directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Forgot the barbeque sauce...

Just some late night dipping sauce to go along with today's nuggets (courtesy of Kevin G.). has ranked the CBJ 5th in their organizational rankings:

Strengths: The Blue Jackets graduated a couple of their top prospects – Calder front-runner Steve Mason and winger Jakub Voracek – this season on way to earning the franchise’s first postseason appearance. The cupboard is still stocked with several talented forwards, headlined by an elite scoring winger in Nikita Filatov. Derick Brassard will also look to fill the net following an injury-shortened rookie season. Beyond the top two forwards, Columbus has some nice depth with players like Maxim Mayorov, Jake Hansen, and Tom Sestito on the wings. The defense also features solid prospects in Cody Goloubef, Teddy Ruth, and Andrei Plekhanov. Weaknesses: The Jackets are particularly thin down the middle with only three center prospects. Although the system recently graduated Mason, it now lacks a top-flight prospect in goal. Top 5 prospects: 1. Nikita Filatov, LW, 2. Derick Brassard, C, 3. Cody Goloubef, D, 4. Maxim Mayorov, LW, 5. Teddy Ruth, D. Key losses to graduation: Steve Mason, Jakub Voracek.

How about this quote:

"We'll be farther away from the podium than ever before -- but that's a good thing, right?" -- Blue Jackets hockey operations director Don Boyd, on the club picking No. 16 in this summer's entry draft and picking in the top eight in each of their first nine drafts.

Very true. This will be the first draft that the Jackets haven't picked in the top 8. They have been getting better of late at mining picks in later rounds so hopefully that can roll over to fnding a capable NHLer in the middle of this year's first.

Also check out this Stanley Cup Final opening from Hockey Night in Canada:

According to this site Game 1 of the Finals drew a 4.5 ratings last night. Of course that team that cannot be named won.. ugh.

Marc Berman from Mediaweek’s Programming Insider is going to be our friend for the next couple of weeks. NBC beat our prediction of 3.8 million by quite a bit. The game drew an average of 4.5 million viewers, and a 1.7 in the all-important Adults 18-49 demo, winning the night for NBC.

The game won it’s time period from 8-10 PM (finished 2nd from 10-11) in total viewers and won all three hours of primetime in Adults 18-49. The game peaked in the 9:30-10PM half-hour with 4.94 million viewers and a 1.9 in the demo. The 8-8:30 PM half-hour hurt the ratings quite a bit, as hockey fans seem to have figured out how loaded with pre-game it is. It only drew 3.8 million viewers and a 1.4 in the demo.


Sunday Nuggets

First thing is first... update on the "arena" situation:

From Puck-rakers:

Talked to an attorney who represents Blackberry mogul Jim Balsillie, the guy who has tried buying Pittsburgh, Nashville and now Phoenix with the sole purpose of moving the club to Hamilton, Ont. The attorney said Balsillie has never had any interest in the Blue Jackets. Why? "They're not portable. They're not moving. The markets too good." Doesn't sound the Blue Jackets will become the Hamilton Handhelds, but if this drags out for five years and Balsillie still doesn't have a club ...

That is actually encouraging news and I think he's right on, Columbus certainly has the ability to be a strong hockey market. I will be interesting to see what a couple of winning season can do.

NHL Commish Gary Bettman also weighs in on the subject (link courtesy of Skraut on HF):

Q. This week the Blue Jackets announced that they had lost $80 million over the last seven seasons. I was wondering how concerned you are about the long?term stability there in Columbus?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The Columbus issue really relates more to the privately financed arena, and their lease situation. And that's something that they're talking to the county and the city about adjusting. The club has terrific fan support, and long-term, I think it's important for the Blue Jackets as it is for any club to ensure that they have the right building arrangements. And that's something that they're working on.

Draft watch:

There seems to be consensus on the top five picks in the NHL draft -- John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane and Brayden Schenn -- just no consensus on the order in which they'll be chosen.

Obviously we have no shot at any of these guys unless an unlikely trade of some kind unfolds. I'll have some posts later about names for Jackets fans to keep an eye on.

This morning's edition of the Dispatch talk about "Money problems familiar to the NHL":

At least eight of the NHL's 30 franchises are thought to be suffering significant annual losses.

Phoenix currently is in bankruptcy court. Atlanta, Florida, Nashville, the New York Islanders, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Columbus are claiming big losses.

Also, owners in Dallas and Montreal are so overwhelmed with personal debt that rumors persist their clubs could be sold.

"No club is in jeopardy," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday before Game 1 of the Finals. "We are in a recession, and there are a variety of issues affecting businesses and owners.

"It's happening in all sports. We are no stranger in dealing with harsh economic realities."

Bettman said he's not worried about Columbus as a franchise.

"As long as (the lease) can be fixed -- and I think it can get fixed -- people should not be concerned," he said. "I was there during the playoffs. I've seen the growth of the Arena District. Nationwide Arena and this club have become an integral and essential part of this community."

Here is some news on the expected cap number next season:

Sources within the NHLPA believe the league will suffer an approximate four-percent decline in revenue that would lower the salary cap by about $2.5 million next season, but that the union will exercise the five-percent bump to bring the 2009-10 cap up to an approximate $56.1M, a drop of about $600,000 per team

The cap staying the same or declining is a good thing for Columbus who is a budget team. That means less money in the pool which should drive down the prices of the players. The big guns will still get their paydays but the lesser lights, like the ones Columbus will be chasing this summer, should be a little more affordable.

Speaking of budgets, check out this little nugget from Puck-rakers:

GM Scott Howson has been told that his job and his budget have not changed. He told me in no uncertain terms that the Blue Jackets' contract extension offer to captain Rick Nash will not be effected, either. When asked if the ongoing lease issue could make Nash think twice about signing on long-term here, Howson said he couldn't say. I haven't been able to reach Nash yet this summer.

That is some good news as I feared that ownership may want to trim payroll. That tells me that at least that they understand spending less and icing a non-competitive product certainly won't contribute to helping solve the problem.

Remember winning cures a lot of ills. This team keeps winning, more interest is generated.. next thing you know there is more support gardnered to find a solution.

...but what's up with this "haven't been able to reach Nash yet this summer"? I know I read into a lot of things on this blog (hey, that's what I do baby!) but that strikes me a bit odd. They both have cell phone right? Regardless I can't help but think the news this week will impact negotiations. I still expect a 3 year extension around 21 million to get ironed out soon after July 1st.

If not, this could turn into one dicey summer.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

More combine

Here's a couple of interesting vids from

Them Canadiens sure do love their hockey. Heck without them we wouldn't hear squat about this combine. Time Warner needs to pick up TSN -- it wouldn't leave my TV.


Friday, May 29, 2009

NHL Combine update!

TSN has a very cool blog going today regarding the NHL Combine. Here is a sample:

Group #5

2:25 pm et - Some of the big boys were in this group and there were some big men on hand to watch. NHLPA agent Pat Brisson, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, Leafs' Senior VP of Hockey Operations Dave Nonis, Leafs' Senior Advisor Cliff Fletcher, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson and Panthers GM Jacques Martin are all in attendance.

Possible #1 selection and OHL leading scorer John Tavares did not do upper-body exercises at all, leading to speculation that he has an upper-body injury. He did do 46 sit-ups, which is one of the highest totals seen on the day. Tavares is fit but there's obviously something going on - possibly a shoulder injury - as he did not do push-ups or the bench press. Tavares did do cycling and is looking good.

