Monday, December 31, 2007

NYE at Nationwide

It's New Year's Eve which means the Jackets have a home game tonight, and there's plenty of "What happened last year?" articles and stories to partake. May as well add one of my own...the Jackets year in review.

Rapid fire style...

- Season ends on a high note, Hitch coaches just under .500 as coach, Norrena becomes first winning goalie in franchise history.

- Doug MacLean is fired.

- Repeat: Doug MacLean is fired.

- Hope is restored.

- Scott Howson hired as GM.

- Columbus hosts draft, the capacity crowd gives John H. McConnell a 5 minute standing ovation.

- Doug MacLean remains fired.

- Hitchcock opens training camp with the team in the best condition its ever been in.

- Rick Nash is confirmed to be a monster.

- Team has hottest start ever, the fans celebrate October rather than praying for it to end.

- Howson's budget minded acquisitions of Jan Hejda, Jiri Novotny, and Michael Peca pay dividends to the team. Later, Howson acquisition Chris Beech is called up and eventually rises to the first line.

- Nikolai Zherdev emerges as a dominant force on the ice rather than the pouting force we'd seen in previous years.

- Team lapses from hot start, but remains in the hunt when Santa delivers toys around the globe.

- Nikolai Zherdev makes Carolina defense look silly in a two goal, two assist effort on Dec 29.

And that brings us to this evenings game with the Oilers...the last game of the year. A year that saw as much change in Columbus since Bettman stood at a podium in '97 and said we were getting a team. A complete turnover in the front office has provided a new direction, and they offered no empty promises other than we'd be, "a hard team to play against." So far, so good...

Win or lose tonight, the Jackets will enter '08 above the .500 mark. A win at home combined with Detroit knocking off the Blews would have the Jackets sitting 9th heading into the new year. Not too bad for a team that's typically looking forward to golfing by now.

If '08 brings similar changes, then Jacketland might be celebrating their first playoff trip in a few months...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

London to Columbus to Watch the Flames

With my upcoming visit to Columbus on Tuesday to see the Flames, I figured that I would give the readers a glimpse into the visiting team that night.

First off, I have been going through a ton lately and just have little time to post my thought(s) about the Flames. It has nothing to do with their 4-10 November, as evidenced by the fact that I have done little in their 3-0-2 December either. I have in the last month, changed jobs, had my heart procedure and had a baby who every 2nd or 3rd night forgets that he's supposed to sleep.

The Flames were losing games in November for a variety of reasons. At least they tried to keep it interesting by finding a new way almost every loss. Some games it was blown leads, some they just were so snake-bitten in the scoring department (much like my man Sea) that it hurt to watch. Other times it was a complete lack of effort. Other times it was a sloppy mistake changing the momentum.

There were two constants in the losing. Subpar goaltending and subpar special teams. That will kill you in the NHL, no matter the level of talent you have on paper.

Let's face it, on paper the Flames have a ton of talent, but so far they have not lived up to that.

In December thus far, we have seen Vezina like goaltending from Kiprusoff and it has turned the team around...a little. They are still nowhere near contention. This type of play will move them up the standings and into a playoff spot, but any hopes of any type of playoff run lie with improving the PP and PK.Stanley Cup winning teams are almost always top ten in both the PP and PK.

Here's a little break-down of the Flames players thus far this season:

Playing below capability

Miikka Kiprusoff - He is starting to turn it around, but his numbers tell the story. No SO. 2.78 (down from over 3 a couple weeks ago) and a .895 save % (up from the 880's a couple weeks ago).

Rhett Warrener - has lost a step and is not the hitter that he used to be. Now strictly an average 5 or 6 d-man. Used to be a top 5 or 6 d-man who was capable of playing as a 4.

Mark Smith - has improved recently but has little offense as his 1 assist in 21 games would show. He is now carrying the puck a little more and is dropping the mitts with all the middle weights on an almost nightly basis.

Marcus Nilson - Gotta love the effort this guy puts in, especially since he's usually got a nagging injury. However, he is slowing down and is barely chipping in offensively. Still decent as a PK'er.

Stephane Yelle - see above.

Craig Conroy - I guess if you revert back to thinking of Conroy as a 3rd line defensive player, he is doing well. Howvere, he is still playing top 6 minutes and is not producing with only 12 points in 31 games. Still a leader and still a defensively sound player.

David Moss - was playing well other than scoring as that goalpost in OT in game 6 of the Wings series last year seems to haunt him. Better numbers were expected. Now injured.

Playing about as you'd expect:

Curtis McElhinney - hasn't seen much action but has been solid as a rookie backup.

David Hale - not sure why this guy has been sat out as often as he was when Eriksson was struggling. Would be a solid #6 on any team and fits that bill nicely here. Only one assist on the year but offense is not his forte.

Eric Godard - surprisingly can hold down a semi regular shift which is more than can be said for many enforcers. Rarely loses a fight. Still takes untimely penalties.

Dustin Boyd - all over the ice, creates a lot of chances. Offense will come.

Eric Nystrom - has a lot of his dad in him. Hopefully will turn into at least half the player that his old man was. Hits, fights, kills penalties. Not a lot of offense but really none is expected. A young Yelle without the faceoff prowess but tougher.

Anders Eriksson - would have been in the catagory above if I had done this 10 games ago, but he has turned around with more ice time. Weird. Has been dependable and even plays a decent #2 PP QB.

Robyn Regehr - pretty much bang on what you'd expect. One of the best defensive d-men in the game.

Owen Nolan - has struggled to score at times, but has been an agitator, generates chances, hits and works hard.

Adrian Aucoin - been consistent even if his scoring from the start of the year has been slowing down.

Matthew Lombardi - would have better numbers if played with Iginla and Huselius/Tanguay like he should be. Fast, fast and more fast from this guy. Dangerous on the PK. Still improving.

Dion Phaneuf - hits a little less which is good and bad. He picks his spots a little better but his hits sometimes change a game so a few more may be needed. His scoring is down, but that's mostly because teams key on him at the point now. His improvement will need to be in the playoffs where he has been medicore at best, injuries may have been a concern there though.

Alex Tanguay - shoot the fu^&$%g puck. This guy turns down more scoring opprtunities than a lot of guys get. He is creative though and is almost a point per game. Expect that to pick up as the Flames break out of their team wide scoring slump.

Kristian Huselius - started off on fire, slumped, now is getting confidence back. When his game is on, he can QB the PP from the half boards. Has some of the best one on one moves I have ever seen. Surprisingly effective when used on the PK.

Daymond Langkow - this was tough because he does more than the average person would expect from him, however since I have come to expect this guy to be the second best, and best on some nights, player on this team, he is right where you'd expect. With an improved percentage on faceoffs can literally do anything asked of him.

Playing above expectations:

Cory Sarich - I expected a #4 d-man and got a guy that is one of the best 3's in the league. The only thing that makes him a 3 and not a 2 is the lack of offense. Other than a game against Detroit where Datsyuk burned him twice, as consistent defensively as they get.

Jarome Iginla - should get consideration for the Hart if the Flames make the playoffs. On pace to break his point record for a season.

Not enough games to merit a ranking:

Wayne Primeau - only played 6 games

Tim Ramholt - one game

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The apocalypse is upon us...

The Jackets have defeated the Avs two straight games. Never mind that it took 6 years for the Jackets to manage two wins over the Avs at all...

So, down go the Avs a second straight game. This game was played like most of the games in October: hit, hit, hit, forecheck, hit a little more, play solid in your own zone. It was good to see the team get back to that.

In the middle of the hit, hit, hit portion of the game was Jared Boll...there's a shocker. Boller netted the game winner, too, and for his efforts he was given the #1 star of the game. Couldn't have been given to a harder working player tonight. Actually, I'm not sure Boll has taken a shift off since August.

There has been a troubling thing come out of the last two games: The total disappearance of Jason Chimera. He had a couple shifts where his feet got him into the play, but that's it. His head and hands just don't seem to be in it. This is a guy that the Jackets count on to be a leader on the ice and in the room, and of late he's been invisible on the ice.

So, off to Boston for the Jackets. Following that, they come home to play the Flamers. Zukes...the ONE TIME CONTRIBUTOR to Better On making the drive down for the game. We anticipate watching hockey and drinking beer...not necessarily in that order...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Same old Central?

It seems that somebody poked the Central division with a stick this year and has awakened a few teams...notably all of them not named "Detroit Red Wings." And while those teams have come to life, the teams named "Detroit Red Wings" sit atop the Western conference. So much for the theory that the Wings feast only on the poor sisters of the Central to rack up their playoff points. What's more, the Wings are currently the only team in the division with a losing record within the division.
TeamRecord v. Central
St. Louis6-5-0

"So what?" you say...well, against the rest of the West the teams in the Central are a collective 29-16-3, with 7 of those 16 losses belonging to Nashville. So, throw the Preds out, and the other four are 25-9-3 against the rest of the West.

Yeah, it's early, but we're almost to the quarter pole, and it's a noticeable trend. If it continues, there will be 3 or more teams from the Central playing in mid-April.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Something's rotten in Minny...

No big secret that I'm not a fan of the Wild. They being the sweethearts of the NHL's class of 2000 and all. (Jackets haven't helped their own cause much, though.) Ugly unis that everybody think look nice, the little run to the playoffs in thier third year, and the never ending stream, "Jacques Lemaire's shit doesn't stink," articles that pour out of the media. The Jackets have had their successes against the Wild, but for every win there's a Wes Walz pants goal that makes you want to punch something wearing a Christmas colored hockey jersey.

Then came today's game...

