BoTW

 

Did you miss us? I missed us. Two weeks into the season and I’ve been waffling over this all along. Who should be the Boyfriend of the Week? It took me so long to decide I needed two weeks. Realizing the Blue Jackets are a 2-5-1 team, there haven’t been a lot of fireworks to get excited about. Which is exactly why you’re not going to believe who I’ve picked this week… Read More →

As we wake on Day One of the Post Nashpocalyptic world, national opinion beyond the friendly confines of I-270 seem to be of the belief that the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be absolutely terrible and abysmal without Rick Nash (as opposed to 30th place with Rick Nash), as if he is the sole proprietor of goal scoring in Columbus. I decided to take a look forward at what the Blue Jackets could do. I went through Rob Mixer’s “How Will they Line Up?” on CBJToday, and used that as the proposed lines. Obviously, anything can change between now and October. Obviously, just because a guy’s numbers averaged over the last two years say he’ll score 15 goals, it doesn’t mean he can’t slump or explode into a career year. And no amount of stats can predict the chemistry (or lack thereof) between a couple of guys – but let’s find some basis for what everyone’s griping about.

L1: Prospal – Brassard – Foligno

Vinny Prospal – age 37 – LW

2011-12 82 16 39 55 -11 3 165
2010-11 29 9 14 23 4 2 61
(projected over 82) 82 25 40 65 11 6 172
Average 82 21 39 60 0 4 169

Derick Brassard - age 24 – C

2011-12 74 14 27 41 -20 5 125
2010-11 74 17 30 47 -11 6 183
Average 74 16 29 44 -16 6 154

Nick Foligno – age 24 – W

2011-12 82 15 32 47 2 1 153
2010-11 82 14 20 34 -19 5 149
Average 82 15 26 41 -9 3 151

L1* has three guys who seem to have no difficulty averaging around 15 goals apiece and point totaling in the 40-55 range. If they develop chemistry and take shots (why so few, Brassard?), they could turn into a 40-50 goal line. Or more? It would be fantastic if all three could produce 20-goal seasons, and that doesn’t seem overly unrealistic, especially with Foligno looking to assume a larger role with Columbus than he did in Ottawa. If they can shore up their defensive liability (big minuses) they could be effective.

L2: Umberger – Dubinsky – Johansen

RJ Umberger – age 30 – LW

2011-12 77 20 20 40 -10 5 200
2010-11 82 25 32 57 3 8 220
Average 80 23 26 49 -4 7 210

Brandon Dubinsky – age 26 – C

2011-12 77 10 24 34 16 0 140
2011-12 77 24 30 54 -3 4 202
Average 77 17 27 44 7 2 171

 Ryan Johansen – age 19 – C/W

2011-12 67 9 12 21 -2 3 99

L2* is a little harder to predict as both Umberger and Dubinsky trailed off in 2011-12 compared to their prior production, but had scored in the 20-25 range with regularity prior to 2012. If they return to form – and Ryan Johansen feeds off of their experience after having an up and down rookie year – could they be a 60 goal line? One third of Ryan Johansen’s goals were on the PP. Could this be PP1?

L3: Anisimov – Letestu – Atkinson

Artem Anisimov – age 24 – C

2011-12 79 16 20 36 12 4 132
2010-11 82 18 26 44 3 3 190
Average 81 17 23 40 8 4 161

Mark Letestu – age 27 – C

2011-12 62 11 14 25 -9 4 105
2010-11 64 14 13 27 4 4 128
Average 63 13 14 26 -3 4 117

Cam Atkinson – age 23 – RW

2011-12 27 7 7 14 1 1 66
(projected over 82) 82 21 21 43 3 3 200

L3* is home to a guy who was on fire in his rookie season’s latter stages (Atkinson) and dominated the AHL, a guy who was ineffective with a minimal role in Pittsburgh (Letestu) but caught fire in Columbus in a new role, and a guy who has scored at least twelve goals in all three of his NHL seasons (Anisimov). It’s hard to say if Letestu’s change of scenery will continue to be in his favor, or if Anisimov will flourish in his new home, or if the sneak preview of Atkinson we got last season will last, but I see no reason why this line couldn’t put up 40 goals between them.

