directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Turning point?

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Turning point?

I was going to blog about last night's game but with the news of Brass being out for the season that seems like chicken scratch at this point -- besides there isn't a whole lot positive to write anyhow. Swept by Phoenix?...sigh.

On to Brass.

First lets not kid ourselves -- this is a HUGE blow to the Jackets playoff hopes. Brass, even as a rookie, is the Jackets most skilled center. He was second on the team in scoring with 25 points in 31 games, tied for second in goals with 10, first on the team in assist with 15 and leads this team in +/- with a + 12. He was a legit Calder candidate.

All of that is up in flames in a matter of seconds with a gutsy but, with the benefit of hindsight, ill-advised decision to stand up for a teammate. Lets only hope he can recover 100% as he has had a history of shoulder problems in the past. This franchise desperately needs this kid as not only is he their only answer at center ice right now but this kid has got "it" -- he's skilled, he's passionate, he's competitive, a great teammate and he shows up every night....he's everything you want in a player.

Alas he's no longer an option for the 2008-'09 season.

For a team that lacks overall skill to begin with how do they respond to Brass being out of the lineup? Will this be the moment that Jackets look back 4 months from now and say was the turning point to their season? Obviously they can go two ways and that's up or down in the standings.

So what can or will the Jackets do to help bridge the skill gap vacated by Brassard's absence?

In the short term don't look for much out of management. There is a holiday roster freeze that is in effect until the 27th so for those thinking trade that can't happen until at least after the 27th. Regardless of freeze or no freeze the chances of Howson landing a skill center to replace are slim and slim to none unless he massively overpays which he won't be doing.

The Jackets have two games between now and the 27th -- one against LA on Tuesday the 23rd at home and one at home against Philly on the 27th. They should dress a lineup very similar to the one that took the ice against Phoenix last night unless some of the wounded walking start returning.

After that its 6 straight on the road where, considering the Jackets 4-10 record thus far when away from Nationwide, could very well decide their season.

Over the longer term no doubt Howson will be lighting up the phone lines to see if there is anything that makes sense out there. Again skilled centers don't grow on trees and he won't sell the farm to obtain one but maybe as teams start falling out of the picture, assuming for a second we aren't one of those, some short term solution becomes available. I'm looking at the Tampas, Islanders (Weight?), Atlantas, Torontos (Antropov?)... right now there are just to many teams still in the race.

I'm sure many are saying what about Filatov? He won't be an option until at least the World Junior Championships are over. If I had to guess now I'd say he'll most likely be headed back to Syracuse for a couple of reasons 1. he has really cooled in Syracuse and doesn't appear to be ready for the NHL yet 2. if Hitch is not going to play him in a top 6 role with quality minutes then you don't bring him up to ride the pine. Now if he lights up the WJCs and that confidence is flowing again then the Jackets may have no choice but to call this kid back up and let it ride.

So if no trades and no Filatov what does that leave? It leaves the guys on the team. Again players are going to have to step up. One man's loss is another's gain -- just ask Steve Mason. They can use it as motivation or use it as an excuse. Good teams don't use injuries as excuses. They don't have to tell us....their play will do all the talking to let us know which route they choose to take.

The problem is if last night is any indication of guys stepping up this could be a long 50 games to close out this year.

One thing is for certain both Hitch and Howson knows the importance of Brass being out of this lineup and although we won't hear much publicly you can bet they are reviewing every option available to them.

For now though this is just another blow to a franchise that just doesn't seem to catch many, if any, breaks.



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Rick said...

Not to sound cynical, but the team has talked the talk... it's time to walk the walk. The team has the chemistry in place. Gut-check time. Leaders being leaders, secondary scoring, playing with reckless abandon (with-in reason, not being stupid). All these things have to happen.

I think Dorsett said it best earlier this season... They have to play like every game is a playoff game.

JAL said...

Not sure that the team has the chemistry in place now, with so many pieces missing. Nonetheless, they have the attitude necessary to get through this rough stretch.

Key word over the next two weeks is defense. If we keep limiting opponents' chances the way we have been, and if Mason keeps his 2 GPG average going, we will be in every game, and will win more than our share. Need Malhotra, Peca, Modin, Novotny to get on the board, and Nash, Umberger and Huselius need to be hot.

Unlike prior teams, I think this one has been very good about putting forth sincere effort the vast majority of the time. The growing pains of getting used to playing with each other are frustrating, but these will abate with time.

If we can avoid prolonged pointless streak, we wil stay in the race.


A Shot From The Point

Andrew said...

at least the shoulder he "f-ed" up was not the same shoulder as 06-07...not that helps this year, but he should have "superman's" shoulders when he comes back