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Post-game #1: Blue Jackets vs. Wild

Saturday, October 03, 2009
Okay, first off, where the frak was my "Thanks, Jim Day"? Where was my "Thanks, Jim Day"!?

...

Now that I got that off my chest, since I waited for the expected Rusty Klesla interview during the post-game (it had to be either him or Steve Mason considering the stars of the night, and Klesla was the one with the GWG and a new contract in his pocket, let's do something of a break-down.

-Speaking of Klesla and contracts, he certainly showed everyone why he signed for just a little under $3 million a year for 4 years with that game winning goal, as well as sound defensive play. Oftentimes Klesla seems to be trotted out as a prime example of how being kept around at too young of an age can have a detrimental effect on a player's growth i n the NHL, and he certainly needed more time to mature as a result. But over time he has come around, and a prime example is his short but still strong play during last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

-I know John Michaels -- that is his name, right? -- is new to the whole Blue Jackets Live gig, but the interview with Klesla was awkward. If I listened right, he only seemed to ask one whole question. Now given, Klesla may have been in a rush to get back to the locker room, but I don't know. Dude seems a little green.

-Nikita Filatov: Not much time on the ice, huh? A whopping 9:18, actually. Only two other players had less time off of the bench, and they were Andrew Murray and Jared Boll. The result of that ill-placed penalty he received in the 3rd period that resulted in Minnesota's lone goal tonight? Possibly. TOI nosedived to 1:29 in said period. Nice opportunity early in the game on Niklas Backstrom, however ... the only problem is that he seemed to get just a little too fancy with the puck, and ended up losing it along the way.

-Ken Hitchcock refers to Raffi Torres's play as "weighty" as I type this with the post-game show on, and every person with a "Hitchionary" lets out an amused chuckle. But Torres was playing a pretty heavy game tonight.

-One offseason later, Steve Mason looks as steady as he did last season. To be honest, if I had to sum up his play tonight with just one word, I'd use "sound". He played the proper spots, seemed to have his head on a swivel at all times, and were it not for a nifty little move by Andrew Brunette during that Wild Power Play, it's feasible he could have kicked off this season with a shutout. But give credit to Brunette for making sure that did not happen.

-How about that power play, huh? The first 5-on-4 advantage in favor of the Blue Jackets was well enough and showed that the team has seemingly upgraded a smidgeon when it comes to moving the puck around and not shying away from tossing the puck in to traffic near the net, let alone shooting. On the other hand, the double minor opportunity that the Jackets had was just plain brutal. It's just one game in to the season, so let's hope that this doesn't become habit like last year.

-As for the penalty kill, nothing to complain about. Save for Brunette's goal in the 3rd period, it was steady, and also resulted in one shortie thanks to R.J. Umberger. That goal was definitely a thing of beauty.

And that's all I got for now. Cut me some slack, eh? This is my first post-game analysis in ... ::Checks.:: ... ...

... wait, still looking ... ::Flips through the archives.::

... ...

... okay, so it's been a long time! Stop looking at me like I'm some lazy sport blogger!

Podcast of the Ohio - Podcast #4.

Thursday, April 16, 2009
It's really been over a year and a half since I did one of these, huh?

But this is a very special day. And to be honest, I couldn't think of any better way, as a sport fan, hockey fan, or Blue Jackets fan, to express myself.

Like I said in the cast, I originally just planned to write, then read. But it didn't seem right. False, even. I just wanted to express things in the here and now, with an hour to go before the Jackets' first ever playoff game.


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



A little rambly, a little emotional, but still some thoughts on my heart and on my mind as the clock winds down.

Go Blue Jackets.

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What's a blog without a blogroll, right?

Monday, March 16, 2009
One of the harder things to deal with when getting back in to blogging after such a long period of time is re-creating a blogroll. And honestly, with the way that bloggers shift about even more than some hockey players do from site to site, or affiliate themselves with megablogs (which I'd never do ... no offense, or anything), it becomes very apparent that unless you have a pulse for what is going on and never take your fingers off said pulse, you lose track of things very quickly.

So whoever is out there that is actually peeking this way, with the occasional post or two coming once every few days now, I humbly request some assistance in finding blogs that I should put on here for linking purposes. I already have a good few in mind, but I'd like a day or two to hear from whoever sees this post, to see if there is anyone I should keep an eye on.

