All-Blogs.net directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A shout out to Salmons!

Just wanted to open a post up to Ryan Salmons. According to the Puck-rakers he is not doing too well.

We are all thinkin about you bud... hang in there!!

-LTL

More pics!







-LTL

Sounding off!

As we've been made aware by the boys at the Dispatch both the TV and Radio broadcast pairs contracts expire July 1st.

There is lots of speculation on who will and will not be back with Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch suggesting from his sources that if one guy is favored it would be Rimer b/c of his relationship with president of business operations Larry Hoepfner.

I know many Jacket fans, including myself, have gotten to meet at least one if not all four of these gentlemen. I can say from my own personal experience that in my time talking with Rimer and Gare they are stand up people who are very generous with their time and with the fans.

...and these are real men, with real families, with real jobs who have mouths to feed just like the rest of us. So it certainly gives me no pleasure to criticize anyone.

Here's the thing though -- they are in the spotlight and get paid to broadcast games and that is what I'm going to base my opinion on. Not on personalities, not on appearance.. just strictly on the job they do calling the game on the ice.

First I'll say these jobs are not easy. Hockey is a fast paced sport with a whole lot going on. It's damn near impossible to catch it all let alone speak to every detail. I sure as hell couldn't do it...heck I can barely type on a free blog.

With that in mind... they could all go and I wouldn't be upset and here's why:

Let's start with the TV crew.

I watch a lot of hockey..... and I mean a lot of hockey... so I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to a broadcast team. Rimer and Gare are right there between bad and ugly.

For the hardcore fan there are just too many mistakes and overlooked plays. It's inexcusable to get names of players wrong or not notice players getting injured until a full period later. I mean that's all these guys do is watch games, go to practices and hob nob with the brass right...? Heck you could take the jersey's off these guys backs and plant my butt in the rafters and I could name ever player based on body type and skating alone. That is the kind of attention to detail I want and expect my broadcast crew to pass along to their viewers.

For the casual fan both Rimer and Gare just aren't engaging enough. When a casual sports fan flips the channel because the TV guys are annoying them that is a problem. If anything the TV guys need to be able to pull the viewer in. This particular duo just isn't capable of that and when you're a market that needs to attract new viewers and fans having a broadcast team capable of capturing the attention of a viewer is a must.

Bottom line there just isn't a good chemistry.

The worst thing that happened to Gare was the hiring of Engbloom who was just fantastic. Also not that I want these guys rooting for another team but the homerism borders on absurd at times.

Remember too that both Rimer and Gare were MacLean hires. I don't think there was a whole lot of interviewing or scrutinizing of skills that went into these decisions.... similar to MacLean's player personnel acquisitions and we know how most of those turned out.

The radio guys are a bit trickier.

Lot's of folks love George Mathews... they get into his enthusiasm and his energy. Personally when I listen to him I want to bang my head on the steering wheel... Why? Because I don't know a damn thing that is going on... Which line is out there? Which zone is the puck in? How was the goal scored? Who is in the scrums? All I hear are a bunch of screams and "holy molly what a goalie" crafty one liners. It's style over substance and I'm more of a substance type of guy.

Bill Davidge is a guy I don't have a strong opinion on one way or another. The one thing that really bothers me about him though is the relentless cheerleading. Again I know they aren't going to spit on the spoon that feeds them but it gets excessive.

Look the die hards.. they will always be there.. you could put Kermit the frog in the booth and we'd still tune in. That said if there is room for improvement then by all means improve! The Jackets need to strive for excellence from top to bottom and that includes their broadcast teams.
If I were to guess the radio guys stay and the TV guys go.

All that said the Blue Jackets organization does not get out of this post unscathed.

First off it doesn't matter who is in the booth if you can't find the Jackets on the tube. The playoff programming was an absolute train wreck -- and those are the games you want the most people possible to be watching because that is hockey at its purest and highest level.

To top it off there was a very limited number of high definition broadcasts which was completely unacceptable.

Secondly these decisions should have already been made.

It's also obvious they have a tight leash around these broadcast teams. There is no objectivity... there is no negative analysis. It's one big cheerleading feast before, during and after the games.

Fans want the good... but they aren't fools.... they sure know when this team isn't playing well and it's in times like those that the broadcasters need to the room to give an honest evaluation of the events on the ice. They are professionals and they know where the line is and not to cross it.

...and what's with the crap about not being able to talk about Adam Foote, John H. McConnell or missing the playoff for 8 straight years? Hmm.. maybe if they won't talk about it folks will think it didn't happen. Note to powers to be -- fans are not idiots.

We criticize them but yet in their defense it obvious they have not been given the freedom to do their jobs and to be at their best. How can one celebrate the Jackets first post season clinch without being able to acknowledge the 8 year struggle to get there or tip their hat to the man that made it all possible? It's ridiculous. I mean seriously, is Doug MacLean still pulling some strings behind the scenes here?

Perhaps the people that really need their jobs evaluated are president of business operations Larry Hoepfner (who on top of this apparently doesn't think there is anything wrong with the in-game entertainment) and director of broadcasting Russ Mollohan (who can't get a Jackets playoff game televised in HD).

Fire away - your thoughts on the broadcast crews?

-LTL

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playoff pics

These were sent in from Patrick:










Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

-LTL

Quick hit

Have some spare reading time?

Take a look at this thread over on HFBoards.com from Rangers fans about Nikolai Zherdev.

Anyone out there still think it was a bad trade? You're darn Tyutin it wasn't!

-LTL

Who stays, who goes?

As I did last season (see previous post here) let's take a look at who may or may not be back for next season.

A little wrinkle in this edition is that I'm going to give you the percentage of how likely I think a particular player will be back (as oppposed to being dealt like I did last year) next season. Keep in mind this isn't exactly what I'd personally do just my gut on what Howson and co. are thinking:

100% - Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov, Derick Brassard & Jakub Voracek
Let's just get these guys out of the way quickly shall we? Howson believes that there are no short cuts and the best way to achieve long terms success in this league is by buidling through the draft. These are the four most important building blocks the Jackets have and they aren't goin anywhere.

100% - Mike Commodore
Commodore had a splendid year as a free agent signee. He notched 5g, 19a for 24 points in 81 games. He also finished a +11 and led the team in hits and blocked shots. He was a very valuable contributor both on and off the ice who will certainly be back for me next year. Besides, he's got a NTC that runs through next season!

99% - RJ Umberger
RJ had a great year notching a career high 26 goals and after a slow start became one of the Jackets most consistant performers. RJ plays the game the right way in all 3 zones. He also proved his worth in the playoffs leading all Jacket players with 3 goals. I leave a percentage point for the completely out of left field unknown but organizations win with guys like RJ and you don't let these guys go if you can help it (i.e. see the Flyers cap problems last year).

98% - Fedor Tyutin
Tyutin also turned in a career year leading all Jackets defensemen with 9g, 25a for 34p in 82 games. He also finished a +5. Tyutin got his first taste of playing in every situation and logging big time minutes. He responded well but like a lot of Jackets kind of wore down at season's end. Fedor is a big part of the future on this Jackets blueline and has a sweetheart contract to boot. He'll certainly be back.

98% - Jan Hejda
Like Tyutin Jan is signed to a very cap friendly deal at 2 mil per season over the next 2 years. He once again led all Jackets players in +/- recording an eye popping +23. He, like Tyutin, faded a bit down the stretch and definitely in the playoffs but he's a big minute eater and very reliable. He's not goin anywhere.

