directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Pre-season Stoplight Review

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pre-season Stoplight Review


* Kids are alright. Both Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek showed they are ready to compete at the highest level. Voracek, after a slow start in camp, really came on strong once the games got going. In 7 games he tied for the team tead (with Nash) with 2g and 6a for 8 points and a +3. Brassard, before suffering the hit to the head, looked real strong as well collecting 2 helpers in 2 games and a +2.

* Kris Russell looks like he's ready to take his game up a notch and looks better in every facet of the game. In 5 games he finished 1g, 3a and a +6 which was best on the team.

* If Kristian Huselius plays like he did in the pre-season then the Jackets are going to be in real good shape offensively. His puck skills are world class as are his ability to use his teammates.

* Rick Nash was Rick Nash. He very quietly tied for the team lead in points in just 4 games 3g and 5a and a +2. He has to be thinking its nice to see some other high end skill out there and that he won't have to do it all himself this season.

* Nikita Filatov only played two games but damn.... this kid is going to be the read deal.

* Puck movement as a whole I thought was much improved and there were times the Jackets were really moving it well.

* Fedor Tyutin didn't disappoint (well me anyways) as I thought he played a efficient game in all aspects. Hands down he's our best all around defensemen in my eyes. He finished with 1g, 3a for 4 points and a +3 in 4 games.

* Jiri Novotny was MUCH better than I thought he'd be. Going into the pre-season I thought he may be on he outside looking in. Certainly not the case. He was an effective player notching 3g, 1a and a +3 in 7 games.

* For bubble guys I thought Alexandre Picard, Grant Clitsome Derek Dorsett had really good pre-seasons. All could have made this team but due to contacts and waivers situations that won't happen but I expect these guys to see quality time throughout the season. Picard, in particular, was probably the surprise of camp for me finishing with 2g and a +2 in 4 games. He hit like a truck and had 3 hugs/fights.

* The Garage Bar. Great stand in until the R Bar gets back on its feat.

* The offense in general produced. The Jackets finished with 'x' goals for which was good for 'x' in the league.

* The PP showed some signs but still a lot of work to do in this area. I don't have the numbers but there were nights it looked good and others where it sputtered....and yes, I realize it was different personnel some nights.

* Christian Backman was better than I thought he'd be but still didn't do a whole lot for me. Thus far I certainly like him better than Hainsey (better outlet pass although he's certainly as soft) and I don't think he's as bad defensively as I had heard. My biggest concern with him is getting his shots through from the point and turnovers.

* Mike Commodore was about what I expected. He didn't quite turn the toughness up much but I think that was intentional (i.e. saving it for the regular season). He finished with 2 helpers and an even in 4 games.

* Jan Hejda and Rusty Klesla. Played solid but each had their mistakes. The big surprise for me with Klesla was his point total as he finished with 1g, 4a for 5 points in 5 games.

* Goaltending was just okay for me. Norrena looked real good at times and real real bad. Leclaire was fairly solid but can play much better.

* The Jackets get out of the pre-season with only 1 significant injury in Torres.

* More replays from the game ops folks which was nice. Need even more!

* Boll made it through the pre-season without getting into a fight which is good for his healing hand. Unfortunately he made it through 5 pre-season games without a point either.

* Michael York was a disappointment. It was a low risk high reward signing by Howson so it doesn't hurt the Jackets much.

* PK was not good. According to the radio guys the PK going into the Toronto game was executing at less than 80%.

* Too many penalties but more specifically there were too many 5 on 3 situations given up.

* The Torres injury. Bad decision with good intentions and very unfortunate. Lets hope he rebounds because I thought he looked fantastic with Peca and Boll.

* Just unacceptable that, at minimum, the away games are not streamed on Jackets TV. I mean what's the point of even having it if we can't use it to watch these games that aren't televised??
* Finally got a road win in Toronto but lets hope this pre-season record on the road is not a sign of things to come.

* Steve Mason setback. This is both disappointing for the Jackets as well as Syracuse. Lets hope he doesn't have anymore problems and gets some quality development time in this season on the farm.

In general I thought all of the new faces all contributed positively in their own way. The biggest disappointment for me was the Raffi Torres injury and the non-impact from guys like Rome and Methot. The biggest surprise was the skill of Kristian Huselius and the play of some of the youngsters including the high skill guys like like Brass, Voracek, Filatov and Clitsome to the role players like Picard and Dorsett.

