1. From Carry the Flag:  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.
  2. From The Cannon – Last Stop, Everyone Out: Easily one of the best statements to sum up this season’s shortcomings, courtesy of Matt: “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.”
  3. 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.
  4. From Dark Blue Jacket – One Year Ago: Remember this? When Rick Nash thanked us for being there. Think we’ll see this again this summer?
  5. And last but not least, in case you’ve forgotten the good days (and I’m sure you have):

It’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).  Sometimes you’re gifted with met expectations (Brassard, to some degree), and sometimes you’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 – there were two primary prospects who were expected to be the crème 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 can’t expect #30 to be #1, and you can’t expect it overnight.

Photo by Elise Lotz

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 5’10” (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 isn’t conveniently large like Marc Methot – 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 and 37 more than Tyutin, our so-called defensive defensemen.)

And who says he’s got to score 20 goals to be effective at his “style” of play? He is a “puck-moving defenseman” not a “goal scoring defenseman” and has excelled in moving the puck up ice as he’s expected to (in a way that only he and Clitsome have managed to do). But that doesn’t always translate to the score sheet. If the forwards aren’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, Russell’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 “the next [insert player here]” 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, 5’10”, low cap-hit player moving into his fifth season in the fall, and that’s exactly what he is.

    Kris Russell will miss the IIHF World Championships

  1. From Puck Rakers – Russell Out of Worlds: Update on defenseman Kris Russell, who according to Scott Howson has a spiral fracture of his tibia. He’s been ruled out of the World Championships, but who isn’t? Rick Nash (Canada), Fedor Tyutin (Russia), and Jakub Voracek (Czech Republic).
  2. 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.
  3. 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?”
  4. 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.
  5. From Fire the Cannon – Eric Smith’s Weekly Podcast: This week featuring Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch and rookie 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 of 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 about  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.

  • Friday, vs. Chicago: The Jackets got off to a slow start (sound familiar?) and allowed Chicago to jump to a 2-0 lead in the first, but goals by Maksim Mayorov (the first of his NHL career) and Derick Brassard (his 16th) had the game tied at 2 after two periods. Samuel Pahlsson gave them the go-ahead goal, but wouldn’t you know – a minute and a half later, Bryan Bickell tied it back at three. The game would go to a shootout and in true Columbus Blue Jackets fashion, they would go 0/3. Viktor Stalberg beat Garon to seal the victory. Money quote, by head coach Scott Arniel (source): “We’ve made a decision as a league that we’re going to entertain at the end of the night and we’re not going to go home with a tie game. We’ll work on the shootout part… but we don’t back off in overtime. These guys learn how to play in pressure packed situations. It’s unfortunate we’ve lost so many shootout games, but we’ve done a great job of learning how to play under pressure.” Are you sure about that, Coach? I’m a supporter of Arniel for the most part, but I don’t think he knows his team any better than we do.
  • Friday, part two: With Steve Mason sidelined with some sort of undisclosed injury (bruised ego? mono? the clap? softgoalsandnodefenseitis?), David LeNeveu was brought up from Springfield (the Falcons, not the Indians, because this is not 1994). In 41GP with SPR, LeNeveu was 16-20-2 with a 2.97/0.896. His prior NHL experience, with Phoenix, is limited to 21 games. We won’t share those stats, because you don’t want to know.
  • Also on Friday, forward Derek MacKenzie was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He was the Blue Jackets’ nominee for the award. The Masterton Trophy is awarded, “under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.” MacKenzie is a veteran of 124 NHL games – half of which have come this season in his first full NHL campaign – and 550 games at the AHL level, where he spent parts of nine seasons before going full-time. MacKenzie is a small, defensive forward without a whole lot of talent, but what he lacks there he compensates for in his grit. He’s contributed 9 goals this season playing in a variety of situations.
  • Jan Hejda was suspended two games for an elbow to the head of Blackhawks’ Marcus Kruger. It was clearly unintentional but deserved, a consequence of the league’s wanting to cut back on careless hits to the head. Hejda is the first Blue Jacket suspended since Jared Boll was assessed a one-gamer in October of 2008 for a late instigator penalty.
  • Blue Sunday: Apparently the Blue Jackets were not privy to their own schedule and forgot to show up to Sunday’s matchup with St. Louis. They were a listless, sloppy, passive bunch in a 6-1 loss. RJ Umberger, playing in his 243rd consecutive game as a Blue Jacket, got the only goal (a power play one, at that). He set a new career high in points (56) and is one off his previous record of 26 goals. Jaroslav Halak turned away the other 23 shots he faced – most of which really were not great ones. Garon was replaced by LeNeveu in the third period with the score already 4-1. Stralman, Upshall, and Russell were each -3, and the only highlights of the night were a long battle between Derek Dorsett and the much-heavier Ryan Reaves, and a not-so-spirited battle of the under-six-feet club between Kris Russell and Vladimir Sobotka. It’s okay to laugh, really.
  • RJ Umberger‘s consecutive game streak is sitting at 240 games. Jason Chimera holds the Blue Jackets’ record at 240 consecutive games (source). Provided nothing happens (knock wood), he will tie Chimera’s record on Sunday against St. Louis, and set the mark in Dallas n Tuesday. (h/t to Lee at the Jacketsblog for the reminder).
  • The Jackets signed goaltender Allen York out of RPI on Tuesday and should join the Falcons to play out the last week and a half of the season. According to the Albany Times-Union, York is RPI’s all-time GAA leader at 2.47. His three-year NCAA career record is 37-33-8.
  • The NCAA announced their “hat trick” of finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, and on that list is Cam Atkinson, freshly-signed CBJ prospect & Springfield Falcon. He’s up against Miami’s Andy Miele and North Dakota’s Matt Frattin. The award is announced on April 8th, the day between the Frozen Four semi-finals and finals.
  • The Hard Times of RJ Umberger? Random find, here, but worth a laugh. If you’re the kind of person who can laugh at yourself, that is. And, well, you’re a Blue Jackets fan, so you’re probably used to that by now.