Oh, and apparently someone kidnapped the 2008-09 Blue Jackets and trotted out some cloned versions of the 06-07 version of the team yesterday afternoon during a 4-0 trouncing by the Red Wings. But, hey, it happens.

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Here comes the Central Division.

Saturday, March 14, 2009
It was just a few years ago that, amongst the hockey world, fans and writers alike bemoaned the fact that the Detroit Red Wings, winner of three of the last four President's Trophies, feasted upon a weak group of Central Division teams. The Blackhawks were in nothing short of disarray, and the Predators, while competitive, have never done better than .500 against the Wings since the season before the lockout. The Blues have fared just about the same, as well. And the Jackets? Well, this will be the first season they ever finish, at least, at .500 against the Winged Wheel.

This season? Well, true, the Hawks have been swept in their first four against the Wings, and so have the Blues for that matter in five of their six games. But in spite of this, the Central Division has ultimately found itself in a rather unique situation:


Barring the Hawks record in the last 10, as well as the current downtrend of the Predators, all of the teams in the Central have been scrapping it out rather diligently. The Blues, who could be considered the "worst" of the lot, are still just 2 points out of a playoff spot (this will change to at least 3 after tonight's games, it should be noted).

Of course part of this is related to the overall mediocrity of the teams vying for their part in the playoff picture, with some rather low point totals overall. But even factoring that in, there is the outside chance that each team in the Central Division -- yes, every team -- could get in to the playoffs.

Of course with so many inter-divisional match-ups in this final stretch, that is some tricky math to figure out, and I'm not going to even try and figure out how all that in-fighting between the Northwest is going to affect the final standings, as in seasons past it has definitely made things rather wonky. Going by Aaron Portzline of Puck Raker's recent post, in which he downgrades the minimal points needed to get to the playoffs to 90 (by the way, Porty, the Jackets need 12 more points, not 14), this is how it would shake out for each team:

Detroit: lolwut? They already have 99 points. Just move along, everyone.

Columbus: Of course the team we care about amongst all others, so whether or not the other Central Division teams make it is not important to us for the most part. So having said that, this team needs to settle in for about a .500 record over the next 13 games. Some examples of this are by going 6-7-0, or 5-6-2. Of course getting just the projected points needed is never what one is aiming for.

Now even though, record-wise, the Jackets seem to have the easiest path (excluding the Blackhawks), they also hold a lot of team's lives in their own hands in the Central. They have 2 more games against Nashville, and 3 more games against the Hawks and Blues, respectively. You'll see when I get to the Blues how a mere 3 games can mean life or death to St. Louis right now, as they have the most precarious hold on hopefully clawing in to the top 8.

Chicago: Barring a total collapse by the Hawks, there really isn't any way they can not get 90 points, as they sit with 83 in the bank and 16 games to go. A whole 3 wins and an OTL will get them to that magic number, but expect them to win more than just a fifth of their last 16.

Nashville: Now we start getting in to the teams that are definitely going to have a harder time of it. The Predators, in spite of their torrid pace in the recent weeks, have lost 3 straight, and as a result now sit a point out of a playoff berth today. Even a win against Phoenix tonight may not be enough, as they could still be out of the top 8 depending on who else wins tonight (if both Edmonton and Dallas win, suddenly the bar is 74 and no longer 72, and 7th seed will be either 73 or 74, factoring in potential OTLs or if Minnesota can beat Dallas).

The here and now aside, to make it to the nifty 90 the Predators have to go 9-4-1, or potentially 8-3-3. Either way, they have a real fight on their hands, especially with the way their offensive output has crashed right back to earth, with a total of 4 goals in their previous 3 losses. Pekka Rinne -- who I simply do not like on the grounds that the idea of him winning the Calder Trophy is ridiculous babble (in my homer opinion) -- can only carry this team for so long, after all.

St. Louis: It would have been a lot easier to make a case for St. Louis if they hadn't continued to choke against the Red Wings, like they did today when the Wings dropped a three-ton weight on their playoff hopes by hammering them for 3 goals in less than a minute, and going on to lose 5-2. But that is simply how it goes sometimes, and with 20 points separating them and 90 with 14 games to go, it's even uglier for the Blues than it is the Predators.

This team really has no more room for error, and if this late-season surge of theirs is going to pay off, they have to grab at least 10 wins in their final 14, going 10-4-0. Or if you want to show them a little leniency, they could potentially go for 9-3-2. But either way, they need six more wins than regulation losses.