L4: Gillies – MacKenzie – Dorsett

Colton Gillies – age 23 – C/W

2011-12 75 2 6 8 -9 0 24
2010-11 7 1 0 1 -2 0 3
2009-10 45 2 5 7 -2 0 22
Average 42 2 4 5 -4 0 16

Derek MacKenzie – age 31 – C

2011-12 66 7 7 14 4 1 61
2010-11 63 9 14 23 14 0 76
Average 65 8 11 19 9 1 69

Derek Dorsett – age 25 – RW

2011-12 77 12 8 20 -11 2 137
2010-11 76 4 13 17 -15 0 112
Average 77 8 11 19 -13 1 125

L4* is about what you expect from a fourth line. I went back three years to show Gillies’ complete lack of any kind of production (completely underwhelming, but also completely replaceable), but MacKenzie and Dorsett make up for it. Dorsett’s new-found offense, if it sticks, added to MacKenzie’s defensive game, could make this a formidable shut down line that is capable of 40+ points.

What I see overall is instead of having one guy who is expected to tip in 30-40 goals with a supporting cast around him, the new Blue Jackets appear to be a team of small ego-ed, hard working players. At least 6-7, if not 10, have 20-goal potential. In 2011-12, the Blue Jackets had one 30G, one 20G, and one 16G (four others with double digits). The Nashville Predators (11 with 10+ G, 2 over 20) and St. Louis Blues (9 with 10+ G, 2 over 20) have shown that a team doesn’t have to be loaded with high-priced superstars to have success. What the Blue Jackets have “lost” in removing #61’s 30g/29a, they have gained in a handful of additional players with 20g potential at the same cost.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Blue Jackets have announced that five weeks into their grueling postseason head coaching search, they have finally hired Todd Richards as their permanent coach. Highly regarded as the one of the marquis job openings in the NHL this offseason, the team was forced to reject offers from Bruce Boudreau, Mike Babcock, and John Tortorella.

“Ultimately, we wanted the guy with the least amount of professional experience and success,” said General Manager Scott Howson. “We didn’t have the resources or budget to install a trophy cabinet in the coach’s office, so hiring Todd saved us a lot of money.” Added Howson, “The organization did take into careful consideration the tens of thousands of opinions submitted by the great fans of Columbus, but Todd best exemplifies what the great city of Columbus is known for: very little.”

“After all,” added advisor Craig Patrick, “This is about failing. Every morning Scott and I ask ourselves – what mistakes can we make today? We’re very confident in this one.”

(My comments in bold. Obviously.)

If the Blue Jackets were not the last-place team in the NHL, Jeff Carter would be a happy, productive member of the team. (I’m sure being in last place has nothing to do with all of the goals he didn’t score while being hurt 375 times.)

That is an interesting premise. Does it hold? (No…)

Failed relationships in sports can be ugly things. (Nikita Filatov says hi.)

I covered Brendan Shanahan when he begged off the Hartford Whalers in 1996 (token Whalers/”I am old reference” to validate his nonsense). It was a punch in the gut for the fans who felt big-timed, but at least Shanahan made his decision public and accepted the wrath he knew was coming. (“At least” he was public in being unclassy.)

I covered Adam Foote (you mean He Who Shall Not Be Named, Michael, get it together) when he bailed on Columbus in the midst of a playoff hunt in 2008. In his last days as Jackets captain, before any trade had been consummated, he waffled publicly while, behind the scenes, his new Colorado Avalanche equipment was ordered and a plane was gassed up and waiting to whisk him away. (Buh bye.)

Now, we have Carter. (Who once, actually, you said “should not be judged on rumors.” http://www.bluejacketsxtra.com/content/stories/2011/07/28/carter-shouldnt-be-judged-on-rumors.html)

Jackets fans celebrated when he was acquired last summer (for Jake Voracek, a first-round draft pick and a third-round pick). I was among those ballyhooing. Carter was to provide something the Jackets had been lacking throughout their history: a top-line center and a first-rate sniper. The fans bought in and filliped season-ticket sales.

