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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Panic button...depressed

I have refrained from writing up my thoughts on most of the first 7 games. Life has taken time away from me, and I was frankly sitting back and letting things sink in. I have watched every game, some in person and some on TV. After tonight's game vs. Ottawa, I can't hold back anymore.

Hit the panic button. Gear up for trade rumors. Prepare for the "fire everybody" and "move the team" comments. This is ugly, to a level never seen by CBJ fans. That is saying something folks, cause we have seen ugly a lot over the last 10 years.

Not only is the team struggling, but now we are up to our ears in injuries. 3 regular defenseman out of the lineup (including Wiz) tonight, 2 rookies in on the back-end. Carter is out. Boll is out. This is ugly. Tonight was just unfathomable. 2 goals in 40 seconds? I literally don't have words to describe that. There is a mental darkness that this team can't get out from under right now.

So instead of dwelling on tonight, here is my breakdown of the good and bad, and what I think needs to happen to right the ship.

  • Prospal has been a nice surprise.
  • Aaron Johnson has provided a spark the last few games.
  • Some will disagree, but I don't think Savard has looked that bad (take away the first game)
  • ummm...
  • Defense - where do you begin. Take a look at the majority of goals that have been scored. Blown d coverage, bad turnovers, lost puck battles down low. This list goes on. Wiz is not going to fix this. This defense is terrible.
  • Penalty kill has been awful
  • Power play has been bad, mostly due to no ability to bring the puck into the zone
  • Vermette has been terrible. Like ECHL terrible. Breathe heavy around him and he loses an edge.
  • Russell is way too inconsistent, and when he is bad, he is real bad. It is hurting us.
  • Clitsome has been...not good. He needs to find that magic he had last year.
  • We spend way too much time in our zone. This all stems back to the D chasing the puck down low and not being able to get it out to the forwards.
  • Forecheck? What is a this forecheck you speak of?
  • Martinek has been a turnover machine.
  • Passing has, once again, been bad.
I could go on an on. One thing I will not do at this point is to throw Mason under the bus like everyone else in this city wants to do. My reasoning is simple. All of us so-called experts made the following statement prior to the season: "Mason just needs to be average for the CBJ to be successful." Well, in my estimation, he has been average. The problem is that the defense in front of him might be the worst I have ever seen in the NHL. I have never seen so many people left unchecked in front of the net. Backside coverage is spotty at best. Mase hasn't been good, but I would submit he has been average on most nights. do they turn this around? You really expecting to find that answer here? Okay, I will play armchair GM for a minute.

Trade Vermette. What is Vermette bringing to the table? What did he bring last year? It pains me to say that, because I really wanted him here and was very happy when he came in. He has been the epitome of suck since October of last year. Maybe move him with Dorsett in a package for some defensive help. Trade Russell along with them. Want a pick too? Okay. We must get some help on defense. Wiz will help a little, but now Methot is out. Martinek is out. We can't rely on two rookies on the back end, not with the lack of support around them. Even if they were going to be back soon I would find something else.

Should we fire Arniel? I am not sure what that would do at this point. What I am seeing is not really a coaching issue, but an execution issue. that is on the players. Ask me again in a month. If we don't starting winning with stunning regularity, it won't matter anyhow.

I do say that Howson needs to go at the end of the season. Firing him mid-season does nothing for us, so wait till after the season is over. He has us locked into a roster that is not working at all. Did not really address needs for major upgrades at D, took a big risk in goal. How this team is near the cap is beyond me. Carter was about the only good pickup he made, and he might have overpaid for him a little. Still don't understand sending Atkinson down, or bringing Moore up instead of Holden for this game. Not that it would have mattered much.

Tell Nash that it is put up or shut up time. He needs to motivate this team or pass on the C to someone who can. If Arniel has lost the room, Nash should be able to get it back.

Finally, give Dex a real shot at the starting job when he is back from injury. Make Mason hungry again. He is very fragile in the head right now. The team in front of him is leaving him out to dry on most occasions. Sitting a few games may help. I know we haven't seen much of Dex yet, but I just have a feeling that he is going to be a very steady presence in net. Not spectacular, just solid. Would you take solid right now?