The Jackets dominated. They out hit, out skated, out worked, out hustled, and out scored the Wild. The Jackets laid a full-on beat down on the cammo and Christmas colored clad warriors from southern Minnesota. Then when the going got tough and Minny tried to climb back into it, they didn't turn to their vaunted speed, or their big play guys, or even the Lemaire Plan we've heard so much about the last 7 years. Nope, the Wild did none of that, instead they attempted to turn the game into a World Cup soccer match. After a couple of the attempts at drawing a penalty, I half expected the stretcher bearer to come out just like FIFA requires.

Honestly, dropping that easy...Boogaard of all players went down like lawn chair in a stiff embarrassing to the sport. Sadly, the refs bought into a few of them, including the aforementioned Boogaard double gainer with a twist. Fedorov got to sit for tripping when Wild Player tripped over the net trying to crash between it and Feds. Yup, the Jackets were the beneficiaries of a quick whistle, but Karma's a funny thing...

But then came the ultimate in homerisms out of the good folks in St. Paul. Allow me to run down the three stars from today's game. Keep in mind while reading these that the final score was 4-0 in favor of Columbus.

1. Rick Nash
2. Pascal Leclaire
3. Brian Rolston

Ignoring for a moment that the goalie getting a shut-out isn't the first start...Brian Rolston?? For what?? Leading the Wild in ice time and shots? That's noble, but you GOT SHUT OUT!! It wasn't a 1-0 goaliefest, it was a 4-0 kick in the junk. Peca and Nash had two point afternoons in addition to the big fat goose egg Leclaire pinned on the Wild, and the media in St. Paul saw fit to reward not Peca, but Rolston with a star of the game.

The writers from the State of Hockey just turned the puck over in their defensive end...kind of like the Wild did this afternoon.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

I'm sure that title won't be used anywhere on a blog today...

Yeah, last night sucked. The Jackets threw their biggest stinker of the season out there on Thanksgiving-eve to turn more stomachs than today's overeating will provide. They barely went through the motions. I hate to use the, "It's a long season," excuse here, but it is. However, recent trends are making you wonder if the hot start was the fluke rather than the current down time being the fluke. We'll have an answer to that by Christmas, probably.

But for today, there are a few things to be thankful for here in Jacketland.

Most importantly here I sit on Thanksgiving day and the Jackets aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. The current string of bad play has bumped the Jackets to last in the Central, or tied for third depending on if your cup is half full or half empty. In the conference chart, the Jackets show up at 11th, tied with the same Preds and Blews that they are in the division, one point out of playoffs. For all intents and purposes, the Men of the Neon Bug are hanging in there. (Need to step up and take charge again, though.)

Next up on the thankful list is that Hitchcock has the guys believing in themselves and playing as a team. No more of guys taking themselves out of position and end up leaving gaping holes all over the defense. They believe in themselves, and that will carry them further than any Jacket team before them.

On the backend, Pascal Leclaire has given us plenty to be thankful for, too. Of late he's coming back to earth a bit, but,'s a long season. (Sorry.) Beyond his play, I'm pretty thankful that he's still healthy, as I'm sure he and his teammates are too.

Other random thankfulness things for Thanksgiving day:
  1. Rick Nash - [pick your own reason here, he's given a few hundred to choose from]
  2. The emergence of Zherdev.
  3. The fun of watching Jared Boll run into things.
  4. The pairing of Foote and Hejda shutting down most opponents.
But, still at the top of that list is that the Jackets are still in the thick of things, and ship off to Minny tomorrow night to see if they can take another step forward. Hopefully they do...and then the rest of Columbus takes notice and we can be thankful for a full barn again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

4 game skid

I'm not exactly ready to throw in the towel on the season after watching the Jackets drop four straight and earn one point out of the current run through the Central. However, I can't help but share a little concern with how they're going about it...

In Chicago: No fire at all, Blackhawks controlled the play for most of the game.

In Detroit: Detroit threw the classroom doors open and laid a beatdown on the Jackets.

In Nashville: Salvaged a point, but were lucky to get that point.

Home v. Nashville: "We secretly replaced the 07-08 Jackets with the 03-04 model...let's see if they notice."

The total lack of energy in all these games is what's disturbing. And it's not even the opponent getting the first goal and taking the wind out of our sails...there's no breeze available when the puck drops.

Early on, the Jackets were all over whoever the opponent was right away. The forecheck would be all over the place, turnovers were created, and scoring chances and goals resulted.

The last four games have been the opposite. The forecheck is coming from a few guys - notably Glencross and Chimera - but not everybody. There's no backcheck to speak of when just a few days ago we had guys streaking through the middle to get back in the play. Now we're seeing a lot of, "One of those guys will pick him up," type play.

Tonight against the Preds, however, an oldie but goodie reared its ugly head again...the no-look, "Oh, I hope somebody is there," chip pass. Usually, no, nobody was there...well, nobody with a Jackets jersey on, at least. The Preds and the occasional linesman were there, though. Biggest offenders were on the blue line, and Kris Russell reminded us all he was a rookie tonight with the no-look passes.

Special mention to Rusty Klesla on the evening for "Best impersonation of a turnstile by an NHL defenseman in a leading role."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Better on ice expansion...

As with the NHL, we saw fit to expand here at Better on Ice. I'm sure the debate will rage on if we expanded too much and diluted the talent, or if we expanded to poor markets. I think we can address those issues now.

Talent, well, probably not. I'd like to think I had talent to dilute, but I think the first two additions to the blog will add a little something. Zukes has already made himself known, and Sea should follow soon.

It is possible we expanded to the wrong markets...afterall I'm adding a Flames fan who lives in London and a Canucks fan who lives in Calgary. So, clearly we have some market identification issues.

But, the reasoning behind the expansion was to get some more voices on here. Some non-Blue Jacket voices at that. Get a little more overall hockey going, and I'm sure some good natured ribbing about the Flames and Canucks looking up the standings at the Jackets.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Welcome to me!

Tim has invited me, his Canadian, beer swilling, hockey-loving, Calgary Flame fan buddy to contribute to his blog. I'm sure there will be more of an introduction and a little more about myself in future posts, but let's get right to the meat.

The Flames play their biggest rival this Thursday, and no it is not the Edmonton Oilers, that would be Saturday. No, their biggest rival these days is the Vancouver Canucks. They have had epic playoffs series' (Flames have a 4-2 advantage in all-time playoff series) in the past and their regular season games these days are about as intense as they get in the NHL. This intensity carries over to the fans as you will see when another new blogger joins this site.

The reason for this carry over to the fans, in my opinion, is that Vancouver fans have an inferiority complex when it comes to the Calgary Flames. A brief history: Vancouver was the first of the two to make the Stanley Cup finals in 1982 but they were easily dispatched by the mighty New York Islanders. The Flames made it in 1986 and similarly were taken out my the Montreal Canadiens. The Flames, however, didn't fade away afterwards, they were 3rd overall the following season, behind the Stanley Cup finalists Edmontona and Philly and then 1st overall the following season. They did lose in the first and second round respectively but 1988-1989 brought another first overall, a first round thrilling win over the Canucks (likely still a sore spot for many Lotusland fans) and then the only Stanley Cup championship in either teams' history. (They won in 6 games over Montreal and are the only visiting team to ever win the Stanley Cup on Montreal Forum ice). Vancouver made it again in 1994 but lost to the Messier-led Rangers.

Fast forward through some down years for both teams and in 2004, the Flames had a solid defensive team that nobody wanted to play in the playoffs. All we heard from Canucks fans was how boring Calgary was and that they would be no match for the offensive minded Canucks. Once again, they met in the first round, and once again, the Flames prevailed in 7 thrilling games, going all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and winning.... had there been a video review in Game 6 against the Lightning. Alas, there wasn't and the Flames lost Game 7.

Anyway, Vancouver must have liked what they saw as they moved to the exact same style that Calgary employed, getting Roberto Luongo and adding defensive defenseman (credit where credit is due, they did a good job) at the expense of offense.

All this adds up to a constant back and forth between Flames and Canucks fans that is heated and at times downright nasty, but it makes for a great rivalry. As you will no doubt see in the next day or two when another blogger joins here, it is a friendly rivalry as well, however neither of us will pull punches or pass up a chance to rub the other guys' face in a loss, a bad play or anything else that we think will raise the blood pressure of each other.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Russell the Rookie

A lot of print has been devoted to Kris Russell, 3rd rounder in the '05 entry draft, and rightfully so. At roughly the same size as most of the JV players at Dublin Jerome, Russell isn't your typical imposing NHL defender. So, at 20 years old, what is he doing in the NHL?

Well, the kid can play hockey, and play it well. He moves the puck as well as any defenseman the Jackets have ever had on the roster. Some of his passes just make you ask, "How did that get through there?" And even lacking size, he's positionally sound on d...well, other than that one time he was out of position against Dallas.

The stats aren't glowing, he's got 2 points and is -1 (see: Out of position v. Dallas) through the first 10 games. A lot of what he's done in his first ten games in the league isn't showing up on the stat sheet so far...he's played solid d, but in the offensive zone he knows when to pinch and where. He had one rush where he just pulled away from everybody on the ice, then hit the post with his shot. He's set up Rick Nash with a pass through the crease, and he's shaken off checks from men 90 pounds heavier than him. So far, Kris Russell has made the decision to keep him seem like the right one.

On the flip side, Hitch has protected him so far, keeping his ice time under 15 minutes per game for the most part. In last Saturday's ugly-fest against the Sharks, Kris only had 11:16 of ice time, so when the game gets tight defensively, the rookie is going to sit. I think that's as much for his maturation process as it is for protection of the lead. Why throw the kids to the wolves when Rusty, Footer, and Hejda can eat the minutes and keep the puck out of our zone? No reason to pressure the kid too much.

But in the offensive zone, Russell has been a joy to watch so far. The speed and the hands have been a joy to watch so far. Sure, he's made his share of mistakes, he's still a rookie and has played all of 10 games so far, but he's still in there. I like what this kid brings to the table and can't wait to see more of it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Never Ending Shelley Discussion

With the Jackets off to their best start in team history, and fresh off a shellacking of the Hawks 7-4 last night (nice to see the offense show up), we turn our attention to everybody's favorite enforcer: Jody Shelley.

