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Blue Jackets Links

Blue Jackets: 0 ... Sharks: 3

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Well, I guess I should stop putting this entry off. Not that I have been ... in all honesty, the whole final project week thing is causing me stress of the highest caliber, and so the Blue Jackets' four game losing streak is the last thing on my mind.

But maybe that's a good thing, right? It makes it easier to look at the situation with the CBJ a little more rationally, instead of jumping to snap judgements about what is going wrong, right, or whatever. In the end, though, there's a lot of things going on that need to be talked about. I'm not a coach, a general manager, or any of that sort of stuff ... I'm just a college student majoring in business and sports manegement who doesn't even have his Associates' Degree yet. So with that in mind, take much of my analyzation with a grain of salt.

First thing that I want to talk about is the coaching, and Gerard Gallant to be specific. I think what really stood out to me during last night's game, and I'm sure it did for other people watching on FSN Ohio, was when he had that outburst towards a fan near the tunnel as he was walking away from the bench at the end of the game, looking like he was ready to dive over the ledge and attack the nearest wayward angry fan that pissed him off.

I expect anger and agitation from Gallant, of course. I know one thing that stood out to me when watching a game last year was when he started banging and slamming the bench door repeatedly in anger over a call (in the process getting a bench minor himself). But even so, it may be time to start asking ourselves if the team is drowning out just about everything he says.

By all accounts Gallant has been running the team ragged in practices, and giving them speeches so ill-tempered and firey that if they were put on CD they'd need an "EXPLICIT CONTENT" warning. Everything you read about Gallant, it seems like he is doing everything that should be expected of a coach. And yet nothing is happening.

So what do you do when the coach is talking to proverbial brick walls in the shape of hockey players? Firing's one option, but there isn't exactly any coaches on the market (and don't mention Ken Hitchcock. Really, people ... the Flyers are even worse off than the Blue Jackets right at the moment, even considering his past success).

Keeping on the coaching issue for one more moment, what happened to the power play that was firing on all cylanders the first three games? Prior to that staggering layoff between the first three games and the ones following them, a lot of fans -- myself included -- seemed ready to start building a golden statue in Gary Agnew's honor for what many fans thought was him weaving long-forgotten magic that made the Jackets' power play as deadly as Gary Bettman's personality. Now? They can't so much as get it set up, and we're back at square one with the boos raining down every time the team fails on the power play.

Anyway, let's consider something else besides the coaching. Could it be the General Manager? Mr. "Either love him or hate him" Doug MacLean?

If it is, the only role he's played in this current debacle is not getting the right pieces of the puzzle for a strong team prior to the start of the season. Even though MacLean is the GM, Gallant seems to hold many of the cards when it comes to who he'd like to scratch, who he'd like not to play or be sent down, and so on. With that in mind, MacLean still could be blamed for the lackluster blue line which got hardly anything, if at all, in terms of a strength boost during the off-season.

After a little number crunching thanks to TSN's salary chart for each team, I've been able to guesstimate the Blue Jackets only have between $5-6 million left in the bank before they hip the cap ceiling. So let me ask you, the reader, what should be done with that cap space? Is MacLean supposed to go crawling to McConnel and beg to use that little bit of wiggle room, even though it already took some pleading and haggling to get the money for Nikolai Zherdev just before the season started? What if that cap space is needed later? And who is left in the free agent market who could bolster the blue line, anyway?

So far only two defensemen have been able to show their worth: the first one is, of course, Rusty Klesla, who despite having no points on the season so far can at least boast not having given up any even strength goals on his watch, with a plus-minus rating right at 0 over five games. The other one, and this is a bit of a surprise, is Anders Eriksson. Three assists over six games, and a +1 rating have him leading the pack both in terms of defensive awareness and helping out with the point output.

The rest of the blue line? Nothing more than mediocre to horrid. Duvie Westcott, despite six points in seven games, is at a -3 rating and plays with hardly any sort of knowledge concerning what is going on around him. Ron Hainsey? His scouting report all but sums up his (and the rest of the blue line's) problem: "Is far too soft for his 6-3, 211-pound frame. Needs more polish in the defensive zone. Is still a bit raw in all three zones."

Then there's the Captain, Adam Foote. Just like Hainsey he has 2 assists, but is also a -3. Unlike Duvie and Hainsey, I can't even come up with anything to say about Footer. Why? Because he's just been that much of a non-factor. It's hard to even come up with anything bad, let alone good, about the guy when he doesn't seem to do anything when he's on the ice. So he hits hard, he stands up for the teammates, and -- in my opinion -- is a great leader off the ice or when there's no game going on. That isn't helping in any sort of tangible ways when a win is on the line.

The defense, however, is not the only part of the Blue Jackets that isn't working. The offense, which is supposed to be this force of nature with all this "depth", has now been kept off the scoreboard for two out of the last three games, being shut out by both the Wild and the Sharks.

And why isn't it clicking? Well, one part of it could be the rapidly shifting lines that have been going on since the very start of the seasons ... though to be fair, it's hard to keep things in a state of stability when players are frequently being scratched, calling up, or rejoining after injuries.

It'd take several paragraphs to meticulously go over each forward's problems, one after another, so I'll try and sum things up in just a few, general comments about the lack of offense.

First? Passes aren't crisp, and players are reaching for the puck because of that. Anyone who has seen each game has seen that coordination between the players is at the lowest of the low right now. When passes aren't on the tape, a team can't break out, or try to go for any sort of offensive rushes, or anything of the sort.

Next? The players don't seem to have any faith in each other ... and yet at the same time they rely too much on each other. A weird paradox, isn't it? I'll try my best to explain ... in short, players refuse to just shoot the puck, instead trying to pass it along to another player who they feel is open. This is the exact same problem that the Blue Jackets had last season, where instead of just giving a shot a chance and firing from the point or just throwing the puck on net, they'll pass on the opportunity because they have doubts.

Now this is only if the Blue Jackets even get in to the offensive zone. That's where the lack of trust comes in. Look at players like Zherdev, who are trying to carry the team on their shoulders with all sorts of fancy skating that, in the end, usually leads to very little. That, on top of wayward and half-hearted passes from the forwards and players as a whole, leads to very little opportunity to try and set up any sort of offensive pressure.

This little ramble has gone on long enough, I think. And it really doesn't amount to much of anything, either. In all honesty, I'm still scratching my head at the whole situation, trying to think of what could be done to remedy this pitfall the Blue Jackets have found themselves tumbling in to over the past two weeks.

Well ... there's three more days until Friday's game against Los Angeles. We'll just have to wait and see if anything happens outside of more bag puck skates and bellowing at players during practices, won't we?
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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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