Focusing specifically on what Nashville and St. Louis have to do, and from the position of someone who would be rooting for all five teams to make the playoffs in the division -- the first time ever in the NHL in who knows how long -- there's one small blessing in the fact that the Predators and the Blues do not face one another any more this season.

Both teams are in the unfortunate position of having a great majority of games on the road, too. The Blues and the Predators both have 9 road games and 5 home games left, and neither has a winning record when away from the confines of their home rinks, either.

Funny how the more and more we dissect this, the further and further away from getting 90 points these two teams are, huh?

Let me just close this topic up by saying that I really have no idea what could potentially happen over the next month. Logic would have dictated -- and certain bloggers from years past have even said this -- that the total points needed to get in to the playoffs would have risen due to the 3-point games that every team now plays thanks to the shootout. But instead, we've seen teams with as low as 94, 92, and even 91 points (Nashville last year) squeak on in, defying what should have been a rational assumption about points needed to get in.

I don't have the time, nor the energy to try and get in to what the current minimal point total could be to get in to the playoffs if we crunched every potential game conclusion between now and April, but with the way things have been going now, I almost wonder if we really will see a team make it in with 90, or even 89 for that matter. We'll just have to wait and see, right?

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I'm a freakin' broom closet.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Your random "O RLY?" stat of the day:

Amongst all teams in the West, the Blue Jackets are one of just two teams that have ensured a full sweep of an Eastern Conference division as of last night's win over the Boston Bruins.

VS Atlantic: 2-3-1
VS Southeast: 4-0-0
VS Northeast: 5-0-0

With the exception of the Minnesota Wild who swept the Southeast Division, every other team in the West has lost at least one game to an Eastern foe from each of the three divisions. In regulation, no less.

Additionally, when the Jackets go on their two-game road trip near the end of March through Florida (@Panthers on the 21st, and @Lightning on the 24th), they could become the only Western Conference team to sweep two Eastern Conference divisions this season.

And that's all I got.

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A small market companion in need, is a small market companion indeed.

Thursday, January 31, 2008
I figure with a whole 2 days off before I work on Saturday, thanks to the wonderful idea of cramming all my classes this semester in to just Tuesdays and Thursdays, that I might as well make the best use of my time and make another post while I have my creative juices flowing. That, and I feel a bit guilty.

I feel guilty because one of the cooler, better bloggers I've read -- ol' Mike W. from Covered in Oil -- asked me in comments a few weeks ago if I could not only speak about the Arena District from my own perspective, but ask readers and fellow CBJ bloggers alike how it's affected Columbus, and how it helped to "revitalize" that area. Of course, being highly unreliable when it comes to getting back to people when I am on my manic hiatuses, I never responded with so much as a peep.

But I definitely wanted to post on that topic. It's an interesting one, to be sure. So without further ado, let's jump right in, shall we?

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For all of you who did not see the comment in the post "A New Hope", the question by fellow blogger (and fellow Mike) Mike was put like this:


"Michael, you're a good man with a good blog: may I ask you and your readers a question about the Arena District in Columbus?

It's being used as a model for building a new arena in downtown Edmonton. There's lots of debate over an arena's ability to "revitalize." Did the area in Columbus become more vibrant after the arena was built, or is the growth attributed to other things?"


Before I get in to the history of the Arena District, let's first step back and take a look at some of the similarities between Columbus and Edmonton, as small sports markets (pertaining to professional leagues; Buckeyes boosters need not comment), as well as some differences in the markets themselves.

By census standards, Edmonton and Columbus are almost exactly the same size in terms of population. Edmonton, as of 2006, boasts 730,000 or so people living there, while Columbus has 733,000 or so. That's no more than, like, an extra dorm or two at The Ohio State University, really.

So in terms of size of each city, they're actually pretty similar. The big difference, though, is that the Oilers are a storied franchise, who have existed for decades, and been an integral part of Edmonton life since the early 70s. The Blue Jackets are no more than 7 years old by season standards, and only hitting double-digits in age if you factor in the time when the franchise was awarded to Columbus by the National Hockey League.

I'll get in to how that can be a big deal later on, but for now, let's move on to the Arena District itself.

