Fan Fest is tomorrow – all deets are here – and look at all of those great things going on at once! But how are you supposed to keep track of who is going to be where, and when? You need your jersey signed by the new guys and a picture of Mason with his Claim to Fame Trophy, but how can you make sense of this schedule? Naturally, the answer to this problem is… a spreadsheet! Fangirl-in-chief, here, did all of the grunt work, so enjoy. And don’t blame me when Jeff Carter’s Sharpie runs out of ink because you got there at 6:51. And don’t forget, 8:15 for the on-ice skills competition!
Yellow boxes: Autographs
Smushed up blueberry color: Q&A sessions
Blue: Hockey-related (pass/shoot, street hockey, etc)
Green: Video Games
With training camp just one (!!!) short week away, and players already taking to the Nationwide Arena ice for informal practices, and there now being not one but two (!!!) Russells around, your fangirl-in-chief here decided it would be a good idea to step up to the plate and make a study guide in case you’re faced with the awkward situation of a Russell without the benefit of a nameplate, and don’t want to be that guy. Without further ado, we present, “Know Your Russell.”
“Heaven is a better place today because of this, but the world is just not the same.”
- The Tragically Hip, “Heaven is a Better Place Today”
Tomorrow is the first day of the first month of our favorite time of year. The ice is currently freezing on the floor of Nationwide Arena, and if you’re into keeping tabs of your favorite players on Twitter, it appears the vast majority of them are already starting to come “home.” Just about a week and a half from now, the first installment of the new pre-season “Fan Fest” will be underway (RIP, Hockey Fest, we had good times together). That morning the kids bus off to Traverse City for the Prospect Tournament, where they will hopefully not embarrass us this time (no pressure). A week later, the big boys report for physicals, the next day they take the ice, the following day is the ever-popular Owner’s Tournament where we install false hope in players who look really good up against junior players. Soon there will be real games (that don’t really count), daily practices, an inevitable injury (I’ll take a refill on my Pepto-Bismol, please), frequent Puck-Rakers posts about which washed up veteran they should trade a talented player for. Then there will be Fox Sports Ohio broadcasts, John Michael’s corny jokes and Jeff Rimer’s incoherent ramblings, the Bill Davidge Drinking Game, and very, very soon it’ll be like we never counted the days, minutes, seconds between putting last season into its shallow grave and breaking the bottle on the bow of this year.
So with that, put on your big boy (or girl) pants, buckle up, and get ready to make fun of a whole brand new year of what hopes to be a lot less dysfunction and a whole lot more fun. And if not, keep the Pepto on standby.
The largest source of criticism over the signing of James Wisniewski is the amount of money the team has committed to him in his spanking-new contract, and the ensuing argument has been whether or not he was deserving of that type of money. So, why not find out for ourselves? The table below lists the top ten scoring defensemen in the 2010-11 season (Wisniewski ranked fifth):
* first year of a new contract, increased from 1.2 M in 2010-11
+ first year of a new contract, increased from 3.25 M in 2010-11
# first year of a new contract, increased from 3.1 M in 2010-11; heavily back-loaded contract, actual salary is $10M + $8M bonus, cap hit is seriously misleading
^ unsigned; previous cap hit was 4.5 in 2010-11
The green highlighted boxes on Wisniewski’s stat line are where he is above the average of the ten. He is above average in assists, power play goals, hits, blocked shots, and giveaways. Sixty seven giveaways is certainly nothing to write home about and has him quite a bit ahead of the average, but he also ranks above his high-scoring comrades in other defensive stats (the good ones – blocked shots & hits). Wisniewski’s -14 is also misleading: he was an uncomfortable -18 on the Islanders before being traded to a stable, playoff-bound Montreal team where he was a +4.
Provided that Wisniewski continues his gradual yearly progress (he only had 30 points the year before – still nothing to shake a stick at, though), he appears (at least on paper) to have a good balance of offense and defense. That balance is something the Jackets have long been lacking: what offense they’ve seemed to extract has sometimes seemingly come at the cost of a solid defense (guys like Stralman & Russell, for example).
At a cap hit of 5.5 million, that shakes down to $107,843.13 per point. Compare that to Fedor Tyutin, whom the Jackets are paying approximately $105,324.07. Hardly more than they are paying Tyutin on a per-point basis, with a lot more production. And if you compare Wisniewski to a guy like Shea Weber, whose contract has yet to be market-inflated, they’re paying him only a million more than Weber made last year, and less than he will likely make next year. Compare that also to Christian Ehrhoff who has made out like a bandit from the Sabres’ wallet; his one-point-less has garnered him a Swiss bank account to envy.
In the scheme of things, Wisniewski seems like an overpay, but among his top-10 scoring defensemen, he is absolutely middle of the road. Unless he suffers a steady decline, the Jackets should get exactly what they paid up for.