My guess for the opening night lineup:

Extra: Picard

Extra: Tollefsen/Rome


I doubt Hitch puts Brass and Voracek together on the same line but if he keeps Umberger up with Nash and Huselius I really don't see where else in this lineup he makes sense. Assuming he's healthy this kid needs top 6 minutes. If he's not then scratch him until he is and go with Umberger/Peca/Malhotra/Novotny up the middle until he's ready.

I also have Picard beating out Dorsett only b/c Dorsett does not have to pass through waviers. Rome I have over Methot.

Quite frankly I'm not sure what happens with Filatov. I don't see room for him unless somebody is moved via trade or waivers. He probably starts the year in Syracuse although I would prefer Sudbury of the Major Junior Leagues which isn't an option at this point due to the Russians not signing off on it.



Anonymous said...

Yeah, I have never understood this whole "send em to Juniors" attitude. No one has every given me a real good answer on why this benefits a player that has clearly advanced beyond A-Ball.

He's not ready for the NHL, yet, but he's certainly advanced well beyond Juniors.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in crunching some more stats, I'd be curious to see how the top 10 draft picks did in preseason. I'm pretty sure Filatov wasn't what Howsen/Hitch were initally looking for, but I think he's exceeded some expectations... :-)

Xoggz22 said...

I think that with Torres out and Hitch not wanting Voracek on the same line as Brassard to start the season you could see Novotny on the second line wing. Not ideal but he has been exceptional on faceoffs and could support Brassard in that department allowing Brassard more time to develop that aspect of his game. With Manny out we'll need strong play from Peca and Novotny in the circles if we want puck possession.

Nash Umberger Huselius
Modin Brassard Novotny
Chimera Peca Voracek
Murray Malhotra Boll
(Picard - extra)

With Manny possibly out on Friday that could mean Filatov could play a game as 4th line center but I doubt that.

Anonymous said...

I read an interesting theory about Russia's refusal to sign Filatov's transfer (from a blogger, and we all know how reliable they are ;)) and that is that they are holding out until Sudbury pays them for his transfer. I wonder if that could be possible.

Anonymous said...

Puckrackers is reporting that Rome has been placed on waivers and that gives the edge to Methot making the big club for the year.

Anonymous said...

They also have MacKenzie & MacDonald on waivers too. 8th spot should be Methots... that whiny baby. Good riddance or HELLO!?!

A quick article re: the second post

LTL said...

I would say that extra year of Junior helped Voracek. His body developed more and he gained even more experience and confidence in the NA game. He came into camp this year ready to make an impact and tied for the team lead in points.

You also have to keep in mind how things play out in contracts. Does Howson want to burn a year of contract eligibilty on a guy who plays the majority of the year in the AHL when he could do the same in Junior and save that year to use when he's a full time NHL player which will most likely be next year?

Also Brassard and Russell will need new contracts in 2 year's time. Voracek will need it in 3. If Filatov plays in the AHL this season he'll need a new on 3 as well -- if its the junior route its 4 years until you worry about that for Nikita.

With the contracts these kids are getting now after their very affordable rookie deals expire management has to be aware of it -- especially for a small market like Columbus. If all of those guys continue to develop can Columbus afford to pay all of them all.. especially at once?

There are all kinds of factors that go into these decisions. For instance is there enough room in Columbus for Filatov to play and develop this season? For a team that needs to win now can they afford to play 3 rookies in prominant roles? Would Hitch play that many rookies? If Filatov plays then whose ice time is he taking? Then again for a team that needs to win now can they afford as a franchise not to have him available for callup?

My personal opinion is you take the safe route with these kids if you can.

Now all that said, if the kid is ready then he's ready and you make room. If Juniors isn't an option then you play him in the A until he's ready.

Its Howson's job to ice the best team possible and to manage the numbers. He's shown me enough already that he knows what he's doing.

To get OT a bit -- could you imagine right now if MacLean were still here - the pick used for Voracek would have been dealt for a quick fix, the pick used for Filatov would have been dealt at the deadline for a desperation push into the playoffs and this team would most likely still be shambles.

Instead Howson turned Foote into Umberger. Brule into Torres. Zherdev/Fritsche into Tyutin/Backman, kept both picks that are now Voracek/Filatov and signed Huselius/Commodore all the while cutting loose Fedorov/Hainsey/Vyborny.

Okay - got on a bit of a roll there!!!!

Anyhow, in Howson and Hitch I trust to make the right decisions (but its fun to speculate).

Now start the season already :)


LTL said...

So Methot wins out. I'll have a post about this in a bit. Thanks for heads up on the new info everyone!


Anonymous said...

TSN is reporting that the Edmonton Oilers have sent Gilbert Brule to their AHL affiliate.