95% - Derek Dorsett
One word - playoffs. After the way this kid competed in the playoffs Howson would be out of his mind to move this kid. He's the glue.

95% - Antoinne Vermette
Came in like a ball of fire and really added some key punch for the Jackets final push into the 2nd season. Like a lot of Jackets Vermette's production fell down the stretch and into the playoffs. He will be heavily relied on next season to anchor one of those top 2 center positions.... and in fact I would not be surprised to see him signed to an extension. He'll definitely be back for next season at the very least and will play a significant role.

92% - Rick Nash
Any other year I'd say Nash is a 100% lock to be back...but this is a very important offseason for he and the Jackets as he will be a UFA after next year if an extension isn't reached this summer. I left the 8% in there incase negotiations hit snags and the Jackets are forced to deal him. An unlikely scenario but there are no locks until signatures are placed on the dotted line.

88% - Kristian Huselius
A pretty good regular season but forgettable playoffs. Juice has 3 years left on his deal at an average hit of 4.75 per season. I think Howson would listen if someone phoned but in this cap world I don't see a whole lot of teams willing to take on that contract. Regardless I think the Jackets knew what they were getting when they signed him and were for the most part happy with his season... at least his regular season.

85% - Raffi Torres
Finally started showing signs of health in the latter part of the season.. scored some big goals in a secondary scorers role and can bring a physical element when he wants too. Raffi will be in a contract year and I think the Jackets will expect a big year out of him. Remember Howson likes him b/c he can change the momentum of a game in multiple ways -- can't see them moving him.

85% - Rusty Klesla
After those playoffs Rusty ain't goin nowhere. In fact if he keeps that same level of play up during the regular season next year an extension will definitely be in order... heck they might try to hammer something out this summer. Need a healthy season from 97.

76% - Andrew Murray
He is what he is right....? A reliable 4th line grinder. An old chevy is what I like to call him. Dude never takes a stride off. He's a guy who is much more valuable to the Jackets than another team. He signed for 2 more years at .625 and .650. He's notched 8g, 3a and a -6 in 67g. More glue.

75% - Kris Russell
Russ went from a 7 point season last year to a 21 point season this year. That is marked improvement. Now he did have a team worst -10 (tied with RJ Umberger) but you just don't put in the kind of time it takes to development an offensive minded d-man only to turn around and trade him. Russ needs to work on getting bigger and stronger but unless something too good to be true falls in the Jackets lap Russ will be back and I expect an even better year out of him.

70% - Marc Methot
Showed he has what it takes to play in this league last season. Marc will be an RFA and the Jackets will definitely qualify him. Barring some kind of rediculous contract negotation/hold out I see no reason why Methot won't be patrolling the Jackets blueline next season. He finished with 4g, 13a and a +7 in 66 games. As we clearly saw last year we need the depth a player like Methot brings to this lineup. The only problem with a player like this is he could be used in a trade package to bring back an even better player which is why his percentage isn't higher.

68% - Jared Boll
I've seen a lot of chatter that fans wouldn't mind seeing Boll traded. I say that's crazy talk. Sure Boll didn't have the best of sophmore seasons (no more offseason shinny Boller!) but he still was second in the league in fighting majors and he's a lot less of a liability playing than a lot of tough guys in the league. Guys like Boll are very much needed, especially in the regular season. I still think the org sees him as a 10g, 10a 150 PIMS type of guy. Big year for him next season to really establish himself in this league.

65% - Jason Chimera
Started the season like gangbusters playing with the kids in Brassard in Voracek (that seems so long ago) then the dreaded "groin injury" struck and Choo Choo's game was never really able to recover. Chimera notched 8g, 14a for 22 points in 49g. I think the Jackets like him and he's got 3 years left on his deal @ 1.75 which would make him difficult to move. I don't think he's untradeable though and I could see him moved if Howson could get the right piece or pieces in return. I think he'll be a Jacket next season however.

65% - Freddy Modin
I know... I know.. the inury bug. Here's the thing with Modin.. when healthy this guy can really help. The problem of course is he can't stay healthy. He's got 1 year left on his deal and I believe he's got a NTC... the only option is to buy him out and I just can't see the Jackets doing that. Hitch loves the guy and I think they hang onto him and hope he rebounds in a contract season.

55% - Maksim Mayorov
Could be used as trade bait for immediate help but seeing how Howson values his young guys I just can't see him moving. He turned in a decent year in Syracuse notching 17g, 14a for 31p in 71 games. He's got pro size and speed and just needs some more polish. He could be an attractive piece to add to a trade package if Howson was lookin to return...saaaaayyy... a PPQB?

52% - Alexandre Picard
Picard will definitely be qualified after he just tore up the American league down the stretch. He finished with 22g, 10a for 32p in 49g. He's another guy who could be used in a trade but I really get the feeling the Jackets would like to see if his late season success can translate to some success at the NHL level. He's a guy to watch in the pre-season.

45% - Manny Malhotra
The one UFA I think the Jackets would like to retain. I personally think it's less likely Manny will be back than it is that he'll move on. I think the Jackets would like him back in that 3rd/4th hole but I feel that there will be teams who will offer him more both in years/money than the Jackets will feel comfortable matching. Manny will have to take a home town discount of sorts (i.e not much over 1.5 he made last season) to stay and I'm not sure he likes Columbus that much.

20% - Jason Williams
Williams provided some much needed secondary scoring at key times to help reach the playoffs. I really want to say the Jackets would like to keep him as he really comes across as a likeable guy but alas.. I think he'll want to much money to fit into Howson's salary structure and just doesn't bring all the elements in his game to make him worth the price he'll seek. I will say he is one guy that as the offseason rolls along and he's still hangin out there maybe the Jackets take another look at on a 1 year deal.

12% - Aaron Rome
I think they'll let Rome walk as a UFA. I think they are content with the development of guys like Sigalet/Clitsome/Holden and think they can fill that depth voided by Rome's departure.

10% - Jiri Novotny
The Jackets only signed centers are Brassard and Vermette so I'm leaving the window slightly cracked for Novotny.. but bottom line is he hasn't added a whole lot when he's been in the lineup. I don't think he even get's qualified.

10% - OK Tollefsen
Improved defensive depth, injuries and an inability to move the puck out of his zone consistantly will probably mark the end of OKT's career in union blue. Tollefsen will be a RFA and like Novotny, I don't think the Jackets qualify him. Certainly if they choose to keep one of Rome or OKT...Rome will have the edge.

1% - Wade Dubielewicz
Similar to Williams, "Dubie" seems like a great guy to be around. As we clearly saw though the organization has no trust in this guy and they absolutely must bring in a guy capable of 15 to 20 starts to give Mase some rest throughout the NHL grind. They would have to strike out early and often in this year's UFA backup goalie crop to consider bringing Dubie back in the fold.

0% - Michael Peca
I just no longer see Peca as part of the Jackets future. He was 12th on the team in scoring in 4g, 18a and a -6 in 71 games. He was most effective on the PK. I just just get the feeling the Jackets aren't high on his performance... they expected more offensively, more leadership and he seemed to play not to get hurt.... This is just me speculating here but I don't think they are in love with Peca's attitude either.

0% - Christian Backman
If there was a negative value I could assign to someone it would be this player. The Jackets took on the salary dump from the Rangers in order to get Tyutin and what a dump it was. I'm sure Backman is a very nice guy but his game absolutely did not work here.

0% - Chris Gratton
No brainer here.

