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MICHAEL'S GUIDE TO THE 2007 NHL ENTRY DRAFT AND COLUMBUS

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Isn't it pretty? Such a shiny, swirly, and CBJ-ish logo


I. Introduction
Welcome, one and all, to the Army of the Ohio 2007 NHL Entry Draft primer and guide for all those who are planning to travel to Columbus this June 22nd to the 23rd. This guide is being made in the hope that it will help to better enrich your experience not only at the NHL Entry Draft, but also make your time in the Arena District, and Columbus as a whole enjoyable and exciting.

Several topics are going to be covered in this guide, and I am going to do my best to make sure that all possible questions are covered. Topics are going to range from how to get to Columbus by car as well as plane or bus, hotels and other accommodations available in the Columbus area during your stay, entertainment and activities that are in and around the Columbus vicinity, as well as an overview of the Arena District, and Nationwide Arena, which is both the home of the Blue Jackets and the site of the entry draft this year.

This post is subject to changes, as new information is garnered either on my own or through fellow residents of the Columbus area who are capable of giving more detailed information, as well as share what they feel is important details on accommodations, entertainment and dining, and the like. With that in mind, I'll be adding a direct link via an image to this post in the top left-hand corner of this blog in the near future, for easier access.

II. How to get to Columbus
Due to the fact that Columbus is the capital of Ohio, the city itself has a variety of available ways to travel to it, depending on your preference. Cars, buses and planes are the easiest methods available, and trains are possible so long as you don't mind a one and a half to two hour driving distance from the nearest major Amtrak train stations.

Directions by car are taken directly from the site for Nationwide Arena, and are related to directly driving to the arena from all four directions.

By car (north):
South on I-71 to I-670 west. Exit at Neil Avenue. Turn left at intersection onto Neil Avenue. Proceed to the signed event parking entrances.
-or-
South on I-71 to I-670 west. Exit onto N. Third St. Turn right onto Chestnut Street. Proceed to the signed event parking entrances on Chestnut Street.
-or-
South on OH-315 to I-670 east. Exit at Neil Avenue. Turn right at intersection onto Neil Avenue. Turn left onto Nationwide Blvd. Proceed to the signed event parking entrances.

By car (south):
North on I-71. Exit at Front St. (#100A). Turn left at intersection onto Front Street. Proceed north on Front Street to signed event parking entrances near Front Street and Nationwide Blvd.

By car (east):
West on I-70. Exit at Fourth Street. Continue on Fulton Street to Front Street. Turn right onto Front Street. Proceed north on Front Street to signed event parking entrances near Front Street and Nationwide Blvd.
-or-
West on I-670. Exit onto Neil Avenue. Turn left into Nationwide Arena.

By car (west):
East on I-70. Exit at Fourth Street. Continue on Fulton Street to Front Street. Turn right onto Front Street. Proceed north on Front Street to signed event parking entrances near Front Street and Nationwide Blvd.
-or-
East on I-670. Exit onto Neil Avenue. Turn right into Nationwide Arena.

By plane:
The first and most optimal choice for a destination by plane when traveling to Columbus is, well ... Columbus, of course. The airport of choice is going to be the Port Columbus International Airport. This airport is the closest public airport available, and is just several miles outside of the downtown area, with buses and taxis in service, as well as car service. The drawback to Port Columbus for many Canadian travelers is that the only direct flight from Canada is via Canada Air, and that is from Toronto. Anywhere else and I assume it'll have to involve connecting flights.

The next best option due to both its size and relative availability and flexibility of flights is Cleveland Hopkins National Airport in ... *drumroll* ... Cleveland! This airport allows for direct flights from Montreal, however still requires connecting flights from anywhere else in Canada.

Unless you're flying from Montreal or don't have the money to spare on a car or some form of transportation from Cleveland to Columbus, your best bet is to most likely find a connecting flight that will take you straight to Columbus.

By bus:
If you don't mind hunkering in to a bus for several hours to just a few hours depending on where you're coming from, Greyhound has a bus station which is smack dab in the middle of downtown Columbus. In fact, once you arrive in Columbus at the bus station, the trip to Nationwide Arena is less than a mile and a half, as you make a beeline all the way up High Street before turning towards the arena towards your left. You won't be able to miss it, with the giant Nationwide Insurance building at the corner where you turn.

By train:
Personally, I love trains. I grew up on them during my time in boarding school, visiting home every weekend on one.

Alas, trains are not the best way to get to Columbus, since the city has no stations which will service Amtrak. If you must take a train, though, the best option depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from the New York/New Jersey area, or the Washington D.C. area, you are going to want to take the Cardinal/Hoosier State route, which relies on you getting off at either Cincinnati or South Shore, KY. Yes, wherever that is, is apparently the closest station by 14 less miles compared to Cincinnati.