I usually don't spend a lot of time concerning myself with Jody, he's a great guy, a great team guy, a great leader in the room, but his ice time in the big picture of the NHL is roughly the same as taking a leak in the ocean. Don't get me wrong, I believe the enforcer still has a place in the NHL, although it is a diminishing role. Jody is a victim of that as much as he is a victim of his own lack of pure hockey skills. (Not a knock on the guy, but we're not kidding anybody...he's no Curtis Glencross.)

However, it seems in various forums Jody gets more discussion time and bandwidth that he does TOI in a month. The never ending he eating a roster spot? Should he be dressed at home to satisfy his fans? Is he a dinosaur? (My answers to those are no, no, and no. Jody is at least assured of sticking around until the next Avs game...he has a date with Scott Parker, I'm sure.)

But, every so often, Jody's role gets confused. And confused in a way that makes me think to myself, "We're still an expansion city..." The latest of this comes from fellow blogger Tyler over at The Jacket Times. Tyler stated the following yesterday, which prompted my own blog entry in a counter-point kind of way...
"Shelley first seemed doomed when Tollefsen has solidified his place on the Jackets squad, but matter have only gotten worse this season with youngster Jared Boll. Boll is a scrappy winger who can score in addition to throw punches."
Here's my issue with this: Tollefsen is a hard nosed defenseman who plays the body as well as anybody on the team who happens to drop 'em on occasion. Boll is an agitator at the core, not an enforcer in any way. Sure, Jared will throw a few punches, but usually in self-defense after blasting somebody. Neither of these guys fill Jody's role. Basically, being able to fight does not make somebody the heavyweight enforcer.

There are plenty of guys on the roster who have been known to throw the gloves off...Footer, Chimera, Malhotora, and even Rick Nash has been known to chuck'em. That doesn't make any of them worthy opponents for Boogaard, Parker, or Parros.

Now, I can definitely agree with Tyler that Jody's role is diminishing, as are the three guys named above. It's almost as if coaches are now baiting other teams to dress their enforcer so they can scratch their own and basically shorten the other bench by one player.

However, a couple guys on any roster that can fight doesn't mean they're fighters. We're not better off with OKT or Boll in the box for five minutes at a time, their primary role is clearly something else.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

So, what's changed?

Jackets go to Denver and lose.

Jackets get behind and lose interest.

Jackets get a powerplay and can't get the puck deeper than the face off circles.

With last night's outstanding game, I belive the Jackets record against the Avs stands at 1-2,346-1. Put Avs jerseys on the boys that play hockey at Notre Dame and they'd beat the Jackets by 2.

Beyond the obvious "we can't beat the Avs ever" whining, what else was that? There was no energy like there was the three previous games. The forecheck apparently stayed in Columbus. The penalty kill started well, then acted like the rest of the Jackets game and fell apart at the seams.

Now, going forward I think Hitch will chew enough ass to get the ship righted. I doubt we see two games in a row like that, and hopefully don't see another game with that much disinterest out of the Jackets the rest of the season. But I'm beyond tired of losing to the Avs...the boys in blue need to step up and punch the Avs in the mouth the next time and take the game to them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Observations from the Phoenix game

Off the top, Shane Doan is a douche. Mr. Doan ranks at the top of my wife's most hated player list - God bless her - and he lived up to her low expectations right away with the cheap shot on Vyborny. Thankfully she was at home watching, so a very limited number of people heard the string of expletives. (And Alex's pre-school friends may learn some new words tomorrow.) After said cheap shot, enter Jared Boll.

Jared fears nothing, least of all Shane Doan and his hit-from-behind tatics. Whether by design or not, Boll and Doan ended up on the ice together about three shifts later...and Jared got a run on Doan, which he put to good use. Later in the shift he tried again, but Doan had a little something in the way of a shoulder for him...the homer in me says the second meeting was a draw.

At the start of camp nobody expects him to stick on the roster into the regular season, and last night he's netting his first goal roaring in on a breakaway. He also got 5 for fighting, so he was an assist away from the famed Gordie Howe hat trick. We'll give him a nod for planting Doan in lieu of the assist.

As for the rest of the Jackets, they were again spotted giving their opponent very little breathing room for most of the game. They forced turnovers, cycled the puck deep, made solid breakout passes, and continued the instant backcheck when losing possession. The last 8 or so minutes of the second period I could have done without, but they righted the ship and poured it on the Yotes in the third period.

So, through three games I like what I'm seeing, my question remains can they sustain it? Beyond that, what injuries can they weather without falling off too far? I like the intensity, the forecheck, the backcheck, and the overall "in your face" type game. I think it'll carry the Jackets further than we've seen in Columbus, but I don't know if it'll be enough. Fingers crossed...

Individual player notes...

Peca - good to finally see him on the ice. Even with his ice time limited, he was a noticeable factor in the game, and was inches from a rebound put-back from having his first goal as a Jacket last night. He shook off the slapshot he blocked, which I think caused more than one gasp in the arena.

Nash - the kid is a monster. Does what he wants, when he wants. Combine him with Modin, and there's a tandem with enough size to scare any defensive paring in the league. Last night they cycled low often, and effectively. Give them a few games together, and it'll turn into goals.

Russell - I like what I'm seeing, but you can see a bit of hesitation in his step. That hesitation has lead to his very limited number of mistakes. The more ice time this kid gets, the more confidence he'll play with. By Christmas we'll forget he's a rookie...maybe by Halloween.

Zherdev - through three games, he might have been our best overall player on the ice. His backchecking has been relentless, and even though he's still not making some passes he should make, he's passing more. Once he makes some of those passes, the ice will open up more for him. I like what I've seen out of Nikki so far.

Too bad we have to wait until Saturday for the next game...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

First weekend out of the way

The Jackets got through the opening weekend back to back with a 1-1 record. Opening night was impressive, while the trip to Minny not so much. It wasn't an ugly, cower in the corner performance, but it was a loss. Minny is a pretty good team, though, and very quick to make a turnover into a scoring chance. The Jackets could have won the game, but they'll need to take better care of the puck through the middle of the ice.

On the upside, the Jackets power play is clicking at 30.8%...50% on the road, thanks to the Wild committing two penalties during the game and the Jackets cashing in on the first one. To go with that power play is a kill that has yet to yield a goal and has scored a goal. Granted, it's only two games, but it's looked pretty strong so far.

Now for a couple days break to prepare for Phoenix to come to town. A few questions come to mind before the Yotes get here: Will we continue to go with 7 defenseman, 11 forward line-up or does Jody get a start? Will Nash get off his one game scoreless streak and find the net again?

Friday, October 05, 2007

What was THAT??!!??

OK, Jacket Fan, we were shown something entirely different than we're used to tonight. We saw a team totally dismantle another team, and the Jackets did the dismantling. It was amazing. It's tough to not get mildly excited by that.

The checking was great. The back check was excellent, and instant. As soon as the Jackets lost the puck, the back check was on, and forced more than one turnover. The forecheck was solid, too. At times in the game, Anaheim tried to take control but couldn't. And the frustration mounted.

I didn't see the Boll elbow, but can't think it was very good. I like what Jared brings to the table, but keep the elbows down kid. We don't need a Steve Downey on our hands...

Other notes: Apparently this Nash kid can play a little hockey. Russell looked excellent in his NHL debut. Lost in all the play by the forwards and defenseman was Leclaire's shutout...he didn't have a lot of work, but he did the job when asked.

I can't wait to see what happens in Minnesota tomorrow night, now...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Roster being pared down

According to the Puck Rakers blog, Derrick Brassard has been sent to Syracuse. I like the idea, give the kid some ice time. He got his taste of the NHL, and will likely get a call-up during the season, but by sending him down with the #1 center spot still up in the air you're basically saying, "Not yet, kid, go work your butt off."

In the past, Brassard may have hung around a few games, or the whole season. May have been touted pretty hard to be the #1 center, and to be honest the kid might have the skills to pull that off during camp. But, we don't want Derrick Brassard to be a work-in-progress #1 center of right now, we want him to be the definite #1 center in the years to come. So, off to the AHL to hone those skills...welcome to the new regime.

For the hypocritical flip-flop, it appears Kris Russell is here to stay on the blue line. I wish I had seen more of him in the pre-season than I did, but all accounts in the paper and online are that he may have been the best defenseman overall in training camp. That's a pretty strong vote of "keeper." Of course, if he gets overwhelmed, the opportunity to send him to the Crunch still remains, but I'm guessing he doesn't get overwhelmed.

So, six days from training camp, everything appears to be shaping up nicely. Jared Boll is still in camp, and rightfully so. The whole #1 center mess continues to rear its ugly head, and the current center du jour is, OK. If the roster as it stands can get off to a good start, the inevitable return of Foote, Modin, and Peca should make it better.

I hope...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Training camp, day 2

"Just because the Goddamn puck comes out doesn't mean we quit playing! We go 'til the whistle!"
-Ken Hitchcock
Those words were after about 7 guys stopped skating when the puck came out of the zone. Hitch wasn't red faced, but the offenders took notice and didn't make the same mistake again. Neither did any of the other guys on the ice at the time.

And, those words describe pretty much the feel to training camp today...don't quit playing. It was up tempo, there was hitting, there was crisp passing, there was an all around workmanlike aspect to it. There's no loafing, not half-assing things. It doesn't mean this team is automatically playoff bound, but I think it does mean a change in attitude is already here.

I got to the Ice Haus at 9am today, so I saw all of Team White. Left a little before noon, so I saw about half of Team Blue. (Training camp roster.)

From Team White, a few impressions...