0% - Michael York
A low risk high reward move that unfortunately did not pay any dividends for the big squad. York is just too slow and the game has passed him by. He did turn in a decent season for the Crunch but he won't be back.

There are certainly some other pieces out there like a Clitsome, Holden, Sigalet, Lalande, LaCosta, MacKenzie, Blunden, Sestito to name a few. One or two of those guys could be dealt but for this post I wanted to focus on the players on or close to making the big squad.

What's interesting this year from last is I don't see a whole lot of trade possibilites. The guys that I think the org desperately wants to unload are all unrestricted free agents. Of course if Howson wants to swing a move something will have to give and I think that's when you have to start lookin at guys like Chimera, Methot, Picard, Mayorov or maybe a Klesla.

I think it's going to be a pretty quiet offseason. The foundation is there as well as the core and a big part of next year's team will be improvement from within. This offseason will be getting contract extensions completed and filling in some gaps which I'll talk about over the next couple of days.

-LTL

Monday, April 27, 2009

Viva Las Vezina


From NHL.com:

Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Detroit Red Wings were in steep decline, they hadn't finished better than fourth in six-straight seasons, when Roger Crozier lifted them to a first-place finish in the 1964-65 regular season.

Fast forward to Mason, just 20, who led the Columbus Blue Jackets to their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth in their eight-year history.

Seventy years ago, Brimsek debuted with a loss, then posted three-straight shutouts, en route to 10 for the season, and added a first-place regular-season finish and the Stanley Cup, the only one of the four Vezina-Calder winners to do that. Esposito posted 15 shutouts as a rookie, second only to Hainsworth's 22 in 44 games in 1928-29.

Make no mistake, Mason's accomplishments this season rival those historic seasons. He led the NHL with 10 shutouts, finished second with a 2.29 GAA, tied for 11th with a .916 save percentage, was eighth in minutes played and ninth in wins. He went 33-20-7 in 61 games. He led all rookie goalies in every category except save percentage, finishing second to the .917 posted by Nashville's Pekka Rinne.

Columbus was 4-5-2 before he went into the lineup on Nov. 5 and finished 41-31-10. He's the biggest reason the Blue Jackets made the playoffs.

Mason had a fine junior career with the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers and was the 69th pick of the 2006 Entry Draft. He won a gold-medal for Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championship.


The Calder trophy for rookie of the year I was expecting but I gotta admit I'm a bit surprised Mase got a Vezina nod as well.

Man what a honor and I'm absolutely thrilled for Mase!! Congrats!!

Unlike the Calder where I think Mase takes home the hardware I think Thomas is the favorite here. It's quite an accomplishment to get nominated though, especially for a rookie.

The Jackets are going to be well represented at this year's awards as this is the first time a Jacket has been nominated twice in the same season. In fact with these two nominations it marks only the 3rd time in Jackets history that a player has nominated for a major award (Nash was up for Calder in 2002)

The only actual hardware ever brought home was Rick Nash when he shared the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals scored in the 2003-2004 season with Jarome Iginla and Illya Kovalchuk.

The winners are announced on June 18th in Las Vegas. Now that sounds like my kind of road trip!

-LTL

Can I get some ketchup on that?


Whelp it's that time of the year.. time for my annual "serving of crow" post.

The following is a list of things that happened throughout the course of the 2008-2009 season that I was dead wrong about:

* I never thought the Jackets could make the playoffs with the 30th ranked PP.

* After a 3-6 start to the season I thought "here we go again".

* Mike Commodore was much better than I expected in that #1 shutdown pair w/ Jan Hejda.

* I wasn't impressed with Marc Methor's comments in training camp but the dude backed them up and played like he belonged in the NHL.

* After that horrific 3-0 loss to the L.A. Kings on Dec 23rd and with a 6 game road trip right around the corner I thought... that's it, season over.

* Who ever thought the Jackets would beat the Capitals on Jan 9th on the road being down 7 regulars including captain Rick Nash? In shutout fashion no less. I sure didn't.

* After Brass went down in that shootout loss to the Stars on Dec 18th I thought we were in big trouble.

* I thought the PK would be much better than 16th overall in the league.

* Wins against Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh & Chicago... all right in a row and all within a week. Nope.. no way I thought they could have pulled that one off.

* I thought Pascal Leclaire would be healthy... uggh.

* Wasn't too excited about the Williams trade when we made it... not in terms of what we gave up to get him but I wasn't convinced he'd add a whole lot to this lineup. He did score some big goals down the stretch to help this team into it's first ever postseason. Love the gesture by him buying robes for the entire team as well.

* I thought Brassard or Voracek would win the Calder.... not Mase. Heck, I didn't think Mason would see much time if any this past season.

* Huselius wasn't as inconsistant as I thought he'd be.

* I thought our battle tested "playoff vets" would be better in the playoffs. I also thought Mase would steal at least 1 game by himself.

* Wasn't impressed with the ice time Hitch was giving the kids early... but after seeing Brass produce and the trust he had in Voracek and Dorsett down the stretch once again Hitch proved he knows what he's doing.

* I thought game ops would be better.

* I thought attendance would pick up more down the stretch.

* I knew the Dispatch would up their game in the playoffs... but damn I didn't think they'd up it that much.

* I knew the R Bar would be rockin for the playoffs but that place was off the hook. I'm still bummed I missed BHG's animal house "Was it over when the German's bombed Pearl Harbor" speech on the patio prior to game 4. Classic.

* I picked them to make the playoffs in the preseason but there were definitely a lot of moments through the season where I thought the bottom was starting to fall out. Shame on me for doubting this team's heart and resiliency.

Fire away - what were some things you were dead wrong about this past season?

-LTL

20% off!

Just a couple of quick hits this morning:

NHL.com has 20% off all CBJ merchandise. Check it out here.

Also this was just posted in the comments section of a previous post:

Just wanted to let everyone have a chance at bidding on our school (gahanna-columbus area) silent auction item...we have a 2009 CBJ TEAM SIGNED STICK. Yep, a signed stick from the first CBJ team to make the playoffs. This was generously donated to our school by the CBJ.

If you would like to place a bid you have until May 7th to do so, please email me at jenniferschwabe@sbcglobal.net

Thanks for the heads up Jennifer.. that certainly would be a cool item to add to anyone's collection.

-LTL

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wanna know why folks hate Wings fans?

Just read this little dozzy here by that hockeyclown named Able To Yzerman. Of course this is the same blowhard who said he didn't have enough time to post after a Wings loss.

What a champ who knows how to win with class eh?

I know there are a lot of classy Wings fans out there.... how?....because I met quite a few during this series.....but it's douchebags like this with their arrogance and pompus attitudes that beg, on all fours with tail wagging, for everyone else to hate them.

Mission accomplished.

Just going out on a limb here but my guess is this particular "fan" jumped on the Wings wagon right around 1997... coincidentally the same year they ended their 41 year cup drought.

As we know karma is a bitch......and it will eventually bite this dude squarly in his winged wheel.

Nobody stays on top forever.

-LTL

Playoffs in review

WHAT WENT RIGHT
* RJ Umberger. After his initial adjustment period earlier in the season this guy has been nothing but a rock all year and that carried over into the playoffs as he was the Jackets best forward. He collected a team high 3 goals in 4 games and was strong..especially down low and in those high traffic dirty areas.

* Captain Columbus gets his first taste of the 2nd season. Nash won't be getting cold anytime soon --- not with the blanket the Wings draped over him all series... he finally did wiggle loose in that 4th game to finish with 1g and 2a in 4 games... he also saw first hand he's got to be as physical as anyone in the playoffs to be successful.

