- From Columbus Business First - Blue Jackets announcers staying put: Jeff Bell of BizJournals reports that the Blue Jackets will be bringing back Bill Davidge and Jeff Rimer in 2011-12. Hold your groans, though. “Sharrock said the Jackets will meet with Fox over the summer to see what can be done to enhance the telecasts.” We all know that starts with not putting a crappy product on the ice to broadcast, but it’s good to see them dedicated to improving the overall presentation. In addition, the article mentions their loss of 22.7% ratings, down to a 1.09 rating (10,000 homes).
- The boys over at The Cannon are doing some great work with their 2011 “Exit Interviews” series, going over what was expected of each guy, and where they compared to that. Be sure to check it out and throw in your $0.02.
- Unless you’re under a very large soundproof rock, you’ve heard, by now, that NBC/Versus have retained the rights to the NHL for the next 10 years at the cost of a cool $2B over the life of the agreement. ESPN was the longest-running competitor to Versus before finally dropping out. It seems as though fan opinion is split on whether or not this is a good deal for the NHL. In theory, ESPN = exposure, where with Versus (or the network-to-be-named-later, if you will) they essentially get to be the top dog. Aerys Lightning writer Alexis (not Guy)Â Boucher weighs in her two cents on the deal, and really I have to agree 100%. Give her a read.
For part two, we’re analyzing 2010-11 output [only] for all of the defensemen who played a measurable amount of time in a Blue Jackets jersey. It is no secret the defensemen were terrible, but let us illustrate, anyway.
Among the things that stand out:
Plus Minus: Only three guys maintained a plus-rating in their tenure. One being Rusty Klesla, whose numbers are diminished by the fact that he was traded at the deadline and was not around for the final damning slide. Two others who maintained a plus are Grant Clitsome and Marc Methot, who easily were the team’s best defensemen. Plus/minus, of course, is an oft-argued, hard to defend (pun intended) stat, but it can often be so telling. Fedor Tyutin being even at home, but -12 on the road? Kris Russell being +1 on the road but -10 at home? Hejda clearly much worse at home than on the road? These guys could use a dose of consistency.
Blocked Shots: Apparently this is something that Jan Hejda and Kris Russell have learned to do, but not many guys are following suit. Surprising for Methot to have only blocked 98, given his strength and size, same for Tyutin. These guys have to get over whatever fear they have of laying down in front of a puck. As defensemen, you know, it’s their job. The more shots they block, the less Mason/Garon/Goaltender-to-be-named-Later have to turn aside. Novel idea, yes? Let’s work on this, boys.
Anton Stralman, you heartbreaker: For the guy acquired to be the offensive touch and PP QB and who argued his case damn near into arbitration and to an overpriced deal, who has been given chances upon chances when he probably didn’t deserve them, Anton Stralman had 1 goal (on the powerplay, hooray!), and 17 assists (I’ll take those). A minus rating both on the road and at home. The team scored only 45 goals while he was on the ice. He only had 39 hits, 46 blocked shots, 15 takeawaysÂ - are we sure this guy is suited to be a defenseman?
Grant Clitsome just makes everybody better: Grant Clitsome played 31 games and had 19 points. Two power play goals (more than anybody else), a shooting percentage of 8, was out for FORTY goals-for (remember, in less thanÂ half as many games played), only 27 goals against (Tyutin, Hejda 90 and 89, respectively), and while he did spend time on the PK unit, only 4 PPG against. Grant Clitsome, welcome to the NHL. If the Jackets don’t re-sign him…
Next Year: Only Tyutin and Russell are under contract for next season, along with a handful of AHL rookies who will be fighting to make the jump in camp. The Jackets should undoubtedly reward the matured play of Methot and Clitsome with contracts. The verdict is out on Hejda, who supposedly is looking for a multi-year deal. It’s hard to jive with that when his effectiveness has declined with each year. Stralman just needs to go. His good play was so shortlived it’s hard to believe it even happened.
In the first installment of Blue Jackets By the Numbers, we’re going to compare all of the returning forwards’ statistics from 2009-10 to 2010-11.
It is no surprise that Rick Nash is at the top fo the list once again. With his 66 points (down one from last season), he put up exactly the same the same points-per-game ratio at 0.88 per game, also the best on the team. Second this season was RJ Umberger, at 0.70, just slightly up from the season before.
