directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John McConnell mermorial service at 7 p.m. May 7th

Update: The memorial is actually next Wednesday the 7th at 7 p.m at Nationwide Arena. Sorry for the confusion.

You can find all the details of the service here.

He certainly was a great man.


By the numbers v2.0

So here is where the Jackets stand as of today April 30th, 2008 after the Hedja signing:

Projected budget: 50 mil


Nash (6.5) XXX Modin (3.5)
XXX XXX Zherdev (3.25)
Chimera (1.875) XXX XXX
Murray (600k) Malhotra (1.5) Boll (570k)

extra: Novotny (800k) Brule (850k)


Klesla (1.65) Hejda (2.0)
Russell (575k) Tollefsen (750k)


Norrena (900k)

note: this is actual salary paid out not avg salary cap hit
note: all figures taken from &

Total: 25.32 mil (14 players)

Remaining: 24.68 mil

UFAs: Hainsey, Vyborny, Peca, Tarnstrom, MacKenzie, Konopka
RFAs: Fritsche, Leclaire, Methot, Rome, Wilson, Picard, Lindstrom

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Howson makes move, resigns Hejda

GM Scott Howson has resigned 29 year old free agent to be defensemen Jan Hejda to a 3 year contract worth 6 million. His first major move of the offseason.

If you recall Howson signed Hejda as a UFA last year to a 1 year 1 mil dollar deal. It was widely accepted that this was Howson's best move of the summer.

In his first year as a Jacket (second year as a pro) Hejda put up some strong defensive numbers.

*Led the Blue Jackets in +/- with a +20 playing against the other teams top lines and powerplay units. That number was tied for 10th best amongst all NHL defensemen.

*Led the team in hits with 148

*Third in blocked shots with 90 (Klesla was first with 110, Hainsey 2nd with 91)

*Third in minutes played averaging 21:07 (Klesla first with 23:12)

*Missed only one game of 82

As Hejda worked through the season really the biggest question alot of people had, including myself, was if playing by Adam Foote made him a better? The best thing to happen to Hejda (and perhaps the Jackets) was when Foote was traded he actually seemed to play better. Any hesitations Howson may have had about signing him long term were most likely erased.

In fact after Foote was traded Hejda was a +11 in 18 games.
As far as the contract I think its more than fair for both sides. Hejda would have probably gotten in that 2.5 million range on the open market but as he stated earlier, he likes being a Jackets and was ready to settle down. My guess is Howson gave him an extra year to keep the price down.

From a Jackest perspective Howson would have likely had to pay more than 2 mil to get the same production on the open market for equal to or perhaps even longer term.

This deal gives Hejda some long term stability in Columbus and doubles what he made last season. He knows he has a prominent role on this team that will only increase as he continues to play in the NHL. Remember this guy has only played two years in this league. He'll never be an offensive guy but I think he's still got plenty of room to improve his defensive game and his transitional play.

For the Jackets it keeps Hitch's shutdown defensive pairing in Klesla and Hejda in tact. It keeps another productive veteran in the lineup that has bought into what Hitch is trying to do with this team. It also still allows Howson plenty of financial flexibility to go out this offseason and acquire some offensive puck movers on the blueline.

Make no mistake about it Jan Hejda would have been a hotley pursued unrestricted free agent. Howson did a good job here.

Its a win win.

As it stands now here is how our blueline is shaping up:

Klesla Hejda
Russell Tollefsen
UFA: Hainsey
RFA: Rome, Wilson, Methot

My money is still on Hainsey walking as a free agent and Rome and Wilson certainly being resigned for depth.

I have also updated the budget on the right hand side of the screen.


I'm hungry...

..and its crow eating time!

Been wanting to post this for a while but wanted to make sure I waited until I was good and hungry.

Every year I like to take a look back and see how many serving of crow I can eat in one sitting. Lets start out with the obvious:

1. Nik Zherdev

I admit I wanted this guy gone and I really didn't care what we'd get back. I thought it would be addition by subtraction. I thought his career was unsalvagable. I thought he was a diva. I never thought Hitch could get this guy to "buy in". Wrong on all accounts. Although I will say his disappearing act over the last 20 games where he had just 10 points and was a -3 over that span was concerning. Still though it appeared his game rebounded both on and off the ice. Guy still has plenty of room to grow (and he knows what I'm talking about) both on and off the ice.

(I'll also have some that burnt rat while your at it)

2. Offense

I really thought Hitch would be able to milk more out of the group we had. Brule was a colossal disappointment as was Vyborny. Modin's injury zapped a lot of our top 6. Instead of thinking we just didn't have the right system and coaching to maximize our talent I am firmly in the position now that we just don't have the talent to maximize which is why big changes are needed this offseason.

(Hey bud...chew with your mouth shut)

3. Leclaire

I believed in our goaltending talent but still had my doubts about Leclaire being able to be durable through an 82 game season. He somewhat proved me wrong until the last 15 games of the year when he suffered a couple of nagging injuries including a concussion and I believe it was a pulled hammy or groin.

(Pass the salt please... )

4. Kris Russell

I honestly thought he'd have more of an impact than what he did. The good news is that he's got a very valuable year of NHL experience under his belt and he's the kind of player who will only work harder this offseason to improve his game. I was also impressed that he managed to avoid the injury bug for a guy of his stature the majority of the season.

(Excuse me...I like that shaken, not stirred)

5. Derick Brassard

Another guy I thought would contribute more and did not think (but hoped) management could resist playing him on the big team because of his "potential". I was wrong as Howson pulled him up for a stretch, saw he wasn't ready and sent him down to bake a little longer. This is a move that could pay major dividends for the Jackets as early as next season.

( should try ketchup on this crow...its goood!)

6. Howson

I really thought he'd lock down Vyborny when he wanted his deal early in the year but Howson stayed patient which has proved to be a monumental decision. I was also on him to sign Leclaire before he hit his late season rash of injuries... again he has been patient which should result in a lower contract for Pascal as he's still got a lot to prove in the durability department.

(anyone got a toothpick?)

7. Record

I thought we'd finish in that 85-90 point range which was good for 9th or 10th in the conference. Unfortunately the rails completely fell off over the last 10 games as the Jackets managed just 1 win.

(aaahhh.. time for a nap)

Discuss - anything in particular that you are having a serving of crow on from last season?


Crunch advance

The Syracuse Crunch knocked off the Manitoba Moose in yet another OT game (5 of 6 of these games went to OT) to advance to the next round of the Calder Cup playoffs against the Toronto Marlies.

I did get to catch the 3rd period and OT on the radio. Its hard to tell who played well by the radio call but it seemed that Derick Brassard was really involved as was Gilbert Brule - although he took what could have been a costly penalty towards the end of the 3rd. Then in OT the Crunch caught a huge break when one of the Moose's defensemen's stick broke (that sounds like something that would happen to the CBJ) and the unlikely Crunch hero, Tervor Frischmon, took advantage and potted the game and series winner.

Jacket prospects Brassard and Picard each picked up a goal in the win as well. In fact Brassard, who started slowly in this series, now has 5 points in 6 playoff games.

It was the first time in AHL history that a team had won all four of its playoff games in OT. Not only that but this was the first time that the Crunch had won a series since 1996 - damn!

Man does this team just seemed destined for something big this year or what?

I can't stress enough how great of an experience this is for our young players development like Brassard, Brule, Picard, Methot, Dorsette, Sestito, Wilson, Plehkanov and even Legein (even though he's playing a small role at this point).

Hopefully it translates into some W's for the big squad next season.

Series 2 starts this Friday in Toronto. Lets see if the boys can keep it rolling and keep that winning feeling.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Stat of the day

Did you know that out of the 8 remaining teams in the playoffs only one has not won the Stanley Cup.

NY Rangers
San Jose

Maybe this is the year San Jose (and of course Jody Shelley) win the cup. Got to say I'm rootin for them - unfortunately they are down 2-0 in their series against the Stars.

The San Jose Sharks had a moment of silence before their game on Friday in honor of Mr. Mac. You think Jody Shelley may have had a hand in that. Very classy move by the Sharks organization.


Ownership moves on

Its been a couple of days now since Blue Jackets majority owner John H. McConnell passed. The question now turns to what is the state of the Jackets ownership now?

Quite frankly I'm not sure.

From my understanding Mr Mac's son, John P. McConnell (pictured right), will now be the majority owner. Questions that I would like answers to are the following:

1. What are his intentions with the team? Does he want to retain ownership or will he look to sell. I've heard rumblings that John P. is not particularly high on Ohio and that when he gets the chance he will unload the team to the highest bidder. I have no idea if there are legs to that rumor - I certainly hope not.