Having lived in Columbus only since July or August of 2005, I practically have no direct experience with the building of the Arena District, Nationwide Arena, and how it first affected the city of Columbus when it occurred. Sure, I've heard plenty of stories, but that's all I can say. Undeterred, while I was at a recent Blue Jackets' game, I was browsing through the new Blue Jackets' 2007-08 season yearbook (now just $10 at your local FSN Ohio Blueline! *Tucks away a wad of advertising cash.*), and near the end, it spoke about the Arena District, and how everything came to happen not only in terms of being awarded a franchise, but also turning what was once a run-down penitentiary into not just a sports venue and top arena in North America (going by ESPN polls and standards, and that "#1 IN FAN EXPERIENCE" banner they hung for so long in the arena itself), but a vibrant community with upscale apartments, restaurants, clubs, and the like.

I'm going to scribe this from the yearbook by verbatim, so be sure to keep in mind that much of this is written rather glowingly, as is to be expected with a bias. With that said, here's what the yearbook writes:

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WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES
The arrival of the Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena has changed the Columbus landscape dramatically over the past 10 years.
By Craig Merz

Because Columbus civic, community, and business leaders refused to take no for an answer, their vision of a rundown penitentiary site as an entertainment mecca is a thriving reality 10 years later. Of course, a decade ago no one was calling the 95 acres bounded by the railroad tracks just north of Maple Street, High Street, and Spring Street and Neil Avenue the Arena District -- that would come later -- but there is no doubt that events 10 years ago changed the face of Columbus forever.

It all started with a vision ... that of Worthington Industries founder John H. McConnell to bring a major league sports team to the city that had given him so much. He believed Ohio's largest city and state capital deserved to have a major league team to call its own and knew the impact it would have on the community would be felt for years to come. The process began in November 1996 when he led a local ownership group that submitted an application to the National Hockey League for an expansion franchise for the city.

"A lot of people assume that you get into something like this to make a lot of money," McConnell said at the time. "That's not why I am doing it. I'm trying to pay back. Columbus has been very good to me."

If Columbus was going to get a new team it would need a place to play. Several months later an announcement was made that Nationwide Insurance (90 percent of cost) of cost and The Dispatch Printing Co. (10 percent) would privately finance a downtown arena. As a result on June 25, 1997, the NHL announced the awarding of an expansion franchise to the city of Columbus.

In 2007, the Columbus Blue Jackets are playing in their seventh NHL season and Nationwide Arena is the crown jewel of an urban revival that has become the envy of cities across America.

The Arena District offers 1.2 million square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet for retail, restaurant, and entertainment venues. There are dozens of restaurants within walking distance of Nationwide Arena as well as luxury hotels with more than 1,000 rooms; more than a million square feet of event space, the Arena Grand Theatre, the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion concert venue, coffee shops and casual and formal dining spots. Also, the Blue Jackets were the first team in the NHL to attach a practice facility to their arena. What a concept.

"I don't know why others don't do it," veteran Blue Jackets forward Sergei Fedorov said. "It's a fantastic opportunity to be in the same building. You don't have to worry about moving stuff around. You have a chance to keep your focus. Everybody would love to have that opportunity."

The Dispatch Ice Haus is just one of many forward thinking ideas when discussing the Arena District.

"What really matters isn't (just) the arena, but the Arena District," Tim Curry, co-author of High Stakes: Big Time Sport and Downtown Redevelopment, told the Columbus Dispatch. "Many stadiums and arenas tend to be islands in run-down neighborhoods. Our Arena District is well-known throughout the country."

There's no question the future looks bright with more condos and offices on the horizon not to mention the new home for the AAA baseball's Columbus Clippers. However, before moving ahead, it's important to look back at how Nationwide Arena and the Arena District came to fruition.

The story begins on May 7, 1997. It was a Wednesday, a gloomy one at that for those who dreams of seeing an NHL expansion team in Columbus. The previous day voters rejected a sales tax to fund an arena and soccer stadium on the 23-acre site of the old Ohio Penitentiary. It was the fifth ballot rejection for a sports venue in the past 20 years.

In the wake of the latest defeat, NHL officials told Columbus leaders that if they could somehow come up with a plan for an arena the city still had a shot -- but they had less than a month to get their act together.

At a breakfast meeting on the morning after the vote, Nationwide officials discussed the idea of privately funding an arena.