Evander Kane (#3) had an excellent workout. He had 17 bench presses, which ties the unofficial high for the day. Kane also did 47 push-ups, which seems to be far and away the best so far. In general, the 17-year-old looks like he's in really good shape. Kane has lots of room to grow but was certainly ready for this judging by his workout.

Zack Kassian (#10) did an impressive 16 lifts on the bench.

Fourth-ranked Brayden Schenn did not get into the room until the next group started doing their exercises, so Schenn will probably now be going with Group #6.

Be sure to check the rest out here.


MacLean chimes in

Saw this on HF and wanted to post here as well:

According to Doug today from The Fan 590 in Toronto:

17 MM was lost during the lockout because Mr. McConnell would not lay anyone off. MacLean is saying the team was profitable for the first 4 years.

An interesting point is that he claims it costs on average $30 MM to run an NHL franchise plus payroll. He also says additional payroll costs above those included in the cap are about 10%. This means a team at $50 MM cap spends 55 MM on payroll and needs $85 MM to break even.

He says the problem is the building lease AND the size of the TV market. He says corporate sponsorship is good, ticket sales are good, pretty much everything is fine except the lease and TV contract.

What's interesting is that Doug MacLean was the one responsible for negotiating that contract.

I'm not sure when it expires but the Jackets must absolutely fix that revenue stream and they have a lot more ammo now to do so. Here are the top 2009 ratings from FSNOH last year:

Apparently Portzline and Priest were both on 97.1 The Fan this afternoon but I didn't get a chance to listen. If anyone out there did please post the highlights in the comments if you could.


Momentum killer!

Just as the on-ice product was finally showing signs of getting somewhere we get the off ice bomb dropped on us yesterday that the team has lost over 80 million since the 02-03 season.

Talk about a momentum killer. Better yet try a momentum brick wall.

Honestly could the timing of this be any worse?

The team just made the playoffs after 8 long miserable years. The team will be trying to extend its franchise player. Morale is up. People feel good about the direction of this franchise and then BOOM!

From the Dispatch:

After losing $80 million in the past seven years, Columbus Blue Jackets owners are hoping that selling Nationwide Arena to the county could stave off serious discussions about moving the team to another city.

Asked if failure to approve the plan would force the team to leave Columbus, Priest said:

"The reason we're being proactive and working and talking is to find a solution so that we don't have to go down that road or have those types of discussions. The whole purpose of this is to avoid that. Other teams have been through this and have found solutions."


Yes, if we do not find a solution John P. will consider selling the team and that may include moving it.

One has to wonder how much John P. even cares about this franchise. I read earlier that Jackets President Michael Priest was quoted as to saying the financial evaluation of this team has been on going for a year. Seriously, did they even let the dirt settle on John H. before phoning the NHL?

Better yet, if John H. was still here is this even a story?

Well we are where we are but I would hope that at this point if John P. has intentions to sell just come out and say it and get on with it. The last thing any of us need is to be dragged through the mud.

If John P. does plan to see this thing through to the very end and finish what his dad started then I'm one fan who would like to see more public comittment from him to ease tensions amongst a very on edge fanbase.

Here's the scariest part to me about this entire situation. You usually see owners come out publicly like this and put pressure on the politicians when they need a brand new stadium b/c they need new revenue streams. The Jackets have a plush 9 year old gorgeous pile of bricks they play in every night yet here we are.....already!!

I understand they are losing money but I'm baffled how it's as high as they are reporting. Absolutely baffled.

Usually it's just "give me the corporate luxury suites and we'll be fine".

I understand the Jackets don't get all that revenue but you can't tell me that an extra 15 suites, parking and naming rights can make up that much coin.

..and their solution to all this is to install a "sin tax"? Ain't happenin. No way in hell. Everyone in their mother wants new taxes right now due to budget shortfalls. There just isn't enough support for the Jackets yet to get something like that pushed through....especially in economic times like these.

You need more than one good year in nine to drum up that kind of support (thanks MacLean).

Look you, me and the folks that read this blog... we'd pay it without thinkin twice. That's a bubble though. You run this past Joe Schmo workin second shift who could give two craps about hockey, you know the majority of the folks out there, it's not gonna fly (see Dispatch poll here)

...and you know what, I don't blame them. Not one bit. This was billed and built as a privately funded arena - how would expect them to respond?

Personally I'm wondering why we never hear anything about the Fox Sports Television package. I have heard rumblings over the years that the Jackets pretty much give away their television rights (thanks again MacLean).

I think to myself that we are fine.... Nationwide can't afford to lose the Jackets. Not after they dumped 750 mil into a beautiful Arena District that we all love. They can't afford to lose their centerpiece and let their development fail. Then I read the following quotes from the President of Nationwide Reality Brian Ellis:

"Without a broader solution, I don't think anything we can do would be sufficient to fix the problem," Ellis said. "There's no way that just an adjustment to the lease, as it's currently configured, would be sufficient to maintain the long-term viability of the Blue Jackets."

That tells me this problem is much bigger than anything Nationwide can do. I really do believe they will do anything they can to help. They have too much riding on it not too.

This is not good people and is a very serious situation. In fact I'm depressed as hell.

Publicly this is about as bad a time this news could hit. Right now we should be talking about the draft and improvements that need to be made to the roster to take that next step. We should be talking about how Rick Nash should be excited to sign an extension and lead this team to Stanley Cup glory.

Instead this offseason will now be dominated by Arena talk... the folks coming out of the woodwork with the "I told you sos" about Columbus as a hockey market.. and "sin tax". It will be a big cloud hanging over this entire offseason.

I was worried about the viability of this franchise in this market when attendance didn't explode down the stretch... now I'm petrified.

Folks mention bringin an NBA team here. What will that accomplish? There may be more dates on the calendar but now your splitting corporate sponsorships and luxury box sales. That's the big money that keeps pro franchises afloat and I just don't think there are enough of those corporate dollars in this market to sustain two pro teams. I could certainly be wrong.

Hopefully they can find a solution to this mess. Although I find myself wondering what's the real end game here? Maybe the thought is to let the Jackets walk and try an NBA team here?

For me I think this, at the very least, is the first step towards John P. unloading the franchise if he can't get favorable terms he seeks --- be it local ownership or not.

It would be a shame as this team was John H.'s gift to Columbus and just like that it could be swept out from under it. That will effect a lot of jobs, a lot of business and would be a major step backwards in terms of the perception of Columbus as a major league market.

I hate to be so negative but you know I try to keep it real in this blog. The real world unfortunately is not all sunshine and rainbows and instead much more dollar and cents.

I do hope my worries are for naught and that a solution is found and we can all put this behind us.

One thing I do know is that this story isn't going away anytime soon.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

We're not Detroit!

This isn't exactly hockey related but it has a nice shot at Detroit so I must share:

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

Go Pens!


Beer tax sought for Blue Jackets arena buyout

I just saw this come across the wire:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The owners of the money-losing Columbus Blue Jackets want a tax increase on beer, wine and cigarettes to underwrite a county takeover of Nationwide Arena, where the team plays.