Coming from the west, some of the options available really depend on where in the west you're coming from. If it's from Central-North California, the obvious choice is the California Zephyr followed by a connection in Chicago with the Cardinal/Hoosier State mentioned before. If it's from the Texas region, then the Texas Eagle with another Card/Hoos connection is your best choice.

I could go on and on, however I'd recommend just looking through the Amtrak site if you really must travel by train.

III. Where to stay in Columbus
So you want to know where to stay, huh? Well, that all depends on if you have the pocketbook of Donald Trump and luxury is your thing, or are the typical average joe and you are looking for a modest hotel to crash. Either way, there are several hotels within the Greater Columbus area.

The Crowne Plaza & The Hyatt Regency - With the Crowne Plaza right on Nationwide Blvd. and the Hyatt Regency on High Street (that same street mentioned to be connected directly to Nationwide Blvd. in the overview of bus transportation), these two locations are the most optimal. Of course the obvious drawbacks are (1) the extremely expensive cost of either of these places for so much as just one day, and (2) the fact that there may not even be much availability left a whole three months and a few weeks away from the draft.

Hampton Inn & Suites (Downtown Columbus) - This little doozy is something I noticed on my way to work every day. On High Street, it is situated across from the Columbus Convention Center, and is only a walk away from the arena. It's unique in that it sits right at the corner of a street smack dab in the middle of downtown, which I kind of like. Prices are modest, compared to the Crowne and the Hyatt.

Red Roof Inn & Fairfield Inn - The only reason I mention either of these is because I see them each and every day on my way to work. Both the Red Roof Inn and the Fairfield Inn are off of Olentangy River Road, which is also home to the #7 COTA bus, which will allow for direct transportation to the Arena District. Due to the distance from the downtown area, prices are even lower, and while I wouldn't recommend the Red Roof Inn based off of how it looks on the outside, I can tell you right now that the Fairfield Inn is of at least modest quality and price, as I've seen many a visiting college basketball and college ice hockey team use it during their trips to take on OSU at the Schottenstein Center, which is just down the road.

[For more lodging locations, click here.]

IV. What to do in Columbus
Oh, this is the kicker right here. While many people outside of Columbus and Ohio may not know this, the NHL draft this year is going to be running right alongside Comfest, which is the Columbus Community Festival. While the website for Comfest has yet to put up anything for this year's event, you can be sure from just looking at its past incarnation and past schedule that it'll be something of an insane and fun time if you decide to make an excursion up High Street from the arena. Having never been to Comfest, I'll let fellow Columbus readers fill help me out by adding their input here.

Besides Comfest, let's break this down by focusing on specific areas. In particular, I want to focus on Easton Town Center and the Arena District, due to their being focal points of activity when it comes to entertainment, dining out, and other activities.

Easton Town Center - This is my favorite place to go whenever I have the available time to make the trek from the west side of Columbus to the east side, and for good reason. Easton has more things going on than you could possibly imagine. With several restaurants such as Champs, BD's Mongolian BBQ, Max & Erma's (their hamburgers are to die for), and The Cheesecake Factory, you'll never be left wanting for good good.

Entertainment? Try The Funny Bone, the comedy club situated in at Easton, who is going to have Jeremy Hotz as the headline act over the weekend of the draft (ironic considering his Canadian roots). Looking to play some video games (yes, that's my geek showing)? The Gameworks has more than its fair share of arcade games, and it doubles as a sports bar and place to party, sharing it's location with the Arena Sports Bar & Grill. And don't forget the AMC Theater, either, located in the central hub of the town center.

Shopping is always possible, with a variety of stores depending what you're looking for, with focuses on clothing, gifts and novelty, and the like.

The one drawback to Easton? It's not central to Columbus, and is actually on the east side of the city. Buses do run to Easton from downtown, however.

The Arena District - This is where about 90% of all activity is going to be taking place during the draft, both in terms of events being held by the National Hockey League, and just general location of people who have come for the draft. The Arena District is smack dab in downtown Columbus, meaning it is a great location for people to converge upon for many different reasons.

Outside of the most obvious location that you'll be traveling to -- Nationwide Arena -- there are a variety of stores, restaurants, and places to seek entertainment if you so desire to find something to do.

Starting with the restaurants, I'll list off one of my favorite: Ted's Montana Grill. Owned by media mogul Ted Turner, this place's specialty is their bison meat, which is both leaner and with less fat than the average beef burger (and it tastes like awesome mixed in with meatiness, too!). One of the funny little novelties of this place? For change, they'll give you $2 bills instead of $1 bills, and sometimes even five of them instead of a $10. True, it gets a little annoying when you're desperately craving something from a vending machine, but it's no big deal.