* Rusty Klesla. We now know the level of play you can bring big boy...! need to translate that into the regular season!

* The kids. Jakub Voracek showed why he will be a superstar in this league very soon. Derek Dorsett showed why he should never be healthy scratched again.

* Experience...experience...experience. You can't substitute it. The Jackets players and organization had to take this painful but necessary step. Nash/Klesla/Voracek/Dorsett/Russell/Mason/Methot/Boll..... believe me their games will be much different in the post season next year.

* The fans! Honestly have you ever seen anything like game 4 at Nationwide? It truly was a game I know I'll never ever forget... and signaled to me hockey has finally arrived in Central Ohio... I cannot not wait to see what an extended playoff run could be like.

* Dispatch.. WOW boys... you guys definitely upped your game for the playoffs.. Absolutely OUTSTANDING coverage..!!!! As fans we are lucky to have you.

* Ohio Health's playoff billboard by their Riverside facility off of 315... that was sweet and believe me if I ever lose a limb or need immediate medical care -- I'm comin to your ER!

* Octo-gate! Hey.. none made it to the ice in game 4! Columbus is done being the NHL's whipping boy.

* Jacket Backer doin their thang! Love the t-shirts!

* Raffi Torres was a guy who I thought looked bad in the first two games but then started to come around in the final two. He collected two helpers but I really like his physical play. Now healthy he's a guy I think could really surprise next season in a contract year.

* R Bar was rockin! A 10 a.m. opening for the first ever playoff game? Oh how sweet it was!

* Who was the most physical? Dorsett led the team with 14 hits... Commodore and Klesla each has 13 a piece.

* The Anchor Bar... the only bright spot in Detroit!

* I think Hitch milked this cow for about all it was worth. We all wanted a savior in Brass or Filatov but in all honesty it was probably a good idea to keep them out of this series with the way it went. The gamesmanship Hitch played up with the media in reagards to penalties and faceoffs was great entertainment.

* For me personally I would have rather lost to any other team than the Wings mostly because I can't stand their fan's arrogance. That said, if your gonna learn from someone it might as well be the best.

* At the very least b/c it was Detroit we got to see the Jackets first ever playoff game which is something we'll always be able to tell our kids/grandkids/etc.

* Scott Howson for not selling the farm to get here. For instance, could you imagine the outcry from fans right now if he traded their #1 pick to get here only to get swept? This man knows what's he doing and he knows what it takes to sustain a good team on a budget. As it stands now the team has all their blue chip talent, their #1 pick, plenty of budget space and a very bright future.

* The water cooler talk. This playoff run really captured the attention of the casual sports fan out there..... more than I expected actually. It was sorely needed considering this team's vast history of losing. Columbus Blue Jackets meet respectability.

WHAT WENT WRONG
* Fox Sports Ohio and lack of HD. No excuses excuses for not televising these games in HD.. NONE! This technology is not cutting edge anymore.. The Jackets better have a clause in their next TV contract that all games..especially the playoffs... must be broadcast in HD.

* In fact the whole broadcast setup across Ohio was a train wreck.. nobody knew where to find these games. There is a ton of work to do in this area.

* Mase.. great in the regular season but average in the playoffs... bottom line was this kid was fried. Still love ya buddy and can't wait for your sophomore campaign!

* MIAs... Huselius was a no show until game 4. Modin was still hurt and it showed. Chimera hasn't looked the same since his groin injury. I don't remember anything significant from Mike Peca. Williams was cookie dough soft. Malhotra was in way over his head. Hejda finished a -5 which was his game in a nutshell. Vermette couldn't really get anything going.

* I was in general very disappointed with the play of our "experienced" playoff veterans.

* Jarred Boll got pushed out of this series. This kid can play though and I expect a very motivated Boller this summer and a better season next year.

* Transition game just wasn't there. The Wings were too quick, too aggressive and too physical and the Jackets were not able to break it.

* Special teams. The PK couldn't dent the Wing's vaunted PP (who can right?)... the PP was powerless until the final game when it was too late.

* Unlucky... how many goals bounced off Jackets and into the net? Then again the winning teams usually make their own luck.

* The Jackets did everything they couldn't do to win this series. They didn't get to Osgood often and early. They allowed too many penalties. Mase couldn't steal a game. They weren't great in the faceoff circle which led to too much puck possession for the Wings.

* Not that we would have beaten Vancouver but I would have rather taken my chances with them. Not getting a point in the final two games thus drawing the Wings was a killer.

* Not sure about the rest of ya but I have never been more depressed that a season is over. I'm already having CBJ withdrawal. NFL Draft? Spring game? Who cares.. I sure didn't. I want more CBJ.

Fire away - what did you like/dislike about the Jackets first playoff experience?

-LTL

Friday, April 24, 2009

Will he stay or will he go now?


Well just like that the Jackets season is over and now it's time to let the offseason speculation begin!

The story to watch this entire summer will be if Rick Nash will re-sign with the Jackets come July 1st. The Dispatch has already got a jump start on this story with a Q&A yesterday:

Q: Has anything that happened this season swayed your mind one way or another about re-signing with Columbus?

A: “I’ve always said I love being a Blue Jacket, I love it here, I love the organization. From my standpoint, it’s great to see the team is heading in the right direction. Scott (Howson) is doing a great job bringing players in, making the team better and the team’s draft picks are starting to come through. It’s something that we will have to wait and see.”

Q: So the businessman in you can make no guarantees regarding a possible re-signing?

A: "You can’t make a guarantee you will be back. It’s tough to say. I can’t say ‘I guarantee I’m going to be here.’ You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know what direction they are going to want to go or what direction I want to go. We’ll wait and see. Initially, I want to be in Columbus, but there is a business side to hockey and I’ll have to weigh my options."

Q: Would you be interested in signing a long-term deal?

A: “You see a lot of these crazy (long-term) contracts going around. It’s something I’m going to have to think about and something they will have to think about. I honestly haven’t really thought about doing a 10-year crazy deal.”


Everybody is certainly going to have an opinion so of course I'll throw mine in the ring.

These statements are about as vanilla as you can get. Typical Nash right? He's a class act who does a great job to make sure he doesn't offend anyone. Personally I was hoping for a little more flavor out of him considering the strides made the season and the fact this squad was just eliminated from the playoffs two days ago but Nash is too smart to drop the juicy quotes fans chew over for months.

At the same time these guys are trained by their agents to be just that...vanilla. Or to put it in better terms....to posture. As much as we want Nash to come out and say "YES!..whatever it takes I'm staying Columbus"... It just doesn't work that way.

Here's how I see it.

I do think Nash wants to stay and I think Howson wants to keep him. He is their best player, their captain and face of the franchise. He just had a career season and finally led this team to the playoffs. He is by far the Jackets most marketable player and they have invested a whole lot in his development. To loose him would certainly be a blow but not one they couldn't recover from.

I think Howson will make him an extremely fair offer and if a contract doesn't get done it won't be because of money or term. It will be because Nash wants to test the free agent market. If it comes to that it's certainly his right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

However failure to get him re-signed will also send a concrete signal to the organization that after this next season Rick Nash is moving on which would leave them with only one option and that is to *gasp* trade Rick Nash.

Bottom line is Rick is right, there is a business side and a lot of time tough decisions have to be made. This organization has invested a lot in Rick and just cannot afford to loose him for nothing. They also cannot afford the distraction this would cause throughout the season. To maximize their return the time to make a move would be this summer as he still has a year left on his deal.