Such a move would defy the will of local voters who repeatedly rejected public financing of the facility built by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

The prospect of significant tax hikes also has touched off a battle between financial backers of the Blue Jackets and beer brewer Anheuser-Busch, which operates one of its 12 U.S. breweries in the city.

The company's president flew to Columbus on Thursday for meetings with Gov. Ted Strickland and leaders of the Ohio Legislature. The team wants the proposal inserted into the budget that starts July 1.

Link here.

Well this sure came out of left field. Its the first I've seen or heard regarding any of it. In fact I'm not quite sure what any of it means??

Is Nationwide Insurance trying to unload the arena to the county?

Are the owners wanting more tax to offset their losses?

Most importantly -- how much is a damn beer gonna cost next year?

Need. More. Info.!

UPDATE: More information here from Columbus.bizjournals.

The formula worked in the early years of the franchise, when the team’s player payroll was lower and game attendance was higher, Priest said, but it has contributed to financial losses the Blue Jackets have suffered in recent years.

“We have a building financial issue,” Priest said. “That leads to a team financial issue. If we can fix the building problem, we can fix the team problem.”

Team officials are exploring whether county ownership of the arena could result in favorable changes to the Blue Jackets’ operating terms, Priest said. A county agency – the Convention Facilities Authority – owns the land under the arena and the nearby Greater Columbus Convention Center. The county also owns Huntington Park, the home of the Columbus Clippers in the Arena District.

“The county has not agreed to do anything,” Priest said. “Nothing has been concluded.”

Commissioners are aware of what the Blue Jackets are proposing but have not taken a position on buying the arena, said county Administrator Don Brown. The county could not afford to buy the building unless a revenue stream was guaranteed to retire bond debt that would go with a purchase, he said. Officials also would need to examine the Blue Jackets’ finances, lease terms and revenue from non-hockey events such as concerts.

The club likely would be asked to sign a long-term lease to ensure it remains in Columbus, Brown said.

“Without a covenant or guarantee like that,” he said, “I doubt the county would be interested. It would not make business sense to take on ownership without being assured of an anchor tenant.”

UPDATE: Even more information from the Dispatch here.

Bottom line to me is that the team seems to be losing its ass and is looking for any way to make up for some of those losses.

Not a good situation although this quote from Priest makes sense:

Priest was asked if the Blue Jackets would consider leaving Columbus if the arena issue is not resolved.

“The very reason we are being so proactive,” he said, “is to avoid having to deal with that question and issue. I believe as a community we have the ability to find a solution.”


2009 Free Agency Preview - Defensemen

This is the first entry in a series of posts I will be presenting this offseason as we build up to the July 1st free agency period.

This entry will take a look at filling a big need on the Blue Jackets blueline and that is a defensemen with offensive skills.

As we are all too aware the Jackets had the 30th ranked powerplay last season -- the worst in the league. While no magic wand will solve the Jackets powerplay issues I believe a major area that needs an upgrade is the Jackets ability to quikcly move the puck up the hitting forwards in stride with tape to tape passes, quick decisions and fast puck movement when the zone is gained and a booming one time shot from the point. Having a right hand shot as well as a offensive dman who can play in all 3 zones would certainly be welcomed as well.

First I'll take a look at a number of expected unrestricted free agents who may be able to fill this hole and then I'll look at couple of players under contract who may be available be trade.


Jay Bouwmeester
ASSETS: Has incredible skating ability, a keen sense of when to join the rush, size and hockey smarts. Is a capable shutdown defender.
FLAWS: Doesn't play enough of a physical game to dominate a contest, despite impressive physical attributes. Is too reserved to be a vocal team leader.
CAREER POTENTIAL: No. 1 defenseman.

Age: 24
2008 Stats:
2008 Salary: 4.875

Outlook: A guy anyone would like to add to their team and would certainly solve a lot of backend problems with the Jackets. It's a good dream but one that won't become a reality for Jacket fans. JBo will want too much cash and by all accounts wants to go to a Canadian market. The only way the Jackets even try to get in the conversation is if the Nash negotiations go way south, like Florida south, in a hurry.

Scott Niedermayer
ASSETS: Possesses a terrific combination of vision and skating ability. Is one of the best skating defensemen in NHL history. Has awesome recuperative ability.
FLAWS: Since he sees so much ice time, there are times when he isn't as physical as he could be. He's won it all in his career; is he still motivated?
CAREER POTENTIAL: Future Hall-of-Fame defenseman.

Age: 35
2008 Stats: 82 14 45 59 -8
2008 Salary: 6.75

Outlook: Another dream for CBJ fans that won't become a reality. Niedermayer may retire but if he doesn't he'll certainly want to go to a cup contending team with his brother Rob. While the Jackets could use both of them they won't be on his short list and I highly doubt they could afford him if they were.

Francois Beauchemin
Owns one of the hardest point shots in the NHL. Usually keeps the game simple from the back end. Uses his 6-0 frame to punish onrushing forwards.
FLAWS: Can be beaten one-on-one. Is a little undersized at the NHL level. His offensive production is inconsistent, as is his decision-making.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Age: 28
2008 Stats: 20 4 1 5 -3
2008 Salary: 1.65

Outlook: This former Jacket really came into his own after his trade to Anaheim. He flourished playing along side of Niedermeyer. I could see some interest here from the Jackets as he does have a nice shot from the point and may fit into their salary structure. I do worry about his ability to play at a high level without a Nieds or Pronger as his wingman. He may also have a bad taste of Columbus from his last stint here. I'm also concerned that he's not enough of an upgrade on our blueline for our ailing powerplay.

Jaroslav Spacek
ASSETS: Is a terrific passer and steady performer in defensive situations. Sees the ice very well. Can be effective on the power play.
FLAWS: Needs to play a more physical game, especially in front of his own net. Must be more consistent in order to maximize effectiveness.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Age: 35
2008 Stats: 80 8 37 45 2
2008 Salary: 3.30

Outlook: Another former Jacket who has played well since his departure. While age is a factor at 35, Spacek continues to be an effective player in all 3 zones. He doesn't take a lot of shifts off, works hard and seems like a good team guy. His 45 points last season was good for 17th overall in the league for defensemen. I really like what he could bring to a Jackets powerplay as he can move the puck well and has a nasty one timer. I would have to think Howson would kick the tires on a player like this and see what kind of term/salary Spacek's camp is commanding.

Dennis Seidenberg
ASSETS: Moves the puck quickly and efficiently out of the defensive zone. Knows when to pinch in from the point and is rather effective with the man advantage.
FLAWS: Lacks strength despite decent size. Isn't overly physical and he needs to be in order to better handle high traffic areas.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six defenseman.

Age: 27
2008 Stats: 70 5 25 30 -9
2008 Salary: 1.2

Outlook: Has steadily upped his game over the past couple of seasons. Anyone who has watched Seidenberg in the playoffs has to come away impressed. From what I've seen he's very good moving the puck in the offensive zone, especially on the PP, and is a competitive guy. I also liked his lateral mobility. At age 27 his game should continue to improve. Definitely seems to be one of those guys Howson may target for a bigger role in Columbus and could thrive in a way similar to Umberger/Vermette/Tyutin types with more ice time. He'll most certainly get a nice raise over the 1.2 mil he made last season.

Adrian Aucoin
Has a howitzer of a slap shot, handles the puck well and has improved his play in the defensive zone over time. Possesses sound leadership qualities.
FLAWS: Lacks top-level skating ability. Could stand to play with more aggression, especially in the defensive zone. Doesn't shoot enough anymore.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Veteran top four defenseman.