2. Does the short term plan change? We've read quotes from team president Mike Priest about how the franchise plans to spend, spend, spend this offseason. Is that still the plan going forward?

3. Does the Wolfe family, who is a minority owner, do they perhaps take a bigger stake in the team? Or what about Nationwide?

4. Is there any reason Jacket fans should worry about a franchise move? What is Nationwide's lease details? Could they even consider a move?

I'm sure as the days move forward the Dispatch beats will get a lot of these kinds of questions answered.

One thing this franchise really had going for it was a stable ownership group. Of course with Mr. Mac's passing that foundation feels a little shaky.

I do know that its not an easy thing to relocate a franchise and I can't imagine many scenarios where the league, the city or Nationwide would let this team get away. You can't have a multi-million dollar state of the art stadium losing its major tenant. That is not even considering the millions and millions Nationwide has pumped into the Arena District.

Some talking heads out there (ahem ESPN) seem to take shots at the NHL and hockey whenever they get the chance but the bottom line is that pro hockey is a money maker. Its a multi billion dollar industry and cities, lots of cities, would kill for a franchise. Yes OSU is the big dog in this market but pro hockey does a helluva for this town - think there would be an Arena District, a new Clippers stadium, a Nationwide, or a revitalized downtown without the Jackets?

Hell no.

What about the millions the Jackets charity foundations have raised, or the jobs that have been created in this town because of the Jackets? What about some of the events that have happened in this city since the NHL team arrived? ..and I'm not just talking about the hockey related events like men's USA Olympic training camp, the NHL Draft or the World Championship games. I'm talking about some of the world class concerts and events Nationwide puts on every year and even attracting the NCAA Final Four tournament games.

Which brings me to my "many scenarios" comment. We've heard a lot of rumblings that Mayor Coleman would like to get an NBA team in town. This city isn't big enough for two team winter professional sports competing directly with one another for fans and more importantly business revenue. There just aren't enough dollars to go around. So if somehow, someway he managed to lure a NBA team to this market does that make the NHL team expendable?

Yeah I'll admit I'm probably over-reacting here but when you lose the cornerstone of the franchise, its backbone so-to-speak, in Mr Mac you know the vultures are going to start circling.

There are no guarantees in this world but this is one fan who would like some reassurances that ownership is stable and there are no plans to sell or even remotely consider the possibility of a relocation.

I've always held the belief that if the city ever loses this team it wouldn't ever have a major pro sport's franchise again.

We lost a great man in Mr. Mac and I just hope as time marches on that we don't lose one of the great gifts he left us all to enjoy.


Friday, April 25, 2008

John McConnell passes

The city of Columbus lost one of its finest sons today.

Its a very sad day for Blue Jackets fans and Columbus residents alike. John "Mr Mac" McConnell has passed. He was 84.

For Jacket fans many came to know Mr. Mac as the man who stepped forward and, along with Nationwide Insurance and some minority owners, brought the NHL to Columbus with no strings attached. He wanted to do it because he believed in this city and wanted to give back.

John H. was much more than a hockey owner. He was an industry leader, a philanthropist, a sailor, a father and a friend. He was a man of values and truth. He was the type of guy you'd just like to hug or be hugged by him.

My only wish is that the Jackets could have delivered Mr. Mac a playoff birth in reward for him giving birth to pro hockey in Columbus.

Alas it wasn't meant to be in his lifetime but he'll surely be smiling down from above when that day does come.

I didn't know the man personally but I felt like I lost someone I knew today.

Its a sad day.

He will be greatly missed by many.

Mr. Mac, thank you for bringing the game I love to this city.

Rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.


Quick post

Think Tampa is going to trade the #1 overall pick?

That there is definitely a first!


Attn: Draft gurus

I thought this was really intersting:

Here is a look at the top 30 North American propsects from Central Scouting for the 2003 draft:

2 BROWN, DUSTIN OHL GUELPH R 58 34 42 76 89
4 HORTON, NATHAN OHL OSHAWA C R 54 33 35 68 111
5 GETZLAF, RYAN WHL CALGARY C R 70 29 39 68 121
7 SUTER, RYAN USA US NAT'L U-18 D L 47 8 19 27 114
8 PHANEUF, DION WHL RED DEER D L 71 16 14 30 185
10 FRITSCHE, DAN OHL SARNIA C R 61 32 39 71 79
12 STONE, RYAN WHL BRANDON C L 54 14 31 45 158
15 FEHR, ERIC WHL BRANDON RW R 70 26 29 55 76
22 KREPS, KAMIL OHL BRAMPTON C R 53 19 42 61 12

Now here is the final list from 2008:

1 Stamkos, Steven Sarnia C 61 58 47 105 88
2 Bogosian, Zach Peterborough D 60 11 50 61 72 Read
3 Doughty, Drew Guelph D 58 13 37 50 68
4 Myers, Tyler Kelowna D 65 6 13 19 97 Read
5 Schenn, Luke Kelowna D 57 7 21 28 100 Read
6 Pietrangelo, Alex Niagara D 60 13 40 53 94
7 Beach, Kyle Everett C 60 27 33 60 222
8 Boychuck, Zach Lethbridge C 61 33 39 72 80
9 Hodgson, Cody Brampton C 68 40 45 85 36 Read
10 Wilson, Colin Boston University C 34 12 22 34 20
11 Boedker, Mikkel Kitchener LW 69 29 44 73 14
12 Sbisa, Luca Lethbridge D 62 6 27 33 63
13 Robak, Colby Brandon D 71 6 24 30 25
14 Bailey, Joshua Windsor C 67 29 67 96 32
15 Del Zotto, Michael Oshawa D 64 16 47 63 82
16 Dalpe, Zac Penticton C/RW 46 27 36 63 14
17 Carlson, John Indiana D 59 12 31 43 72
18 Teubert, Colten Regina D 66 7 16 23 135
19 Cuma, Tyler Ottawa D 59 4 28 32 69
20 Arniel, Jamie Sarnia C 60 27 20 47 38
21 Deschamps, Nicolas Chicoutimi C 70 24 43 67 63
22 Nemisz, Greg Windsor C 68 34 33 67 52
23 Gardiner, Jake Minnetonka D 25 16 27 43 18
24 Calvert, Matthew Brandon LW 72 24 40 64 53
25 Niemi, Jyri Saskatoon D 49 14 20 34 57
26 Sauve, Maxime Val D'Or C 70 26 39 65 30
27 Ness, Aaron Roseau High D 25 23 37 60 12
28 Colborne, Joe Camrose C 55 33 57 90 48
29 Sauve, Yann Saint John's D 69 6 15 21 92
30 Reddick, Kruise Tri-City C 72 23 51 74 60

Anyone notice where Dan Fritsche was ranked in that first list - 10th overall! The Jackets grabbed him in the second round after he fell because of questions marks about his shoulders. Its to bad he hasn't produced like a top 10 pick from that draft.

Of course both lists don't include the European prospects which in the case of 2003, Nik Zherdev was the highest rated player and in this year's case its Nikita Filatov who takes that honor. Both were/are projected to be in the top 5 of their drafts.

This year's CSS final rankings have some players higher up than the other major scouting services (McKeens, ISS & Redline). The consensus amongst those 3 are the following:

1 Steven Stamkos (C)
2 Nikita Filatov (LW)
3 Drew Doughty (D)
4 Zach Bogosian (D)
5 Alex Pietrangelo (D)
6 Luke Schenn (D)
7 Mikkel Boedker (RW)
8 Colin Wilson (C)
9 Cody Hodgson (C)

Of course all this could be moot as Howson could very well deal the pick for immediate help next year. It may be the only way he can grap that top line center this franchise desperately needs.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Never thought I'd say this but...

...root for Detroit in the series against Colorado.


If the Avalanche win this series the best the 1st rond pick that we got for Foote could be is between 27-30.

If they lose we are looking at around 20 to 21. The lower the pick obviously the higher the trade value.

Wings up 2-1 in the 1st period of the 1st game.

Lets Go Wi.....I just can't do it... but I do hope they win this series and then I'll root like hell for them to get knocked out the next round.


Last original Blue Jacket no more

You could say Rusty Klesla is "technically" the last original Blue Jacket standing as he got in his 9 game tryout during the Jackets first year but for me, its David Vyborny who is the last full timer from that first squad.

Technicalities aside I just read over on HFBoards that David Vyborny, the last "true" original Blue Jacket, has signed to played with a team in his homeland of the Czech Republic.

I think just about everyone saw this coming after his performance last year and with the management at the helm. Vyborny's season derailed in camp as he was injured in a nasty check by follow Czech Martin Erat. Couple that with the fact that he did not get signed to an early season contract and his season just snowballed into a gigantic mess.