As announced earlier today, Marc Methot has re-upped with the Jackets for four years, and according to the Dispatch, the deal breaks down as follows: “$2.25 million this season, $2.75 million in 2012-13, $3.25 million in 2013-14 and $3.75 million in 2014-15″ (source). Methot, aged 26 and a veteran of 229 NHL games, averaged just under twenty minutes of ice a night, including a regular helping of shorthanded time (second to only the departed Rostislav Klesla). In just his third full season, he has elevated himself to the second pairing and can be depended upon to bring a heavy physical presence to the lineup. But did the Jackets make a good deal signing him to a deal with an average cap hit of $3M? Here is how Methot compares to a handful of his defensive cohorts across the league:
Highlighted are both Methot and his most comparable from the above list, Mike Weber of the Buffalo Sabres, who comes in with a surprisingly low $950K cap hit. Methot’s hits – all 176 of them – put him in good company with Braydon Coburn and Cory Sarich, though he is much less likely to cough up a turnover (hey, we like that out of our defensemen, right?), but also much less likely to block a shot. His 98 was only good for third among Jackets defenders, behind departed Hejda (listed for comparison) and Kris Russell (fewer hits, fewer giveaways, $1.3M hit). Methot’s giveways/takeaways are similar to Greg Zanon’s, but Zanon held a considerable edge in blocked shots. These comparisons aren’t worth the imaginary electronic paper they are typed on, but if we pretend that they are, Methot’s deal value can really go either way. It could be argued that Coburn and Sarich’s deals are overpays – thus causing an overpay of Methot – when compared to Zanon & Weber, but we’re going to go on a whim and call this a deal for one reason: the graduated structure of Methot’s contract. His salary for this coming season is only $2.25M, climbing yearly up to $3.75M. If he continues to progress the way he has over the last three seasons, by the conclusion of his contract he should be a mainstay on the top pairing along James Wisniewski and almost a steal at that value, and by the time his salary touches three million, the bottom portion of the defense should be filled out by names like John Moore and David Savard, who will likely still be entry level or on sub-million contracts.
The only question left to be asked is, with the commitment to Methot, what and who can they afford to round out the second defense pairing with?
James Wisniewski: Pretty much an essential, maybe not deserving of the 5.5 per, but worth it. As in, he just gets the PP, and if the Jackets didn’t pony it up, he was going to get it elsewhere and their problems would still be unsolved. Plus he seems pretty stoked about coming to Columbus which is, like, Chicken Soup for the Blue Jackets Fan’s Soul (ya hear, JCarter?). And he is proof that not all things from the State of Michigan have to be nasty. Okay?!
Curtis Sanford: This is one of those times when Scott Howson reads my Twitter feed and listened to me, except that he signed him as a #3. (That’s okay – I can dig it.) Sandman is a little old (relatively speaking, so stop making that face and taking it personally), and has been a pro since 1999 (Steve Mason was, like, 11). He’s played backup in Vancouver to Roberto Luongo, and split duties for a few years in St. Louis. The last two, however, he was a mainstay in the Hamilton Bulldogs crease until an injury ended his year. He won 23 and 22 games the last two years with Hamilton, respectively and led the team to consecutive regular-season division Championships and onto Conference Finals, while mentoring a young Cedrick Desjardins and Robert Mayer.
Mark Dekanich: 25, signed on to be Stevie Mason’s backup goalie. 1 game of NHL experience – OH MY GAWD THE WORLD IS ENDING – but he has over 100 pretty solid ones in the AHL and from personal experience having seen one of his games in the ECHL – he has quick reflexes. Comes from the Nashville Predators Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Play Goal Good Too and was a back up back up to Pekka Rinne. Obviously this guy’s not going to carry the load, but he should be in prime form to step up to the challenge. Oh, and he’s on Twitter. @dexshow
Some minor league guys: Mostly the rest is depth, nothing even worth making fun of except Aaron Johnson, who had his Best Year Ever in the AHL last year, but had some mediocre years in the NHL. But he’s BFFs with Rick Nash, so he’ll probably be starting on D every night. Just kidding. I hope.
Jan Hejda: $3.25M x 4 years, Colorado Avalanche. Really? asdksjfdsjgdfg… HAHA, WHAT? Rumored he was wanting the big bucks to stay in Columbus, but those big bucks needed to be used for an upgrade. His $2M payday last year seemed fair. If he wanted long-term in Columbus, sticking at $2M would have been cool. But a raise AND lengthy deal? For a guy who is getting progressively worse? Maybe the altitude will be good for him…?
Scottie Upshall: $3.5M x 4 years, Florida Panthers. Hated to see him go, but… he was a little redundant in the Top 6 and too expensive for the Bottom 6. Would have loved to keep him for his old salary of $2.25M, but… yeah. Have fun on the beach.
Mike Commodore: $1M x 1 years, Detroit Red Wings. We’re paying him more than they are! Hello, indigestion. Positive this will be a bite-in-the-ass someday when he’s motivated to try playing aggressively and smartly… oh, wait, HAHA. Carry on.
1. The Predators are (maybe) in trouble, or are perhaps pulling an imitation of the Blackhawks, and have screwed up their QOs. (Qualifying offers, for those of you who don’t do acronyms.) Apparently, the Predators have some difficulty discerning the difference between how a fax machine and FedEx work. Suppose we’ll let them slide, it is only 1981 in Tennessee, afterall. Please, nobody tell them about email for a while.
2. Wisniewski. Yeah, he totally played for one of those Canadian teams a certain person around here (ahem) seems particularly fond of. Spelling his name is today’s daunting task. Spelling test will be administered shortly after the conclusion of his contract signing, so read up on Porty and Reed retweeting each other today. Seriously though, he seems familiar with this “power play” thing that has become exinct in Columbus, so ultimately Scott Howson should do whatever it takes to make good with this guy, even if it means a year’s supply of Buckeyes co-eds. Wait, wrong acquisition. Whatever, sign him, bro.
3. Ciao, Commodore: He’s been placed on waivers (again), this time the buy-out kind (cue scary Halloween ominous music). So long, Commie. It’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. We should’ve known this would end badly when we saw those dollar bills haphazardly strewn across his jungle of wiry burnt orange hairs.