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.