released.
I am listening to the game over the http://www.1460thefan.com stream (which they need to turn up the volumn) and the announced that Leclaire is in nets tonight.
Edit: Okay got the lines straight now:
Zherdev - Fedorov - Fritsche
Glencross - Beech - Lindstrom
Boll - Malhotra - Sestito
Shelley - McKenzie - Voracek
Tollefsen - Hainsey
Methot - Westcott
Bouchard - Brookbank
The 'canes have just about everyone in their lineup tonight including Brindamour, Staal, Whitney, Stillman, Klesla and Cam Warn in nets.
Lets see if the boys come out with more energy than what they brought last night. That and they need to stay out of the box.
Just in from TSN.ca, Steve Downie has been suspended 20 games by the league for his vicious head hit on Dean McAmmond of the Ottawa Senators.
Campbell, who runs the league's hockey operations and serves as chief disciplinarian, assured the players the league would do something significant about headshots, then backed it up by suspending Downie for 20 games, the fifth-longest suspension in league history.
"We'd be fools if we didn't do anything," Campbell said after announcing the suspension. "It wouldn't be worth having a (hockey operations) department if we did act on it after telling the players we would act upon it."
Campbell said he met with GMs and members of the league's competition committee over the summer and they came up with a total of 52 hits from last season that were considered blows to the head and established five basic criteria for supplementary discipline when it comes to headshots.
A tape was sent to each team and they were warned a player would be subject to a suspension when:
- a player targets an opponent's head;
- launches himself by leaving his feet to hit a player in the head area;
- when a hit to the head is delivered to an unsuspecting opponent;
- when the hit is a late one;
- whether the player delivering the hit is a repeat offender
This was a viscious hit by a kid that was known for such acts throughout his junior career -- you can see the hit below:
Don't look now but our boy Eklund over at hockeybuzz.com has a new Z rumor for us:
Looking into this now. Being told it is likely in the East....possibly Washington...I am talking to a few people who have been involved and said, "No." stay tuned.
You've gotta think at this point that the Jackets are listening or knocking on doors to see what they could get for #13 -- the question is is there any interest? I would say there probably is but unless he is moved as part of a package we aren't looking at any big names coming back. At this point though, losing Z could be addition by subtraction for that locker room.
Kevin Allen (who is one of my favorite hockey writers) of USAToday.com has a fun article up today - even has a Blue Jacket nugget in there:
Who you should watch: 1. The Pittsburgh Penguins. It's not too early for them to win it all. 2. Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash. He has the talent to be among the top five offensive players. 3. Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber. Not this season, but some day he'll win a Norris Trophy because he can do it all.
He also makes some predictions:
Teams that could slip in the standings: 1. Edmonton Oilers. 2. New Jersey Devils. 3. New York Islanders.
Teams that could be in the hunt for the No. 1 pick: 1. Coyotes.. 2. Oilers. 3. Boston Bruins.
Most improved teams: 1. Philadelphia Flyers. 2. Los Angeles Kings. 3. Washington Capitals.
Who's under pressure: 1. Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson. 2. Buffalo's $7 million man, Tomas Vanek. 3. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli. 4. Edmonton's Dustin Penner. 5. The Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltenders.
The good news is that he doesn't pick us to be in the hunt for the #1 pick. The bad news is that he also doesn't pick us to be one of the most improved teams.
Read more from Allen here.
TSN.ca takes a look at rookies to watch for and finally someone mentions our boy Russell's name:
Kris Russell, D, Columbus - Undersized (5-foot-10, 167 pounds) blueliner who has superior smarts along with terrific puck skills and was named the WHL's top defenceman in each of the last two seasons. A third-round pick in 2005, Russell scored 32 goals last season and has could land a spot on the Blue Jackets' power play.
They not only metion Russell but Brassard gets some notice as well:
Derick Brassard, C, Columbus - The sixth overall pick in 2006, Brassard missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, but he's impressing in camp with the Jackets this year. He might need some seasoning in the AHL, but Brassard has the kind of playmaking ability that could be a real boost for the Blue Jackets.
TSN.ca has also released their first "power rankings" of the season - here is where the Jackets stack up to start the year:
At the very least, the Blue Jackets can be expected to play a more responsible game under Ken Hitchcock's leadership and they could surprise if some of their young players can get used to the idea of bringing it every night. Key Injuries: None.
Umm... key injuries: none? Well I guess if your don't count Adam Foote, Michael Peca or Fredrik Modin then I guess it is none.
NHL.com takes a look at 82 reasons to be excited this year:
43. Watching David Vyborny playing sound, fundamental hockey in Columbus. Maybe this is the season that he will be recognized across the League for how good he is.
I personally like this one:
76. Blogs. The new frontier of hockey journalism is finding its feet and feeling its oats. More in-depth information on teams is available now because of these dedicated and independent posters.