Outside of Ted's, and literally in the exact same spot but just next to it, is TBD Tavern. To tell you the truth, this place only recently opened up within the past two weeks, after the previous bar and tavern shut their doors due to financial reasons. I couldn't tell you what to expect there.

Other restaurants that I would recommend (and hopefully others can give you the skinny on their specialties and good things about them) are the Frog Bear & Wild Boar, which doubles as a party location with a patio outside for congregating (the patio is right near the entrance to the arena, too!), another Max & Erma's, Gordan Biersch which is to the left of the arena entrance and a quick walk, Cotters which is actually connected to the arena at the rear entrance (the food is rather pricey for little, sadly), another BD's Mongolian BBQ, Buci de Beppo which is one of the most awesome family Italian restaurants and is centrally located just below the Frog Bear in a cozy, basement level area you can reach via steps outside, and for all you Brendan Shanahan lovers? We have an Irish Pub called O'Shaughnessy's!

Besides those restaurants, there are a variety of take-out and fast food, as well as small snack locations that you'll find, such as Starbucks, McDonald's, Chipotle, and even a lunch area inside of the nearby Arena Grand Theatre where they make a mean chicken parmesan panini sandwich.

Which brings me to the entertainment part of the Arena District! The Arena Grand Theatre is just to the side of Nationwide and across the street, in an alcove near the Ted's Montana Grill. Ticket prices are reasonable, and while the theater itself is cozy and not as massive as your average AMC theater, it still is up to date with all the latest hot movies on the big screen.

If movies don't tickle your fancy, maybe a skate around the Dispatch Ice Haus will give you something cool to do. Until the New Jersey Devils finish the Prudential Center, the Blue Jackets will continue to be the only team which has their practice facility and ice rink in the same arena. The Ice Haus, while I am unsure of the times during the draft, is a great place to go to when you want to go for a skate.

A variety of other venues are hidden around the Arena District, though sadly none can come to mind. I'm sure that Drew or Tyler might know a few they can think of.

Before I wrap things up on the Arena District, it's mandatory that I mention The R Bar, home of many of the HFBoard forum goers who post on the Columbus Blue Jackets message board, and also the central point of many a Blue Jackets-related viewing party (as is obvious from the regular greetings from Danny Gare and Jeff Rimer while they broadcast the Jackets to the people there). Before and after each game, the place is nothing short of packed, and win or lose in always buzzing with activity. You'll find it tucked away in a little spot to the right of the entrance in to the arena, and between a parking garage and another building.

In short? Go there for the hockey-related buzz, and stay there for the hockey-related buzz. The beer helps the staying power, too.

V. Nationwide Arena; an overview
Ah, yes. Nationwide Arena. The home of the Blue Jackets, the Columbus Destroyers, the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets, and oftentimes a venue for many singers, bands, or other sports-related events. Nationwide has often been called one of the best modern venues not just for sports, but also for events in general! It's also regularly touted as the arena which was voted the #1 fan experience by ESPN a few years ago. I guess you could say that's why the fans still seem to keep coming despite the product on the ice, right?

Here's a picture of Nationwide from the outside, front entrance:



A picture of Nationwide from the outside, ticket office entrance at the rear:



As well, here are some pictures of several of the concourses, both on the lower concourse, upper concourse, and the like!:



There's also the Bud Light Arena Pub:



The Dispatch Ice Haus:



And then the center ice itself, which will be done away with for the draft, of course:



(Pictures will be added at a later date, when I've had the time to go around the arena during one of my breaks and just snap a few photos for tour purposes)

In terms of the interior layout during specific venues when it comes to seating, you can see that right here:

(Courtesy of MTCTickets)

The reason that I chose a concert venue layout over a hockey game layout is because of the fact that it seemed better, when considering how the NHL Draft layout normally is at the arenas which it has taken place at.

The exterior is simple enough to navigate. The front entrance has two entrances in to the arena, however one of them will most likely be closed off. The first entrance is, of course, the main entrance through the glass doors right in to the arena. Looking to the left of that if you were facing the arena, you will find The Blueline, which is where all hockey-related and Blue Jackets-related memorabilia is sold. I'm not sure how entrance in to the draft is going to work yet, but since this is a ticketed event, free tickets or not, I'm venturing a guess that we'll have the interior doors closed off. But then again, we could very well have the doors outside shut, with admittance in to The Blueline permitted only to people from within the arena, like we do during game days.

I'll try and find out, and update with the pertinent information. But right now it's still early, and this all may be dictated by the NHL, and not by Nationwide or the Blue Jackets.