I have moved from optimistic, to relaxed, to worried and finally depressed with this team. I will still go to the games, but I am not sure how long it will be before I break out the brown paper bag. This is getting embarrassing.

Thoughts? What would you do if you were in charge?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Game 1 thoughts

Opening night at Nationwide Arena. Fans are piling into the building, the beer is flowing. The air is thick with excitement and anticipation of things to come. We fans have been looking forward to this day since early summer. So many new faces, so many questions to be answered. How would Carter play with Nash? How much will Wiz help on defense and the power play? Will Mason rebound this year, or will we be looking for a new goalie this season? How will the rookies perform? Bluejackets fans were looking for answers last night.

First thing is first. One thing I noticed throughout the game was an improved experience. I thought Game Ops got off to a good start last night, hopefully this is a sign of things to come. There wasn't one time where I shook my head at the music, videos or games that were played. Good job to the new crew over there. The opening video was great. I really liked the song they choose (Foo Fighters Walk) and the sequencing of the video. It rivaled some of Skraut's work, and got the crowd pumped up. One of the best opening night intros so far, maybe only bested by the McConnell tribute.

On to the game, which I thought was very entertaining. I have to give credit to the Evil Empire, Rinne and their D is magnificent. The will be a force to be reckoned with regardless of how much they score. Having said that, this was a winnable game for the CBJ. I firmly believe that if we take advantage of one of those early chances when Rinne was out of position, it would have been a different game. But it wasn't, and despite the late comeback attempt, we couldn't get another one past Rinne.

The Defense stood out, and not in a good way. Savard looked lost out there more than a few times. He was less noticeable as the game went on, but I am not sure if his ice time got cut or he just got a little more comfortable. Russell looked worse than Savard at times. It has been well known that he is under pressure to step or be passed by the rookies. It looks like he is buckling under the pressure. Clitsome and Methot looked average. I wasn't impressed by Martinek, too lackadaisical at times. Tyutin was Tyutin, good play intermixed with a boneheaded mistake at the wrong time. The D cost us two goals. I am not panicking yet, but this group has to play better. Nashville isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut, but our D seemed to struggle with their forecheck and speed at times.

Not much to say about the first line, they were awesome together. Carter was impressive and Prospal seemed to mesh real well with them. Jeff was a monster in the faceoff circle, setting a new CBJ record for wins. Real happy about the way they played against one of the best defenses in the league.

Vermette's line was not clicking. If it wasn't for his faceoff ability, I would advocate switching him and Brassard. I thought Atkinson was noticeable all night, even though he was a -2. The third and fourth lines just seemed out be there, nothing special out of anyone. Brassard stood out a little to me, he seems to be trying to bring a more physical edge to his game. I noticed it in preseason and again last night. Johansen was invisible, but it was a tough opponent for your first game. All the rookies get a pass for a couple of games to see how they fare. Dorsett has to stop taking dumb, ill-timed penalties if he wants to stay on this team. Our forward lines will eventually get into the groove, I am not really worried about that group.

Mason, in my opinion, played well. The first and third goals were on the defense, I didn't think Mase had much of a chance on those. On the second goal, it looked like Martinek skated right in front of Mason as the puck arrived, maybe screening or slightly deflecting it. Regardless, Mason should have squeezed that one and not let it trickle out. Not a bad goal, but one he has to save if we want to win. Overall he was solid, not spectacular. The one that went off the mask was impressive, just because he was able to stay with the play and cover the puck. Couple of things he can shore up, but overall I thought played well.

Last thought, the crowd was pretty good all night. However, I am going to have to call out the Arch City Army. Where were you guys last night? There was a group of Nashville fans in 201 I could hear louder than you, and I was across the rink. I would have expected you guys to jump in and try to drown them out. After the first period I didn't hear a peep from 227. Don't give up on the dream guys! Oh, and a shout out to the guy in 217 who yelled 'Shoot!!!' every time a Jackets player touched the puck. You do understand that shooting right into the defensive player will not result in a goal, right? I started yelling "Shut Up!" every time he yelled, then we started yelling 'Shoot!' at the wrong moments, like TV timeouts, when the goalie had the puck, etc., just to make him look like an ass. He may have been annoying, but at least he provided some entertainment for us.