On the ice Vybes clearly wasn't the same player after the hit. He clearly had lost a step and with that his confidence. He was late getting to pucks and no longer had any confidence with the puck. Its said once a player of Vyborny's stature loses his speed then he will no longer be an effective player at the highest level.

Vbyes no gets a chance to head home and raise his kids in native land. He'll continue his pro career where it started as kid and I'm sure even after his playing days are over he'll stay involved with the game in some capacity.

As an NHL pro Vyborny played 543 games registering 113g, 204a for 317 points - all as Jacket. His best year came in the 2005-2006 season when he scored 22g, 43a for 65p.

David Vyborny will be missed. He was a real pro who quietly went about his business and for a long time was one of the few bright spots during some really dark years.

Good Vybes! Come back and see us some time soon!

In other news
Dick Tarnstrom has also signed with a team in Europe according to this link.

Discuss - What is your fondest David Vyborny memory? For some reason his OT game winner against the Boston Bruins last year at home really sticks out in my mind as well as the "spin-o-rama" goal he scored in that same game.


Flames, Bruins and Caps final teams eliminated in 1st round

Round two begins tonight. As I've done with all 1st round teams that were eliminated lets a take look at the final three teams that lost in game 7 of their respective series to see if there may be any potential targets for the Jackets.

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames have a whopping 44 mil committed towards next season with only 15 players signed. They have identified the core of their team and have paid handsomely for it. That core being Jerome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, Robin Regehr and Mika Kiprusoff.

They have 10 UFAs and no key RFAs.
Out of these three teams that got eliminated there is no doubt that the Flames have the most attractive pieces to the Jackets. We know guys like Iginla, Phaneuf, Regehr and Kipper are untouchable but there are still some pieces here that could help the Jackets and with the Flames going out in the first round again, they may want to shake some things up.

Daymond Langkow - he is a 30 year old center UFA who has scored over 50 points in each of his last 7 seasons. He has played at least 80 games in 6 of those 7 years. He is the most attractive center of this year's crop and its said Calgary will find a way to lock this guy up. So far though it hasn't happened and if this guy is allowed to hit the market there is no doubt, unless the Jackets acquire a couple of centers via trade prior, that the Jackets will make a big pitch for his services as he's a north/south Hitch type player. The only problem with Langkow is that he's really a number 2 center but even then he'd be the best center we've ever had. He'll be looking at a big payday in the 5+ mil a year least. The Flames will have to clear out some salary to keep him I think.

Kristian Huselius - a 28 year old winger UFA who is a very streaky scorer. He was second in Flames scoring with 66 points in 81 games and made 1.5 mil last year. It appears that Calgary will let him walk as he's isn't a favorite of coach Mike Keenan and is to streaky for Flames brass. Not sure what to think about Huselius. I think there are many other options on the wing that Howson would pursue first but if those fall through they could look to this player to help an anemic offense and PP. He doesn't strike me a Hitch guy though who is willing to play a team game and pay the price in front of the net to score - more of a perimeter guy.

Craig Conroy - a 35 year old center UFA whose best days are behind him. He only had 34 points in 79 games and its doubtful the Flames resign unless its a cheap deal to play in their bottom 6. I don't see the Jackets having much of an interest as they have Malhotra, Murray and Novotny competing for bottom 6 center holes.

Alex Tanguay - a 27 year old who is listed as a center on hockeydb but plays mostly a wing. Tanguay is signed for one more year at 5.375 mil. He had a down year scoring only 58 points in 78 games (which would have been good for 3rd in scoring on the Jackets) but has scored over 60 points 5 out of 8 years in the league. He is more of a play maker than goal scorer which is something Jackets desperately need. Not sure if this guy is on the Jackets radar or not in terms of trades but to me he should certainly be an option if the Flames look to move him to clear out some cap space and shake it up. He could really help this offense.

Mathew Lombardi - a 25 year old speedy, but on the small side, center who is signed for two more years at 1.550 & 2.350 . His size reminds me of Brule but he's got better wheels and a more mature game. Lombardi was buried a bit in the Flames lineup but had 36 points in 82 games which unfortunately was down from his production last year when he had 46p in 82g. Whats intriguing about Lombardi is that he still has plenty of room to grow and the thought is that if he was given top 6 minutes with some more skill he would produce more. Remember last year at the World Championships he and Nash absolutely lit it up. Lombardi plus some more help down the middle (Jeff Carter, Antoine Vermette, Patrick Marleau anyone?) would certainly solve some problems.

There are some other guys like Stephan Yelle, Owen Nolan, David Hale and Jim Vandermeer but this organization needs skill guys and this group is more of your bottom 6 forwards or bottom pairing d-men group. We have those kinds of players in spades.

Boston Bruins

Now here is a team that really overachieved this year and because of that I don't see them doing a lot of "shaking up" in their lineup. Sure there will be some turnover but it won't be impact guys and will be more of a salary dump situation.

The Bruins have 38 mil committed next year with 18 players signed. They really don't have any key UFAs outside of maybe Metropolit but do have a number of key RFAs that they will need to lock down in Mark Stuart, Chuck Kobasew and Denis Wideman. They will have money to spend and like most teams they have a puck moving d-man high on their wishlist.

With that said here are a couple of names that the Bruins may have on the block that the Jackets may or may not have an interest in:

Glen Murray - a 34 year old right wing who the Bruins would love to offload. Murray has had a prolific career but is definitely on the downside of it. I don't think the Jackets would have any interest in Murray has he's more of a goal scorer and we have him already in a guy like Freddy Modin.

Glen Metropolit - a 33 year old center who really helped the B's after Bergeron went down. He's an interesting player who gives it all every shift. He only had 33p in 82gp but his game is the type that would fit well with the Jackets in the bottom 6. The problem of course is that we have to many bottom 6 guys on the payroll as it is. Baring some kind of trade to clear some guys out he probably is not on the Jackets wishlist.

Phil Kessel - a 19 year old center who was the 5th overall pick in the 2006 draft (Jackets picked one spot behind or he could have been a CBJ). Some Bruins fans think this guy is trade bait. He had 37p in 82g last year and was a healthy scratch in a few playoff games this year. Once he did get back in the lineup though he made certain not to get out of it again notching a few goals. The knock on Kessel is that he just doesn't pay the price and isn't much of a teammate. I think the Jackets have their version of Kessel in Zherdev and wouldn't go there. I could see alot of teams lookin for more offense who would be interested though - after all he's just 19.
Denis Wideman - a young 24 year old puck moving defensemen who had a break out year of sorts. He's an RFA and the B's would be nuts not to sign this guy but if contract negotiations break down for some reason and they chose to move him he is most definitely a guy that could help us.

Of course the Jackets would live a guy like Marc Savard or Zdeno Chara but those guys are untouchable. So are guys like Bergeron, Krejci and Lucic.

Washintgon Capitals

Like the Bruins, the Caps overachieved this year after making a miraculous recovery from a disastrous start to make the playoffs and even force a game 7. They won't be looking to make any big roster shakeups as their transition to their young players is all but complete.

Right now they have 13 players signed for 34 mil next year. Of course guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Semin, Clark are on the do not touch list. I don't see veterans like Nylander, Clark, or Poti going anywhere either.

They do have one key RFA and that is Mike Green so lets start with him.

Mike Green - a 21 year old puck moving defensemen that just about GM would give their new born for. He is exactly what the Jackets need and hope that maybe a guy like Kris Russell can become. No way in hell the Caps let this guy walk but he's gonna want paid and it wouldn't surprise me if an offer sheet comes his way. Caps will lock him down before July 1st I think. If for some reason he does become available Howson would be in the long line of GMs making a pitch.

Sergei Fedorov - just seeing if your still paying attention!

Matt Cooke - a 28 year old 3rd line winger who is of the agitator type mold. Again more a bottom lineup type player which we don't need - especially with Boll in the lineup and Dorsett and Sestito on the way.

Steve Eminger - a young 23 year old defensemen who didn't get a ton of playing time with the Caps this season. He is the classic case of a guy who could probably use a fresh start elsewhere. He only played 20 game and registered 2 assists. With guys like Aaron Rome, Kris Russell, Mark Methot, Clay Wilson, Plekhanov, Grant Clitsome on the depth chart I can't see Howson adding a guy like Eminger. Again he needs higher skilled guys who can play further up the lineup. I wouldn't completely rule him out as I don't know how highly thought of he is by the Jackets but he would be pretty far down their priority list.


There you have it. I don't see the Jackets targeting many players on the Caps or B's but I do think the Flames have a lot of interesting possibilities. Its to bad they play in the West as if they were an Eastern conference team I would put them up there with the Sens and very likely trade partner. At least they are not a division opponent.
Discuss - any of these names of interest to you out there? How much would you be willing to pay for a guy like Lombardi via trade or Langkow via free agency?