Yahoo.com has an article that "Faces off with Dan Fritsche":
1) What CD would you have to have with you on a cross-country drive?
I would have to go with a country mix CD. Maybe a Kenny Chesney CD. I'm a country guy.
2) Who would portray you in a movie about your life?
I would say Kiefer Sutherland because I'm pretty much obsessed with him.
3) What celebrity "melts the ice" for you?
Jessica Simpson, for sure.
4) Who is your all-time favorite roommate on the road?
Aaron Johnson, without a doubt. He is the best guy in the world.
5) What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
Worst movie I have ever seen is "Napoleon Dynamite." I walked right out of the theater.
Yahoo.com also has a team by team preview capsules:
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
LAST SEASON: 33-42-7, 73 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Ken Hitchcock, 2nd season, 28-29-5; 13th overall, 436-278-105.
ADDED: D Sheldon Brookbank, C Jiri Novotny, C Michael Peca,
LOST: G Brian Boucher, D Bryan Berard, D Anders Eriksson, D Aaron Johnson, C Alexander Svitov,
PLAYER TO WATCH: Nikolai Zherdev continues to be an enigma after dropping from 27 goals in 2005-06 to 10 last season. Hitchcock is trying him as a first-line center between LW Rick Nash RW David Vyborny.
ICING: Scott Howson was hired as general manager in June, but his only major signing came in late August in Peca, who had four goals and had 11 assists in 35 games with the Maple Leafs before breaking his right leg in a collision last December. ... Svitov signed a two-year, $2.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets in early July, but has since remained in Russia to play for Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League. ... Goaltending continues to be a question mark. Pascal Leclaire was limited to 24 games last season because of a knee injury and finished 6-12-2, but Frederik Norrena was a competent replacement with a 24-23-3 mark. ... The Blue Jackets are the only one of the 30 NHL teams to never play in the playoffs. ... C Sergei Fedorov and D Adam Foote may both be playing in their final seasons in 2007-08.
ESPN.com also has a preview of the NHL up including an in depth look at the Central:
Ken Hitchcock now will have a full season to impose his considerable will and hockey smarts on the team, while new GM Scott Howson will try to sort out exactly what he's got in terms of talent. It won't be pretty this season, but by next summer, we wager the Blue Jackets will be a completely different team.
FSN Ohio will air a special Blue Jackets season preview on October 1st at 7:30 EST. It will air a total of five times.
The popular ex-Syracuse goalie was released from his tryout contract in Buffalo on Tuesday. Had he stuck with the organization, he might have played for the Amerks against Syracuse.
Read more about the Crunch here.
After suffering through an NHL modern day record 14 shutout losses last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets suffered their first shutout of this season falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 at Nationwide Arena last night.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Here is the lineup tonight for the Blue Jackets (will post Carolina's later once obtained):
Rick Nash - Kris Beech - David Vyborny
Jason Chimera - Derick Brassard - Gilbert Brule
Dan Fritsche - Jiri Novotny - Jakub Voracek
Tom Sestito - Manny Malhotra -Jared Boll
Kris Russell - Rostislav Klesla
O-K Tollefsen - Duvie Westcott
Jan Hejda - Ron Hainsey
Some key story lines to watch:
Spots are really on the line starting tonight and playing out over the next 3 preseason games in 4 nights. Its now or never time for the bubble guys like Beech/Russell/Boll/Brassard/Brule/Sestito/Voracek to show they belong in this lineup on opening night October 5th.
The Jackets are starting 12 regulars tonight and this game will give us a really good look at how this team is gonna stack up this season. Carolina will also be icing a lineup made predominately up of NHL regulars and is out to prove something after missing the playoffs last year -- which was just 1 year removed from winning the cup.
Tonight is Kris Beech's night to make an impact. The 1st round pick from the 1999 draft gets his chance to center the top line of Rick Nash and David Vyborny and earn a spot in this lineup. He's had a decent camp up to this point but will need to create plays and play a solid two-way physical game to make a lasting impression. He is the man to watch this evening.
Derick Brassard also gets another opportunity, only this time he will be looking to make an impression against a group of established NHLers. Tonight could also go a long way towards earning a spot on this team if he continues to light it up. He is our best skilled center at this point, the question is can he perform against grown men and keep up that high level of play he displayed thus far in camp?
Kris Russell is as much of a lock to make this team as any rookie still at camp. Still though, he gets another opportunity to show his skill set tonight against men as well. Hitch has said on the record that Russell has arguably been our best defensemen through camp thus far. Its been a treat to watch this kid perform.
Gilbert Brule would be next in my line of locks. Brule, the 5th overall pick from the 2005 draft, had a rough start to camp last year and quite frankly wasn't ready. This year has been a different story, Brule came to camp in great shape and has played well throughout -- to the point where Hitch has said "he looks like an NHL player out there". We'll see him opening night and he is gonna open some eyes this season.