....and we all know Rick Nash would return something substantial.

Think Florida isn't kicking themselves right now for not parting ways with Jay Bouwmeester? If they could do it all over again I believe they would have moved him last summer. In their defense perhaps they thought with a good season they could convince J-bo to re-sign but even after being on the cusp of the playoffs he is still walking....and what do the Panthers get in return? Nothing.

In the case with Nash the Jackets now have that season under their belts so that can no longer be a reason on either side. Everyone now knows the organization is capable of winning. If a deal isn't done there will be only one motive and that is that Nash intends to test free agency.

Honestly though I do not think it will come to that. It just doesn't make any sense as to why it would.... and it's for the reasons I've already covered..... i.e. Howson will pay what it takes. This team is finally moving in the right direction. Nash just finished up a career season. He's the leader and face of the franchise.....and he finally has some real blue chip talent surrounding him.

As I've always said, why jump ship when it's just about to set sail?

Think about this though for a sec? What if Thursday night was Nash's final game in a Jackets uniform?

Eery.

I guess it could possibly play out that way....anything's possible right? If I were a betting man I'd say he signs a 3 year 21 million dollar deal in the first week of July with a conditional no trade clause and there is much rejoice throughout Jacket nation.

I think it's a relatively short term agreement because I believe Nash will want to keep things flexible in case the organization takes a nose dive in the near future. I think the organization will be okay with that as well.

These kinds of deals are not unprecidented as both Jarome Iginla and Joe Thornton operate on 3 year pacts.

Make no mistake about it though as Nash is the #1 offseason priority for the Jackets. Once they get him squared away (be it re-signed or traded) then they'll look at their salary structure and start filling in the rest of the gaps.

-LTL

Ain't no rollin over in this dog


Now that my fellow fans was intense playoff hockey!!

With the way this series has gone we all needed that didn't we?!

Not sure about the rest of ya but that is all anybody is talking about today at my work. I've got non-hockey fan friends calling me and saying "dude... I listened to the entire game on the radio and that was one of the craziest and best sporting experiences I have ever had".... "if every hockey game was like that I'd be the world's biggest hockey fan".. that was just from the radio mind you.

My co-worker who was at the game with me had a family member from Cleveland call him, mind you once again a non-hockey fan, and say "what in the hell is goin on in there??"... they just couldn't believe how crazy that atmosphere was and that came through from the TV broadcast.

Yeah it sucks we lost, but I really believe that game did more for hockey in this market than probably every other game this season combined....heck from the past 5 seasons combined. I really get the sense that the casual fans who tuned in were like "holy sh**!.... that was awesome!!"... and will be back for more.

This franchise just took a couple of gigantic steps this season... not just in terms of on ice play but in winning over a lot new fans and regaining the trust of existing ones in the process.

Of course with winning comes higher expectations which believe me I'll be exploring on this blog many times over the summer.

Bottom line is they need to build off it and make sure there is no regression.

Okay so on to the final stoplight game review of the historic 2008-2009 Blue Jackets season.

STOPLIGHT GAME REVIEW

GREEN
* 3-1 game over right? 5-3 game over right? Not for this resilient bunch who gave everything they had to try to prolong this series... As a fan I couldn't be prouder than to see the way this team competed and battled under difficult circumstances.

* The crowd... ohhhh the wonderful wonderful crowd! You guys/gals absolutely blew the roof off that house!

* Absolutely loved the playoff intensity.. everybody standing in the 3rd period... that's what it's all about baby!

* I wanted to give props to a fan named Tyler who drove in some 7 hours for the games from Iowa and to Dan from Missouri who was an original season ticket holder who moved away 5 years ago but made a promise to come back for the playoffs when they made it.

* Once again I loved both Klesla and Voracek... I just can't get over how much these two raised their games in the 2nd season. Klesla with 23+ min and a beautiful assist to Nasher but it was his touch defensive play that really impressed me. Voracek had great jump and was really strong on the puck.... he also had a team high 6 shots... Really it's a shame he only ended up with an assist for the 4 games as he played really well.

* Derek Dorsett.. I don't think he has to worry about a job next season. This dude made an impact every time he was on the ice.. he had a team high 6 hits in just 10 minutes of play and was just nasty to play against.

* Nasher had a real strong first 40 but kind of faded in the last 20... still a strong game.. was great to see him get that first playoff goal... I would like to see him get a little chippier against guys like Zetterberg but damn did he ever lay out Stuart in the Wings zone... POW..! what a hit that ultimately led to a goal.

* The Jackets were much more physical last night.. for whatever reason guys finally decided to match the Wings physically and to do so meant guys who normally don't hit like Modin and Huselius actually taking the body and being strong on the puck...

* The R Bar and entire arena district were just absolutely jumping before the game. The "beer garden" and live band have been fantastic... and how about the dude in the white posing as a hockey player?

* No octopi on the ice! A story I hadn't seen covered is that indeed a Wing fan in section 113 tried to toss one but was swarmed by 4 Jackets fans (neither of which knew each other)... the dead tissue never had a chance. Wayto protect our ice Tim S. and company! .... and Tim sign me up for one of those Eel patrol shirts!

* Congrats to Russ for his first ever goal... I gotta admit though I thought for sure he was gonna pass!

* What else can you say about Umberger? This dude just understands what it takes to be successful in the playoffs. He led all Jackets with 3 playoff goals.... The great part about RJ is that he is just now hitting his prime.

* Two for two on the powerplay? Did I seriously just write that? Was great to see the PP contribute to this game.

* Congrats to Juice on his first ever playoff goal.. only took him 20 games but he finally got it. Juice was much better last night but really needs to work on stepping up his competitive level in the playoffs... his skill game will get him by in the regular season but he's got to get stronger on that puck in the post season.

* I give the Wings full credit. They were certainly the better team and deserved to win this series.

* Timmy.. a Columbus fan... taking off his Jackets jersey and giving it to the owner of the Anchor Bar (Von) who made his first visit to Columbus to watch the Wings/Jackets playoff game.

YELLOW
* Not sure what it is but those pucks seem to be magnified to anything in red. It just seems like when ever there is a contested puck or bounce a Wing always came out with it.

* What was with all those broken and dropped sticks in the first period?

* I hate to write anything bad about Mase since without him we aren't even in the playoffs but I thought once again he was average... Nobody will ever admit it but I think he's exhausted and his game to me just hasn't been quite the same since the death threat. I hope he takes a good month off to recharge as the one thing this squad must avoid next year is the dreaded "sophomore slump". Howson must get him a capable backup this offseason.

* Still way to many of those "pinned in" sequences for the Jackets where the Wings just played keep away... they weren't as often as the first 3 games but still very apparent.

RED
* It sure would have been nice to pull one out.

* "The call". The problem I have is not with the call itself... technically it was a penalty... the problem that I have is that when you decide to put the whistle away for an entire period you can't just break it back out and claim "obvious call" with a minute to play and expect everyone to be cool and the gang with it.... Not with all the crap that was let go... Not when the play was not going to result in an advantage for the offending team.. Not when the guys in orange stripes weren't even gonna call it. Heck even the Wings fans I talked to said it shouldn't have been called.... nothing we can do about it now but what a missed opportunity to let the guys on the ice decide that game.

* I personally didn't throw anything on the ice but I'm also not going to be a hypocrite and say I've always made the best decisions "in the moment" either. I'm not really sure how I feel about it to be honest.. I know it's not the right thing to do but at the same time I understood it.

* 6 straight regulation losses to end the season...