The Conundrum That is Jake Voracek
This season, Voracek was elevated to the first line for the majority of the season, where he played alongside (when healthy), Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. At times, the line was unstoppable, and other times they couldn’t seem to find each other or differentiate their head from their rear ends. Jake played just one fewer game this season than last (two games missed due to Scott Arniel’s Healthy Scratch Hammer of Doomâ„¢), and put up just four fewer points. So why the drama over his lack of production? His 46 points were only one less than his highly-lauded linemate Brassard, and his plus/minus was better (though still not great). Yet as the season winded down, Voracek was the whipping-boy, with his rough twelve game slump. But why was Voracek so unappreciated over Brassard?
Speaking of Brassard…
Yes, he did look as good as we thought. His ice time jumped over two minutes a game on the average, and in five fewer games, he had eleven more points. It’s safe to say that he stepped up to the plate in his new role on the top line. 47 points, however, is underwhelming for a top-line guy playing beside Rick Nash, but he made strides in the right direction.
Second Line, Where Are You?
Kristian Huselius was limited this year to only 39 games, nearly half of what he played the season before. But when he was in the lineup, Juice and Antoine Vermette were absolutely unacceptably ineffective for a second line – 0.59 and 0.57 PPG, respectively, and down from 0.85 and 0.79. Why haven’t Huselius and Vermette received the kind of slack Voracek has? Sure, Juice wasn’t healthy, but when he was, he wasn’t good. And Vermette had an absolutely brutal season: a drop of 18 points without losing any games to injury. The only saving grace for the second line was the predictably predictable, never-wavering RJ Umberger and his 57 points. The second line – if this is the second line in 2011-12, HAS to be better.
Andrew Murray lostÂ most of his year to various injuries, but Weighty put up one more point (8)Â in only 29 games this season. Derek MacKenzie, finally seeing his first full-time action, stepped up just as beautifully: 23 points in 63 games, while averaging 2:09 more a game. For a fourth-line grinder sometimes thrust into top-line duty, D-Mac took the increased role on well.
- With the addition of defensemanÂ Marc Methot and head coach Scott Arniel (associate coach to Ken Hitchcock), the Blue Jackets could be well-represented by Team Canada at the World Championships. If Rick Nash (back) goes, they could have three. Goaltender Steve Mason was apparently also asked, but has chosen to rest. It was rumored that Kris Russell (ankle) had also been on the short list.
- Jakub Voracek is fat: okay, that’s not really what this says, but kind of. Jake Voracek, who only had a small drop-off in his offensive productivity overÂ a year before, struggled through a painful slump at the end of the season, and it seems as though the kid has some kind of issue staying in shape. Really, Jake? You’re 21 years old. Get it together. There’s no excuse. Cut back on the potato chips, ding dogs, and Bud Light. We’d like you to be less of a lardo.
- The Word from the Birds:Â Springfield FalconsÂ owner Charlie Pompea posted a letter on the Falcons’ site today addressing the unfortunate end to the Falcons season, and promised they’d work with the Jackets to “assure” change for next year. And this article from MassLive eludes to a general warm-fuzzy feeling out of Falcons camp when it comes to the Jackets. Big change from the years in Syracuse, and it’s good to see that there is a sense of optimism in Springfield, despite the trouble.
- From Ten Minute Misconduct - Playing Twister: Jeff Little is at it again with his excellent work. This time, heÂ injected a nice slice of reality into the CBJosphere by spinning the tables on the choices that Scott Howson didn’t make (appropriately), but the Dispatch seems to have a love-affair with anyway.
- From Dark Blue Jacket – Out of Time: Look out, DBJ’s on a roster-clearing rampage in his season review!
Over the next few weeks – look for our season in review, player “awards” (hold your laughter), and a little playing with numbers!
Everything about Saturday night’s game was a perfect representation of how the 2010-11 season came and went. There was an optimistic start – flying, in fact – and moments that made the sell-out crowd come off their seats in excitement. There were moments that made the members of each team’s respective fanbase cower in their seats shaking their head. There was a heart-breaking turning point that would ultimately cost the Jackets; and an agonizing, painful end to the game.