Carter, after a month-long absence because of a shoulder injury (a whole month we could have used his goal scoring prowess to, I dunno, win games), re-entered the lineup in Anaheim last night. He had 10 goals and 17 points in 30 games. He was ranked 267th in the league in scoring, one point behind Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin. Although there is a host of Jackets players who have underachieved during this wickedly depressing season, it is fair to say that Carter has played as if he has one skate out the door (really? his points per game ratio is higher than everyone except Rick Nash).

It is convenient to hark back to when Carter was acquired, and to think we should have seen this coming (you told us not to judge him!). The trade shocked him, and the Jackets had to send a weighty contingent of emissaries — general manager Scott Howson, then-coach Scott Arniel and captain Rick Nash — to the New Jersey shore to assuage him (not make a big deal out of a guy needing some time?). It is easy to say, in hindsight, that he never wanted to be in Columbus, but that is a one-sided view (Arace-sided).

As Carter’s agent, Rick Curran, told The Dispatch in September: “The big challenge there is not wondering whether he’ll find comfort there. The question is, can you be in position there to win enough games to have success.” (If he played 20 more games and therefore created chemistry with his linemates and, maybe, scored 10-15 more goals we might have won 10-15 more games = success, but it’s okay, I understand. Jeff Carter is high talent, he deserves to play on a better team, it’s his Constitutional right.)

Put another way: If Carter did not want to be in Columbus, who could blame him? (The guy who paid him $6m to be here? I don’t want to go to work every day but my company expects me to work for that $13/hr, man.)

The same sort of circular logic will apply if the Jackets win the draft lottery and the right to select the consensus No. 1 prospect, Nail Yakupov. (Already paving Yakupov’s road out of town?)

If you are a Jackets fan who has lived through Nikolai Zherdev and Nikita Filatov, you might be saying, “Oh, no, not another Russian.” And if you are Yakupov, you are aware of Zherdev and Filatov and you might be saying, “Oh, no, not Columbus.” (I appreciate you justifying his future poor behavior. Wait, no I don’t.)

It is the worst-kept secret in the NHL that Carter will be traded before the Feb. 27 deadline. (Is it in the same secret pool as Hitch taking over on October 30th?) He has made no public demand (he has said all the right things publicly, FOR SHAME!) and the Jackets have made no proclamation, but their divorce is imminent. (“These people don’t SAY they hate each other, but 50% of marriages end in divorce, so we have a 50/50 chance of being right. Let’s go for it, guys!” – The Dispatch) The only questions now are to whom, and for what?

Failed relationships can be ugly things, but they can be managed. For Shanahan, the Whalers got Keith Primeau from the Detroit Red Wings. Primeau was a soulful player and a born leader. For Foote, the Jackets got a first-round pick they flipped to Philadelphia for R.J. Umberger. Howson won that deal in a rout. (Except now we’re overpaying RJ to underachieve. Dammit, recurring theme.)

The Jackets will extract value from Carter — they will not get back what they paid, but they can get something that fits well into their pending rebuilding project, whatever that might look like. (Why don’t you tell us, oh Knower of All Things?)

Here is a suggestion: Show an eye for young talent, grow the franchise from within and build something for which the players and their city can be proud. You know, like Nashville. (…………but were doing that and it wasn’t enough so he had to buy talent. LET’S TRADE THAT TALENT!!!!!! Also you said that growing of talent was allowed to hate Columbus. Freakin’ self fulfilling prophecies.)

If the Jackets were not the last-place team in the league, would Carter be a happy, productive member of the team? (OSU is only right up the street. And we have beer!)

Maybe he gets going now as he auditions for prospective employers.

Michael Arace is a sports reporter for The Dispatch. (…and how.)

We’re not dead yet! Sure, it’s been a good… few weeks since anything of substance has made it’s way onto our page here (blame school & real life & bad hockey), but the gears are turning and the ideas are starting to flow again!

With the announcement this morning that our beloved team will be the host of the 2013 NHL All Star game, I’ve got some great ideas in mind and this is where I need YOUR help! Please give me your story! Either how you became a fan, that first magical moment where you fell in love with the team, or your absolute favorite memory in team history. Short or long, I want to hear them all! Please don’t hold back! Don’t leave them in the comments here – please email them to dannie[at]strait-jackets.net. And don’t forget to let me know how you want to be attributed – real name, Twitter handle, etc. Thanks, guys!