* We now join Atlanta with the dubious distinction as the only two NHL teams never to have won a playoff game.

* Just when I thought game ops was getting it's act together they throw out that rediculous Bon Jovi sing-a-long segment... I'll actually apologize to the Wings fans who made the trip for having to sit through that crap.

3 BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THE NIGHT
* Team fights til the end
* That truly was a FANtastic finale!
* 86 games sure is better than 82!

I think this team finally adjusted to the pace and price that it takes to pay to be competitive in the playoffs. It started in the 3rd period of the 3rd game and carried over to last night's game.

That is the learning curve that everyone talks about and it can't be substituted.. players must go through it to understand it. Next year when they make the playoffs again I think we are going to see a much different squad from the get go.

That said there is still plenty of work to do to for Howson and co. this offseason to this roster to help take the next steps. I'll cover every step along the way on this blog.

I gotta admit I'm a little depressed today knowing it's all over. Always next year right? Right around the corner though is Steve Mason winning the Calder and then time to focus on the draft which I believe we'll be picking 16th overall (that kinda sounds weird eh?).

For now though it was a helluva ride Jackets fans. Not many folks expected us to make the playoffs this season yet here we are. I'll have a recap about the entire series in the next day or two.

We salute you Jackets!!

-LTL

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pre-game thoughts: Die another day

Not a whole lot can be said about this series that hasn't already been said. The Jackets have dug themselves a big hole that only 2 teams in the entire history of the NHL have dug themselves out of.

At this point the Jackets can fold their tents and start polishing their clubs or they can play like it's the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals and save some face.

It's up to them... they can come out and play like its over or they can dig down and fight for a chance to die another day.

The one key for me is I would really like to see how this team plays after they score first. These boys need to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Osgood and get on the board first. Mason has also got to play better than he has and make Detroit work much harder for their goals.

You know I would say let's win it for the fans... but screw that.. these guys need to win it for themselves.. they need to win it for that crest on the jersey and for all of the hard work put in this year to get this club to this point.

Should the season end tonight I am going to walk out of that arena proud of the steps taken this year by this team and organization -- finally there is something to look forward to.

I expect more Wings fans tonight as the bottom drops out of the bandwagon.. that said, you die hards out there keep your eyes peeled for octopi. My advice is if we are down with about 5 minutes to go start scanning the crowd for white jerseys and then pop at the first sign of plastic or dead tissue.

Tradition my ass.

-LTL

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CBJ and fans.. hold your heads high!

I wanted to make sure everyone saw this message from a poster named "GoodVybes" over on HF:

I am not sure where this should go, so I will post it here. I have no wish to make excuses for anybody, what I saw last night was on many levels an atrocious display of hockey by the CBJ. I was so angry and frustrated during the game that I simply could not stand it. But it is comments that I have seen after the game that stick with me. CBJ fans who want to call out this or that player. Nobody but R.J. or Rusty gets to hold their head up and be proud of their performance. I too want to call out certain players for being useless, but a laundry list does us no good now. Trolls who know nothing of this team and its composition, you are sad people who would rather feast on the misery of others than share the joy of your own team.

CBJ fans, remember this time right now and hold it your head. Think about last year, were you this mad about how your team played last night? NO! Your team was playing golf or of on fishing trips. Your team had its best season ever, weathered adversity better than anybody in the hockey world thought it would. Your team broke through to the playoffs for the first time ever. Yes, its getting beat up right now, and its flaws are being exposed. Has your GM sat idly the last two years? Is this the same team he took over? No and No. Howson and Hitchcock have turned this team around, they are forming an identity and building for long term success. Look at who is ready to come into the line-up, is there a step backwards there? This team will make the playoffs next year and it will be better.

Now, take that image of this moment and hold it, remember it a year from now, and be ready to enjoy the success that will come. Nobody who was in that arena last night can honestly believe that the support and demand for a winner is not there. When I walked to my seat, the same seat I had been in since opening night in 2000, I looked around and saw the season ticket holders who I have seen for the past eight years, I saw the mustard stain from where my son dribbled while eating his first hot dog at a CBJ game, I looked around and realized that at that moment there was no place I would rather be. Tomorrow night is almost certainly the last CBJ game until October, and likely my last as a PSL holder, I will be there with my son so he too can know the delicious agony of the playoffs. I will cheer this team when they leave the ice one last time and then be ready to do it all again in the fall.

Finally, remember this Jackets fans when times are tough - Being a Blue Jackets fan means never having to stuff a dead octopus down your pants.


Well said my man!

-LTL

Playoff opener video



Awesome vid... thanks for sharing with us Dave!

-LTL

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pre-game thoughts: Everybody bring their A game!


This is going to be a real short post Jacket fans as the R Bar train is leaving the station.

I'm gonna give you 3 keys to winning this game:

1. STAY OUT OF THE BOX!

2. EVERYBODY must bring their A game! That goes from every player in that Union Blue uniform to every Jackets fan in the city of Columbus. We need to rock the living sh** out of Nationwide Arena.... everyone needs to just bring it!

3. Get to Osgood and get to him early! We need that first goal.

Don't forget to wear your BLUE and be loud and proud Jacket fans. Win, lose or draw the Jackets will only play their first every playoff game at home once and I'm soaking in every second as should everyone!

I'll be twittering a lot today so stay tuned!!

GO JACKETS!!

-LTL

Columbus buzzing on eve of first home playoff game!

Check out this read on the front page of USAToday.com titled: City buzzing as Columbus preps for first playoff game

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit says his 2-year-old son Chase walks around his Columbus-area home carrying a small hockey stick and chanting, "Let's go Jackets. Let's go Jackets."

"I didn't know anything about the NHL in 2000 and I can't tell you what a Blue Jackets fan I've become," Herbstreit said. "My family ... we are completely addicted."

Playoff tickets made available to the general public sold out in less than 25 minutes.

"They went on sale at 9 o'clock in the morning and the first people showed up at 12:30 in the morning and pitched a tent," said Larry Hoepfner, senior vice president of business operations.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman issued a proclamation congratulating the team on its playoff berth. City Hall, Nationwide Arena and the street arches in the Short North District are lit blue during the playoff run.

Even the Columbus Crew, the city's champion Major League Soccer team, have hung a giant banner across their stadium saying, "The Crew is behind you."

Commissioner Gary Bettman will attend the first NHL postseason game in Ohio. The Cleveland Barons played in the NHL for two seasons in the late 1970s but didn't make the playoffs.

I didn't know that about the Crew or the Short North... that is awesome!

Great article also from USAToday.com about Jackets anthem singer "LEO!"...

This article says "Home crowd will only carry Jackets so Far"..

"It's our job to energize them," Hitchcock said Monday of the 19,000-plus expected to raise the roof at Nationwide Arena.

The crowd Tuesday night figures to be very different from the first eight seasons when the Red Wings visited Ohio's capital city. For years, Wings fans have flooded south to watch their team. There were so many Yzerman, Zetterberg and even Gordie Howe jerseys around the arena, and the Detroit fans were so loud, often it was hard to tell who the home team was.

Those days may be over.

"It's a loud arena in the regular season, too. The crowd will really get into it and (the Blue Jackets) will certainly come out desperate," the Wings' Tomas Holmstrom said Monday. "We just have to play our game and be prepared for the first five or 10 minutes and try to turn the momentum our way."

I do expect a good amount of Wings fans... mostly of the local "turncoat" variety... but not as many as usual. If your a Jackets fan out there with extra tickets... do your part and sell that ticket to Jacket fan!

