directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Umberger back to center plus more

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Umberger back to center plus more

Puck-rakers is reporting that RJ Umberger is being moved back to center for tonight's game versus the Islanders.

So the top lines will look they did on opening night:


I'm okay with this move although RJ at wing next to Peca and Torres had a solid game versus Chicago. Still unless Howson makes a move whom else can Hitch put there? Malhotra and Novotny certainly aren't the answers. You can't break up the only line that is really working for you in the "goat" line. The only two guys that haven't been tried are Peca and Murray and both of those guys aren't top 6 players.

Hopefully now that RJ has a goal under his CBJ belt and has gained some confidence he can be a better fit this time around.

Check out this quote from Derick Brassard from the Dispatch this morning in regards to his ice time which is only 7th best on the roster despite being the scoring leader:

"It's early in the season and we have to gain his confidence," Brassard said. "I'm sure it will come. One time he is going to have no choice because we play well and play good for the team."

Now Hitch has been quoted multiple times saying he wants to protect these kids and let Nash's line do the heavy lifting against the opposition top shut down pairs. I can understand that view but if Brass and his line keep playing the way they do Hitch won't have a choice as the opposition is going to target this line as the one to stop and make their own adjustments.

At some point though he's going to have to turn these kids loose and roll with the punches. They've been that good.

Syracuse went 1 on 1 on the weekend.

On Saturday they nipped Rockford 3-2 off a 3 point night from Jonathen Sigalet. Tom Sestito also collected a goal while Steve Mason stopped 22 of 24 shots to earn his second victory as a pro.

On Sunday the Crunch came up short falling 2-1 to Chicago. Again Sestito got on the board collecting the only goal for the Crunch and his 3rd on the year. Steve Mason stopped 20 of 22 shots.

Through 3 starts Mason has a 1.63 GAA and a .937 Save% and is 2-1. Clay Wilson, Maxim Mayorov and Jonathen Sigalet are tied for the team lead in points each collecting 8 in 9 games played.

You have to wonder if Sigalet may get a look soon on the big squad if they continue to sputter on the PP.

Nikita Filatov had a quite weekend going scoreless as did Kris Russell.

The Ohio State Men's hockey team had a very rough go of it over the weekend as they faced off against #8 Michigan in Ann Arbor. They dropped both of their games with a 4-3 loss and Friday and 6-1 shellacking on Saturday night. Their overall record drops to 2-5-1 on the season.

TSN has an excellent read up in regards to players who are struggling out of the gate. What's interseting is that there are a lot of names that myself and others would have loved to add over the summer. A couple of them:

Antoine Vermette, LW, Ottawa (1-1-2, minus-2 in 10 GP; two years, $5.525M)
Comment: Sens keep looking for secondary scoring; Vermette not bringing it.

Ryan Malone, LW, Tampa Bay (2-0-2, minus-1 in 9 GP; six years, $31.5M)
Comment: Virtually impossible to match the production he had with Malkin last season.

Pavel Kubina, D, Toronto (1-2-3, minus-6 in 10 GP; two years, $10.0M)
Comment: Had an underrated year in 2007-2008, but off to a poor start this year.

Jordan Staal, C, Pittsburgh (0-3-3, minus-1 in 11 GP; one year, $850K)
Comment: Due for a contract extension before season's end, but lack of goal-scoring still an issue.

Matthew Lombardi, C, Calgary (1-1-2, minus-1 in 7 GP; two years, $3.9M)
Comment: Still waiting for him to build on previous 20-goal season.

Brendan Morrison, C, Anaheim (0-1-1, minus-5 in 11 GP, one year, $2.75M)
Comment: Still a step slow coming off knee surgery.

Yikes... I really wanted Kubina and Vermette over the summer. I would have also liked Lombardi.

Still though if these players continues to struggle it could present a nice opportunity for Howson to pick one up at a reasonable price and see if the ole "change of scenery" theory holds true for one of them.