Photo by Dannielle Browne

For the first time in what feels like eons, the Blue Jackets did what seemed improbable. In fact, they did several things that have otherwise eluded them lately: scored multiple times at home, won at home, and won in the shootout. After losing six straight shootouts, a collective breath of relief was released after Maksim Mayorov sealed the victory in the fifth frame of action.

Scottie Upshall got the scoring started in the first when Derek Dorsett and their buzzing third line were able to rush the puck into the zone. Upshall lifted the puck in the high corner and off the crossbar and in. In the second, an ill-timed penalty by Marc Methot led to a Florida power play and ultimately a goal when the defense let David Booth camp in front. The goal tied it at one and effectively deflated both the team and the crowd. The Jackets were sloppy, but hung in there and managed to not lose track of the game despite their inability to make clean, directed passes.

With just over a minute left in the second, the puck was bouncing around in front of Clemmensen and nearly lost to the Panthers, but Matt Calvert’s persistence (is anybody surprised?) was able to keep the puck in front where RJ Umberger and Antoine Vermette were pinballing it around before finally netting it. 2-1 Jackets, end of two. In the third, Evgeny Dadonov was able to chase Craig Rivet away from the goal, while Ryan Carter shoved Kris Russell down and took him out of the play (in the crease, no less), so that Dadonov was able to wrap around and beat Steve Mason.

To overtime this game would go and not much materialized – the shots were 3-1 in favor of Columbus – so to the shootout it went. Oh here we go again, right? Wrong. Mason, who had been solid most of the evening, turned away all three Florida shots. The Jackets sent Nash, Mayorov, and Calvert out, and with Mayorov getting the game-winning shootout goal.

1 — CBJ — Upshall 21 (Dorsett, Pahlsson), 7:06
2 — FLA — Booth 22 (Samsonov, Santorelli), 3:41 (PP)
2 — CBJ — Vermette 18 (Umberger, Calvert), 18:58
3 — FLA — Dadonov 8 (Garrison, Bernier), 7:31

CBJ — 1/3 (Mayorov)
FLA — 0/3

CBJ — Mason (W), 29/31
FLA — Clemmensen (L), 30/32

The Springfield Falcons finished the last week 1-2, dropping decisions to Connecticut and Binghamton and picking up a victory over Worcester that ended a twelve-game losing streak. The Falcons currently sit with a record of 31-38-2-3 and 67 points which puts them at sixth in the Atlantic Division and outside the AHL playoff picture.

Paul Dainton, Goaltender: Signed to ATO on 3/21. 69-61-12, 2.78, .908 in four seasons at UMass-Amherst.
Wade McLeod, Forward: Signed to ATO on 3/21. 61-76-137 in four seasons at Northeastern University.
Cam Atkinson, Forward: Signed to ELC with Columbus on 3/27. 68-56-124 in three seasons with Boston College. Hobey Baker Finalist (To be awarded on 4/8). Follow him on Twitter at @CamAtkinson13, or check out a few videos on the future Blue Jacket:

Weekly Game Recap:

Wednesday, March 23
at Connecticut 3

1 – SPR – MacLeod 1 (Savard, Holden), 18:02.
2 – SPR – Goloubef 5 (Kubalik, Smith), 8:59
2 – CT – Couture 2 (Garlock), 11:52.
3 – CT – Weise 16 (Newbury, Dupont), 0:54 (PP)
3 – CT – Mitchell 6 (Williams, Grachev), 11:17

SPR –  Dainton L (31/34)
CT –  Grumet-Morris W (25/27)

Saturday, March 26
Springfield 7
at Worcester 2

1 – SPR – Moore, (8) (Guite), 9:34 (SH)
1 – SPR – Filatov, (7) (Savard), 12:25 (PP) 
2 – SPR – Kubalik, (22) (Guite, Holden), 4:10
2 – SPR – Moore, (5) (Kubalik, Dainton), 10:02
3 – SPR – Bogosian, (1) (Savard), 1:27
3 – SPR – Sigalet, (4) (Kubalik, Guite), 2:57
3 – WOR – Trevelyan, (15) (DaSilva, Moore), 5:32 (PP)
3 – WOR – Wingels, (17) (McCarthy, Ferriero), 12:10 (PP)
3 – SPR – Tarnasky, (6) (Kubalik, Holden), 18:24 (PP)

SPR – Dainton W (39/41)
WOR - Hutton/Sateri L (23/30)

Sunday, March 27
Binghamton 4
at Springfield 1

1 – BNG – Gryba 3 (Daugavins, Keller), 9:18
2 – BNG – Bass 5 (Grant), 1:46
3 – SPR – Savard 8 (Holden, Frischmon), 0:37
3 – BNG – Wick 18 (Locke), 3:07
3 – BNG – Benoit 10 (Wick, Locke), 18:55 (EN)

BNG – Brodeur W (38/39)
SPR – Dainton L (26/29)