Derek Dorsett got the Jackets on the board early in the second with a tricky, quick wrap-around past Ryan Miller. It was only Dorsett’s fourth goal of the season and his first since February 1. From there the scoring was fast and furious: three minutes later by Buffalo’s Pominville, four minutes after that by Buffalo’s Butler, another four minutes later by Buffalo’s Ennis. The Jackets finally got back on the board by another unexpected goal scorer, Jared Boll, who would notch his seventh (first since February 4th, and two more than his career best) on a rebound off of a Matt Calvert shot. Going into the third period it was 3-2 Buffalo.
This game clearly meant more to Buffalo than to Columbus, but for the first half of the game, Columbus was really fast and furious and looked nothing like the team they had been for the last month. Like they were prepared to send the season out on a positive note. Guys were playing for jobs, playing for future contracts, and playing for one last shroud of dignity. One last chance to leave a lasting impression in the minds of the disgruntled fan base. But they got sloppy, just as they had after the trade deadline and had been in December.
2:37 into the third period, a guy who could potentially be playing for hisÂ future with the teamÂ in Kristian Huselius, notchedÂ a goal past replacement goaltender Jhonas Enroth, and for the better part of the third period it was a tight 3-3 game. But then something happened in Craig Rivet’s aged little brain and he went absolutely ballistic, cross-checking a former teammate in the head, and would be escorted to the locker room at the 11:44 minute mark with 17 PIM. Immediately, on the five-minute major, Stafford and Gaustad would goÂ back to back to give the Sabres a 5-3 lead with more than six to go.
Much to the dismay of the Jackets fans in attendance, things weren’t looking good. But hey, familiar feeling, right? Kristian Huselius would make it interesting, briefly, by scoring a PPG with 0:23 to go, but it wasn’t enough. The Sabres won the last game of the Blue Jackets season, and sucked the life out of Nationwide Arena. A game – and a season – that once held so much energy and promise, slowly, gradually, spiraled in and out of control until one, fine breaking point that would send them over their edge.
Thanks for the memories, even though they weren’t so great.
- From Carry the Flag:Â Â Dan’s last two posts are the first parts in a set of an analysis on the CBJ scouting system and breaking down the draft classes, starting with 2005. Remember that hindsight is 20/20, and don’t shoot the messenger.
- From The Cannon – Last Stop, Everyone Out: Easily one of the bestÂ statements to sum up this season’s shortcomings, courtesy of Matt:Â ”When this year started, I was one of many who really thought this year was going to be different – that we’d see something special. And for probably half of this season, we did. I’ll even go so far as to say that the fact that this team is still the second best squad in Franchise history, going by stats, shows that Scott Arniel is the right man for the job, and he did quite a bit with what he had. But in the end, though the names changed, the story stayed the same. Instead of “the regular season finale” leading to a playoff spot, tonight will be another “Fan Appreciation Night” where we simply keep wondering why the team we love can’t seem to love us back.”
- From Light the Lamp – Stat of the Day: Raises: LTL breaks down the potential salary situation the Jackets are looking at this summer and what they’ve got to play with.
- From Dark Blue JacketÂ - One Year Ago: Remember this? When Rick Nash thanked us for being there. Think we’ll see this again this summer?
- And last but not least, in case you’ve forgotten the good days (and I’m sure you have):
Itâ€™s almost comical how the perceptions fans – and sometimes media – have for players is how a player is expected to develop. Obviously you expect good things from first rounders (Derick Brassard, Nikita Filatov) or guys who have big first seasons (Steve Mason). Â Sometimes youâ€™re gifted with met expectations (Brassard, to some degree), and sometimes youâ€™re left wanting more (Mason, Filatov). But realistically, not every first round draft pick is going to turn into a Rick Nash or a Steven Stamkos. The talent is not always that deep. As evidenced in the 2010 draft â€“ there were two primary prospects who were expected to be the crÃ¨me of the crop. (Were they, in retrospect? Not yet, at least.) The other 28 kids taken in that round were, essentially, the actual first round. You canâ€™t expect #30 to be #1, and you canâ€™t expect it overnight.