Chance to get one back tonight in Minnesota. I am hoping Mayorov goes in for Johansen. Let's go Jackets!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Preseason over, roster set

The Bluejackets today made their final moves before opening day, barring a waiver claim or trade in the next week. Here is what is looks like as of now (Courtesy of Puck Rakers):

Forwards (13): Cam Atkinson, Derick Brassard, Matt Calvert, Jeff Carter, Derek Dorsett, Ryan Johansen, Derek MacKenzie, Maksim Mayorov, Rick Nash, Sammy Pahlsson, Vinny Prospal, Ryan Russell, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette.
Defensemen (8): Grant Clitsome, Aaron Johnson, Radek Martinek, Marc Methot, Kris Russell, David Savard, Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski.
Goaltenders (2): Steve Mason, Curtis Sanford
Injured reserve (4): Jared Boll, RW; Mark Dekanich, G; Kristian Huselius, LW; Ted Ruth, D.

The only big surprise for me was Atkinson over Kubalik. I thought for sure that they would let Cam get his feet wet in the AHL before putting the pressures of the NHL on him. Atkinson had a great camp and showed that he is going to be a player. Kubalik had a good camp but missed a portion with a concussion, so that may have been a factor. No knock on Cam here, I just thought it would have been better to let him get some experience in the AHL. I will trust the CBJ brass to know what they are doing here.

Glad to see Savard on the D, I thought he earned a spot. He still needs to improve his positioning but I thought he was ready to work his way into the lineup. I think Johnson is there until Wiz gets back, and then he is in Springfield unless there is another injury in the first two months. After that, I think Holden gets the first call up. Moore didn't look bad, but he still needs at least another year to work on his defensive game.

Goalies are what they are. I though Mason had an excellent preseason. I really wish we could have seen more of Dekanich for a better sample size. Hopefully he gets back soon so we don't have to ride Mason too hard. Sanford will have to suffice until he gets back. Then again, I did hear the Islanders might be willing to part with Nabakov...

The lines could be very interesting here. With three rookies among the forwards, I would thing Arniel would sprinkle them in with some vets to protect them. Here is what I think we might see on Oct. 7th:

F1: Nash-Carter-Prospal
F2: Brassard-Vermette-Atkinson
F3: Calvert-Johansen-Umberger
F4: Mayorov-Pahlsson-Dorsett

This is assuming DMac is still hurt. You could also switch the 3 and 4 lines if you want, the Pahlsson line will be the traditional checking or shutdown line. First thing that sticks out to me is that Scott decided to role with his 3 scoring lines. Johansen will not be asked to shut down top lines and will probably get 10-12 minutes a night. Umby will get more time on the PK and PP and at the end of games.

That is the most dangerous set of forwards I have ever seen in a CBJ uniform. They can score. The double-edged sword is that I don't feel too inspired by the defensive abilities of that group. The nice thing we have is flexibility. Umby, Vermette, and Prospal can really spot in anywhere in the lineup. It will be interesting to see what happens when Boll returns, not really sure who you send back out of that group. Just because of waivers I would think Atkinson, Mayorov, or Calvert might go to the A. Juice's return (if it happens) will make it an even tougher decision. Luckily we have some time to let things work themselves out.

For defense, a complete guess on my part:
D1: Tyutin-Martinek
D2: Methot-Clitsome
D3: Savard-Johnson

This is a little bit of a mess. I couldn't put a rookie on the top pair, so shift the right side D up a line and put Savard on the third pair. However, Russell-Savard has disaster written all over it, so you have slot Johnson in. I don't think you keep Savard up to have him sit in the pressbox, to me he has looked better than Russell. Once Wiz is back you drop the right side down a pair and Johnson or Savard goes to Springfield.

PP1: Nash-Carter-Prospal-Tyutin-Savard
PP2: Brassard-Umby-Johansen-Clitsome-Martinek

PK FW: Pahlsson-Dorsett-Umby-Vermette-Mayorov-Calvert(?)

Still think this is the best roster we have had. A little concerned about the defense. Mason is going to see a lot of shots this year, hopefully preseason was not an aberration for him. We will score more points and the power play will be better. Not sure about our PK, but I do think we are going to get quite a few SH goals with that group out there. Defense is still suspect, but should be better once Wiz is back. As many have already stated, our season may rest on Steve Mason's shoulders and his ability to keep the opposition under 3 goals a game.