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brassard nugget

Just listening to the Coach's show with Ken Hitchcock and Rimmer had a juicy nugget that I wanted to share here.

Derick Brassard has committed to stay in Columbus this summer to work with the CBJ training staff (Barry Brennan) to train hard and bulk up for next season.

If you recall this is exactly what Jared Boll did last summer to come out of nowhere to make the Jackets roster out of camp.

To me this is a HUGE sign that Brassard is absolutely committed and determined to be a full time Jacket next year and is willing to pay the price and sacrifice to make it happen.

He's still got to get it done on the ice at camp next year and prove capable of top 6 minutes but I think this is a big step towards that goal for this kid and as a fan it really excites me. It also shows me that this kid is maturing and has realized you can't be a star in this league based on god given talent or draft status alone - you've got to work for it both on and off the ice.

Could you imagine if a guy like Zherdev made that kind of commitment?

- do you feel Brassard's chances to make the team next year will be improved by staying and training in Columbus for the summer?


Stat of the day

I took at look at the past #6 overall picks a few weeks ago. Well today I figured lets take a look at the last 20 #1 overall picks:

1987 - Pierre Turgeon
1988 - Mike Modano
1989 - Mats Sundin
1990 - Owen Nolan
1991 - Eric Lindros
1992 - Roman Hamrlik
1993 - Alexandre Daigle
1994 - Ed Jovanowski
1995 - Bryan Berard
1996 - Chris Phillips
1997 - Joe Thornton
1998 - Vincent Lecavalier
1999 - Patrik Stefan
2000 - Rick DiPietro
2001 - Ilya Kovalchuk
2002 - Rick Nash
2003 - Marc-Andre Fleury
2004 - Alexander Ovechkin
2005 - Sidney Crosby
2006 - Erik Johnson
2007 - Patrick Kane

In 20 years I count just 2 busts - Daigle and Stefan - so teams that have drafted #1 overall have 90% chance at getting at least a player that can contribture for a long time. Man that would suck to be in that 10%.

Out of the 20 picks I count 11 surefire franchise players in Modano, Sundin, Lindros, Thornton, Lecavalier, DiPietro, Kovalchuk, Nash, Ovechkin, Crosby and Kane. I'd say the verdict is still out on EJ but he looks very promisoing.

Some careers have been cut short or severly hampered via injury in Lindros and Berard.

Out of the 20 players listed only 10 - Modano, Lecavalier, DiPietro, Kovalchuk, Nash, Fleury, Ovechkin, Crosby, Johnson & Kane - remain with their same team. Of course 9 of 10 of those have come over the past 10 drafts. So in other words, its pretty likely that even though you may be a franchise player and spend the majority of your career with one team, you will probably finish your career elsewhere (say it ain't so Nasher!!).

The Tampa Bay Lightning get their 2nd chance in a decade to draft a franchise guy in Stephen Stamkos.


Sestito scores OT goal to push Crunch to 2-1 series lead

The Crunched took a 2-1 series lead over the Manitoba Moose last night in another OT game. Jackets 2006 3rd round draft pick Tom Sestito scored the OT game winner and captain Crunch (Zenon Konopka) had a goal and a assist.

This has been one tightly contested series thus far with all 3 games going into OT. The Crunch won the first game 2-1 off goals from David Cullen and Joakim Lindstrom last Friday. The Moose responded a night later to take a 3-2 OT decision which saw Plekanov (man does this kid have a shot - I'll post youtube below) and Duvie Westcott get the goals.

The next two games will be in Manitoba on Friday and Saturday. It will be intersting to see if the Crunch's offense can break loose for a game here. By all account the Jackets prospects of Brule, Brassard, Doresett, Sestito, Lindstrom and Plekanov have shown themselves well thus far. he PK has also played lights out. Adam Pineault is out with what appears to be a broken bone in his foot.
Read the Crunch blog for some game quotes here.

Plekanov Shot:


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Looking for a good deal on Jackets home jerseys?

UPDATE: Looks like they are now sold out - at least of the CBJ jerseys. Thanks to anonymous for the tip. has Reebok Premium NHL jerseys for $44.99 plus s/h.

Unfortunately they only have the home blue jerseys for the Jackets in L and XXL but if you want one in that size you will not find them cheaper.

Follow this link to get there.

You can also use the following coupon codes:

Use coupon 141705 for 10% off if your buying just one jersey.

Use coupon 142577 for $20 off $75 if purchasing 2 or more making them $42 each including shipping.

There are also some other coupon codes out there:

$10 off $60 or more coupon code: 142383
$15 off $100 or morecoupon code: 142384
$20 off $125 or morecoupon code: 142385
20% off one regularly priced accessory or apparel itemcoupon code: 142386

These expire 6-1-2008.

Hope it helps someone out there save a few bucks!


Stat of the day and more..

Did you know that Rick Nash was 5th in the league in terms of percentage of his team's goals?

1. Ovechkin 27.3%
2. Kovalchuk 25.6%
3. Iginla 22.5%
4. Boyes 21.2%
5. Nash 20.3%

Also, for those that don't get to HFBoards to often some posters have a must read over there regarding the Q/A from Hitch/Howson last night - follow this link and scroll down to post #28 - lots of good info.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Grading Howson

A few days ago I took a look at Doug MacLean's legacy here and now its time to take a look at what Howson has done now that he's approaching his 1 year anniversary with the club.

To jog some memories you can read the Dispatch article about his hiring here.

I thought this paragraph was interesting:

In the era of the salary cap, general managers must define their team's identity and build to flesh it out. They must deepen their minor-league systems with an unjaundiced eye for talent and a feel for a good fit. They must, must, draft well. All of this is necessary because there are no more quick fixes -- you can't just throw money at a problem in July.

It's a big-picture puzzle, and the last pieces are expensive free-agent pieces. Make a mistake or two in the summer, and the cap eventually extracts a penalty. The cost is a laden cap number and a winnowing of victories, a lethal combination.

Lets review some of the key points here:

Team identity
With a big tip of the cap to coach Ken Hitchcock the Jackets did build a team identity for the first time last season. Their identity was a strong team defensive game from the forwards back to the goaltender with offense created by checking. No longer were they the "push-overs" of the NHL and not once did I read a quote from an opposing player that they should "beat a team like Columbus".
Grade - satisfactory

Deepin minor league systems
I'd say with the additions of Wilson, Rome, Ruth and Holden he is defintely strengthening the minor league systems - especially defensively which the organization was in desperate need of. Of the minor league assests he has traded away, Geoff Platt, Steve Goertzen & Curtis Glencross, they have been players in which the organization was deepest in and that was forward.

Rome & Wilson stepped in the last 1/4 of the season and really showed they could compete and help the Jackets. It gave a small sample that Howson and his staff may have a nack for identifying talent. Small moves like this really are what add depth to your organization and can be the difference between the playoffs and the golf course in April as you grind it out through an 82 game season.
Grade - exceed

Must must draft well
As I mentioned in previous post his first draft is looking promising with the likes of Voracek, Legein, Weber and Mayorov. Over on Voracek has one of the highest rankings a prospect can get with a 9.0B. Legein has turned pro and has joined Syracuse after absolutely lighting up the OHL playoffs. Weber has been said to be a prospect on the rise and will play at a top NCAA program next year at Miami of OH. Howson just got back from Russia and is in the process of trying to get Mayorov, who many predicted would be a frist round pick last year, to cross the pond and continue his development in North America.

The verdict is most certainly out as its way to early to judge the impact any of these players will have at the NHL level.
Grade - too early to call

No quick fixes

With his unwillingness to sacrafice imporant draft building blocks like Brassard, Voracek, Russell and Mason he is aware that there aren't quick fixes and the core of your team is built through the draft.

Now that said it does appear that he will be aggresively pursuing trades this summer so this grade could change quickly depending on what kind of assets he parts with.
Grade - satisfactry

Expensive free agent pieces
Howson was pretty much handcuffed last summer by existing bad contracts under the previous regimes so he played is safe and did what he could. On a shoestring budget he signed Jan Hejda, Michael Peca, Kris Beech, Sheldon Brookbank & Jiri Novotny. All low risk high reward moves. I give him an exceeds on Hejda, a satisfactory on Peca and a needs improvement on Beech, Brookbank and Novotny.

As far as adding those expensive free agent pieces thus far he receives an unsatisfactory in that area as he has yet to pull the trigger on any big pieces. That time will quickly come this summer as Howson will have anywhere from 16 to 20 mil to spends on the market.