Bill Tiller of hockeybuzz (an Atlanta Thrashers writer) says "Enjoy this Columbus"...

God, how I envy you Blue Jackets fans. Oh, not just because your team is in it and my team isn’t…again. But moreover, because I remember how that first time felt for us 24 months ago when the Thrashers bolted onto the ice in that first ever playoff game. It was the last time an NHL franchise experienced its initial foray into the spring championship tournament.

I was there… section 316, row E. I had a great view of the ice, overlooking the surface from just behind the goal Atlanta attacked twice. The first ever post-season unfolded before my very eyes. The first ever Thrashers playoff goal, scored by Eric Belanger off a feed from Nic Havelid, played out right in front of me. When it was happened, Philips erupted in such volume that the upper decks shook below my feet. I remember it as if it were just yesterday.

And it’s been too long since that electricity has charged through Thrasherville

But now you get to experience that same thing tonight…you lucky so-and-sos!

However, be wary that this single moment will fly past you in a heartbeat. So do yourselves a favor tonight, take time to ingest this whole “first-ever playoff game” thing. Soak it all in… the sights, the sounds, the feeling and the absolute pleasure of it all.


First time experiences only come…well, once. And even though you are guaranteed a second home game Thursday night, nothing will quite match the uniqueness that will be tonight’s extravaganza. I’m not saying game 4 of the series won’t be as loud and as exiting…especially if you enter that match with a chance to tie the series with the Big Red Borg…but tonight’s the game you’ve waited 12 years for, not just two days.

If you we’re there for opening night back in October of 2000…try to remember how loud…how frantic…just how intense Nationwide Arena was. Try to recall just how much the joint was rockin’, rollin’, movin’ and groovin’.

Uh-huh, that’s it…now multiply that by 10. No…10,000.


Well said Bill!

....and finally fans.... let's turn the Nat into a SEA OF BLUE!!


-LTL

Monday, April 20, 2009

You be the judge!

A pic taken from Joe Louis on Thursday night:

Those two kids in the background look horrified.

So you be the judge -- wing or swing?

-LTL

Jackets magnified

We heard going into these playoffs and that was that every play is magnified.. from checks, to faceoffs, to line changes, to blown coverages, to saves, to goals, to penalties to everything in-between.

Well who am I to break playoff tradition...right? The following is my attempt to magnify the play of each Jacket over the first 2 games.

There are 3 categories... above the bar, at the bar and you guessed it, below the bar.

ABOVE THE BAR
RUSTY KLESLA
Averaging over 20 minutes in ice time Rusty has 6 hits, 5 blocked shots and is a +1. Beyond the stats though he has just been flat out nasty to play against. He gone toe to toe with Holmstrom in front of the net and has shown what kind of game he's capable of when he wants to elevate it. He's been the Jackets most engaged defensemen throughout he first two tilts.

JAKUB VORACEK
Averaging 12 min a game in ice time Jakub has 1 assist and is a +1. Jakub has shown an unexpected edge to his game and the ability to raise the level of his play in the NHL's second season. He's taken some questionable penalties but I have really liked his composure and competitive level. He's been the Jackets best forward... and let's not forget he's a rookie.

DEREK DORSETT
Another rookie who has played in just one of the two games. However in that one game he recorded 4 hits and showed the ability to be able to keep up with the Wings speed and play his game. Dorsett is a 4th liner but he was smart positionally and made his presence felt each and every shift.

RJ UMBERGER
The only player with playoff experience who I feel has upped his game in the playoffs. I love how RJ gets to the net to score the dirty goals and his ability to rush the puck, draw the defender with him and then make that cross ice pass for a scoring chance. That said I do feel that RJ has another level of two he can raise his game.

AT THE BAR
STEVE MASON
With a save% of .890 and a GAA of 4.00 Mason's stats aren't pretty but for anyone who has watched these games would know, these scores could have been much worse without Mase in the nets. He's had to face the best Detroit PP in their entire history and has been the victim of some horrible bounces. That said the Jackets need him to steal a game and he hasn't shown any flashes of frustrating the Wings shooters up to this point.

RICK NASH
Nash had a good first period in the first game then Detroit went to work on him. He was bottled up the rest of that game and was also contained in the 2nd contest. I thought he competed much better in the 2nd game than the first but couldn't break loose of Detroit's blanket coverage. Nash at times, especially in that last game, was a bit guilty of trying to do it all himself which is a sign of frustration from that suffocating D. He also hasn't been able to get those key take aways to get those prime time scoring ops. If Nash is getting tripled covered somebody has to be open and his teammates have to give him support.

MIKE COMMODORE
I thought he had a real tough game the first night but bounced back well in the 2nd. He leads the team in hits with 8.. leads the team in blocked shots with 6 and is second on the squad with 21 mins of ice time but is pointless and a -3. I like the edge he bought in the 2nd game but we need he and Hejda to be stronger on the PK and their outlet passes.

FEDOR TYUTIN
Another guy who has just been okay. He leads all players in avg ice time with over 22 min has 4 hits and 3 blocked shots. He's pointless and a +1. The disappointing thing for me about Tyutin is he hasn't been as physical as I'd like him to be and he's added zilch defensively. He like the rest of the d-men are not making those crisp and clean outlet passes that the Jackets need to counter on the transition.

BELOW THE BAR
ANTOINNE VERMETTE
A bad first game but okay 2nd game. No points but he definitely stepped up his engagement and his work in the faceoffs over the last 60....he has 3 hits and 3 blocked shots. 1 shot offensively though ain't gonna cut it. He's 40% faceoff winning percentage ain't gonna cut. His 10 mins in penalties definitely ain't gonna cut it. He'll get his chance between 61 next game.

JAN HEJDA
Just 4 hits and 3 blocked shots and is 4th on the team in average time on ice. On top of that Jan is a whopping -4 which is the absolute worst on the team thus far. Jan has been the victim of some bad bounces but I just think he was caught a little off guard with the pace of the playoffs and hasn't been that big black hole we are used to seeing in the regular season.

FREDDY MODIN
Dude just looked injured and slow. I know he's battling though injuries and wants to do anything he can for the team (which I admire) but right now he's not adding much of anything out there except for a big body... and against a Wings team in which every player brings it every night that just isn't good enough.

KRISTIAN HUSELIUS
A major disappointment. I really liked Juice for what he brought in the regular season but his game has been absolutely lost in the playoffs. Juice has 6 shots, is a -1, has 1 hit and 1 blocked shot. Perhaps he is playing injured as well but his strengths which are puck handling, slowing a play down, mis-direction and vision have not been utilized. His time and space have been completely sucked up by the Wings skill and competitive level - even on the PP. He has been pushed out of the series up to this point. If Mikael Samuelson can be strong on the puck then so can Juice.

MICHAEL PECA
Another "playoff vet" who hasn't given much of anything. Though 2 game Peca has 1 shot, 0 hits, 2 blocked shots, is an even +/1 and 2 give-aways. He's given nothing offensively and quite frankly I don't think there has been much there defensively either. He's not winning battles and I'm not sure how a guy averaging over 13 minutes in ice time has zero in the hit department.

MANNY MALHOTRA
Manny was much better in the faceoff department in the 2nd game than he was the first... but he is in way over his head playing top line minutes in a series like this and it shows. In Manny's defense he's doing what he can but he just isn't the answer up there.. he hasn't been able to create much if any offense and has given no support to Nasher... a 3rd line role this next game should ease the burden of scoring but he needs to up his defensive game.