Age: 35
2008 Stats: 81 10 24 34 -8
2008 Salary: 4.0

Outlook: Aucoin has put up a couple of decent offensive seasons in the past couple of years with the Flames. Two things I love about him 1. his shot from the point (which he has taken 120+ the past two years) and 2. he's right handed. He's also been relatively healthy after a couple of tough years in Chicago. He's getting up there in age and isn't the fleetest of foot. I'd have to think there is some interest from the Jackets side but not a 4 mil per year... if he's in that 3 mil a year range then perhaps.

Jordan Leopold
ASSETS: Owns untapped offensive potential. Moves the puck quickly out of danger and likes to start the transition game. Is positionally sound. Can log big minutes.
FLAWS: Must better handle big NHL forwards and use his frame more effectively. Needs to be more confident in the attacking zone.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman.

Age: 28
2008 Stats: 83 7 17 24 -15
2008 Salary: 1.5

Outlook: A guy someone will definitely sign because the potential is just too high. He's only 27 and should be relatively affordable. To me Leopold is a bit of a high risk/high reward type guy. He could be the answer to the Jackets PP woes or he could spend a good chunk of the season hurt like he has 2 out of the past 3 years. Leopold's case is an interesting one. I'd really like more of a shooter (only 107 shots) plus he's left handed.

Sergei Zubov
Has outstanding passing skills and is extremely agile. Possesses outstanding hockey sense and usually makes the right play at the right time.
FLAWS: Isn't physical at all and can be over matched at times when opposed to big forwards in front of the net. Injuries are also a concern.
CAREER POTENTIAL: No. 1 defenseman.

Age: 38
2008 Stats: 10 0 4 4 -4
2008 Salary: 5.35

Outlook: Just a horrible injury riddled year for Zubov. The question I have is is it career ending? He's another interesting case. Even if the Jackets got a Zubov that is 75% of his former self he would be the best offensive dman they've ever had by a mile. Hitch also has experience coaching him. Plus he's a right handed shot. Not sure what Zubov's intentions are.. if the Stars don't sign him he may opt to retire or play in the KHL but he's a guy I'd take a chance on in a one year 2 to 3 mil type deal... after the docs checked out that hip of course.

Marc-Andre Bergeron
ASSETS: Has the ability to rack up points if given enough ice time. Makes a crisp first pass out of the defensive zone and joins the rush with aplomb.
FLAWS: At 5-10, 197 pounds, he'll always have trouble handling big NHL forwards. As a result, it's a struggle for him to receive regular ice time.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Power play specialist.

Age: 28
2008 Stats: 72 14 18 32 5
2008 Salary: 1.69

Outlook: If Howson wants strictly a PP specialist look no farther than this guy. He's been passed around the NHL like Elisha Cuthbert but this guy can run a PP and he's stronger defensively than say a Bryan Berard. Bergeron would most certainly be under consideration but he's probably further down the wish list due to his 1-dimensional play. This guy can light it up from the point though -- look no further than his 14g in 72g for proof of that.

Mike Komisarek
ASSETS: Has a tremendous physical package, good skating ability and a hard point shot. Is willing to hit anything that moves and already possesses defensive polish.
FLAWS: Must work on his coordination. Needs to learn when to pick his spots in the hitting department. Lacks high-end offensive potential.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Defensive defenseman.

Age: 27
2008 Stats: 66 2 9 11 0
2008 Salary: 1.9

Outlook: I love Mike Komisarek's hard nosed game but he is exactly what we don't need! Commodore, Hejda, Klesla and Methot all play similar defensive games. Komisarek will get his payday but it certainly won't be with the Jackets.

Mathieu Schneider
ASSETS: Has a great point shot and adds an offensive dimension to any team he plays for. Skates well laterally. Is especially productive on the power play.
FLAWS: Injuries have become a major issue over time, as he appears incapable of staying healthy for the entire season. Can get caught out of position.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Power play quarterback.
Age: 40
2008 Stats: 67 9 23 32 -12
2008 Salary: 5.750

Outlook: Schneider's long career in the NHL is certainly winding down. He may have a year or two left and is still very potent on the PP. The Jackets would have to strike out in many other places before I think they'd consider this player. I mean why go with a 40 year old when can grab a similar player for similar cost at age 28?

Johnny Oduya
Is a great skater with persistence and aggression in the defensive zone. Owns an infectious attitude and is a solid teammate.
FLAWS: Isn't big by NHL defenseman standards. Needs to limit his mistakes in the defensive zone and make better decisions in the offensive zone.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six defenseman.

Age: 27
2008 Stats: 82 7 22 29 21
2008 Salary: .600

Outlook: Let me just come out and say it, I think the Jackets take a hard run at this guy. Great skater, solid teammate with aggression? Can we just say Hitch/Howson type player? Heck he's even played in a disciplined system in Jersey and thrived (he was a +21 last year). I like the fact his offensive numbers just keep getting better (his 29 points would have been 2nd on the Jackets D last season) and that I think he'll be affordable (well in free agent terms). He's also just now starting to enter his prime. I see Howson thinking in a larger role this guy could really develop into a difference maker and help anchor this team's backend. Biggest question mark for me is how is he on the PP? Keep your eye on him.

Derick Morris
ASSETS: Possesses a well-rounded package of top-level skills, specifically an excellent skating stride and booming shot from the point. Is very strong and aggressive along the blueline.
FLAWS: Has a tendency to lose his concentration in the defensive zone and give the puck away at the most inopportune moments. Must learn to better harness his aggressive nature.
CAREER POTENTIAL: No. 2 defenseman.

Age: 30
2008 Stats: 75 5 15 20 -10
2008 Salary: 3.95

Outlook: Morris hasn't really put up the offensive numbers that I'd like to see but it's hard to ignore his well rounded game. I do like that he's a right handed shot and has a cannon. I wouldn't be upset if Morris ended up a Jacket but at the end of the day I think the Jackets need to target a more offensively gifted player. That and I think his price tag will be too high.

Mattias Ohlund
Has size, skating ability, a blast from the blueline and intelligence. Is capable of shutting down the very best forwards in the NHL.
FLAWS: Is an inconsistent offensive performer. Doesn't always play at 100 per cent health, which hinders his performance.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top pairing defenseman.

Age: 32
2008 Stats: 82 6 19 25 14
2008 Salary: 3.5

Outlook: I've always like Ohlund and thought he would really compliment the Jackets blueline. The problem, like with Morris, is that he doesn't really bring enough offense to the table to get me real excited and his game has regressed. He's a solid 3 zone player whose lost some mobility and if for some reason we landed him I'm not going to complain but we really need a guy who excels offensively on the backend. Ultimately he's going to price himself out of Columbus anyhow as he will want a raise over that 3.5 mil he made last season.

Rob Blake
Is physically imposing. Uses his size to rock opponents. Owns a rocket of a shot, which is a lethal scoring weapon for him. Can log boundless minutes.
FLAWS: At times, he tries for the big hit when it's not necessary. Has had injury problems at various times in his career.
CAREER POTENTIAL: All-around defenseman and future Hall-of-Famer.