My biggest worry about Howson is that he may be too conservative and not aggressive enough. He has to remember that this is not his money and this market will have to overpay - there just isn't anyway around it. He just has to make sure he overpays for the right guys.
Grade - needs improvement

Trades / Moves
Howson closed mostly minor trade deals. He moved Geoff Platt for Aaron Rome and Clay Wilson. He dealt Adam Foote for a 1st and conditional 4th. Fedorov was moved for a prospect in Ted Ruth. Curtis Glencross was moved for Dick Tarnstrom. Jody Shelley dealt for a 6th round pick. I give him a satisfactory on the Platt, Shelley and Foot deals. A needs improvement on the Fedorov deal and a unsatisfactory on the Glencross move.
Grade - needs improvement

Probably what was more important were the trades he didn't make the most notable being Brad Richards. It was widely reported the reason he missed out on Richards was because he did not have a NHL ready goaltender to part with or perhaps he just wasn't aggresive enough.
Grade - needs improvement

That said he has made a couple of real big non moves as well - the biggest was not resigning David Vyborny to a 3 year contract at the beggining of the season. Vybes probably would have want something in the 3 mil range - now just imagine the kind of player he can get with that cash this summer. Also its looking more and more wise that he did wait til the offseason to talk contact with Leclaire as he really cooled off the 2nd half and those injuries started to rear their ugly heads.
Grade - exceeds
Overall grade - satisfactory

Trade deadline
Probably for me, looking back, the single biggest dissappointment for in terms of Howson's performance. Its not that I minded him moving Foote or Fedorov - I get that - they were older, wanted to much money and just weren't in the long term plans of the franchise. What really dissapointed me was that he did not bring in at least a new face or two to send some kind of signal to the team that he wasn't giving up on the season being just 5 points out. A small move would have done wonders for team morale I think.
Grade - unsatisfactory

To me Howson has followed the plan I believe he's had from the start. That was to use this past year to evaluate his talent and staff, he along with Hitch rebuild the foundation of this franchise, make some difficult but needed decisions on long time Jackets (Shelley, Vyborny, etc) let the bad contracts expire and set himself up for a big offseason, the offseason, this summer.
Grade - exceeds

Fan relations
The most impressive thing that Howson did this year to me how he handled himself after the "Foote-gate" situation. He didn't run and hide, he faced the media and he didn't throw anybody under the bus. He was a professional who made a tough business decision. He explained it and then moved on. He has also been accessible on Fox Sports Net Ohio and to season ticket holders and of course I'd say he has lived up to his "under promise, over deliver" mantra.
Grade - satisfactory

Here is a list of Howson's major moves since becoming a GM of the Blue Jackets last June:

April 8, 2008 Signed defenseman Grant Clitsome to a three-year contract.

March 29, 2008 Signed defenseman Nick Holden to a three-year contract; assigned left wing Alexandre Picard to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

March 7, 2008 Re-signed center Andrew Murray to a three-year contract.

February 28, 2008 Acquired right wing Nate DiCasmirro from the Phoenix Coyotes for right wing Steve Goertzen and assigned him to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

February 26, 2008 Acquired Ted Ruth from Washington for defensemen Sergei Fedorov

February 26, 2008 Acquired conditional draft picks from Colorado for defensemen Adam Foote

February 1, 2008 Acquired defenseman Dick Tarnstrom from the Edmonton Oilers for left wing Curtis Glencross.

January 22, 2008 Acquired 2009 6th round pick from San Jose for froward Jody Shelley

January 22, 2008 Acquired defensemen Darcy Campbell and forward Philippe Dupuis from Colorado Avalanche for forward Mark Rycroft

January 2, 2008 Assigned center Gilbert Brule to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

November 15, 2007 Acquired defensemen Aaron Rome and Clay Wilson from the Anaheim Ducks for center Geoff Platt and assigned them to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

November 7, 2007 Signed right wing Stefan Legein to a three-year contract.

October 4, 2007 Reached an affiliation agreement with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL.

September 22, 2007 Promoted Don Boyd to director of hockey operations and player personnel, Chris MacFarland to assistant to the general manager, John Williams to assistant director of amateur scouting and Kjell Larsson to European scout; named Bryan Stewart video scout.

September 13, 2007 Suspended center Alexander Svitov.

August 23, 2007 Signed center Michael Peca, who had been with the Toronto Maple Leafs, to a one-year contract.

August 8, 2007 Signed center Kris Beech, who had been with the Washington Capitals, to a one-year contract.

August 3, 2007 Signed right wing Jakub Voracek, their first-round pick in 2007, to a three-year contract.

July 27, 2007 Named Tyler Wright development coach.

July 11, 2007 Signed center Derek MacKenzie, who had been with the Atlanta Thrashers, and defenseman Dan Smith, who had been with the Detroit Red Wings, to one-year contracts.

July 10, 2007 Re-signed left wings Curtis Glencross and Joakim Lindstrom and center Andrew Murray to one-year contracts and right wing Steve Goertzen to a two-year contract.

July 5, 2007 Signed defenseman Jan Hejda, who had been with the Edmonton Oilers, to a one-year contract.

July 4, 2007 Signed center Jiri Novotny, who had been with the Washington Capitals, to a two-year contract.

July 2, 2007 Re-signed defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and center Alexander Svitov to two-year contracts.

July 2, 2007 Agreed to terms with defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who had been with the Nashville Predators, on a one-year contract.

June 29, 2007 Named Claude Noel assistant coach; extended the contracts of assistant coaches Gary Agnew, Gord Murphy and Clint Malarchuk.

June 16, 2007 Named Scott Howson general manager and agreed to terms with him on a multi-year contract.


Its been an interesting year for Howson. Big picture he has pretty much done what I expected thus far. He made some modest moves, some of which payed big dividends (Hejda) some of which didn't quite pan out (Tarnstrom) but overall I think he's met his big objectives which were to rebuild the foundation, have the most successfull season to date, evaluate organizational talent, rid himself of bad contracts, strengthen organizational depth, let his coach coach and set himself up for a big offseason.

As a fan it wasn't the most exciting season but one that was neccessary. Even though the last 10 games were a huge dissapointment but the organization made a big step forward.

Howson has been pretty conservative to this point however that time if over. With the biggest and most important offseason by far in franchise history upon us Howson is driving the bus and for the sake of the viability of pro hockey in this market, he has to deliver for both the short and long term.

Discuss - how would you grade Howson? Now that the season is over and you've had time to reflect did he accomplish what you expected?


Defending champs knocked out..along with Devils, Wild and Preds...any targets?

Over the weekend 4 more teams got knocked out of the playoffs including last year's Stanley Cup Champs the Anaheim Ducks.

As I did with the Ottawa Senators lets take a quick look at each team that got eliminated and if there are any UFA or trade targets that may interest the Jackets.


Word around the camp fire is that Brian Burke is as good as gone to Toronto for their vacant GM position. The Ducks are certainly an interesting team. Scott Niedermeyer and Teamu Selanne are likely to retire for good this summer. Assuming S. Niedermeyer does retire they still have 43+ million tied up in contracts with a key RFA in Corey Perry to sign.

..and assuming Burke heads to the bright hockey lights of Toronto where does that leave the state of this team? Will the new GM want to shake things up? If Burke stays will he want to shake things up? Many people are already speculation that Chris Pronger could be trade bait.

So looking over their roster there are some intriguing players. Lets take a look:

Ryan Getzlaf - the Jackets would kill to have this young 22 year old center as would just about any NHL team. No way the Ducks let this guy walk though, he is way to important plus he just signed a 5 year extension.

Corey Perry - a 20 year old winger who as mentioned is a RFA. He could be targeted for offer sheets from various teams around the league but the Jackets won't touch him. Wing is the one area where they have decent depth and they won't sacrafice the assets when there are bigger needs to fill.

Chris Pronger - a 32 year old tower of power on the blueline. There is a chance he may become available but unlikely. He's signed for 2 more years at 6.25 million and he would be a tremendous addition - exactly the kind of impact player that would rejuvinate the fan base and fill a MAJOR need. You would have to think if he were to come available Howson would seriously look into the price of what it would take to land him. The problem is would Pronger want to be a Jacket? He doesn't have a choice as he doesn't have a NTC but still you don't want to acquire a disgruntled player who would just go through the motions -- we've seen that episode before (Foote, Feds).

Mathieu Schneider - a 38 year old puck moving defensemen. He's got one year left on his deal at 5.75 and he may a scape goat for the 1st round loss. Schneider could help the Jackets although I think Howson will look for a longer term solution on the blueline. Still if he could be had cheap as a salary dump if wouldn't shock me if the Jackets make a move.


Things could get real interesting in Minny this year. Some signs point to Jaques Lemaire wearing out his welcome as head coach and their GM, Doug Risenbrough perhaps heading to greener pastures in Vancouver as their GM. They have some keys UFAs in Brian Rolston and Pavel Dmitra and they have to make a decision on if their superstar, Marian Gabrik, is in their long terms plans as he's only got 1 year left on his deal.