I don't expect any "name" players to move before the 20 game mark when GMs should really have a good read on their squads.

The Jackets could certainly use another top 6 pivot and names like Lombardi, Staal and Vermette would still interest me.

On the positive side, I think we may have caught a big break on Morrison shunning us over the summer and to some lesser extent Malone.



Viqsi said...

"I can understand that view but if Brass and his line keep playing the way they do Hitch won't have a choice as the opposition is going to target this line as the one to stop and make their own adjustments."

...which IMO is precisely why Hitch isn't jumping the gun and moving them up, and instead milking as much easy production out of his rookies as he can get.

Seriously, how much of a confidence builder is it when you start going up against the best not because your coach picked up on it, but because the OPPONENTS had to learn to adjust to YOU? :)

I think Hitch knows exactly what he's doing, and I think it's probably the right thing.

xoggz22 said...

Some interesting slow starters....

It will be interesting to see what Howson does as our lineup comes into focus with the players coming off I.R. and the team looking pretty solid.

One think that I think is a huge glaring need is a right shooting D-man for the PP. I'm going to be watching Gervais tonight. He's only 24, has some offense to his game and could be a possible pick up. The isles need just about everything. Maybe sending someone like Methot or OKT and a depth forward would be reasonable.

I also would love to see Howson take a run at the Bruins for one of their depth centers. I'd love to see if Krejci (sp?) or even Kessel

Erik said...

The Goat line is creating a lot from the second line, if you put them on the first line or just move Brass up... you could see the production drop a lot.. You have to remember that Brass and Jake are not facing the top D-men and centers of the League. Let them build confidence on the 2nd line, and get better and better and better... I think Hitch is most worried about the defensive responsibilities that come on the first line, Nash, Huselius and Umberger can really cover the Inginla/Ovechkin and Thornton's of the League. I don't feel comfortable yet with Jake and brass matching up defensively to a top line, I think offensively they are almost as potent as a solid first line... (people what a luxury we have a potent second line.. .remember this is the CBJ we are talking about).

But anyways, having so much offensive upside on the second line is just making me drool.. they are always a threat and right now they have momentum.. Tonight against a struggling NYI they should be able to surprise and lay down the law... but I really hope tonight is the night our no1 line gets going..

BTW tonight Chicago plays Colorado, let's see how that plays out for comparison sake.. !!!!!

Wally said...

I'm not too upset to see 'Burger move back to Center. Maybe some time at a familiar position gave him a chance to relax and feel good about his game again? I don't think it's possible to struggle your way out.

As far as Brassard... I'm really getting sick of the fan mentality lately. Why burn the kid up with extra minutes right now? The same weight everyone wants to put on Derrick is the same one Nash has been carrying around for years. Hitch is keeping him fresh, positive and productive... and I think that's what he needs to develop into a confident & dynamic player. We do need to win games, but as Mr. Nash has proven time and time again, one guy can't be expected to do it all.

Maybe the new fan slogan should be: "Carry the team!"

Erik said...

100% with Wally...

He's very productive right now... let's not change it...

We need to get the first line going... hopefully Umberger will add some spark now that he has been playing better as of late...

Anonymous said...

Off topic question:

Does anyone have Insight Cable? Are they ever going to carry FSN HD? I'm gonna have to switch my provider, this is BS...

LTL said...

Good points on Brass all.

X - I'd also love to get my hands on that Krejci kid. He's going to be a real good one.


Sean said...

What kind of info do we need from the Jackets before rumors can really get rolling? I guess I'm asking, how will we know if Howson has something in the works or not? He's got to be looking around but this is only my second season following the NHL closely and I'm not sure how long to expect before a deal would go down to bring a top pivot into the fold. 15 games? 25? Will there be smoke before there's fire?

LTL said...

Sean.. usually the Dispatch beat guys get wind of some "activity" and will hint around about it...or Howson will himself come out and say he's "having conversations".

Other than that its usually just alot of speculation and sometimes wishful thinkin by us fans :)