As always, the Jacket info in the Sunday Dispatch is the highlight of the weekly hockey coverage. This week was no different, and the two articles they had shed some light on a couple of issues: ticket renewals and how the roster is shaping up.
On the ticket side, 92% of season ticket holders have renewed their tickets already, and the team anticipates that rising to 96%. Not too bad. While readers of the Dispatch are writing into the editor to tell him that he should print every morsel of Buckeye football coverge he can find, and other fans explaining that 80% of the city only wants to read about the Browns, the Blue Jackets fans quietly went about making their point with their wallets rather than writing the paper to complain. Things are looking good for another loud season in Nationwide, especially if Doug's quote at the end of the article comes true: "The best thing we can give our fans," MacLean said, "is a better team."
The probable training camp roster wasn't that surprising, but it was nice to see it in print, especially since it seems the Dispatch gets the best info out of the front office. After going through the guranteed contracts, there are 18 roster spots filled. That leaves five spots if the Jackets are to carry the full 23 man roster, which is unlikely because of the salary cap. For all intents and purposes, we've got 11 guys slugging it out for probably three spots on the full time roster.
It appears the defense is set with 6 guys having guranteed deals already, but Aaron Johnson and Francois Beauchemin to slug it out for the 7th spot. Given our injury problems on the blue line last season, healthy competetion between these two will be a good thing. Based on what I've heard out of Syracuse, it seems it should be a pretty tight race. We've seen Johnson in Columbus, but apparently he didn't really build on that last year. While Beauchemin, snagged off the waiver wire from Montreal last September, came in and played a solid season for the Crunch. Enough to earn him a two year deal with the Jackets.
On the offensive side, things get a little more interesting. The year off gave the Jackets draftees more of a chance to mature. Dan Fritsche used the time to help London win a Memorial Cup and put up 35 points in 28 games with the Knights. Alexandre Picard upped his game some more scoring 40 goals and 85 points in 60 games with Lewiston in the Q. Recently signed Jaroslav Balastik led the NHL star laden Czech Elite League in goals. Joakim Lindstrom hopped the pond to play 13 games with the Crunch, and mananged 4 goals and 4 assists in his short time there. And this doesn't even take into account this year's pick in Gilbert Brule, who some say was the steal of the draft at the 6th overall selection.
All of that leads to what should be an entertaining training camp. We have finally compiled enough draft picks of NHL quality to make the fight for spots interesting. Plus, even the guys with a guranteed contract don't have a guranteed spot on the team. Outside of Nash, whose spot on the top line was cemented in two months into the '03-'04 season, every other spot is open to be won. Preseason games might not be boring for a change.
Friday Night Football
Hilliard Darby - 28
Central Crossing - 0
North Union - 6
Cardington - 34
Waynesfield-Goshen - 50
Lima Perry - 12
Darby continues to look good, their defense giving up 7 points in its frist two games. North Union starts another Jekyll and Hyde season winning week one in fine fashion then getting whacked in week two. Uncle Kev's team in Waynesfield won another squeaker, but according to Uncle Kev once again started off slow.