Then-Nationwide chairman Dimon R. McFerson remembers the light bulb moment when he gazed at his company's skyscraper overlooking the wasteland below that was once the pen site. "I looked out the window and saw an awful lot of land that would sit there forever we didn't do something with it," he would later recall.

Then-Mayor Greg Lashutka, Franklin County officials and business leaders scrambled to get a plan in place. Former Nationwide executive and vice president and chief investment officer Robert Woodward Jr., once said in an interview that those ensuing days were "chaotic... Contrary to popular opinion, there was no Plan B," if the ballot initiative failed.

Fortunately for those involved locally, on May 9 the NHL delayed its recommendations on expansion cities to give Columbus more time.

As plans for a $150 million arena evolved, Nationwide officials concluded that they could do more for the surrounding area and committed nearly $500 million toward developing what would become the Arena District.

"It was something we were doing for the community," Woodward said.

On June 2, just shy of four weeks after the setback at the ballot box, Mayor Lashutka went before City Council with a plan for an arena and site development. It was readily endorsed and a few weeks later the NHL's expansion committee recommended that a group headed by McConnell be awarded a franchise to begin play in the 2000-01 season.

"With this team and the arena, the city will see things it's never seen before," said John P. McConnell, who serves as an Alternate Governor of the Blue Jackets. "It will revitalize Downtown."

Those words proved prophetic and the rest is hockey (and city) history. But there is more to the history of the Arena District. The land in question was known as "Irish Broadway" for some time and in the 1850's it was "Irish Shantyton" for all the Irish who settled in the arena.

Of course, the most famous, or infamous, structure was the Ohio Penitentiary. It opened in 1834 and closed in 1983. At its peak it housed 5,235 prisoners. Among the notorious inmates were boxing promoter Don King, Dr. Sam Sheppard (for whom the TV series and motion pictures "The Fugitive" was based), members of John Dillinger's gang and William Sydney Porter, better known as the writer of O, Henry.

The pen had an eerie side. A total of 315 prisoners were electrocuted there from 1897 until 1963 and a 1930 fire killed 322 inmates in the worst prison fire in U.S. history. Some people insist that Nationwide Arena is haunted by the ghosts of those who dwelled inside the massive stone barristers.

"I've heard about that. There are probably some penitentiary walls around here somewhere," Blue Jackets forward Jason Chimera said. "If it's haunted, hopefully it haunts other teams when they come in here."

The state sold the pen site to Columbus for $1 in 1995, paving the way for the demolition of the buildings and ultimately the rebirth as the Arena District. Groundbreaking for Nationwide Arena was in May 1998, and the first tenants of the Arena District -- Buca di Beppo and Resource Marketing -- opened a year later. The arena itself had its coming out party in September 2000 with a concert by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and the Blue Jackets' first regular season game was October of that year.

Today the Arena District draws more than 2.5 million visitors annually and Nationwide Arena has been host to the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League, numerous concerts, the Ultimate Fighting Championships, NCAA men's basketball first and second round tournament games, conventions, Team USA's World Cup of Hockey 2004 training camp and exhibition games vs. Canada and Russia and the NHL Entry Draft in June 2007. The latter was the type of event with international appeal that community leaders envisioned when they put the plan together for Nationwide Arena in 1997.

While the Arena District was designed with the fans in mind to private pre- and postgame entertainment, it has been a godsend for players such as Chimera and rookie Jared Boll who live (and work) in the district. "My wife and I go to the restaurants frequently," Chimera said. "There's a lot of variety of restaurants and stuff to do in the Short North. It's always active and a fun place to be. I walk about 75 percent of the time to the rink."

Added Boll, "It's great to be this close to everything."

Ahead for the Arena District is more housing, more business, and the sound of "Play Ball!" with the first pitch at the Columbus Clippers' Huntington Park scheduled for April 2009. (Also increasing are the boundaries of the district as the ballpark site is west of Neil Avenue but most consider it part of the Arena District). Other highlights include the opening of the Condominiums at North Bank Park in December 2007 and the first and second round games of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in 2009 at Nationwide Arena.

The Arena District just gets better and better -- take it from a former Red Wings star and world traveler.

"The way it looks now and the outcome, it's very nice," Fedorov said. "I see a lot of people coming Downtown. It's not like Detroit. It's totally different, a brand new town. I think it's comfortable, personally. I like it, my family likes it. It's very, very nice. It's very convenient."