Derick Brassard is impressive. His skating is second to none, he's bulked up a little since we last saw him in Nationwide, and he's got a few skills. He left Fedorov flat footed on a move across the zone one time that raised a couple oohs. He looked pretty comfortable on the ice, too. He was skating with Chimera and Jiri Novotny, so no lack of speed in those three.

Chris Russell looked pretty solid. He's not real big, but he's never out of position and he's strong with the puck. Like to see a little more of him before saying he's awesome, but he looked pretty good.

Marc Methot was solid. He smoked a couple guys at the blue line, never backed down from anybody, and knocked Shelley off the puck a couple times. (No, Jody didn't just lose the puck, Methot removed him from it.) I was impressed overall by Marc's practice.

Gilbert I want this kid to step up, but I didn't see it this morning. He almost looks tentative, like he doesn't want to make a mistake. So he's skating 95% when he needs to be going full speed. On the upside, when they were cutting the ice, he went up to Feds and asked a few questions, and Fedorov provided plenty of feedback. They skated on the same line during practice, and when they weren't skating, you could see Feds pointing things out to Brule.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has picked up right where he left off. If there was a loud "BOOM!" from the boards, he was usually on the giving end of it. He gave no ground in his own zone, and was consistently the best defenseman in the group. Like to see him paired up with Russell for a pre-season game.

Chris Mason is going to make a lot of people in London smile this year. He flashed the glove a couple of times to snag pucks behind him, one got stick taps from his teammates while the crowd gave him a cheer.

Adam Foote left the ice early in the session. No word on what happened, he just kind of disappeared between drills.

From Team Blue, a few impressions...

The Nash-Zherdev-Vyborny experiment is beyond intriguing, I'm almost hoping it becomes a reality. These three were all over the place when they were out there together. If one of them can win face-offs, it could be interesting.

Rick Nash is as large as I've seen him. He was impressive all over the ice, but especially in front of the net. He had two or three different moves in one-on-one drills that crossed up the defenseman. At least one spin move that got a cheer out of the crowd, and an over all bull-in-a-china-shop approach to offense.

Geoff Platt kind of stood out, for his feet of course. I'm just amazed by how fast this guy is every time I see him.

I didn't see more of the team drills of this group as I had to leave, so not much more on the individuals. To be honest, I was pretty much focused on Nash, which was entertaining all by itself...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Training camp opens

...and I've got NOTHING.

Didn't make it to the Ice Haus at all today, might not even make it tomorrow. It's possible my first look at the 07-08 Blue Jackets will be Sunday night against the Preds. Not a bad thing, but I'd like to catch them sooner.

Off to feeling shame for not making day 1...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Center of attention

The Dispatch gave us a great summertime article this past Sunday about all the fun that's about to happen at center. Svitov out, Peca in. Feds still here. Brule and Brassard as unknowns. Fritsche getting another shot in the middle. Seems the only thing for sure is Malhotra has the fourth line spot nailed down. (It's his to lose.)

Want to toss some more fuel on the fire? What the heck...

I've heard this little nugget from a few different people, people that don't even know each other so they have no reason to have shared said info. But, rumor has it one Nikolai Zherdev might get a look at center during training camp and into pre-season. Raised my eyebrows the first time I heard it.

Guess with no true, clear cut #1 center, may as well give the kid a'll give him a few more responsibilities to not do. Or, maybe he'll sack up and be a solid center. No doubt he's got the hands for it, just have to see if he has the defense for it. And the, um, head for it.

So, it sounds like a little experiment could be in place...or maybe not. Brule and/or Brassard could render the experiment moot if they drop some jaws. Worst case is still Fedorov on the top line, there are worse options. Though, if somebody can supplant him on the top line, we suddenly have Fedorov and Peca in the middle of lines 2 and 3. Modin with Feds and Chimera with Peca should provide some pretty good defense and some scoring punch.

Has training camp opened yet??

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dinner with my source...

As some of my more loyal readers - both of them - may know, I play a little beer league hockey with a guy who works for the Jackets. To protect the innocent we'll refer to him only as Nikolai, because on the beer league ice he is the toe drag.

So, Nikolai has returned from his summer vacation, well somewhere north of Buffalo. He's been back for a few days and is hard at work under Hitchcock's watchful eye. Yup, those stories in the Dispatch are true, the coaches are at it. (And apparently, if you're a Hitch stalker, your best chance to catch him is at Mega Wrap on Front...sit back and wait, he'll get the tuna wrap. Seriously, a dude that big I thought FOR SURE would have better taste in food.)

So, here's my evening with Nikolai. The fact that we dubbed dear Nikolai "The worst inside source in the history of sports" last year should not be overlooked...

TW: So, Nikki, how was the summer?
Nikolai: Pretty good. I drank a lot of beer. Mrs Nikolai was OK with that, who am I to let her down?

TW: This is your first year without Doug, how's it going so far?
N: Doug's gone? Oh yeah...sorry, I met that Scott guy once, figured he was just a puppet for Doug. Doug's gone, really? Wow, could be an interesting year.

TW: You gonna miss Svitov?
N: Who? Svitargh? Oh, the guy that got replaced by Peca this afternoon? No, not going to miss him. Excited about Peca, though. Dude makes a mean appletini.

TW: How's Nash looking?
N: The Nash kid has got a good chance of making the squad out of training camp. Real good chance.

TW: I'm hearing good things about Kris Russell, what have you got?
N: Oh, he's got the tools, weighs 124 pounds soaking wet, though. Hopefully we send him to Syracuse...he can get a few games in before Duvie gets hurt.

TW: So, overall, you like our chances this season?
N: As sick as it sounds, yeah, I like our chances. I'm a bit biased, but I could see us making a nice run this season.

That was this evening's beer and wings with Nikki. Look forward to more non-information as the season progresses.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No mo Svitov, replaced with Peca?

The end of the Sydor experiment seems to have arrived with Alexander Svitov opting to stay in Russia, apparently forever. On the one hand, losing Svitov creates a crunch at center where the Jackets lack of depth just got exacerbated by losing one of the more highly regarded guys for the upcoming season.

On the other hand, it appears this has created a buying opportunity for Howson and Co. The list it topped by Michael Peca, who has made the Dispatch both yesterday and today. It appears it's the Jackets v. the Rangers for the services of Mr. Peca. As luck would have it, the Rangers are up against the salary cap, so the cap could come into play for this signing.

There are a few other options out there, all of the older, late in the UFA season variety. But, Peca and Howson were together for the Oiler's run to the finals a couple seasons ago, and that can't hurt the Jackets chances. And it can't possibly go worse than signing Carter last year, can it?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oh how I've missed Doug

Of relative importance to us here in Jacketland is that Doug MacLean has landed on his feet and taken a minor ownership role in Tampa. I read that the other day, and thought that it was good that he was right back into the NHL in some manner. After all, his passion for the game is undeniable, and having him in the league is probably a good thing. Well, it's at least no worse than Brian Burke pouting about the rules.

Then Doug gives his welcome speech and proclaims that he didn't like the Blue Jackets payroll last season, insinuating that somehow he didn't have the tools to get it done. Since he didn't have the resources, he lost his job. Because of that one season where his payroll was low, he was handcuffed to make any moves and was subsequently shown the door. Whether the payroll was 28th in the league according to Doug, or 24th in the league according to the cap and Aaron Portzline doesn't really matter, it was easily in the bottom third of the league, and Doug was powerless to do anything about it.

My grandad would have been thrilled to spread a load of such high grade fertilizer on his fields back when he was farming. Using Doug grade manure, grandad would have grown enough corn to solve the both the worlds hunger problems and produced enough ethonol to put the Middle East out of business. Where was Doug when grandad needed him?

Back to Doug...a couple minor discrepancies I'd like to point out in Doug's theory...

1) While in a contract dispute with Nikoali Zherdev, the payroll was pretty easily upped to land Anson Carter. Anson was a real steal, and even though I argued in his favor...well, I was an idiot. What a piece of crap, but the point here is Doug had the money to go get him.

2) After landing said POS on the wing, Doug then threw more money at Zherdev. So, after expanding the payroll by Anson Carter, he got to add to it more than he'd anticipated with Zherdev.

3) How much does Sergei Fedorov make? No, Doug didn't sign that one, but he traded for it, and it upped his payroll just a smidge.

4) Adam Foote.

OK, with those minor points out of the way we can get down to some other things that Doug may want to consider. Not the least of which is that he had 6 years to make something work in Columbus, not one season with a low payroll. He had 7 drafts in which to build the team, and although a couple reasonable guys were landed, a couple of real question marks were as well. Look no further than Zherdev for the first head scratcher. Vanek, Phaneuf, and Suter may have been decent selections that year, Doug.

Here's what really irks me...I went to bat for this guy online for quite a while, right up until I got sick of his BS about last November. I'm fairly patient with my sports teams - I'm a Reds and Bears fan after all - and my patience ran out with Doug. So, after years of standing up for him, supporting his decisions, and even seeing the upside in most of the moves, he turns and stabs me and the rest of the Jacket fans right in the back in his first press conference. He may as well have just opened with, "I hate Columbus because I got fired there," and ran with it.

I thank Doug for all he did on the local hockey landscape. He did a lot of things for the sport at the grassroots level here. However, he had the only hand in building the Jackets, and it's not his fault that they didn't succeed in 6 seasons? Somewhere grandad's manure spreader is weeping for just hauling regular ol'bullshit all those years...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Nashville Recap

I did have a little free time over the weekend, but honestly didn't feel like blogging between games. So, now that things are over and I've made it home...

Once again, we didn't get to play in the extra game. In three trips south, I've yet to see the championship game, we always fall a couple goals short.