Let's drop the puck already!

Friday, September 23, 2011


Partook in the Foo Fighters concert at Nationwide Arena last night. I am not a music critic, so don't expect a breakdown of the melodies and Grohl's strenious vocals over interweaving whatevers. I will keep it short and sweet.


Okay, maybe a little more than that. Rise Against opened after some Mariachi band (Mariachi El Bronx?). RA was okay, not a huge fan of theirs but like a few of the songs. The show however was bad, mostly due to the sound mix. You could not hear the vocals at all, and the instrumentals were all over each other. Every song sounded the same because all I could hear was screaching guitar.

Grohl and the boys came on just after 9:00. They opened with a couple of favorites, including Pretender. I liked the way they mixed in the new songs (all of which rock by the way). They hopped around in the catalog quite a bit, but they covered a vast majority of the favorites. Awesome rendition of Let it Die and Monkey Wrench. They added a lot of solo and instrumentals in the breaks, but the vocals stayed, for the most part, as you would hear them on the record. Meaning you can still sing along, but you don't feel like you are just listening to the CD with 20,000 other people. And there was a lot of singing along. There was even a cover of Pink Floyd (complete with laser lights) and Tom Petty, both very well done. The encore started off with a 2-1/2 song acoustic rendition, including Best of You. He started acoustic on Times Like These, but then half way through the band started up again and rocked out the finish (hence the 2-1/2). Best part of the show for me. The night ended on Everlong after damn near three hours of great music.

You could tell from the start the Dave Grohl had the crowd in his hands. He controlled that show like no other. He started off right by saying how he lived down High street as a very young kid. And the crowd was with him all night. Hawkins on the drums is a beast. Thought his arms were going to fly off a few times, and he did appear to break a tom drum in the middle of a song. I will never know how somebody has the talent to play drums and sing lead vocals on a song or two. I can barely talk while playing guitar, let alone sing. Much respect.

The show itself was pretty simple. The most they had were multiple concave, three sided video screens hanging above the stage, and of course mutiple can lights that changed with the music. Grohl had a small lifted stage toward the back of the arena that he used a couple of times. No smoke, no fire, no real flashy light show. Just Foo Fighter blowing the roof off of Nationwide Arena. And I loved every minute of it. Easily top 3 show I have seen. Highly recommend.

Preseason thoughts

Just getting caught up on the updates here. I was at the game on Tuesday against 'Peg, and watched some of Wednesday's game on the streaming feed. Not going to do a game recap from Tuesday, but I will say we got to use the Bluejackets suite for that one, and...well...the suite is pretty sweet. Definitely not the cheep seats!

So, random preseason thoughts:
  • Dekanich looked good in the limited time he was in Tuesday. It really sucks that he hurt his ankle, I would have liked to see him perform against true NHL talent. We might never know his true abilities this season. That "high ankle sprain" is a nasty injury to come back from. I imagine the position he plays makes it worse. They are saying 4 weeks, I bet he is out longer.
  • On the bright side, the other goalie that played Tuesday at home (Dainton?) made some spectacular saves. He looked pretty shaky at first, but had a pretty good effort overall. I would like to see more of this kid in the preseason, see what he can do.
  • Mayorov continues to impress. Not just the scoring either, he is all over the place and is solid all the way around. I think this will be the year he realizes some of that potential.
  • Boone Jenner, once again, is going to be a player in this league. Obviously not this year since they already released him to his junior team, but in 13/14 I would bet he comes in and makes an impact.
  • Wiz made some nice passes out of the zone, seemed very fluid with the puck movement. We need that, big time.
  • The new music selection sucked, it was all over the place. Let me state this clearly: THERE IS NO PLACE FOR COUNTRY MUSIC IN HOCKEY, EVEN IN NASHVILLE. Did not care for the goal song, but I guess I could live with it. You may get more crown participation with it than the old one.
  • I liked Chaput as well, he played a pretty good game. Nothing flashy, but I seemed to notice him a lot.
Going to the Buffalo game on Sunday. This might be the one time I can go to a Buffalo game and not get severely annoyed by their douche bag fans (generalizing, obviously they are not all bad). Will try to do a more timely recap of that game.

Till next time...