Brian Rolston - a 34 winger who will be a UFA this summer. Rolston continues to be a solid contributor putting up 50+ points in 6 of his last 7 years while playing 77+ games every one of those years. He has a rocket from the point on the PP and plays a solid north/south game. He will have a lot of interested parties this summer if he doesn't resign with the Wild. I could certainly see the Jackets interested in his services if the price is somewhat reasonable as they need at least one top 6 winger and he could really help an ailing powerplay.

Pavol Dmitra - a 32 year old winger/center who is not expected back in Minny next year. Dmitra has put up 50+ points in his last 7 years but has battled injuries on and off over that stretch. Again I could see the Jackets having an interest *if* Dmitra's game fits a Hitch style. After playing for Lemaire the past couple of years he may be looking for a more wide open style so I doubt he finds a home here but money talks.

Marion Gabrik - a 25 year old game breaking winger. Remember the Jackets lost the coin flip on the 2000 draft so the Wild got Gaborik while we got Klesla. He had a bad playoffs and word is that he's tired of a defense first system and wants to more open style of play. He's got 1 year left on his deal at 7.5 million so if the Wild want to move him and really shake things up this summer could be their best opportunity to do so. Regardless I don't see Howson pursuing him as we have our franchise winger in Nash with Voracek on the way. Howson isn't MacLean and will plug the holes needed in center and defense before exploring the wings.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - a 23 year old small but quick and crafty center. If there is one player on the Wild I think would fit the Jackets needs the most this is the guy. Bouchard is a RFA and if he wants too much money he could fall out of favor. He is another guy rumored to not have the best relationship with his head coach. I have a very hard time seeing the Wild parting with this player but if they try to move him I'd have to think Howson would make a serious play for him. He's look great next to Nash.

Nashville Predators

I won't spend a lot of time on this team because they are a division opponent and rarely do teams within a division make trades with one another. I actually don't see Nashville doing many subtractions this summer as they were forced to do that last summer with their ownership troubles -- Forsberg, Kariya, Timomen, Vokoon, Hartnell all gone. Yet they still made the playoffs and now with their ownership problems settled they are in good shape to make a splash in the UFA market although they have some key RFAs they need resign in Martin Erat, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein to lock down.

Looking at their UFA list I really don't see any players of interest to the Jackets.

The Preds also are in good shape for this year's draft as they have two picks likely to be in the top 17. So don't look for them to get any worse anytime soon - unfortunately.

New Jersey Devils

This is a team that again burnt out their starting goaltender in Martin Brodeur and paid for it in the playoffs. They also had a real hard time scoring goals - sound familiar?. In fact, reading some of the articles after, they - like many other teams I'm sure, will be after the same things we are -- a puck moving defensemen and a playmaking center.

I wouldn't rule out some trades from New Jersey though. They may be one of those teams that look to shake things up a bit. They have 38 million committed towards next year with only a couple of minor RFAs to get signed (Rod Pelley, David Clarkson). They also have quite a bit of UFAs scheduled to hit the market in Karel Rachunek, Sheldon Brookbank (who they claimed off waivers from us), Mike Mottau and Bryce Salvador. They'll have some flexibitly to add some pieces for sure.

Here are some names the Jackets may look into:

Partick Elias - He is signed for 5 more years. He had a down year only scoring 55 points in 74 games. The Jackets may look into him if he's on the block only if he can play center. He's listed as a left wing and if that is his primary position the Jackets pass unless they really strike out finding a center or d-man elsewhere to trade for.

Travis Zajac - a young 22 year old center who had 34 point in 82 games. I've read from a lot of Devils fans that he may be included in a package to bring back players higher in the lineup. I really like Zajac and if he were available I think the Howson may kick the tires a bit. He could be a good 2nd line center until Brassard is ready.

Sheldon Brookbank - its no secret the Jackets like this 26 year old d-man as they signed him last year. He's a UFA again and if the Jackets want more d depth then no reason they may not check into his services. The only problem here is that Brookbank will be lookin for a 1-way contract and I don't see the Jackets offering that.


The teams that get knocked out in the first round are always the most fun to follow as they are the most disappointed in their years and more likely to shake things up in the offseason. Of this latest four I'd say Minnesota has the most potentially attractive pieces to us if they chose not to sign some guys or put some on the trade block.

Puck-rakers has a great summary this morning on the budget situation and for those Jacket fans that thing ownership is going to sit on its wallet its a must read.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Crunch start run to Calder Cup tonight!

Sick of seeing teams that were once below us in the standings in the playoffs (and in the cases of Pittsburgh and Philly winning) well there is an option, the Syracuse Crunch kick of their playoffs tonight with a game against the Manitoba Moose.

The Crunch enter tonight's game on a 15 game winning streak. According to some of their players, they don't plan to change the rough and tumble style that brought themt to this point:

"If it (an altercation) comes down, we'll answer the bell. We're not going to change our game for anyone else," said Syracuse enforcer Jon Mirasty.

"It's a fine line. But I think we'll be right on that line," said Syracuse captain Zenon Konopka. "I think it will be more intense than in the regular season. I think there will be more fights in this Manitoba series than there would be in a regular seven-game stretch."

Coach Ross Yates tempers that a bit:

"We have to continue playing the way we're successful with," said Syracuse coach Ross Yates. "But there's times we went overboard, and we have to curb that. It's retaliation penalties we have to stay away from."

Read full article here.

Their first series playoffs schedule is below:

Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 18 – Manitoba at Syracuse, 7:30
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 19 – Manitoba at Syracuse, 7:30
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 22 – Syracuse at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 25 – Syracuse at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 26 – Syracuse at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 6 – Mon., Apr. 28 – Manitoba at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 29 – Manitoba at Syracuse, 7:00

This is great experience for our young players. They are learning what it takes to be a pro and what it takes to win as a pro. Any playoff experience is just icing on the cake and hopefully this team can make a long run at the Calder Cup.

All games can be heard at this link:

Go Crunch!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ottawa swept, let the Spezza speculating begin

The first domino in the playoffs has fallen. Howson has mentioned a number of times that they will be keeping a close eye on the playoff situation and as teams get eliminated that would open up more opportunities for potential players to be on the market.

In case you missed it last night, the Ottawa Senators were swept out of the playoffs by the surging Pittsburgh Penguins (luckiest damn team on the planet).

Ottawa got off to a blazing start to the season going 15-2 and then barely hung on to even make the playoffs down the stretch.

The has been a lot of turmoil in Sen-land since their run to the Stanley Cup finals last season. They let their GM (John Muckler) go handing the reigns over to Andy Murray who then was promoted to the GM position and hired his own coach John Paddock. Paddock of course did not make it through the season and was let go on Feb 27th and Murray re-assumed the coaching position.

Now with the Sens eliminated in 4 straight in the 1st round many are speculating about Murray's future with the club and what the future is for many of the Senators players. Their window to win the cup may have just closed and one would think they will be looking to shake things up.
There are also wide ranging reports of locker room division and that up to 4 players requested to be traded.

What does this mean for the Jackets and Scott Howson? It means they should be paying close attention to the Sen's situation as they have many players that could help the Jackets cause.

The Sens have a number of players that would be attractive to many teams throughout the league.

Lets start with their UFAs:

Wade Redden - Ottawa isn't expected to resigned him and he has definitely slipped some in his past couple of seasons and really isn't worth the 6.5 mil he's been paid. However this is free agency and he'll probably get close to that number again. He would be an upgrade on the Jackets blueline and I think they'll definitely kick the tires as he can play in any situation but he's not the clear #1 he used to be.

Chris Kelley - a 26 year old 3rd line center who has been pretty well buried on the Sens lineup. He'll be looking for a decent raise and I doubt the Sens resign him. I think there would be interest from the Jackets though to solidify their middle but with only 11g, 19a for 30p how much can the Jackets expect him to contribute? I won't be surprised if the Jackets make a pitch but am not sure exactly where he'd fit in the lineup when you already have guys like Malhotra and Novotny. He's definitely not a top two center yet at this stage.

Cory Stillman - a 33 year old veteran winger who put up 65 points for both Carolina and Ottawa last year. He's still got some gas in the tank and depending on what Columbus does in term of trades he may be a target to add some additional scoring up front for the right price.

Mike Commodore - a 27 year old stay at home rugged defensemen who doesn't shy away from dropping the gloves. Commodore struggled a bit after the trade to Ottawa but will get plenty of interest in the offseason. I doubt the Jackets look his direction as they need offensive types but again, if they wheel a deal and move a guy like Tollefsen or Klesla he may be of interest.