Age: 40
2008 Stats: 73 10 35 45 15
2008 Salary: 5.0

Outlook: Pretty impressive stats for a 39 year old d-man last season -- granted he was playing on the offensively super-charged San Jose Sharks. Like Zubov I'd love to add this guy and his booming right handed shot on the PP on a 1 year deal but this guy ain't leaving the west coast and he ain't playin for anyone other than a cup contender -- even though the Jackets ultimately made it as far as the Sharks last season.


Tomas Kaberle
Possesses tremendous hockey smarts and the ability to find his teammates with excellent passes. A swift skater, he loves to join the attack. Defends well.
FLAWS: Still makes occasional mistakes when pinching in. Could use more strength to better handle big NHL forwards. Doesn't shoot enough on the power play.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Premier puck-moving defenseman.

Age: 31
2008 Stats: 57 4 27 31 -8
Contract Status: Signed for 2 more years @ 4.25 per

Outlook: Kaberle's name has been rumored to be on the block for 2 years now. This guy can make a PP rattle and hum and certainly that Jackets would love to add him. Unfortunately I don't think Howson is willing to part with the assests it would take to land him. The chances of Kaberle becoming a Jackets are slim to none.

Marek Zidlicky
Is a major offensive threat from behind the blueline. Has a wealth of top-level experience and plenty of polish working the power play.
FLAWS: Lacks the size and strength needed to excel with big minutes in the NHL. Is prone to making bad decisions in the defensive zone with frequency.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six defenseman.

Age: 32
2008 Stats: 76 12 30 42 -12
Contract Status: 1 year @ 3.5 mil

Outlook: As I've mentioned before I think Zidlicky is exactly what the Jackets need. He's not the greatest defensively but he's not Bryan Berard either. He can launch one time rockets and moves the puck quickly and efficiently. That -12 is concerning, especially under a Lemaire coached team. The Jackets would have to part with an asset to get him and the Wild would have to want to move him but if he's on the table Howson needs to pull up a seat and see how much it costs to place an order.

Tom Gilbert
ASSETS: Moves the puck quickly and efficiently out of the defensive zone, and can also provide his team with offense. Plays a smooth brand of defense.
FLAWS: Isn't physical at all for a 6-3, 210 pounder, which limits his overall effectiveness in the defensive zone.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Solid offensive defenseman with sound all-around instincts.
Age: 25
2008 Stats: 82 5 40 45 6
Contract Status: Signed for 4 more years @ 3.5, 5.0, 5.0 & 3.5

Outlook: I throw his name out there as I've seen it suggested in a lot of trade rumors. Gilbert plays for Edmonton and we know Howson's relationship with that team. Gilbert would certainly solve some offensive problems for us on the backend as he's young, signed for 4 more years, is a right handed shot and an all around good d-man. Of course you don't get a player like this without sending something significant back -- that is where things get dicey.

There are certainly some other names that could pop up in the trade rumor mills (Dion Phaneuf, Pavel Kubina, Christian Ernhoff, etc) depending on how draft and free agency unfold but those are a couple to consider.

Also there is a possibility for Howson to chase after a Restricted Free Agent (Jack Johnson, Denis Grebeshkov, Cam Barker?) with an offer sheet but I just don't see that happening.

There are also a couple of other things to keep in mind here.

One is that the Jackets aren't going to get the perfect d-man who is superb in all 3 zones. The Bouwmeesters and Niedermeyers are not comin here so prepare yourself now for that so when July 1st does get here you are not dissapointed.

Two is that the Jackets will expect improvement from within. They will expect Russell to continue growing in his 3rd year of pro. They will also expect Tyutin, now with a year under his belt in Columbus playing major minutes under Hitch's system, to hit the gate running and improve on his career year last season.

That said, even when considering the improvement from within, when I look at the Jackets needs on the blueline I think offense, offense & more offense. So when I look at this list that is priority #1 that I want to see in their skillset. From there its a combination of age, size, cost, experience and how well they play in all 3 zones.

I certainly won't rule out a trade to land one but there are some guys who can help in this free agency group. I think Howson makes a pitch and if he strikes out he will turn to the trade market.

Guys that I like that I believe are realistic: Spacek, Bergeron, Oduya, Seidenberg and Beauchemin. Leopold and Aucoin may be in that mix as well.

Also keep in mind that everything done this offseason is going to revolve around getting Rick Nash signed. If they can't get him under contract early in July then all bets are off as who knows what direction this offseason may go.

Fire away - who do you like and why?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stat of the day

Did you know Fedor Tyutin was 17th overall in NHL defensemen in shots with 167 last season?

I found that interesting as I was typing up my d-men free agency preview.

Dion Phaneuf led all d-men with a whopping 277.

Also a great write-up on the Jackets offseason plans from TSN here.


Jacket Backers summer outings!

Just passing along some summer outing info via the Jacket Backers official web site:

Columbus Clippers vs. Louisville Bats
Thursday, June 11th, 7:05 pm

Come check out the new, impressive Huntington Park and cheer on your Columbus Clippers (newly affiliated with the Cleveland Indians). Reserved Seats are $10 for adults and $7 for children (12 and under) and seniors (60+).

In addition to your reserved seat, Thursdays are Thirsty Thurdays at Huntington Park - join Archie from QFM96 in all the festivities featuring games and contests throughout the night. Enjoy food and beverage specials from Rooster's and Budweiser.

Columbus Crew vs. Real Salt Lake
Saturday, July 18th, 8:00 pm

Ok - so the Crew doesn't have a new stadium to tout, but Crew Stadium will always be the first soccer specific stadium built in the United States. Come see the MLS defending champion Columbus Crew for only $15 - adults and children.

In addition to the great action on the pitch, it is Buck a Brat night - Delicious Bob Evans bratwursts will be just $1 all night long.

Jacket Backers go to the Movies!
Friday, July 24th 11:00 pm

CAPA's 2009 Summer Movie Series, the longest-running classic film series in America, celebrates its 39th anniversary with a lineup of classics, cult favorites, and most beloved films. The 2009 series will run July 17th - August 30, at the beautiful and historic Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.), and is made possible through the generous support of National City, now a part of PNC.

Slap Shot (1977) is presented as part of the "Late Nite Fridays" and the film is rated R. All tickets are $3.50.

Please RSVP to Jessica Jones at by 07/08/09 with the number of tickets you would like to purchase.

Payment can be made by the following methods:
* Check made payable to Jacket Backers Booster Club and mailed to PO Box 82589, Columbus, OH 43202
* Via Paypal by requesting an invoice or online at to

Brian, Julie and the Backers do a tremendous job organizing all these great events so if your lookin for something to occupy your time until camp kicks off in September here you go! I know I've already reserved my tickets for the Crew game!

Go Jackets... and Clippers... and Crew... and Slap Shot!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

NHL Combine

The NHL Combine kicked off today. Like last year I'm sure there will be plenty of videos of the events which I will definitely post some of here once they become available.

Here is one from last year:

For now though here is the breakdown:

WHL: 18 players
OHL: 20 players
QMJHL: 11 players

USNTDP: 10 players

USHL: 8 players
NCAA: 1 player

Europe: 21 players

High School: 10 players

AJHL: 2 players

EJHL: 1 player

Here is the actual breakdown by player names from

...and here is the testing protocol from Central Scouting.


Keep Jim Day Petition!