Boll and Sestito are young energy guys making their pro debuts this season who can drop the mits if needed. Both have had very good camps are looking to carve out roles for themselves at the bottom of the lineup. Boll has been in the middle of everything in every games he's played - he's a character guy who has very good chance at making the squad. Sestio will most likely start the year in the AHL but could see time up at the big team as the year progresses.
Voracek, the first round pick from this season, has certainly served himself well in camp. This kid is gonna be a good player for us. This will likely be his last game this season before he's sent back to junior but look for this kid to make a big push for this team next year.
On defense we'll see pretty much the lineup we'll ice opening night outside of Adam Foote who is still nursing an injury. There are some slightly different pairs with Russell seeing time with Klesla while Duvie and OK holding down the 2nd pairing. Hejda and Hainsey, who quite frankly is being pushed hard by Russell, round out the pairing and I think both can use solid games to solidfy spots.
Steve Mason will get his 2nd nod in goal this preseason. He's shown quite well in camp and will look to continue his excellent play. He'll likely be sent back down to juniors after this game but has certainly shown management and coaching his ability to be the goaltender of the future here.
Adam Foote, Michael Peca, Fredrik Modin are all nursing injuries. Peca hopes to play in the final two preseason games.
Also interesting to note that Nikolai Zherdev is not in the lineup tonight. Just pointing that out :)
Hope to see a good crowd at the game tonight. I'll have a full report tonight or early tomorrow morning.
Uni-watch of ESPN has an interesting read today regarding the new Reebok Edge jerseys the NHL has rolled out. Of course, like any new change, there are complaints and criticisms sprinkled throughout the article.
A mixed bag of Blue Jackets news and nuggets for you this morning:
Brian Compton of NHL.com takes a look at players to watch out for this season in the Western Conference - here is his CBJ pick:
Columbus Blue Jackets: Michael Peca — Columbus will be Peca’s (pictured right) fourth home in the last four seasons after stays in Long Island, Edmonton and Toronto, but his leadership skills cannot and should not be underestimated. While coach Ken Hitchcock certainly won’t be relying on Peca to fill the net — he had just four goals in 35 games last season for the Leafs — the Blue Jackets bench boss will definitely lean on the two-time Selke Trophy winner to guide a franchise that has yet to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch weighed in late night on his blog regarding the Eklund rumors that we are interested in a Vancouver center and that Edmonton is interested in Zherdev - some of this thoughts:
Let's break this down: Which Canucks center? Brendan Morrison? Doubt it. He centers Markus Naslund on the Canucks' No. 1A line. If they trade him, who's the No. 1 center? That creates a huge hole in the lineup of a club that already struggles to score goals.
I'm told the Blue Jackets have not had talks with the Vancouver Canucks. I'd be a fool to believe they haven't kicked a couple of tires in an attempt to acquire a No. 1 center, but it would be tough to swing. I mean, really, who has too many No. 1 centers?
The Blue Jackets and Oilers makes sense ... sort of. Edmonton has already turned a fancy, frilly player into a NHL stud (Ales Hemsky), so maybe they could pull off the magic trick with Zherdev, too. There were rumors this summer that the Oilers turned down a Zherdev for Joffrey Lupul trade. Maybe Howson was behind that decision. Funny, now that he's in charge of the Blue Jackets and Zherdev, eh?
Some good points and notice he never denies the Jackets talking with Edmonton. Both Vancouver and Edmonton need offense more than they can give it but both have a suprlus of defensemen -- we can certainly use either. If a deal were to come out of either of these teams I'd look for a defensemen to come back the other way.
Portzline also takes a look at the powerplay this morning and Hitch, as always, has some intelligent comments regarding it:
"We kept trying to make plays to get the puck to the net," coach Ken Hitchcock said, "rather than getting the puck to the net and then making plays."
The Blue Jackets plan to keep the two point men moving along the blue line, with the forward perched along the half-wall rolling to the point to allow one of the point men to creep down low.
"It seems like we're getting more shots through," defenseman Ron Hainsey said, "or at least we're opening up a lane to get the puck down to the forwards and, hopefully, to the net."
"You can't have an effective power play and be static," Hitchcock said. "The penalty kills are too good. We have to play with more risk to be effective."
I love that last quote that we have to play with more risk to be effective.
So the key to improving our 26th ranked PP last year is movement and getting shots in from the point on net - something of which we were terrible at last year. I also suspect having a guy like Kris Russell QB the PP is also going to significantly improve out chances as he's shown an incredible knack at finding the open player on the rush and delivering hard pinpoint passes to sticks. He also has shown the ability to know when to pinch and when not to. I think its safe to say he will, if he hasn't already, supplant Ron Hainsey as our primary PP defensemen. He will make his share of mistakes, that all rookies do, but the plusses will by far outweight the minuses assuming he stays healthy.
I'll have a game preview against the Carolina Hurricanes later on today.