Go Jackets!

So, I’ve been wanting to do this little feature for a while and have had a hard time starting it, so I’m going to need a little bit of help with it (paging Dr. Gethin, DJ Extraordinaire). I’d like to follow up each game with a semi-appropriate song (or maybe a sixty-minute long laugh track, when they have those games). Feel free to fire your suggestions my way at any time! (dannie [at] strait-jackets.net)

Game 26: Sister Hazel – Your Winter

 

Although nobody but Fedor Tyutin knows what Nikita Nikitin thinks or says, mostly due to his lack of English, it was no secret that his counterpart Kris Russell did not want out of Columbus. From the mouth of General Manager Scott Howson at the Season Ticket Holder Q&A and from the snips of articles in the Dispatch as he came back on Sunday as a visiting player, the consensus is the same: Russell wanted to stay in Columbus. When the going gets rough, the trade rumors fly, and it isn’t uncommon for a guy to say he’s had enough and to want to leave for greener pastures (or, perhaps, Blue-r). Russell was given the good fortune, despite his misgivings, of being traded from a cellar dweller to nearly the top of the conference on a streaking hot Blues team.

Since he left and rejoined his first professionalhead coach Ken Hitchcock, the defenseman has seemingly been reborn. The year Hitchcock was fired from Columbus, Russell scored his career-high seven goals. Since then, his defense has improved but his offense has stalled. Perhaps it was a misfire between him and Arniel, although they were touted to be a match made in hockey system heaven, but he never quite took off under Arniel’s guidance. Hitchock, who we all know pitches a certain brand of hockey, apparently has some kind of gift – or maybe, finally, Russell has found his game. Whether it is a newfound confidence from his new position, a clean start, being unfamiliar in his surroundings, or a stroke of good luck, Russell is on fire. Over just nine games in St. Louis, he is 3-1-4 and +6. Plus six. Russell finished with a plus in just one of four seasons in Columbus (-12, -10,+3, -9), possibly due to his status on the bottom pairing, often stuck with guys whose NHL careers have since floundered (Tollefsen, Backman, Stralman, Commodore…). Just last night alone, Russell was credited with three shots and six more attempts blocked. Nine offensive chances, even though none made it through: he is taking chances he previously failed to.

At first the trade looked great. Nikitin was a solid fit on a pair with Tyutin, very quietly adding up five assists while being unnoticeably good (he had no points in seven games while struggling to make the lineup in St. Louis). But over the last few games, the pairing has started to fall apart. On Sunday against St. Louis, Nikitin and Tyutin struggled greatly. Tyutin’s penalties hurt the team and according to St. Louis media outlets, Nikitin’sfoot deflected a Blues shot right to Kris Russell who had an open net to shoot into to tie the game at one. How’s that for karma? In Vancouver, Nikitin was a brutal minus four (bringing him to minus one overall on the season). Hopefully, perhaps, this is a temporary struggle, or it could be the “real” Nikitin coming to play.

It’s still hard to say who “won” the trade, if anybody at all. Sometimes they do just work that way: a win/win. Nikitin has stepped into a role that the Blues were not willing to give him, logging heavy minutes on a top pairing – is that because the defense in Columbus isn’t as good as that in St. Louis? Maybe. Or maybe the change of scenery really has done the both of them some good. Eventually, more than nine games will tell the story, and for Blue Jackets fans the best hope is that it is a win/win. If Nikitin can do a solid shut down job, perhaps stick around longer, and either way relieves the Jackets of the 2.6M salary hit divided over two years they would have owed Russell (hopefully with the intent of creating a roster spot for a matured David Savard, or better) then they have received a good end in the deal. Russell did not turn into what the local newspapers made his potential out to be; he moved the puck but never put up Mike Green-like offensive numbers, much to the chagrin of Jackets fans (and beat writers), but the kid never gave up on Columbus. After his first game in St. Louis, he was asked if it felt good to play in a full building, as opposed to what he came from in Columbus. With the opportunity presented to him to make a backhanded, ugly remark about the club and the city that “raised” him, he simply said: “The fans in Columbus are great. They’re just searching for a winner.”