After winning our first game, we got blown out in our second game by a team from Windsor. This was one heck of a team, they moved the puck so well and found the open man a lot. After facing 6 shots in our first game, Paulie faced 6 shots before we made it to our offensive zone in the second game. He got his money's worth out that one. But, the guys from Windsor were a good bunch to play against, even while whooping us. A bit of an intra-squad dust up made the post game interesting, but aside from that we looked forward to getting into the third game with a good chance of getting to the finals.

In the third game, we took the first 8 or so minutes off...and were down 3 goals quickly. We were playing the Stars from Alabama, the third straight year we've played them, and it was another good, hard played game. We managed to get within a goal at 4-3 late in the game on a great "Rogers family" tic-tac-toe goal.

With about 5 minutes left, the Stars changed goalies, which technically isn't allowed under tournament rules. However, their starter was hurt, and we're there for the fun of the tournament, I didn't really want them to put the injured guy back in, so I said OK to the sub goalie. Besides, we'd gotten 9 or so past him the night before.

We didn't get another goal, though. We stacked the lines and pulled the goalie, but to no avail. They ended up scoring a power play goal with about 3 minutes to go, so the final score was 5-3.

Now on to the important stuff...where we did our drinking...

First stop on Friday night was at the Flying Saucer, home of 80 beers on tap and 200 plus beers on the 4 page menu. They have the UFO Club, where you get a saucer on the "Ring of fame" around the top of the restaurant for drinking 200 different beers. Similar to the Winking Lizard's "Beers Around the World" except there's no time limit at the Flying Saucer. I didn't sign up for it, though was quite tempted. Maybe next time...means I'll have to drink the same three beers I had Friday again. Bummer. (Those three being the Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Anchor Steam (both on tap) and a Stella.)

After the Flying Saucer, we headed to a small strip of bars on Donnebrun street that was recommended by our waitress. Turns out our college age waitress sent us to a strip of college bars. We ended up at bar named Dan McGuiness, and was the first Irish pub I'd been to that didn't really fit the pub least in its patrons. But, they had beer on tap, so we sat in the back and watched the Rogers boys work their magic with the ladies. That in and of itself was rather entertaining.

Saturday night, we started by getting our free 10oz domestic draft beer at Logan's steakhouse near the rink. Following that, we headed downtown for the evening. Bill and Fish scouted ahead for a place to eat, and wound up at Bailey's sports bar. Bailey's is the home of the infamous $11 beer from my first visit to Nashville back in '03 for the Jacket Backers road trip. This time I didn't order a Sam Smith's IPA, but rather got two 26oz Leinie's honey wheat beers. And a black and bleu burger.

Following dinner, it was off to the Fiddle and Steel once again. As always, it didn't disappoint. Reasonably priced beers brought promptly by the waitress while we took in the music. The beauty of the Fiddle and Steel is in its simplicity. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than a bar with a stage, and I love it.

So, another successful trip to Nashville. Hockey was played, beer was consumed, and it was an all around good time. Already looking forward to next year.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Country Classic in Nashville

Every summer a group of us heads to Nashville to play in an adult tournament. This is the weekend for it, and we're one game into the tournament so far. We managed to win our first one, and it was pretty much a blow out. They don't show any more than a four goal lead on the scoreboard, so it said 5-1 for a long time. I think we scored closer to 9 goals, but it doesn't matter. I did manage to get my first goal in three trips south.

Now with the hockey out of the way we can concentrate on the reason we drive down...the drinking. First stop is the Flying Saucer, where they have 80 different beers on tap. After that, who knows. We'll be at Printers Alley at some point, but not sure if it'll be tonight.

We've got a decent break tomorrow, so hopefully I can get a few more updates in.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Old NHL back or not?

After the smoke cleared last Sunday night, many a media pundit was touting that the old NHL had returned. That because the Rangers, Avs, and Flyers landed big name, big dollar free agents that the big markets had returned with a vengence. The "small" market teams on either side of Manhattan from the Rangers weren't spending much, and were getting taken apart pretty much. That didn't seem to matter to the ones writing the articles, though. The Wings dipped into the UFA pool for one big signing, didn't seem to matter to "them," though. The Leafs, well, didn't matter to "them" for all their "Old NHL is BACK!" articles.

Then it happened. July 6th the traditional big market, "buy up all the talent we can" Edmonton Oilers made a $50 million, 7 year offer sheet to Thomas Vanek. Vanek's current employer, the big spending, money is no object Buffalo Sabres matched the deal, there by locking up Vanek for 7 years.

No Rangers, no Wings, no Stars, no Avs, no no articles about how the system is broken and the small markets will once again be shut out. Kevin Lowe may not have made the brightest move in the world, and may have irked every team in the league in the process, but he also didn't fit popular opinion very well. Nary an article about how the big spending Oilers were screwing up the league. Nothing about the big market Sabres returning spending to its pre-lockout levels. Come on, guys, where are your panic inducing columns?

Will the deal handcuff the Sabres for the next 7 years? It certainly won't help them, especially with the annual salary cap rise. I don't think the market size is the big player here as much as raising the cap beyond a number of teams' budgets every year. The cap will keep one or two markets from snapping up all the high dollar talent, but the league is going to have some explaining to do if they continually claim higher revenues when you see tons of empty seats in a number of markets and know there's no TV deal to speak of. The resurgence of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar has helped, but even that's not going to continue forever.

All in all, I'm willing to give the New NHL another season or two before calling it dead and burned in a pile of money in Madison Square Garden. These long term, front loaded deals might not work as well as planned. Even with a higher cap, planning ahead and drafting will is still going to be the key to winning for more than one season. And who knows, the big money Flames might make an offer sheet to Sidney Crosby that the big spending Pens will have to match...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Howson is the one

So, according to the Dispatch, the Jackets have hired Scott Howson to be the next GM of the Jackets. Unless Scott pulls himself out of the race in the next 24 hours, it looks like he's the man in the chair.

Personally, I think it's great. I don't have a huge bit of comparing to do of Bob Murray v. Scott Howson. But, I have this: Howson has spent the last 7 years in Edmonton, the poster child for small market NHL teams who seem to win more often than they lose. Bring that small market talent to Columbus, a mid-market team who needs a few wins to stretch that to upper mid-market team and we could have something here. With Priest watching the books and Howson stretching a dime, the Jackets could prove to be a major pain in the ass for Cup runs in the coming seasons.

Will it happen this season? I'm not hanging my hat on it, there are some pretty big holes in the roster. A full season of Hitch is a good thing, but is that enough? There will be improvements over last season's roster, I'm sure, but good enough for the 23 point jump needed to get to the playoffs? 12 wins? We'll see...

For now, I'm glad the GM search is over, and I do like the idea of Howson at the helm. He's an up and comer with front office experience, and decent experience at that. The draft will be his first big item...and it's in his new backyard. Can't wait.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Hockey Gods

We've all heard about or referenced the Hockey Gods at some point. For the most part, the Hockey Gods see that things go evenly over the course of time. Hockey Karma, if you will.

Well, the Hockey Gods have a little work to do in the future. I'm usually not one to blog about the beer leagues, or even worse complain about beer league officiating. After all, beer league refs go to jobs the next day like the players do. Tonight, however, the Hockey Gods are not smiling...

In our league there is a rule that a player can score at most 3 goals in any one game. After the third goal, the player's goal won't count. The purpose of the rule is to keep upper tier players from playing down and scoring all they can to help their teams win.

So, this evening's game in the beer league got a bit interesting. There was a certain player on the other team...well call him "Douche"...that was at least a league above, probably two. Douche scored the first three goals for his team, two breakaways and a cross crease tap-in. The game was 3-3 after said tap-in, but now he's done scoring. He had three breakaways after that, we backed off because he couldn't score. He knew it, didn't even bother shooting on two of them and put the puck off the side of the net on the third. Even better, after scoring his third goal Douche was taking the face-off when one of his teammates said that he couldn't score any more. He replied, "I know, but I'll keep shooting for rebounds, go to the net." Fair enough, I thought.

Well, late in the game, we have a 5-4 lead after a great put back by Zach. There was less than a minute left. Douche's team calls time out and pulls the goalie. 20 seconds later, Douche scores and all hell breaks loose...

The refs check the scorebook, they credited his third goal to the wrong player. Apparently during the time out Douche's team checked on that, so when he scored, all was well with them.

But, here's the thing...Douche grew up next to one of the guys on our team, and wouldn't even look him in the eye after it was all going on. There was a huge argument, as you can expect, that included our goalie telling the ref's each puck he stopped and didn't stop. The scorekeeper or the ref screwed up earlier, and that was OK with Douche's team because they had just tied it up. Even though everybody in the rink KNEW he had three goals, they allowed the fourth to stand and sent the game to OT.

In the mess, we drew a couple penalties for various expletives, so we ended up losing the game in OT...but did we lose? We played by the rules and attempted to have said rules enforced and were thrown in the box because of it. We had a guy with three goals, he made passes the rest of the game, set people up, and had he put an fourth in would have said, "Hey, that was my fourth one."

So, somewhere Douche is happy with himself for winning a beer league game by breaking the rules. Good for him...but the Hockey Gods will likely set it straight, and at a time he least expects it.

The best part, even if it works out for them, the most they get is a t-shirt. I know I want to cheat for that $10 t-shirt...nice work Douche and Co.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ducks go up 2-0

Ducks just won 1-0 to take a 2-0 series lead on the Sens, and on the heels of my last post I'm on the edge of my seat to see the excuses flow tomorrow on why the Sens lost. (Rather than why the Ducks won.)

My own opinion is that the mighty Sens offense has been dismantled thus far. They got off a very Jacket-esque 16 shots for the game, 5 in the oh-so-important 3rd period. Prior to the Ducks goal, the Sens had 3 shots in the down a goal and staring a 2 game deficit in the face they mustered 2 shots on net. I'd be intrigued to see scoring chances, because they had more than two chances with Emery pulled. But, either way, 16 shots in the Stanley Cup finals out of a team with a downright scary offense is impressive...for the Ducks, that is.