So those are some of the prominent Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agents but where it really gets interesting is with some of their signed guys and if the Sens really wanted to shake things up - do one of these guys get moved? ...and if so who would the Jackets target:

Danny Heatley - Heatley is a 26 year old stud winger who has twice scored more than 50 goals and has scored over 40 two other times. He's signed for 6 more years for an avg cap hit of 7.5 million. He would be a highly valued trading chip but with franchise winger Rick Nash in the fold here in Columbus I don't see them being interested in a trade as they need to address the center and defense areas of the ice.

Jason Spezza - Spezza is a 24 year old stud center who scored a 92 points last year which was tied for 6th in league scoring. He is signed for 7 more years with an average cap hit of 7 mil a year. He is more of a playmaker than goal scorer which is evident by his 58 assists last year to his 34 goals. If there was one player off the Sens roster the Jackets would like to target this guy would be it. If Ottawa does listen to offers (big *if*) there is no doubt in my mind that Howson will make a play for this guy. Why am I so certain? If he made a play for Richards at 7.8 mil a year then then why wouldn't he for a younger better player who isn't even in his prime yet? If I'm Howson I put everything in play but Nash, Leclaire, Mason & Voracek to land this fish. My biggest worry is if this guy's head is screwed on straight but if there is anyone who could straighten him out it would be Hitch.

Antoinee Vermette - A 24 year old center who is buried in the lineup behind Spezza and Mike Fisher. Still though Vermette in just his 3rd year piled up 24g, 29a for 53 points. He's an RFA this summer and could command more than the Sens are willing to play given some of their other big contracts. If Spezza isn't on the block you'd have to think Howson would be interested in landing Vermette. This guy is going nothing but improving every year and I think his game would compliment the Jackets quite well. I start with Fritsche, Lindstrom and 2nd and then go from here -- perhaps even bringing Colorado's pick into play.

Chris Neil - a hard nosed veteran player in the mold of a Jared Boll. Every team likes Chris Neils in their lineup as they can play and keep things honest out there. He's a heart and soul player but was criticized some for his play in the sweep. I have a hard time seeing the Sens putting this guy on the block but if they did they would have teams lining up for a chance to acquire him. I'm sure Howson would check into it but he'd be pretty far down his priority list in terms of holes to fill this summer.

The Sens are another storyline to follow this summer. The Jackets would seem to be a decent trading partner considering their picks and young assets and if the Sens choose to move in a new direction and unload a big contract or two and if its a guy like Spezza or Vermette you have to think the Jackets will make a play.

The Sens are the first team to get eliminated early so alot of attention are on them but soon we'll have other teams fall out. Keep an eye on San Jose and if they make another 1st round exit we will start hearing more and more and a guy like Partick Marleau or even a Joe Thornton perhaps becoming available.

Me personally I look more at the Eastern conference teams as teams tend to rather deal top players to the opposite conference than their own. Ottawa is an Eastern conference team.

The more options for Howson the better.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Whose on the block

Figured today I'd take a look at who may or may not be dealt or re-signed this offseason.

I'll give you a name and percentage of how likely they are to be dealt. Keep in mind this isn't exactly what I'd personally do just my gut on what Howson and co. are thinking:

.001% - Rick Nash - I'll never say never but unless we are talking Crosby/Ovechkin here there is just no way the Jackets deal their newly named captain and franchise player.

1% - Pascal Leclaire - the least unlikely to be dealt after the Monster Nash. Goaltending
is way to critical and with the budget space Howson has to work with I think they'll find common ground. Now I will say don't rule out an offer sheet coming Pascal's way - Jackets would match it though.

2% - Steve Mason - Howson likes his big goaltenders and he also knows how important goaltending is to an organization. If he wouldn't part with Mason for Brad Richards then he certainly isn't going to move him for many other players out there.

4% - Jakub Voracek - With another year of development under his belt and Howson's value on building through the draft the only way Voracek is moved is if there is a big time young "now" player coming back the other way. Unfortuntaely teams don't typically part with those kinds of assets.

5% - Jared Boll - Its not that he is untouchable but I just don't see Howson considering moving this young spark plug from his lineup. He does the things nobondy else wants to do and teams love players like Boller and don't part with them easily.

5% - Fredrik Modin - Still a valued asset on this team and with 2 years left on his deal and a NTC (no trade clause) its unlikely Modin is moved. Hitch loves this guy for his size, scoring touch and veteran presence. The Jackets just need a healthy year from him next season - if he doesn't give them that then we'll certainly revisit this percentage.

6% - Derick Brassard - the only real legit center prospect in the Jackets system. Brassard had an injury set back early in the year and struggled a bit to adjust to the pro game but with that said he has absolutely lit the AHL on fire his past 15 to 20 games. Brassard was part of Howson's "untouchable" list during the Brad Richards discussions and I don't think he's been removed. Again Brassard falls in line with Howson's philosophy that winning teams are built through the draft - he is right there with Mason and Voracek but if one of the three had to go to make room for one of those young "now" players then my bet would be Brassard but again unlikely.

8% - Jason Chimera - with Howson inking him to a 3 year deal in season (with Murray he was only 1 of 2 UFAs he signed in season mind you) its clear he values Chimera on this roster and sees him as a core type player. Unless its a deal breaker Chimera will be a Blue Jacket for the foreseeable future.

8% - Andrew Murray - the surprise player from last year. Murray was a long shot to make the NHL as an 8th round pick from the 2002 draft. However Murray got his shot last year and made it count. He was like an old reliable Honda that Hitch could count on game in and game out. Howson rewarded him with a 3 year deal for his efforts. Like Chimera, I would only give him a 8% of getting moved and it would need to be a deal breaker.

12% - Kris Russell - the Jackets just don't have enough puck moving defensemen types in the system or on the big team which puts a premium on Russell's skill set. I would say overall the Jackets were a bit dissapointed in his first year as a pro but they are also realistic and realize besides the goaltender position, defensemen take the longest to develop. They won't give up on Russ after a year and still value him highly. What makes him more likely to be dealt, while still unlikely, was the play of Clay Wilson down the stretch and if the Jackets make a move for big time "now" player I can't see them keeping Russell if its a deal breaker.

12% - Rusty Klesla - Rusty seems to have found his niche in the NHL and that is as a shutdown defesnive defensemen. With the lack of depth as it is the Jacket can't afford to move Rusty, especially when he signed for 2 more years as a good price. So while unlikely that he moves, if the deal is right, he certainly isn't off limits.

13% - Stepan Legein - a 2nd round pick from last summer that I think the Jackets are very high on. Its Howson's first draft so he won't be dealing off those assets very easily, especially if they are showing strong development signs which Legein is. He was 2nd in OHL playoff scoring before his team got eliminated. He would be a wanted commodity by other teams though so again, I don't think he'd be a deal breaker but it would definitely have to be for the right "now" player.

15% - Tom Sestito - big young kid who isn't afraid to drop the gloves. He also came along way in development in his first year as a pro and had 7g, 16a in 66 games with the Crunch - he also had a whopping 202 PIMs. Some say he made Shelley expendable. Jackets look at him to add some much needed toughness with the potential for a scoring touch over the next few years.

18% - Ted Ruth, Will Weber, Nick Holden, Maxim Mayorov, Ben Wright - that group is pretty highly regarded by the Howson administration and although far from untouchable I just think its highly unlikely they'll be moved as Howson is working really hard to solidfy our prospect depth and there are other pieces he would prefer to move first but certainly if one piece were wanted they wouldn't be deal breakers.

19% - Derek Dorsett - similar to Sestito and Boll. He's one of those pest type players who can play and is very willing to drop the gloves. He's got 289 PIMs on the farm. He is the kind of player who goes hard every shift and just pisses off the opposition -- a team like Nashville and Tootoo would have his hands full with this guy -- he isn't going anywhere as we just don't have enough of them.

20% - Manny Malhotra - proved to be a valuable player, especially in the faceoff circle. The Jackets wouldn't be adverse to moving him and his 1.5 million dollar salary but chances are there woudln't be many teams intersted. For that reason alone I think there is only about a 20% he would be moved. Lets be honest here, Manny is a 4th line player on most teams in the NHL.

20% - Aaron Rome - definitely made a statement last year during his callup - so much that the Jackets did not want to risk losing him on waivers at the end of the year so they did not send him down to the minors once the Jackets season ended. The Jackets like this guy and my guess is they have him penciled in as a 6/7 guy next season if they can get him resigned to a reasonable contract. I think they'll get that done and we'll see Rome as a Jacket next season baring contract negotiation problems.