Similarly, why does anybody expect Kris Russell to be Drew Doughty or Cam Fowler? They were different-round picks. Different ages. Different sizes. Different backgrounds. Russell was a 30-goal scoring WHL Defenseman of the Year, but he is a 5â€™10â€ (generous), 180 (again, generous) sometimes-clumsy-but-speedy skater. He was also a third round draft pick because of one thing: his size. That is the same reason teams were hesitant to draft him higher and is the same reason he has gone through growing pains in the NHL. He isnâ€™t conveniently large like Marc Methot â€“ he has to use his feet, stick, and mobility to get into places the bigger guys just are. (Sidenote, Russell has 31 more blocked shots than Methot andÂ 37 more than Tyutin, our so-called defensive defensemen.)
And who says heâ€™s got to score 20 goals to be effective at his â€œstyleâ€ of play? He is a â€œpuck-moving defensemanâ€ not a â€œgoal scoring defensemanâ€ and has excelled in moving the puck up ice as heâ€™s expected to (in a way that only he and Clitsome have managed to do). But that doesnâ€™t always translate to the score sheet. If the forwards arenâ€™t effective with the puck themselves, the ability of the defenseman to move the play out of his zone goes unnoticed on the score sheet and shamefully, to the eye of most of the fans. But for the most part, Russellâ€™s ability to move the puck forward does not come at the expense of the defense the way it hurts Fedor Tyutin or Anton Stralman.
Is it because the Dispatch and the media like to tout every player as â€œthe next [insert player here]â€ that people build up unreasonable expectations of players? Did Scott Arniel or Scott Howson ever tell you that Kris Russell was going to be a Norris Trophy winner? No. He fits the bill for a third-rounder, 5â€™10â€, low cap-hit player moving into his fifth season in the fall, and thatâ€™s exactly what he is.
- From Puck Rakers -Â Russell Out of Worlds: Update on defenseman Kris Russell, who according to Scott Howson has a spiral fracture of his tibia. He’s been ruledÂ out of the World Championships, but who isn’t? Rick Nash (Canada), Fedor Tyutin (Russia), and Jakub Voracek (Czech Republic).
- From Carry the Flag – Methot Set to Wear Half Shield: With Marc Methot‘s decision to switch to a visor for 2011-12, Dan – a hockey player himself – gives us his $0.02 on the matter.
- From The Cannon – Game 80: Insult and Injury: As always, Matt conjures up a pretty in depth look at the last game, with a pretty interesting point – “Does anyone else feel a moment of bemusement that there was a disputed goal in yet another game against Dallas, and Derek Dorsett was involved each time?”
- From the Dark Blue Jacket – DBJ’s crowdsourced ballot for the 2011 NHL Awards: In lieu of our beloved (protesting) NHL writers doing it, DBJ is running a fan vote for the NHL Awards. Check it out and weigh in on his Facebook page.
- From Fire the Cannon – Eric Smith’s Weekly Podcast: This week featuring Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch and rookieÂ Cam Atkinson.
What is there left to say? Much like their previous game against St. Louis, the Jackets played a listless, sloppy game against the Dallas Stars. They tossed 23 shots at Lehtonen, but he was able to turn aside all of them. At the other end, Mathieu Garon made his third straight start with Mason on the wayside, and stopped 27 of 28 shots, but all it took was one by Steve Ott to break through and win the game. The Stars would get two empty net goals after a last minute desparation goalie-tug, and the Jackets weren’t able to materialize anything in response. They were again without the services ofÂ Rick Nash (injury), Jan Hejda (suspension), Anton Stralman (illness), and Steve Mason (injury) among others, but it’s hard to say if any or all would have made any impact.
It was an uneventful game, lacking fireworks yet again. It’s hard to believe a week ago the same team put up a 60+ minute effort and walked away with points from Washington and Chicago both, only to turn around and play dead against St. Louis and ghostwalk their way through sixty minutes against Dallas. It could have been much worse in Dallas, had Garon been shaky, or had Dallas really ever been on their game. Instead, they lose 3-0. Clearly, they have mailed it in and are thinking aboutÂ next season. Unfortunately the rest of us are trying (unsuccessfully) to enjoy the 120:00 we have left in this one.
On only his second shift of the game, Kris Russell spun around in a twisted heap after Antoine Vermette shoved a Dallas player around the net into Russell. He crawled, literally, to the locker room tunnel and was helped the rest of the way out. After the game, @APortzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported the defenseman broke his ankle and, obviously, is done for the remainder of the season. Tough break for Little Shake who had been struggling of late after a long, slow start to the season recovering from a knee injury. Hope is that he heals up quick over the summer and comes back better than ever.