The Ducks once again outhit the Sens, 36-28 this time. The forecheck came to life, and the forced turnovers were once again a big factor. Gotta hand it to Heatley, Pahlsson was wide open for the pass he gave him. (And then Sammy finishing by sending between the wickets of a defenseman...impressive.) So, the Ducks checking line nets the game winner again. This checking line is making a name for itself, and as much for the scoring as for the shutting down of the Sens big line.

On to game 3 in the Great White North. Unfortunately, I'll be flying over the Great White North on my way to Alaska during game 3, so I'll miss it. Not sure Mom has a DVR, either. Doesn't matter...we don't land until 4am EDT, I probably won't be much in the mood to watch the game at that point.

Any more excuses for the Sens?

Game 2 is about to start, so I'm a little behind on my game 1 thoughts, but I needed a couple days to get all the excuses out of our friends to the north...

If you're a hockey fan, then you know 90% of your news comes from Canada. With a Canadian team in the finals, that media is going to slant to said Canadian team. (No real shock there...unless you're Damien Cox, I guess.)

So, in the last two days, here's what I learned about game 1:
  • The Ducks have re-introduced obstruction to the game, and the New NHL turned a blind eye to it. (0 interference calls were made on the Ducks, 1 on the Senators. Interesting...)
  • When the Ducks weren't keeping the Sens out of the offensive zone, they were running Ray Emery. Goalie contact this season isn't a new gripe, but if the puck is free, the guys pursuing it are going to pursue it pretty hard.
  • And the latest entry in the Sens downfall...Bad Ice. Excellent!
In the Game 1 I watched, I saw the Sens jump out to an early lead on a power play. I saw the Ducks not panic, and then watched them step up the pressure. The forecheck was a thing of beauty as the game wore on. The Sens capitalized on another power play opportunity (they're going to get a few), and the Ducks again didn't panic. The forecheck continued, and the checking line of Moen, Neidermeyer, Pahlsson did an outstanding job at both ends of the ice.

I didn't see the obstruction, I saw the Ducks beating the Sens to a lot of pucks. I did notice a lot of action around and on top of Emery, but the puck spent a lot of time in that end of the ice. I didn't notice bad ice, but as it turns out both teams played on the same sheet of ice.

Here's to a great Game 2, hopefully every bit as great as Game 1. And if the Ducks win, I can hardly wait for the excuse parade on why the Sens lost rather than why the Ducks won.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Finals are Finally underway

Our Super Bowl-esque wait between the conference finals and Stanley Cup Finals is over. In that time we've learned that all of Canada is behind Ottawa...well, duh. Wonder how long it took some "pundits" to figure that one out?

So, now that they're here, a couple of notes offf the top...
  • Ottawa did manage to find their way to California. That was in question, I believe.
  • Steven Stills was an embarrassment to the anthem, and by extension all of America.
  • Whitney Houston's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner can't hold a candle to Rosanne Barr HUMMING Oh, Canada. Greatest anthem ever. (And I can't wait to hear it in Ottawa...half English, half French, sang by the entire crowd...great stuff.)
  • Ottawa's power play still works...1-0 Sens as I type.
Here's to a good final. Here's to more stories about how it's ignored in the US. While the "pundits" whine about the NHL's TV ratings, they'll likely forget to look up that the NHL ratings are steady while the NBA's ratings are in a double digit free-fall. That's OK. I'm watching, and that's all that matters in my house.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

And the list is four...

According to the Dispatch tonight, the Jackets have narrowed the GM field to four. Jim Clark, Don Boyd, Neil Smith, and Bob Murray.

Clark and Boyd are already on the staff, so I'm not so hip to them getting a promotion. Though, without Doug lording over them I'm sure they have ideas of their own that could be worthwhile. However, I'm not all that anxious to go down the rookie GM route again, and both these guys would be rookies in the truest sense of the word, with a good bit of their recent experience watching another rookie GM try (and fail) at building an NHL team from scratch. And, as mentioned in the paper, Boyd is our amateur draft expert...not liking that as the biggest feather in his cap. (I know hindsight is 20/20, but raise your hand if you'd like to have Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, or Ryan Suter in a Jackets uni. Those were the next three picks after Zherdev.)

Neil Smith intrigues me. This is the guy that build the '94 Cup team in New York, and was the guy that held the GM position for 3 hours on The Island this past summer before Garth Snow took over. Smith ran into some issues with the Rangers when he ran out of prospects and started buying up all the talent he could, which lead to his demise in 2000. In cap-ville, that landscape has changed. So, for all intents and purposes, Neil has yet to GM a team since the Jackets have been in the league.

Bob Murray seems to be the shooting star of the moment. He's currently hitched to the Ducks playoff run as VP of Hockey Operations where he oversees all aspects of player development...given the age of the Jackets roster, player development is in dire need here. He did have a short stint in Chicago as GM. And, let's be honest, what's a GM in Chicago really do except try to retain guys with the belly button lint and pesos he's given by Wirtz.

In all honesty, I think we're down to Murray and Smith, either of which would be a step in the right direction for this franchise. Personally, I'd like to see us get Murray. Then again, I wanted Andy Murray as coach back in November, so maybe I just want somebody named Murray involved. Is Anne Murray available to sing the anthem(s) next year?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No more Nashville

Doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that Jim Balsillie is buying the Preds for one reason - move them to the Great White North. That's why he went after the Pens, and when that fell through, up step the Predators...owners of three straight playoff trips, and the 22nd best attendance in the league.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Nashville and attending hockey games there. I've been to two playoff games, two regular season games, the '03 draft, and our annual pilgrimage for the Country Classic in August. There's a lot to do in Nashville beyond the game, so it makes for a great road trip, especially considering it's within six hours of Columbus.

But, it looks like my days to make trips down for NHL hockey are officially numbered, and that number might be less than 365. The good folks of Nashville, the die hards that do the fang fingers for every power play, have done their part. However, the corporate support isn't there. From some of Leipold's letter to the fans of Nashville posted in Spector's Blog, corporate support is around 35% for the Preds. The average in the other NHL markets puts corporate support at 60%. My guess is that the corporations of Nashville are all too willing to throw some money towards the Titans, but when it comes time to pony up for the Preds they tighten the purse strings.

The Preds have had 10 years to develop a fan base. Seems that the individual fans are doing OK. From speaking to some people while I was down there in April, the youth leagues and adult leagues are growing, like they should after people get introduced to the beauty of the sport. So, the grassroots part of building a market is underway, but the corporate dollar isn't. In the current NHL landscape, that's no way to keep your franchise.

So, the Preds will most likely move north of the border where the team will be embraced by legions of hockey fans and the victims of the move will be the fans in Nashville who have followed the team this far. They suffered through the early years of expansion and finally got to the playoffs a year ahead of the lockout. The lockout probably did a good job of killing the momentum in Nashville, not to mention putting an end to Wolfy's outstanding chili-cheeseburger.

For Leipold, who's done his best to garner support and money for his team and make it flourish in the South, it's time to cut bait or fish...and his line's been in the water for about 10 years now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Down go the Wings

I had started to mellow towards the Wings as the playoffs went along. I started to marvel at how these guys were just totally dominating teams that should have been beating them. I was enjoying watching them move the puck with precision accuracy and then somebody on the other team having to make an amazing play to keep the puck out of the net. Now, I hadn't stopped hoping they'd lose, I haven't gone THAT soft, but I was starting to warm to the fact that watching them in the finals and maybe even win the Cup wouldn't be so bad. And then it happened...

Wings Fan showed up.

If you live in an NHL city that's not Detroit, you've met Wings Fan. Good chance you loath Wings Fan. He/she is usually loud, usually very quick to gloat about the Wings history since 1997, and will give the confused-dog-head-tilt if you say, "Remember the 80's?" Locally, they are especially annoying because their quickest defense is, "Heh, Blue Jackets...what have they done? Made the playoffs yet?" The rigors of expansion is lost on the guy/girl because, well, they can't remember the 80s. (Then again, maybe being the 1/30th of the league that has never made the playoffs...oh, never mind.) Anyway, in most circles, this person would be known as a bandwagoner, but since the Wings bandwagon started filling up about 10 years ago, he's had a long enough ride to consider himself a die-hard.

Following my weekly Tuesday beer league game, we headed to BWs in Crosswoods for some wings and beer and to take in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. BWs has been kind enough to put the hockey game on at least two big screens, so it's kinda like we have a local NHL team or something.

Anyway, the Wings score to make it 3-1, a few cheers go up at various tables. No biggie. Then the Ducks score to make it 4-1, and a rather large cheer went up at our table. That's when Wings Fan started in...

One member of our team was born and raised in Boston. Still has the Boston accent, typically yells "RED SOX NATION" at the top of his lungs upon seeing them on TV, and is still a die-hard Broons fan. He'll attend Jacket games for fun, but he's a Broons fan to the core. We'll call this guy "Chowd." THIS is the guy that Wings Fan decided to pick on.

I didn't catch the whole exchange, I heard Wings Fan say something to Chowd after the goal, and Chowd just kind of chuckled and said, "Well, I want to see the Wings lose."

Wings Fan (with big grin): "Why? Are you a Blue Jackets fan?"

Chowd: "Um, no, I'm from Boston." (No grin involved in the retort.)

Wings Fan: [silence]

Dude had nothing in return. His prepared Captain Obvious jab at the Jackets was shot down before he had the chance to bring it out. He had nothing for a Bruins fan. The team had as much history as his. Since he can't remember the 80s, the whole Original Six thing is lost on him past, "Hey, the Wings are an Original Six team!"

Since all Chowd got was silence, that's when the grin started to grow on his face.