JASON CHIMERA
Looks like the speed just isn't there yet w/ Jason. Unfortunately the hands of cement have been. Jason's had one fantastic chance to score in this series and he put the puck wide. We need shots on net and for Chimera to be effective he's got to be able to utilize his blinding speed and that size of his and drive that net. Thus far he's got 5 shots, 1 hit, 1 takeaway and is an even +/-.

RAFFI TORRES
Just another body out there for me. He's maybe had one good scoring opportunity and his most memorable play has been a shoulder he layed on a Wing (can't remember his name) that dropped him like a dead ocotopi. We need secondary scoring and Raffi is one of those guys we need to lean on to get it and he hasn't delivered up to this point in the series.

JASON WILLIAMS
The knock on Williams is that he's too soft. He can get buy with that in the regular season but like Juice, he's been completely pushed out of this series. Williams has 2 shots, 1 hit and is a -2 and hasn't been able to produce anything from the point on the PP. Worst of all is he's been ineffective offensively and like Raffi, this team counts on his secondary scoring.

JARED BOLL
Getting scratched in the 2nd game tells you about all you need to know about Boller. This is his first post season and unfortunately he just wasn't able to keep up with this Wings team who doesn't dress any tough guys. I would have seen his game translating much better against a team like Vancouver, Calgary or Anaheim.

KRIS RUSSELL/MARC METHOT
I group these two together b/c even though their games are completely different both their games have struggled. As Hitch stated they've got that "deer in the headlights" look. Russ hasn't been able to use his speed to carry the puck and create.. Methot hasn't been able to contain the Detroit forwards but he does have 6 hits.. Both have generally struggled moving the puck out of zone.

Obviously for the Jackets to have any kind of chance to win tomorrow they are going to need everybody playing "ABOVE THE BAR".

Remember to wear BLUE tomorrow Jackets fans!

FIRE AWAY - agree..? disagree? agree to disagree?

-LTL

R Bar opens at 10 a.m.!!


Just quick note for those that are wanting to get an early jump on things tomorrow.

I just got confirmation from Mike/Natalie that the R Bar will indeed be opening at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

For those interested in eating Mike will be grilling out starting at 11 a.m. From what I hear they will be offereing fried ocotopi (not really but they should!).

See ya there!

-LTL

Fan pics from Saturday





Well done guys/gals!

..and thanks again to the Anchor Bar and their hospitality.. seriously next time I just may stay there and watch the game...!!

-LTL

DE-TROIT SUCKS!


Couple of things Jacket fans.

1. In place of "Let's Go Jackets" some friends and I would love to hear the following chant loud and proud in Nationwide tomorrow:

DE-TROIT SUCKS

DE-TROIT SUCKS

DE-TROIT SUCKS

Trust me.. after the warm hospitality (aside from the Anchor Bar which rocked) they showed Jacket fans over the first two games of this series this is the least we can do.

2. SEA OF BLUE!
Please wear blue tomorrow Jackets fans. I don't care if it's a blue polo... hell break out your blue Michigan Sucks shirts (I know you have those tucked away somewhere) and wear it proudly... just no RED!

Spread the word!

I'll have a post later today grading the Jacket players through the first two games.

-LTL

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now that we're here.. so far away.


That was a song by Staind I heard this morning that kind of summed up the first two games of this series perfectly for me.

Nothing went right for the Jackets last night. They did everything they couldn't do if they hoped to win.

They couldn't stay out of the box.

They couldn't get to Osgood early or often.

Nash and Mase were bottled up.

Right now the Jackets seem to be out of their league and in over their heads. These playoffs have been a wakeup call of ginormous proportions.

I would do a stoplight game review but what's the point? There will be so much red in this post that I'll feel like a Wings fan... we can't have that.

I do want to point out a few things however:

* Without Mase these scores could be a lot worse than they are.. ..

* When your best forward has been a rookie in Jakub Voracek you know your in trouble... along with Klesla he has been one few silver linings in this tournament... this kid is gonna be the real deal folks and as painful as it is to watch, this is a valuable learning experience for him.

* The Wings are covering Nash with a blanket and nobody is stepping up behind him.

* I've seen Casper the ghost more than I've seen Juice through two games. If Mikael Samuelson can hit and compete then Huselius has absolutely no excuses to do his best impersonation of David Copperfield and disappear.

* Peca, Modin, Chimera, Williams have done squat... and they are supposed to be our experienced playoff performers yet our best performers outside of Umberger have been those without any experience at all.

* Hitch looked like a guy who has comes to terms with the reality of the situation.

* Derek Dorsett was terrific... he may not score often but at least you know the guy is out there and working.

* Remember game 1 when the Wings broke in on a two on one and their secondary scoring converted? Fast forward to last night when the game was still close and Chimera was fed a beautiful pass only two fire it wide... those plays in a nutshell are what separate your contenders from the pretenders... the Wings make you pay, the Jackets shoot wide.

* 9 penalties to 4? Some ridiculous tic tacky calls but you know what, it wouldn't have mattered anyways as the better team won last night.

* Hitch and Babcock said the Jackets looked better at even strength... quite frankly I didn't see it.

* The Wings skill guys compete just as hard as anyone on the ice... they all hit, they all work, they all sacrifice.... no matter the names on the back or the millions in their accounts. If there is one thing I want the Jackets to learn from this series that is it.

* From the sounds of it the Wings fans were as classy last night as they were on Thursday... I even hear their security was talking trash... of course they'll come to Columbus and our security will treat them with kid gloves.. then again, that is what class get's you.

* Voracek, Filatov and Brassard need to mature real quick. We desperately need the skill they bring to the lineup.. especially on the PP.

* Datsyuk and Zetterberg get away with anything they want on the ice.. they slash, poke and prod all game long.... it was clear to everyone but the refs that Dastyuk didn't have his fight strap buckeled down after Vermette took him down which should be an automatic penalty yet nada.. our skill guys need to adopt that edge and start pushing the limits.

* As much as I'd personally be tempted to play Filatov I don't expect the Jackets too... the guy we could really use is Brassard.

* The loss marks the 4th straight regulation loss for the Jackets... which is the most since the season began.

* Montreal, St. Louis, Calgary, Philly and Columbus are all down 2-0 in their series.. they are all the away teams. Only Anaheim, New York and Carolina have won on the road.

It's not so much the losses as it is how they are losing. I expected losses (heck I expected to lose this series) but these games haven't even close. That is the most disappointing thing for me.

It's like the title of this blog says... we are in the playoffs which is awesome but there is obviously still a ways to go before we become a real threat in the playoffs. It's hard to accept now but we are taking some painful but necessary steps to get there.

Here's the way I see it now Jackets fans... let's be honest in that we'll probably lose this series.. but you know what -- if we are goin down then I'm going down in flames right with them.

I want to see the Jackets team give everything they've got in front of their home crowd... leave it all on the ice!!

Not sure about you out there but I'm still taking off Tuesday and I'm gonna bring everything I've got as fan down to Nationwide to support these guys on our ice! I encourage anyone out there who reads this blog to do the same!

I want to see signs, blue hair, flags, face paint, blue finger nail polish, civil war paraphernalia, blue beards, hockey masks... you name it! Let's go all out.

One more thing.... everybody wear BLUE! I know there are a lot of OSU fans out there.. heck I've got my share of gear as well... but it does nobody any good to wear anything with red in it for this game.....unless your a turncoat. Let's turn the nat into a sea of blue!

GO JACKETS!

-LTL