22% - Fredrick Norrena - he's resigned to being a backup and he's got 1 year left on his deal. No way does Howson want Mason backing up Leclaire as he needs prime development time down in Syracuse. Norrena likely is not going anywhere unless its some sort of unforseen deal breaker. The Jackets need a better year out of him though.

25% - Clay Wilson - kid proved that he can certainly contribute at the NHL level. He's an RFA and I just can't see the Jackets parting with him. He's a more mature version of Russell and I think he's passed him on the depth chart for now although Russ could come back strong in his 2nd year. He could be dealt for "now" guys but highly unlikely.

30% - Dan LaCosta - had quite the year with dressing in the ECHL/AHL/NHL as well as suffering through a leg injuriy due to a bus crash with Elmira. Through all that though LaCosta preseviered to turn in some pretty solid numbers in his game with Syracuse and Elmira. Mason will be the #1 for Syracuse but LaCosta should see his fair share of starts and with Leclaire's injury history could see some time on the big team next year as well. I think its very unlikely he's dealt but he not immovable for the right deal.

33% - Adam Pineault - really showed well during his cup of coffee. Kid has an NHL frame, can skate well and has a rocket of a slap shot. He racked up 21g, 27a in 74gp in the AHL but really cooled down the stretch. I think the Jackets really like this kid but not enough to keep him if he's wanted as part of a trade.

35% - Alexandre Picard - he's an RFA that I think the Jackets will definitely resign. He could be thrown in a package for a "now" player but I think there are other assets a team would want before Picard which makes him likely that he'll remain with the Crunch next year on a 2-way. The catch with Picard though is that once he's called up next year he'll be waiver eligible and may be claimed - if they can get something for him this summer may be the time.

40% - Jan Hejda - I think the Jackets want him back badly and I think he wants to stay. He finished a +20 which was good for top 15 in the league on the leagues 2nd worst scoring team. True he doesn't add much offense but he is solid defensively. Why I have him at only 40% to be back is will Howson pay what he wants? He could look at Hejda and say I can replace his defense cheaper on the open market and put that extra money in an offer for a couple of puck moving d-men. Hejda had a good year, some of that him and some of that Hitch's system, but his type of game is the easist to find on the open market thus you can't overpay.

45% - Marc Methot - solid stay at home defensemen who appears to have gotten passed on the depth chart by Aaron Rome and Clay Wilson. I think the Jackets definitely want to keep him for depth but it would not surprise me if Methot was included in a package for a "now" player. His future could also vastly depend on what the Jackets do at the draft and free agency in terms of defensive acquisitions.

50% - Jiri Novotny - a toss up I think. He's got 1 year left on his deal and after a great start to the year he really faded. He could be a throw in on a deal or the Jackets could just keep him for depth.

50% - Zenon Konopka - just not an NHL player as he doesn't have the foot speed but this guy is a leader and very valuable player on the farm and is a servicable callup. Problem is he's a UFA and he'll be looking for his best shot at a full time job at the big time. I give it a 50% shot he sticks around.

55% - Derek MacKenzie - similar to Konopka he will be looking to put himself in the best situation that leads to a full time NHL spot which could still be Syracuse. I don't see the Jackets offereing him a 1 way deal but I think they would be interested in keeping him on a 2-way for depth. I personally liked MacKenzie as a call up - guy works hard every shift and chipped in a couple of goals in 17 games.

60% - Gilbert Brule - I think there is a better than 50% chance Brule will be dealt this offseason for some "now" help. Brule played better down the stretch but just coulnd't find the back of the net. Alot of teams will view Brule as still having a big "upside" thus he has value on the market and my money is that he's part of a package to bring in a #1 center or d-man.

60% - Dan Fritsche - He's an RFA I expect the Jackets to resign but he's very tradeable. In fact he was also rumored to be a part of the deal for Richards. Here's the thing with Fritsche, he's definitely an NHL player but he's a bottom 6 guy, a grinder who can pot 10 to 15 a year and hit that 30 point mark. We have lots of those guys and if he can be packaged for top 6 scoring help or a top 2 d-man he absolutely will be. I also see him as a guy a lot of teams wouldn't mind adding to round out their forward group.

60% - OK Tollefsen - similar to Fritsche. He's got value but he isn't key to the Jackets moving forward. He was also rumored to be part of the Richards deal. Tollefsen is a hard nosed stay at home bottom pairing defensemen. He's got next to no offesnive skill and he's not good at transition. Still teams want the toughness he brings. WIth Aaron Rome stepping up that makes Tollefsen expendable in a package for a "now" player. I think there is a better than average chance he gets moved in the near future.

65% - Joakim Lindstrom - had a good year in the AHL (60p in 49gp) and scored 3, 4a in 26 NHL games. Lindstrom is a RFA. He is a very tough call. His speed at the NHL is his problem and he playes like a bigger Vyborny which doesn't fit well in Hitch style of team. No doubt he will want a 1-way deal but may have to settle for a 2-way. Like Picard he will be waiver eligible now so if called up the Jackets could lose him if they send him down. I see him as trade bait at this point but if unable to trade as part of package for "now" players he'll be retained on a 2-way for depth and for offense in Syracuse. I'd be shocked if he makes it through all of next season as a Jacket.

80% - Nik Zherdev - I think he's a goner. Yes, he had a good bounce back year but his play down the stretch sealed his fate with the Jackets. Z will have a productive career but I don't believe management views him as part of the long term future here and with his trade value being at its highest the summer, the Jackets having to address bigger needs down the middle and on defense as well as the multitude of wingers available this offseason via UFA and the fact he has to be signed after next season tells me he's major trade bait and the Jackets will find a deal they like and pull the trigger.

90% - Ron Hainsey - will get his big payday this offseason but it won't come from the Jackets. They won't spend 4 mil on a player they view as a 4/5 d-man who was played higher up the lineup in Columbus than he should have been based on neccesity.

92% - Michael Peca - I'm convinced this guy will not return as a Jacket next season. Peca was definitely servicable for a last minute add but the Jackets are thinkin bigger, younger with more production. Being the 3rd leading scorer on this team with 34 points isn't saying much.

99.9% - Duvie Westcott - no way he's back next season and I think its a damn near certainty he's bought out.

100% - David Vyborny - he mailed it in after he didn't get his contract extension. He lost a step and no longer fits into short or long terms plans of the team. Of course I wish Vybes (or my favorite nickname for him "Me-So-Vyborny") luck in his future endeavors. He wore the bug proudly.

100% - Dick Tarnstrom - looked good initially but really tailed off after his first 10 games. The Jackets will spend their money else where to shore up their d-line this offseason.


Of course there are other assets out there like Andrei Plekhanov, Jake Hansen, Grant Clitsome and Nik Sucharski to name a few but I think that covers the major ones.

It will be intersting to look back at this list and see who is left standing come camp next year.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

1 year ago today....

.....Doug MacLean was fired as GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Actually is was April 19th to be exact but with Vancouver firing their GM yesterday it got me thinking about jumping in the ole time machine and taking a stroll down memory lane.

Read this Columbus Dispatch article if you really want a blast from tha past. Here is a snippet:

MacLean was hired on Feb. 11, 1998, as general manager of the team.

Under MacLean's management, the Jackets compiled the worst record in the league over the past six seasons, never coming within 19 points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Columbus and Florida are the only NHL clubs that haven't qualified for the playoffs since the 2000-01 season.

The Blue Jackets have been active in free agency through the years, signing the likes of goaltender Ron Tugnutt; defensemen Lyle Odelein, Luke Richardson, Scott Lachance, Adam Foote and Bryan Berard; and forwards Todd Marchant, Jan Hrdina and Anson Carter.

Those signings have not achieved the desired result, which was to get the Blue Jackets into the playoffs, or at least into playoff contention.

MacLean took a major gamble early last season, acquiring center Sergei Fedorov and his $6.08 million annual salary in a trade with Anaheim.

Under MacLean's management, the Blue Jackets have had four coaches.

A few more articles from the Dispatch regarding the firing:

Where to go from here?

Bob Hunter commentary: In the end, MacLean left the owners no choice

Analysis: For lack of focused plan, MacLean gets the boot

Ahh the memories.

Unlike the Nonis firing, which I think the fromer Canucks GM really got the short end of the stick, the firing of MacLean was a no-brainer and for me as a fan, I still feel very strongly about that to this day.

I am convinced that if MacLean were still in charge our attendance would still be greatly inflated to save his own skin, the pick we got Voracek with would have been traded last year for an overaged veteran who flopped, this year's 6th pick would have already been traded for a quick fix and a shot at the playoffs to save MacLean's job, Foote-Westcott-Shelley-Fedorov would still be Jackets, we still missed the playoffs, Zherdev wouldn't have had a bounce back year and David Vyborny would have a 3 year extension.

Anybody miss MacLean out there?