So, to close out the evening, the Wings made a game of it, Wings Fan cheered some more, but he left Broons fan alone. But in the end, the Wings fell short, and were bounced from the playoffs. And for his efforts at BWs that night, Chowd gave him a parting gift, "Hey, ya go."

[hands Wings Fan an official Buffalo Wild Wings napkin]

"That should help dry ya teahs." [Boston cackle]

Saturday, May 19, 2007

NBC Goes to the Preakness

The inevitable happened on NBC today, they had something more important to shift their attention away from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's not all that big of a shock, afterall this is America where our networks are scared to death of putting a hockey game on after 7PM on a weekend for fear somebody will tune in. And, the Triple Crown is a big deal, I'll give them that. However, over an hour of pre-race coverage is NOT that big of a deal.

The odds on favorite for the Preakness every year is the Derby winner. There has been two weeks of feel good stories about Street Sense and his jockey. Odds updates? Who cares if you're not at the track? So, that's what NBC thought would be better than completing OT? In the world of ratings, which drives everything TV, I'm sure the Preakness would get better ratings than OT of the Sens-Sabres...meaning the actual Preakness itself. Spare me the pre-race stuff, at least finish the OT then shift it off to Versus. There's no time commitment to getting to the Preakness coverage at 5PM for a race who's post time is about 6:10PM.

Or, here's an alternate thought, and one that would have all of Canada cheering...put the game on at night, AFTER the Preakness. There's really very little threat of the Preakness needing overtime...or extra furlongs, whatever they'd need. A horse race is a pretty finite time frame for TV purposes.

Playoff hockey, however, has a pretty good chance of seeing overtime. It's got a pretty good chance of seeing more than one overtime. Even a regulation game could eat up the 3 hours that NBC allotted before they switched over to the oh-so-important race build up in Maryland. So, why not start the game at 7? Or better, 8, let HNIC get it's broadcast and let the American hockey fans (we are out there, believe it or not) get a prime time playoff game before game 3 of the Cup finals.

So, I think NBC had options other than the one they exercised. I doubt this becomes "Heidi '07," but it was leaving a game in-progress to go to over an hour of pre-race stuff for the Preakness. As it turned out, the game ended about an hour before post time at Pimlico, so NBC could have done both finish the game and get plenty of pre-race banter in before we lost another shot at the Triple Crown. I'd say NBC fumbled, but this is a hockey blog...they turned the puck over in the slot...

Catching up on the Conference Finals

It's been a bit since something worthwhile was dropped on this blog...forever, arguably. But, I've missed a few happenings in the playoffs since my little no Versus issue from the last post.

First of all, what the hell happened to the Sabres? OK, in listening to Barry Melrose's podcast, the Sabres just haven't been working as hard as their opponents. I'll buy that for a $1(US). Game 2 against the Sens is a perfect example of that as the Sabres worked just hard enough to get it to OT, but then couldn't put the Sens away to even up the series. That sent the Sens to Ottawa with all the momentum, which they used to take a 3-0 lead. Buffalo staved off elimination in game 4, though, but have they learned their lesson? Allowing the Sens to cut the 3-0 lead to 3-2 in a span of minutes says no.

I won't be surprised to see the Sabres pull off game 5 today and send it back to Ottawa. Then again, I won't be surprised to see them not show up - except for Miller who has been the only one to show up every game - and call it a season.

Out west we have a series locked at 2-2 heading back to Detroit. Game 3 delivered us an ass-beating of biblical proportions which included the controversial head shot by Pronger to the back of Holmstrom's head. Pronger got a suspension out of it (more on that in a sec), and the Ducks went on to play a solid game sans-Prongs and even the series.

In watching game 4, my sudden love affair (purely heterosexual sports love) with Ryan Getzlaf continued. Is there anything this kid can't/won't do? Firing the game winner through traffic was an impressive shot, but he goes to the net, he goes to the corners, he takes big face-offs against the likes of Chris "I don't lose big face-offs" Draper, and he's more than responsible in his own end. Yet another draft pick from the ridiculously deep '03 draft. (The number of guys taken after Zherdev who are excelling while he flounders is mind boggling.)

On to Pronger's suspension: 1 game? Please. If you're going to take a stand on head shots, then take a flippin' stand. The game he got suspended could have put the Ducks in a hole, but 3-1 is hardly the end of a playoff series. A 2 game suspension in that instance would have hurt a bit more, IMO, as Prongs could have been on the sidelines watching his team drop 2 straight and the series without him. THAT would have left an impression. As it turns out, they won the game he was suspended, so the point is moot. However, the two game suspension could have still had his team down 3-2 coming back to Anaheim where he would have returned and had to step up to keep the Ducks from getting eliminated. I think one game was barely a slap on the wrists, it was more like wagging a finger in his face.

On the flip side of the hit was the relative noise coming out of Detroit. I'm a HUGE fan of Kukla's Korner, possibly the best hockey blog out there, but Paul is a Wings fan so there's a good amount of Wings content. I have no issue with that, and in fact expect it since they're one of the four teams remaining. However, in reading some of the articles posted there you'd think Pronger was in the book depository with a rifle as Holmstrom skated into the corner. I'm not condoning the hit at all, and think Pronger's suspension was in order, but the Helene St. James types of the world took hype to a whole new level. Had the tables been turned and Chelios's elbow met the back of Selanne's head, I doubt the media noise from the motor city would have been the same.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Out of town, no Versus

So, I'm shipped out of town for a couple of nights on business, and am in staying in a couple of hotels which means no Versus and no playoffs. Now, I did get to a sports bar last night to catch the Ducks and Nucks, but got booted before OT was over.

The thing that is somewhat ironic about being sans-Versus while out of town is that I'm in Michigan. Ann Arbor to be specific, so WELL within Red Wings territory, and still no Versus. I'm not shocked, but was hopeful. And while I think somebody in the NHL should get Versus into every hotel room withing 100 miles of any NHL arena, all is not lost...

I've got to listen to the Sabres feed on of game 5 tonight. And while I wish I could see the game, hearing this broadcast has been pretty good. Listening to Rick Jeanneret call a game has been outstanding. (And while typing this paragraph, Drury tied it at 1 with 7 seconds left...the sound of the crowd is coming through loud and clear.)

So, I'd like to thank the Hilton for not putting Vs. on the channel line up, I got to hear a classic call of what is turning into a classic game.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tip of the hat to Mike Grier

Through the playoffs this season, I've probably watched as much of the Sharks as any other team. It seems to me that they're in what I think will be the "best series" of the round each round. Though they did away with the Preds quickly, it was an entertaining series. Hopefully their series with the Wings picks up where it left off last night and gets better and better.

But, while watching these games, it seems that Mike Grier has steadily taken on a bigger and bigger role with the Sharks, and he's doing it well. In round one, he just seemed to be out for every big penalty kill the Sharks had. (Not many since the Preds were in the box the whole series.) Now against the Wings, he's out for big PKs, big even strength shifts, and even some power play.

Grier isn't your big scorer, he isn't the big set-up man, he's not even the shut-down winger...but he is steady and accountable on each and every shift. In the regular season, the Sharks had plenty of flash on offense, so Grier just did his job without big numbers or big acclaim. But now that they're grinding away in the playoffs, a guy like Grier comes to the forefront more often. Toss in Patrick Marleau getting the "Loch Ness Monster" award on TSN pretty regularly, having Grier step up is a good thing for the Sharks. (If you haven't caught the LNMA on the Vs. simulcast of some playoff games, you're missing some sheer genius of sports broadcasting.)

So, while the New NHL talks up all the offensive stars, and we're seeing 6-5 playoff games that involve Martin Brodeur, I think I guy like Grier deserves a little nod.

The fact that I went to school with a guy named Mike Greer has no bearing on this post what so ever... :)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New GM out of the spotlight? Yeah right!

There was a great article in the Dispatch today about the Jackets new President, Mike Priest, and how he wants to do his job, and do it out of the limelight. Priest is going to be much more concerned with the business side of the team, so out of the headlines should be pretty easy. (Until next spring when they decide to raise ticket prices yet again.)

Rumor has it that the new GM would like to operate out of the spotlight, also. Compared to MacLean, that should be relatively easy. The new guy could have his office in a glass cube at the corner of Broad and High and be less in the spotlight than MacLean was.

But, I wonder if Columbus will let him operate in the background and not out in the forefront?

This is traditionally a "FIRE WOODY/COOPER/MacLEAN" type town. Whoever is viewed to be at the top has their head on the chopping block in this town almost immediately. And while Columbus has done a solid job supporting the Jackets, we're still pretty new at the NHL thing, and who was introduced to us as the head of the org in all facets? The General Manager.

So, even if the next GM comes in with a glittering resume, a clean record, a plan, and #1 center that makes Hitchchock drool, his predecessor set a certain level of expectation for what he's to be responsible. Doug painted the picture to the residents of Columbus that the GM is the guy who answers the questions on the radio and in the paper. That the GM is the guy responsible for Rick Nash under performing in December. That the GM is ultimately responsible when his collection of talent can't crack the playoffs when the three teams that came into the league at roughly the same time have all done it.

Now, I don't disagree with that last one at all, on the ice it was time for something. But the others are going to have the regular Columbus fan ready to question the new guy right away. Regular Columbus fan is the guy who cheers for the Jackets but wasn't a big hockey fan before their arrival. He kind of understands the business side of things, can explain offsides, probably owns a jersey by now, but still has the Columbusite "FIRE COOPER!" attitude at heart. You know, he's Bob Hunter. (Except for the offsides thing, Bob is still working on that one.)

So, the natural evolution here should move the onus on the coach more than the GM. But, thanks to the work that Doug did here - and he did a LOT of good things for hockey in Columbus - the next GM is going to have a hard time operating out of the spotlight for a couple years.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Round 2 opens with a bang

4 games into the 2nd round and the goals are being poured in...well except for one of the more explosive offenses in the league in Detroit. 24 goals through the first 4 games? Yowza...defense first apparently went out the window.