This is courtesy of "bcluxton"

As detailed on the Puck Rakers blog and in the paper this morning, CBJ management is handling all of this very poorly (just like they did with the other TV and Radio guys). Fans deserve to hear the truth about their team - not some sugar coated version that is "approved" by CBJ big wigs.

You can sign the petition by following this link.


Friday, May 22, 2009


Apparently director Kevin Smith (Mallrats/Clerks/etc) is a hockey nut and is developing a moving based on his passion:

Anyone who has been following Kevin Smith on Twitter, or listening to his Smodcast podcast (highly recommended), then you know that the New Jersey-born writer/director has recently become obsessed with the sport of Hockey and Wayne Gretzky (edit: Smith has always been a casual fan of the sport, but it has recently been taken to an extreme). But it isn’t just a pastime for Smith, he’s also developing a movie which he hopes to have in production in the next two years.

The project is based on the Warren Zevon song, Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song), which was co-written by sportswriter and Tuesdays with Morrie author Mitch Albom, and featured the backing by The Late Show’s CBS Orchestra, anchored by Paul Shaffer.

The song, Smith explained to MTV, is a “very wonderful, soaring, moving story that’s also bittersweet and very, very funny, about a hockey player who just wants to play hockey, who loves hockey so much, but just sucks at it. The only thing he can do to be on a team is just be the enforcer, just be the guy who goes out there and beats the shit out of people.” The film adaptation will be set in the late 1970s right before the World Hockey Association was absorbed into the NHL, “during the last gasp of the goon era of hockey when it was all about fighting.”

The song has been one of Smith’s favorites for years, and he’s always wanted to make a movie based on it. He calls the film his “passion project” and says that while he never thinks about winning awards, “that project I think could do it.” It sounds like Smith thinks he’s onto something. It’s the most excited I’ve heard him be about a project in a few years.

The more hockey movies the better!

Fire away - this got me thinkin... what is your favorite hockey movie? For me it comes down between Slapshot and Miracle.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Random thoughts

Was good to see Howson gets some much earned recognition as according to Puck-rakers he finished 3rd in voting for General Manager of the year by a poll conducted by The Sporting News.

Peter Chiarelli of the Bruins took 1st while the Wings' Ken Holland took second.

Chiarelli I understand but Holland? He's built up a great organization over the years but what exactly did he do this year other than cut a check to Marion Hossa who essentially whored himself out for a chance at a cup?

Regardless it's hard to not to sit back and appreciate the job Howson has done over the past two years in completely rebuilding the Jackets roster and turning them into a competitive playoff team. The thing I admire most about the job Howson has done is that he let's the people he's hired do their jobs. He let's the managers manage, the coaches coach, the scouts scout, the prospects develop and the players play. He doesn't crave the spotlight and let's his actions do most of the talking.

A GM's job is never finished and although he's turned this pig into a horse..... to become a legitimate cup contender he'll need a stallion. He'll certainly continue to work towards that goal this summer.

Apparently it's a new day. We also learned today from Puck-rakers that Jim Day will not be back as FSN Ohio television host next year.

Personally if there was one guy I would have kept out of the lot it would be Jim Day. Quite frankly I just like the guy. Sure he's a little goofy but I always felt like he was one of the fans riding right along with us on the emotional roller coaster each and every game a Jackets season brings. I really believe he grew to love this team as much as we do.

I'm not sure who is making these decisions but I certainly hope there is solid rational behind this move. Perhaps maybe it was Jim Day who decided to move along in career. Over the past couple of years there have been great moves made on the ice but I've got to tell ya, I'm scratching my head over the decisions (and indecision) regarding the moves made on the TV side of the Jackets house this offseason.

The absolute worst part about this news. No more "Thank you Jim Day" from Rusty Klesla.

You'll be missed Jim Day and good luck in your future endeavors.

Edit: I just read this piece this morning again from Puck-rakers. It discusses the constant meddling in broadcaster affairs by the CBJ upper brass.

So let me get this straight -- Jim Day was blasted because he used the word "disappointing" after a Jackets loss? Are you *bleeping* kidding me? What is this the TV police? These guys are professionals and they know what this line is and not to cross it.

It's seems to me the wrong folks are losing their jobs here -- somebody (i.e. the OWNERS!) should be taking a hard look at the job guys like Mike Priest, Larry Hoepfner and Todd Sharrock are doing.

What a joke. Are we sure Doug MacLean still isn't running some things around here?

Speaking of moves this offseason. I was talking this over with a buddy and we were contemplating how Columbus now looks as a free agent destination with a playoff birth under the belts?

They did an okay job last season in netting Commodore and Huselius... granted they overpaid for both... but that always happens in free agency.

By most accounts players enjoy the city and with the young emerging talent coupled with veterans at or approaching their primes one would think Columbus would be a much more attractive place to play.

Well that was the conclusion we came to anyways.

We certainly aren't going after any big fish come July 1st but perhaps the bait we do throw into the pond will now look a little more juicer to the fish we do go after.

This week's hockey news ranked the 50 most sought after free agents. Only one Jacket made the list and that was Jason Williams at 25. Keep in mind as well that this list included unrestricted and restricted free agents to-be.

Also Kristian Huselius was ranked as the 5th best UFA forward signed last year based off points per game.

Blackhawks down 0-2 in their series to those damn Wings. I watch those games and I still cannot believe how easily Detroit gains the zone on their powerplays. It all starts from the backend. It just reinforces my opinion that Howson has got to upgrade our blueline to strengthen our PP. We should see improvement from skill guys like Brass, Jake, Russ and Filatov but we need someone who can consistently launch bombs from the point and quickly move the puck.

If we want success in the playoffs we must be a threat with the man advantage.

I'll be out of town the next four days on a mini-vaca. Come Monday I'll be back posting per normal. Have a nice holiday weekend everyone!

Fire-away - how do you feel about the departure of Jim Day?


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Columbus Adult Hockey Beats Down Cancer!

That was the ceremonial first puck drop from the inaugural "Hockey Beats Down Cancer" event at the Dispatch Ice Haus.

Stephen, whose wife helped organize, also passed this along:

It was a great event (Leo sung the National Anthem), with some great silent auction items (Lots of CBJ signed memorabilia).

Unfortunately I was not able to attend due to family commitments but it sounds like it was a fantastic event.

Congrats to all involved on a truly special night of hockey in Columbus!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Keep eyes on

Just got my Hockey News "Draft Preview" in the mail so which always means it's time to blog about the draft (especially if your team is already elminated - damn you Detroit!).

This will be the Jackets 10th draft (there's a good excuse to celebrate in there somewhere). My how time flies.

From all accounts this is a pretty deep draft. I've heard that players in the second half of the first round could go top 10 a lot of years - which is good news for us considering our draft position.