And if the next 10 years are anything like the past decade, the best days truly lie ahead for the Blue Jackets and the very special place they call home.

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Yes, I know, the homerism in that article is strong. But there's enough meat on that story to give you the idea that the Arena District has been nothing short of a godsend for Columbus, and especially downtown.

You'll remember near the beginning, I made mention of how one key difference was that the Blue Jackets came with the Arena District, while the Oilers have been around for a long time. The point I want to make here is that part of the Arena District being successful, I think, had in large part to do with a new sports franchise coming to Columbus; and a professional one at that, compared to the minor league Clippers and ... well, the Crew (which depending on if you're in the majority of people in North America (excluding Mexico), consider soccer a second-class sport). There's always something about a new sports franchise that can electrify a community, let alone spark success in an area of a city. It could very well be different for the Oilers, who would simply be relocating to a better venue.

But that's just my opinion, and much like Dennis Miller, I could be wrong.

I'd like to step aside here, and let other Blue Jackets' bloggers and people who live in Columbus to take a shot at giving their opinions on how the Arena District helped Columbus, and what it's been like since it was built, along with Nationwide Arena. So feel free to leave your comments, and have at it.

These fists were made for fightin'.

Even though I'm amidst a bit of a slog in terms of classes resuming for me, I feel it's only right to come out from my little cave and say something as it pertains to the trade of Jody Shelley to the San Jose Sharks, which only happened no more than two days ago.

Besides, I figure if anything will get me to finally write something, this is it.

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I'm not about to lie to anyone here and say that Shelley's existence on the Columbus Blue Jackets since their inaugural season (he was signed in January of the 00-01 season) had a profound impact on me either way. To tell you the truth, I've never been much of a person for getting attached to the individual players on a team, no matter who that team was, with the exception of a choice few. So when I see people pouring out their heart and soul over Shelley's departure, I need to remind myself that getting beyond my more disattached perspective of who is and is not on the Blue Jackets, it's understandable how upset a lot of fans are over this.

You've probably all seen the numerous articles that came out of the Columbus Dispatch on the trade since yesterday (1, 2, 3, 4), and other bloggers out there writing on the topic. I probably can't say much else that would add anything of value, but I'll try.

Right off the bat, I get the feeling that the majority of people -- at least, if you're one of those people that goes to the HFBoards -- don't "get" this move. This wasn't simply about getting a 6th round pick, two drafts from now. All you need to do is step back, think about this for an extra minute or two while those brain synapses spark to life in your head, and you'll see there was at least two or three other reasons for this move.

1) The most obvious one, to me, is the need for roster space. Shelley was regularly scratched, and had been scratched for at least 20 of the Blue Jackets' 52 games this season. On a team like this, where more and more youngsters (Jared Boll, Andrew Murray, Curtis Glencross, and now Gilbert Brule once more, with his recall back to the CBJ as of yesterday) stepping up and vying for competitive spots on the roster, it is important to not have to keep shuttling these kids between Syracuse and Columbus on a regular basis, juggling player after player because you don't have enough available spots on the roster to set them aside as healthy scratches if they're not playing that night.

2) It's no secret the Blue Jackets have a self-imposed salary cap that sits around $10 million less than the league ceiling. As a result, and this is important, every penny counts. You need to be milking every bit of that $40 million you have on the payroll for as much as you can, and look for bargains in the process. On a team like the Rangers, the Red Wings, the Ducks, where there's less of a concern about using the full cap allotment of money, the $600,000-$800,000 that Shelley was making might have been a pittance. But the Jackets could very well use that now freed up cap space when looking for a deal before the trade deadline.

There's also something else, and this is outside the realm of just hockey operations-style critical thinking; Shelley was respected here; by the fans, by his teammates, by the coaching staff, and yes, even the guys up top, who with the exception of a few people (obviously Scott Howson), have all been around for a while in this organization, much like Jody. And in my mind, that is why instead of possibly offending one of the players who has been the so-called heart and soul of a team during some of its worst times by releasing him, or waiving him, they found somewhere where he could go, and hopefully continue to play.

A crackpot theory, to be sure. Even I find that idea a bit incredulous to believe, but that's just the feeling that I get. Shelley had been one of the hardest workers during practice, even knowing that his shot at being in the line-up much of the time simply hinged on who was injured, and if he'd fit in for a particular match-up prior to a game. Beyond his on-ice and locker room commitment, he's also been one of the most amicable people to ever don the Blue Jackets' jersey, more than willing to go wherever he had to, whether that involved autograph signings, Hats for Heroes events, lunch-ins, or whatever.