Luongo giving up 4 and Brodeur giving up 5? I doubt that continues, but still pretty noteworthy. The Devils broadcast pointed out that Marty had only given up 4 goals one other time in his playoff career...and the Devils won that game.

I can hardly wait to see how the next set of games goes. The Sharks and Wings seemed like the only "sane" score so far, and the Sharks netting their two in under a minute raises the eyebrows on that one.

But, it's playoff time, anything can...and will...happen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

1-1 after two in Game 7...

Watching the Stars-Canucks, and here we are at the second intermission tied at 1 in game 7. Does it get any better than this???

Turco and Luongo have been's to at least a period of a great battle...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

McLennan Loses It

If you haven't caught Jamie McLennan wigging out at the end of Game 5 yet, maybe you shouldn't bother. The NHL seems to try ever harder to get rid of such antics, and yet they keep cropping up. Now in the holiest-of-holies, the playoffs. And against Detroit?

Now, I'm an avowed Wing hater, have been for years, but there's always something a little different with how they approach the game. They're usually not regarded as physical, but can hit when needed. Sure, Maltby tries to goad everybody he can into turning around so he can do the head snap thing to feign getting punched. But, seriously, when's the last time the Wings have been involved in some ugly knee-on-knee thing? Cross check to the grill? These guys - as much as it pains me to say it - play good, clean, hard hockey. (And I hate them for it.)

So, McLennan goes Paul Bunyan on Johann Franzen's mid-section...where the hell did THAT come from?? Franzen of all people.

But, here is exactly what the NHL doesn't want: An ugly stick incident in the playoffs. Thanks Jamie.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dougy did not survive.

Apparently, I made my entry about an hour early last night. (Stupid Preds/Sharks game had to start at 10!)

So, Doug didn't make it to season 7 as the Jackets GM. Part of me is happy, part is let down. First, the let down part...

Doug did a lot for hockey in general in Columbus. He oversaw the final stages of the arena and was present before ice was frozen at the Easton Chiller. He was around when three more sheets were added at the Ice Haus and Chiller North. He was instrumental in getting the USHL in Columbus, even though the jury is still out on that one. Youth hockey has exploded with all the extra ice in town, and so have the adult ranks. No, Doug didn't single handedly build the rinks or force people into them, but he was the face of the NHL franchise that was spurring the growth. If there was something involving hockey in Columbus, it was more likely that you saw Doug involved than not involved.

Now for the happy the NHL level, it's time for Columbus to move on. The panic-and-patch approach to the Jackets' roster isn't working. Rushing kids to the NHL, not working. Brule should have been stewing over not making the NHL and tearing up the WHL with a, "I'll show that MacLean he screwed up by leaving me down here!" Rusty could have used a little more time in Brampton and probably Syracuse. Nash...well, Nash might have been the right decision.

But, hindsight is 20/20. At the time, both Rusty and Brule appeared ready to roll in the NHL, but that was probably a combination of optimism and fan desire on my part, and having no other options on Doug's part.

My personal opinion is that the day Doug announced he was going to take over the head coaching job full time was the beginning of the end. At the point, he cemented himself as the one and only voice in all decisions from the front office to the front of the net for the Jackets. Once he had that power, he wasn't going to relinquish it to just anyone, so enter Gerard Gallant. Turk did his best, but like Brule and Rusty, he wasn't ready for the NHL. The owners of the Jackets force Doug's hand into Hitchcock, and it all spun out of control for Doug right up to last night when the other shoe finally fell.

So, a big thank you to all that Doug did in building Columbus and central Ohio into a solid hockey market.

But, here's to the excitement of what tomorrow might bring in Jacketland.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

So, did Dougy survive?

The owners of the Jackets met about 6 hours ago to determine Doug MacLean's future, and I can't help wonder what the outcome was? Nothing on any blog - good blogs like Kukla's Korner, not lame, rarely updated blogs like this one. Nothing at, who I would assume would be the first to put the news out there.

So, what now? What if there is no more Doug? On the one hand, could be a good thing. The worst record in the NHL over the last 6 seasons isn't one of those resume builders that people look for. The Carter deal is another good one to pile on there, especially when Dougy went and threw more money to land Zherdev after signing Carter. There have been a number of head scratchers over the years.

But on the other hand, the guy has been the face and voice of the franchise for almost as long as there's been a franchise. Without looking it up, we've been looking to Doug for Jackets info since March of '98, I believe. If he is gone at this hour, it'll be strange to see somebody else in that position. Additionally, with Hitchcock in place, and some of Doug's sole proprietorship in the hockey decisions being removed, the possibility of things turning around is looking up. In a way it would suck for Doug to not be around to finally see the team turn the corner.

If he's gone, I've got to speculate that "Unemployed" and "Good friend of Ken Hitchcock" will be two parameters for Doug's successor. There's a guy out there that fits those params, and if you thought Doug was a hard ass, then get ready for some real fun. I won't mention any names, but it starts with "B" and ends with "obby Clarke."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nashville Recap

Wendy and I had a wonderful time in Nashville, got to see a great game, and probably drank way too much.

The atmosphere in the arena was electric. You could just feel the intensity from the sold out crowd. They seemed to turn the knobs to 11 on the PA system, you had to yell in the concourses to be heard. The good folks of Nashville spent a lot of time on their feet, too. (Was a nice change from some old codger behind me yelling at me to sit down while the rest of the arena is standing...)

The Preds and Sharks didn't disappoint, either. It was a good game, though the Preds seemed to be in control the whole time. It got chippy, as playoff games have a tendency to do, though I didn't see the Radulov hit that got him suspeneded. It was along the boards to our left in the blind spot created by the glass.

Other odds and ends...
  • We found where Wolfy's is located, and it's a great view. They're in the "cone" on the front of the arena overlooking downtown Nashville. We did find out, however, that they dropped all burgers from their menu, including the famous chili-cheeseburger. An institution has died...
  • We slogged to Printers Alley in the rain...well worth the slogging. Made it into the Fiddle and Steel, and had great time.
  • Preds fan is loud and they follow their team as homer-ific as any other fan. One tidbit I picked up in line in the restroom was that, "...the refs are taking Tootoo right out of his game!" I could only think to myself, "What game?"
All in all, it was a great trip. I hope the Preds continue on, maybe another trip will be in order.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Off to Nashville...

In an attempt to maintain my sporadic posting on this here blog...

My lovely wife bought us playoff tickets in Nashville tonight, so there will be at least two Jackets fans to take in a playoff game live this season. (I'm sure there are more heading to Pittsburgh or Detroit.) We'll be stationed in Section 109, Row D, which I believe is the top row of the section. Corner seats, should have a good view.

Some things of note for the evening, other than the game...

- We're staying in the same hotel we stayed in for last summer's Country Classic adult hockey tournament.

- I'm going to attempt to locate Wolfy's again. The lockout forced him out of his nice little Broadway digs, and into the arena somewhere. Hopefully the move didn't change the chili-cheeseburger at all.

- We may hop across the street from the hotel and get a beer at the Blackstone Brewery.

- Post game we'll be off to Printer's Alley. Wendy hasn't been there yet, so this is a must do.

We'll be home tomorrow afternoon, I'll probably post a full report here to make for two posts in two days, a Better On Ice record!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jackets equal NHL record

Similar to Crash Davis setting the record for career home runs in the minor leagues, last night the Jackets equaled the post-expansion, dubious NHL record of being shutout 14 times in a season, tying the 69-70 Penguins, and the 00-01 Wild. One more shutout, and the Jackets can have that record all to themselves.

The Jackets have 14 games to manage at least a goal in to keep themselves from owning the record all to themselves. (Facing the Preds in Nashville tonight could set the mark quickly, hasn't been a good season going up against the Preds, as the Jackets 0-6-1 record will attest.) But, the way this season has gone, it's only a matter of time before Ricky and the boys fail to net a goal in a game. Would somehow be a fitting, final kick in the teeth for this season...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Holy underwear!

The Jackets went and won their second game in Dallas this season...unpossible!

For all the downers this season, getting two wins in Dallas, where I don't think they'd won prior to this season, is a step in the right direction. They stepped up and played a solid game. With four guys from the Crunch out there all night, and Footer going down early, they played a good game.

I know Zherdev has taken some heat of late, and rightfully so, but I think he was our best player hands down late in the third and into OT. Once he decides to do this stuff night in and night out, it'll be a lot more fun to watch this team.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great article on Eklund

Chuck passed this from the Toronto Star along to me today, and I got a good laugh out of it.

Since the lockout is long over, Ek seems to be nearing the end of his 15 minutes. He helped me and many other fans get through the lockout, but since then he's been more miss than hit on his rumors. It's almost to the point now when I hear him mention one of the Jackets in a trade rumor, I'm relieved because now I know they're not going anywhere.

"4:50 p.m. More food is delivered to the Sportsnet set. It isn't clear whether Eklund had predicted the arrival of more pizza."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Berard on waivers

I've mulled this one over all day, and for the life of me can't see the advantage of this move. If there are no trading partners on Feb 25th, what happens late on the 26th or early the 27th when somebody decides, "Hey, we could use another d-man for our playoff run, and this Berard guy has scored in the past. I could part with a 4th rounder."Well, putting Big Bry on waivers pretty much ends that scenario.

It's not that Berard going on waivers is all that shocking, it's the timing of the whole thing. Why now? Hours before the deadline? With people throwing draft picks around?

I really can't see where this is going. Straight up salary dump won't happen by sending him through waivers if somebody doesn't grab him. Waivers still exists after the trade deadline, send him through then.

I'm just not seeing the advantage here. Hopefully there's a reasonable explanation tomorrow.