directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Life Jackets

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Life Jackets

Those are exactly what someone should be throwing the Jackets way after going 0-3 on this Western Conference road trip while collecting a big fat '0' points along the way.

They started off competitive against San Jose and really played a hard game but came out of it empty handed. That loss certainly took the wind out of their sails as LA shut them out for the first time this year and then Anaheim pounced on a team that seemed destined to lose no matter the effort.

Those 3 loses, as a reader commented in previous post, were absolutely devastating. Not only did they not garner any points but the losses dropped them to last in the Central and 14th in the Conference just 1 point ahead of 15th placed Dallas.

So what's next?

At this point I don't want to even hear the word "playoffs". This team is not close to playing like a playoff team right now. Not when their special teams are a train wreck, not when you can't even muster a point on a 3 game road trip.

If they even want to think about staying in the hunt they have to win against Nashville and New York (Islanders) at home on Thurs or Fri or this thing could really spiral out of control. Those are once again "musts". In this tight of a conference you can't go on extended losing streaks and remain in this fight... it just can't happen.

Special teams HAVE to get on track. Tom Reed has a nice "read" in Puck-rakers in terms of his thoughts how to fix the PP struggles - check it out here.

I agree with most of what he has to say especially the puck movement part. It was only one game but Wilson brought more to the PP than Backman has all season albeit he's looks like swiss cheese defensively. Got to keep playing him though as we don't have any better options. If the org can't find a trade partner for an above average pointman on the powerplay then you also have take the leash of Russell and give this kid a green light to go balls to the wall offensively... yes, he is going to make mistakes but he will learn from it and our PP will be better because of it. Things can't get much worse so its time to take some risks.

Besides that guys like Nash and Huselius have to pot their chances. If Nash has a break-away that can even the score then he's got to score...its what he makes 6.5 million this year for. These two have to be our best offensive threats night in and night out and have to execute on their chances.

Secondary scoring needs to crank it up a notch or three. Brassard got it going some last night with a goal and helper and Modin seems to be coming on a bit but Peca, Chimera, Umberger, Boll, Murray, Novonty all need to up their contributions to get this O-train back on its tracks.

The defense has to get a whole lot sharper...especially on the kill. They are allowing to many loose pucks in front of the net and not clearing rebounds....they are allowing to many screen shots on their goaltenders.. not a whole lot of snarl in that group either. They've got to batten down the hatches and start executing on the finer details of the game.

The team has to stay out of the box. Their strength is even strength play and they are negating those minutes each and every stroll over to the sin bin.

I'm not sure what it is but the team just hasn't seemed to buy into Hitch's system like it did last season. Maybe its chemistry, maybe its talent, maybe Hitch's system is wearing thin on some guys or maybe its a little bit of everything... that "all in" approach just doesn't seem to be there yet.

At some point goaltending has to steal this team a couple of undeserved wins. Leclaire was okay last night and Mason has been good but goaltending has yet to really steal 2 points (you could argue Mason did against Vancouver)... every squad needs those kinds of games throughout a season.

Where is the fire in this lineup? Boll has stepped up his game a bit in that area but you don't want him fighting Paros or Ivanas but I'm not really even talking about fights... We are playing bumper cars out there. We need hits, scrums and strong tough play in the hard areas of the ice. Take the lumps in front of the net to open up space for others. Sacrifice. The best example that I can think of this season is when Jason Chimera blocked that Souray shot with his stomach at a critical moment in the game against Edmonton which helped preserve the win. Haven't seen a whole lot of plays like that.

Finally management has to do its job. We are 27 games into this season and everyone knows where the gaps are at on this roster. You look up and down this roster and it is what it is at this point. We've stayed relatively healthy so its not like we are waiting for a difference maker to come off the IR. Right now we are putting scotch tape on bullet wound hoping that stops the bleeding. Of course that would only slow the inevitable. The problem is the resources needed to fix the bullet wound are in very limited the supply.

The most glaring need of course is a PPQB. Unfortunately you can't just show up at Wal-mart and pick those up on the clearance rack but I'm having my doubts that this team can hang in this thing with its current configuration up to the trade deadline so every rock must be turned.

Howson is in a tough spot you overpay for a quick fix which could very well hurt your long term future or do you stay patient and hope to find the solution internally? How much longer can this market afford to wait for success?

Personally I would be burning up the phone lines looking for some help on the blueline - calling every team. Hell why not check in w/ Tampa and see if they have anything (Mezsaros anyone?) as they have itchy trigger fingers. What about Dallas? Or Toronto?

Of course that's just crazy LTL rambling.

In terms of what I think Howson will/would do for now I think things stay the status quo until at least until after these next two homes game. The problem is if the Jackets pile up a couple of more losses will it be to late to salvage the season? Is this team team capable of throwing together a couple of long winning streaks to get back in it?

Possible...? Yes, anythings possible.

Probable..? Based on the current record, personnel and previous history of this

All that said I expect a spirited effort against the Preds this Thursday. Anything less than two points won't do.



Anonymous said...

I have a feeling we could get Tom Preissing from the Kings. He needs a change of scenery and the Kings don't seem to need as much as they thought. He also has the all coveted right-handed shot from the point.

Not exactly going to make us a contender but it should help keep the ship afloat until the trade deadline.

LTL said...

He's certainly an interesting option Dru.

I haven't seen him play much but checking out his profile he's 30, 6ft 200lb and a right handed shot like you say.

Here is forecaster's take:

ASSETS: Makes smart decisions with the puck. Is capable of putting up good offensive numbers, especially if given regular ice time with the man advantage.
FLAWS: Is undersized, and will always face an uphill battle against NHL power forwards. Must still prove he can log big minutes in the big league.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Power play specialist.

He's also had a couple of real nice years in San Jose in 05-06 putting up 43p and in 06-07 in Ottawa putting up 40. He's struggled in LA with 24p last year and 7 in 19 games this season.

The point where I think Howson gets scared off is his contract. He's signed 2 more years at 2.75 mil. That's a lot for a guy watching from the press box but that also means he could most likely be had for a late pick.

If we could somehow dump some salary back maybe Howson takes a chance. He's certainly got the experience and we aren't going to get the perfect fit now unless we 1. overpay (which Howson won't do) or we draft or 2. develop it (which won't happen this year (unless Russell really breaks out the 2nd half).

Like you say though it could keep us afloat.