The CBJ will be picking 16th this season. In their previous 9 drafts they have drafted no worse than 8th. Here a quick recap of the Jackets first round history:

2000 - 4th, Rusty Klesla, D
2001 - 8th, Pascal Leclaire, G
2002 - 1st, Rick Nash, W (traded up)
2003 - 4th, Nik Zherdev, W
2004 - 8th, Alexandre Picard, W (traded down)
2005 - 6th, Gilbert Brule, C
2006 - 6th, Derek Brassard, C
2007 - 7th, Jakub Voracek, W
2008 - 6th, Nkita Filatov, C/W

0 Americans drafted in the first round
1 goalie, 1 d-man and 7 forwards.
2 first round trades
3 former first round picks have been traded
4 former first rounders saw significant time with the big squad last season
5 Canadians drafted in the first round

Here are the 16th overall picks from the past 15 seasons:

1994 - Eric Fichaud, G
1995 - Martin Biron, G
1996 - Mario Larocque, D
1997 - Ty Jones, W
1998 - Eric Chouinard, C
1999 - Dave Tanabe, D
2000 - Marcel Hossa, L
2001 - RJ Umberger, C
2002 - Jakub Klepis, C
2003 - Steve Bernier, R
2004 - Petteri Nokelainen, R
2005 - Alex Bourret, R
2006 - Ty Wishart, D
2007 - Colton Gillies, C
2008 - Joe Colborne, C

Right now I'd say Umberger, Biron, Tanabe and Bernier are the only legit NHLers out of that group. I'd say the verdict is still out from 2005 on although Gillies did play 45 games with the Wild last season.

Those certainly aren't the best odds.

Okay.. so enough about the past.. the question now is who to keep eyes on for this year's crop? Well here are THN's list of prospects from 10 through 18:

10 - David Runblad (CAN), C
"He sees the ice well both offensively and defensively and he moves the puck well"

11 - Dmitri Kukikov (RUS), D
"Kukilov has proved to be a dynamic offensive defensemen. He scored more than a point per game during the season and was averaging two per game early on in the playoffs". Also there is no worry about him wanting to return to Russia.

12 - Simon Despres (CAN), D
"On the positive side of the ledger, Despres is a good skater for a big man and plays a steady game. And while he leaves scouts wanting more, he may deliver on his promise."

13 - O. Ekman-Larsson (SWE), D
"His skating and his offensive instincts are just out of this world."

14 - Scott Glennie (CAN), C
"He has great hockey sense. He competes hard and has good offensive instincts."

15 - Jacob Josefson (SWE), C
"He didn't get a chance to show too much at the WJC, but he has made strides. He's a smart offensive Swedish player and pretty good at both ends of the ice."

16 - Zack Kassian (CAN), RW
"A lot of observers are throwing Milan Lucic's name around when they speak of Zach Kassian, right down to the fact Kassian's point and penalty minute totals this season are almost identical to Lucic's in his draft year."

17 - Ryan Ellis (CAN), D
"He looks like he'd be able to play the game sitting in a rocking chair. He's so calm that he almost looks bored out there. He always has the puck and nobody is able to get it away from him."

18 - John Moore (USA), D
"His skill level is off the charts in the USHL, but it's his skating ability that will give him the best chance to play in the NHL."

As you can see there are lots of d-men and lots of centers that should be available come the 16th selection. Of course you always want to take BPA (best player available) but if it just so happens to be a position of need in your system then even better.

After the first found the Jackets won't have a pick until the 3rd. With that in mind I wouldn't completely rule out a trade, especially down, to acquire a 2nd round pick.

I read a good trade idea that I read over on HF (thanks 'X'!) that suggested this scenario:

Jackets send the 16th overall pick to the New York Islanders for the 26th and 31st picks.

The Islanders also own the 37th pick which could also be considered.

I would think that trade scenario is one Howson would heavily consider. Of course it will all depend on whose available in that 16th slot and what the gap is between those players and the ones that may be available at 26. Remember quantity does not always equal quality.

You can view all of the Jackets draft picks here. You can also view past drafts here.

You can also check out draft coverage from the NHL here and TSN here.

Finally there are some new mock drafts up at that you can read here.

The NHL combine kicks off next week from May 25th through the 30th in Toronto. The 1st round of the NHL draft is just 39 short days away.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Revisiting game 4

For those who check HF regularly you've probably seen this.. .but for thost that don't here is a clip of game 4 off of youtube...

Can't wait to do it all over again!


Zherdev bolting?

I just received this little tidbit from Kevin via email:

According to unconfirmed information, the club forward NHL New York Rangers' Nikolai Zherdev soon could move to one of the top clubs of Continental hockey league.

As we know, this summer Zherdev become a free agent and therefore there are no contractual obstacles to his return.

In the regular NHL season 2008/09 Nikolai Zherdev shared with Scott Gómez title of best scorer of the club, type 58 (23 +35) points.

There is also another report which reference this story from the NY media here.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this go down. Just glad he's a Rangers problem now.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The ESPN myth

I've seen a lot negative press lately, such as this piece from Time, about the NHL's television partnership with Versus.

Hey it's that time of year right? Time to dust off the NHL ratings stink stories, change the dates and hit the recycle button.

Of course it's some ole nonsense such as "nobody can find the channel"... "a move back to ESPN would cure all the NHL's exposure problems"... "Versus footprint is too small"... yada yada yada..

Let me make this as clear as I possibly can -- the NHL moving to ESPN to increase it's "exposure" is the biggest myth going in all of sports.

Here's a newsflash folks. The NHL's rating on ESPN, even in the so called "glory years" of the early 90s, were crap compared to the NFL/MLB/NBA. The NHL's TV ratings have always been crap next to those leagues regardless of who the broadcast partner was/is.

..and despite what some of the talking heads would like you all to think.. the NHL on Versus is not doing nearly as bad as they say.

Want proof? Here is an example via an article published by Variety from this year's playoffs:

With two of the rising stars in the league facing each other, last week's game three of the series earned a record-high 1.49 million viewers for the network, becoming the most-watched second-round hockey game since 2002, when ESPN had rights to the NHL.

Whaaa? How can that be when nobody can find the channel? Again..welcome to the myth.

Here are some more numbers for you courtesy of

Currently Versus is out drawing what the NHL previously had on ESPN2 and despite a smaller footprint is only .18, give or take, behind ESPN's ratings.

Again... how can that be? I mean without extensive highlights on Sportscenter how can any league survive?

The myth continues.

As you can see the ratings aren't nearly as bad as some would make you believe when compared to the past NHL ratings. Of course when you compare to other leagues they look bad.. but that has never changed regardless of carrier.

..on a side note, coming out of the lockout ESPN told the league it would only broadcast their games on ESPN2 on a revenue sharing deal. So next to ESPN2 Versus is doing really well. The goal of course is to continue to grow and beat the numbers at ESPN which the gap is certainly closing.

ESPN = been there, done that for the NHL.

The broadcast partner is not the issue here. Versus is doing a fine job in terms of promoting the NHL, treating it well and growing their network and ratings.

Would I like a bigger footprint..? Of course. Would I like a higher profile..? Of course. I'm a realist however who understands where the league came from, where it's at and where they are trying to go.

As they say, Rome was not built in a night and Versus isn't going to become ESPN in 4 years ....and going back to ESPN, a channel that treated the league like dog food and has become too bloated and too cocky for it's own good, is no magic wand to grow the league or it's ratings.

I want hockey to grow it's viewership like the rest of ya. However I view the challenge to grow it much different than footprints and channel surfing. The problem is and has always been that the game just doesn't translate well on TV and that is what really needs addressed here.

We die hards... well, just show us something frozen with nets and we'll watch. The problem is attracting the casual viewers.

The solution? Make the game as fun to watch on TV as it is to attend in person and now we are on to something.

Easy for me to say.

Ask yourself this question? Why is football so great to watch on TV? Hockey has a lot of the same elements in speed, finesse, roles, energy, high impact collisions, passion and drama so what gives?