While it's true that an NHL hockey player is almost obligated to partake in fan and community development initiatives such as these, he did these things with a motivation and an eagerness that was as sincere as I think it could be. In essence, he wanted to be out there with the fans. If he didn't, I don't think he would have so emphatically proclaimed Central Ohio as his home, as he did in some of those aforementioned articles.

In the end, however, this is the best for all parties involved. The Jackets have more cap space, a roster spot freed up, and a draft pick they can either hold on to (2009's supposed to be a deep draft, but even I think the sixth round is a bit far off from that "depth" in it), the Sharks get a known pugilist and banger who will help them get tougher on the ice when facing off against the bruising Ducks, and Shelley? Well, he actually gets to play ... and if the cards fall in just the right way, he might just hit 400 games (he's 20 away from that number).

The Blue Jackets as a team might be stunned, and even a little morose, at losing one of their locker room leaders. Even if he wasn't always on the ice, it was obvious that he had an impact on the people around him. But here's what I have to say to that ...

... suck it up, and make the playoffs. I obviously can't speak for Jody, but I think that is what he'd want to see this team do, regardless of the fact that he now wears Sharks teal, orange, and black.

Besides, I know I'm not the only one who would be delighted at the prospect of the Jackets finally making it in, only to face down their departed yet hardly forgotten pugilist in the first round, since San Jose is all but a playoff lock (and possibly a 2nd seed favorite).

In short? Make him proud, you maggots.

Pansies vs. Panzers.

Friday, January 11, 2008
Far be it for me to get in the middle of what apparently is some hemming and hawing of mere different opinions over this particular entry that was written by Aaron Portzline over at Puck Rakers in the past day, but after seeing both Truth's response, and then Bethany's response to AP's commentary, I figured I would chime in as well. Besides, it gives me something to write about on my brand, spanking new desktop (gloat-filled pictures to come later).

I've always been a pretty pragmatic person, at least when it comes to differing opinions. Not exactly on par with "Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, your opinion, man" a la The Big Lebowski or anything ... but you get the idea. In any event, if Bethany could be considered the Id, and ol' Truth could be considered the Super Ego, to take a page from Sigmund Freud, then consider me the Ego in all of this, aiming for the middle ground between irrational base desire and overly rational use of logic and restraint.

Much like Portzline the other night, as I watched Nikolai Zherdev take a near-knee from Blues' player David Backes, I wondered aloud why there was a lack of response from Zherdev's teammates. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't looking for violent retribution, or a line brawl ... but I was looking for something.

In this regard, Portzline is right when he says that this Blue Jackets team can be soft. Although the team may work better together, something seems to be missing. Character guys, perhaps? Or maybe it's a lack of true leadership at the top of the chain, as it pertains to the players? Whatever it is, this team seems to go through spurts of having that fighting, driven, and feverous spirit of energy that we want to see a team under Ken Hitchcock has. As I mentioned in my last post, this team is quite manic.

But Truth's also right; we don't need 19 other players all acting the role of Jody Shelley, looking for fights if a teammate so much as trips over an opponent's skates. This team needs to win, and if that happens, things such as motivation, confidence, drive, and ... dare I say it, "toughness" will come as a result. However I guess it all depends on what sort of person you are: a chicken or an egg sort. Does the toughness bring with it wins? Or do wins bring about toughness?

But this is hockey, not Philosophy 101, so I won't even bother trying to get in to circular logic or paradoxes at 2:22 in the morning.

Ultimately, what I am saying is that this team is being weak at the moment. Back in October, this team would fight, and it would claw, and it would scratch its way to wins. Now, whether that also involved putting up the fists or not, that doesn't really matter ... it was a team mentality sort of thing. A drive to push it to the limit. But right now, I'm not seeing that. I feel like I'm watching the majority of the players go through the motions, or look for ways to do things that don't involve getting their hands dirty, be it mucking it up in the offensive zone, or crashing through the neutral zone. Right now, this team needs people who are going to take more risks when it comes to offense ... how they get those people, or motivate the current players to turn things in that direction, is up to both Hitchcock and Scott Howson.

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About Me


Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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