Is it because everybody has played football? Well not everyone plays golf and it's ratings are good. Not everyone drives a taxi cab at 180+ mile per hour and those ratings are good.

While maybe a part of it, I think it's much more than that.

For one it's event viewing and two it's a very well structured game.

For instance the way the game of football is designed lends itself perfectly to the tube. It's very structured and roles very well defined -- this is offense and this is defense -- one tries to score one tries to stop them. The stoppages between plays allow for multiple replays, breakdowns and of course commercials! Also the stars don't leave the field so they are easily followed. The biggest thing to me, however, is that the camera is able to capture just about all the action in it's frame so the viewer sees most, if not everything, that is going on. You see plays develop and/or breakdown. It's all right there in your living room.

Not so in hockey.

Hockey is not nearly as structured nor the roles as easily defined. It's very fast paced and the game is the only one that allows substitutions in-play most of which are not captured on camera so it's difficult to some to track the stars. The game is also unpredictable in its stoppages and replays are random and unstructured. The biggest problem is that the television does not capture enough of the play compared to what you see live. Rarely do you see plays develop or breakdown.

For instance, how often do you hear this at home while viewing a game....

Nash was wide open up the ice...why didn't Tyutin hit him?

Watch Datsyuk who is trying to receive a home run pass!

Nash is doggin it on the backcheck!

You don't hear it because 9 times out of 10 you can't see it... unless your actually there at the game!

Rarely do you see an on the fly line change and viewers are left saying why did he just dump the puck like that? It all looks like disorganized chaos to a casual viewer. Yet if you bring that same viewer to the game live it all makes a lot more sense as they see the whole pallet and can paint their own picture and it's light bulb time... he dumped the puck because he went to the bench and got a line change.

We all know the problems.. heck problems are easy to point out when it comes to hockey and TV.. The hard part is figuring out a solution or at the very least improvements.

So how to make it better?

In my opinion the NHL, its' fans and critics should be focusing on new technologies to advance the game's broadcast on TV instead of thinkin that a move to ESPN will magically change anything.

Right now they have a very willing partner in Versus with deep pockets who wants to grow their brand and they know that having the NHL as one of it's properties is a way to get there. Both entities need to combine forces and resources to develop new techniques and technologies to broadcast games.

Some steps are being taken.

High definition is a step in the right directing as it's a clean and crisper viewing experience and you can see more of the ice but 1. there aren't enough games televised in HD (right Blue Jackets?) 2. there aren't enough folks who have HD TVs and 3. the technology is not being maximized.

The Winter Classic is a huge leap forward as it finally provides the NHL with a marquee "event" to attract audiences during it's long regular season.

Other innovations like broadcaster's between benches is a nice step and in game interviews with coaches brings you closer to the action. All good but more is needed.

..but what about the actual viewing angles? We've seen rail cams, net cams, helmet cams and behind the net stationary cam used with mixed results. That's okay... you usually have to fail before you find success but the key is to keep trying to innovate.

I've always wondered why the NHL and it's partners do not explore broadcasting games the way they are displayed in video games? Which is a north-south viewing experience versus an east-west style.

Hockey video games are one of the most popular sports games going. Heck last year's EA Sports NHL08 was rated the year's best video game buy many publications.

Yet no complaints about following the action or seeing the puck in those.

Yes I know video games are a charged up version of the real thing but there are elements that can be utilized.

For one there is a big reason the games are all played north-south. You can see a heck of a lot more of the ice and watch plays develop. It's also a lot easier to follow the line changes for the same reason.

Of course programming a game north/south and broadcasting one are two different animals. This is where innovation and new technologies come into play. Certainly the technology is available to mount some kind of mobile camera over the ice that can move north/south with the action. Yes it would be expensive initially but once the technology is vetted out the price will certainly come down.

It may not work but why not try? Quite frankly I haven't seen anything new tried in this area over the past couple of seasons. Inexcusable if you ask me.

Or what about split screens? Or select a cam views... integrating the TV broadcast with internet streams. So many areas to explore.

The key is to continue to innovate and do everything you can to improve your product both on and off the ice. Think non-traditionally.

The league will probably never reach the heights of football in this country... and you know what, that's okay. As I always tell folks there can only be one #1 but does that mean that #4 stinks? For instance does the #4 grossing movie last week stink? What about the #4 selling album?

This is multi-billion dollar league folks that operates 30 teams in multi-million dollar stadiums across two countries. Some folks pushing their own agendas try to downplay that with the only hammer they have in TV ratings but it's a worn out and recycled story that is more powderpuff than powerplay.

Is there a compromise to be had in that maybe the league can broadcast games on both Versus and ESPN? Perhaps. However I'm one fan who will not be expecting much, if any changes to the NHL's placement in the sports landscape just because ESPN is brought back into the fold. Ratings history has clearly shown us otherwise.

Fire-away - do you believe a move to ESPN would increase the league's exposure?


Hockeytown eh?

I buddy of mine just forwarded me this email:

Game 7 Tickets On Sale Now!

The Detroit Red Wings are returning home to The Joe this Thursday at 7pm to take on the Anaheim Ducks in a pivotal Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals! Be there to cheer on the home team during the deciding game to determine who will advance to the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks! There's still time to secure your seats.

Game 7 tickets are going fast so get yours now at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office, call 800-745-3000, or click here to purchase online.

And don't forget you can place a small deposit on a 2009-10 Wings Ticket Plan right now to get a 2009 playoff ticket package below Box Office prices and be amongst the first to select your 2009-10 seats. To place your deposit, call 313-396-7575 or visit

Economy still right? Or wait... what was it again... the fans don't show up until the later rounds right?


Maybe they should start bussing in the central ohio turncoats.

Remember that if the Ducks make it to the finals the Jackets will move from the 16th to the 15th pick in the first round of the draft.

Go Ducks!


Attn: Hockey Junkies!

If your anything like me (..and if your reading this blog in the offseason then the chances are good!) and love all levels of hockey be sure to mark your calendars for this Friday as the Memorial Cup swings into action.

For those unfamiliar with the Memorial Cup here is a great breakdown via Wikipedia:

The Memorial Cup is a junior ice hockey club championship trophy awarded annually to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) champion. Each year the champions from three CHL member leagues; the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), along with a host team, compete in the MasterCard Memorial Cup Tournament. The WHL's Spokane Chiefs are the defending champions, having won the 2008 Memorial Cup in Kitchener, Ontario. The 2009 tournament is scheduled to be held in Rimouski, Quebec in May.

As mentioned this year's host city is Rimouski who is a member of the QMJHL. They will be joined by OHL champ Windsor Spitfires, WHL champ Kelowna Rockets and the QMJHL champ Drummondville Voltigeurs.

I think we know who Derick Brassard will be rooting for as his junior team was the Voltigeurs.

Also keep your eye on Ryan Ellis of the Spitfires. He's a highly skilled offensive defensemen who projects to go in the top 15 of the 1st round of this year's NHL draft. He's certainly a guy who has to be on the Jackets radar.

All games will be telvised on the NHL Network starting Friday night at 7:00 p.m. EST when Rimouski hosts Kelowana.... and as luck would have it I'll be visisting my favorite home away from home (R Bar) that evening. With no NHL playoff games scheduled for that evening you know what I'll be watchin!