VI. NHL Entry Draft Admittance & Tickets
Admittance to the entry draft, as it currently stands, is nothing more than a crap shoot and luck. Going off of the information at the Columbus Blue Jackets website, you must do the following to receive any tickets for the draft:

(1) You must sign up for the Blue Jackets Cyber Fan Club. To do this, type your e-mail address in to the specified box on the bottom right corner of the site linked.
(2) You must then fill out your personal information with all required details about yourself.
(3) Lastly, you must select how many tickets you wish to obtain for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The minimum is 1 (duh), and the maximum number of tickets you can request is 6. As the page indicates, an e-mail will be sent to you after April 30th with the details you need concerning your ticket request.

In all honesty, it isn't the most professional of ways to set up ticket requests for the draft. Having to join the team's "Cyber Fan Club"? Talk about amateur, especially since not everyone interested is from Columbus, nor a Jackets' fan. C'est la vie, right?

VII. Bloggers meet up! (Conclusion)
Admit it, you know you want to meet your fellow bloggers. The idea of sitting around with them, kicking back brewskies and jostling one another over your love or hate for your teams, coupled with two days of non-stop draft speculation and conversations about the playoffs is more than appealing. To that end, Drew at End of the Bench and myself will be doing our best to plan something of a draft party that'll be open to others around the blogosphere.

There's hardly been any real talk about anything serious just yet, and it'll certainly take a wee bit of time to hammer out some specific details which people can go off of. Where will it be? When will it be? How will this all be planned out? These are all questions that have to be considered, so please stay tuned and hopefully within the following month or two, plans will become better laid out for everyone to follow if they wish to take part in something big.

Remember that in the grand scheme of the NHL geography, Columbus is probably one of the most central locations when it comes to the general distance between itself and the jam-packed Eastern Conference and about 6 of the 15 teams in the Western Conference.

So let's take advantage of this, folks! Come to Columbus! Come to the NHL Entry Draft! Have some fun, and let's get to meet one another!

Unless you want to be anonymous, like Eklund. And you don't want to be another Eklund, do you? Do you!?

VIII. Links and references
Nationwide Arena
Columbus Blue Jackets - 2007 NHL Draft
Arena District
Easton Town Center
Greater Columbus Sports Commission - Lodging
The Short North (nearby city section by the Arena District)
The Chiller (several ice rinks across the Columbus area)

Labels:

Power Play Bizarro Day, and Bob Marley heads to the South.

Saturday, February 24, 2007
Top shelf, glove-side, across the body.

I dare anyone to say that to Hendrik Lundqvist if they ever have the opportunity to within the next week. I have a feeling that after tonight, King Henry of Sweden will be double-checking his glove to make sure some Blue Jackets' player didn't play a college prank and line it with heavy ball bearings. That actually sounds like something that either Jason Chimera or Dan Fritsche would do, too.

Jeff Rimer and Danny Gare were quick to point out during the FSN Ohio broadcast that tonight marked Rick Nash's first ever shortie. When you think about it, it's both a combination of a surprise ... and not that surprising at all. Nash's time on the penalty kill had been extremely limited leading up to Hitchcock's arrival in Columbus, and so he never got many opportunities prior to now. Still, limited PK role notwithstanding, you would think he'd have at least one in his career leading up to now.

Speaking of the penalty kill, what happened tonight? After blowing their first PK attempt in the first (and much to most CBJ fan's expectations), the team suddenly became ... well, good at it. And to me, the key reason for that suddenly explosive penalty kill?

Aggressive play.

They didn't play stupidly aggressive, like teams are apt to do when they're down a man. No, instead, they played smart aggressive. They picked the right times to pressure point men, drop away from the slot to pressure down low, and didn't get caught out of place all that much after the first power play goal against them by the Rangers. And even then, I have to admit the first power play for the Rangers had me dizzy. Did anyone else see how many Rangers jumped in to the air? I think it was three in all, who kept leaping up while clogging up the slot and crease area, while the point men passed to one another before Jaromir Jagr scored on a slap shot.

I was pleasantly surprised, once again, by the way Geoff Platt played, especially after just being called up today from Syracuse. Although Platt is literally snakebitten with a goose egg on the stats sheet in all his NHL games played, he continues to play with a Fritsche-esque jump to his step. A future energy line guy? Most likely. We'll have to see if he can make a more permanant jump up to the team next year, depending on how well he does and how much time he gets in the last part of this season.

Lastly, this post won't be complete without me throwing down the gauntlet and expressing my opinion about yesterday's Anson Carter trade. For those not in the know, this is what the deal was:

To Carolina:
Anson Carter
To Columbus:
5th Round Draft Pick, 2008 NHL Entry Draft

There's no way around this one, folks; this trade just plain stinks to the high heavens. Doug MacLean's bartering abilities for this trade were atrocious. Sure, MacLean might say in today's Dispatch article that "There was limited, limited interest (in Carter). I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks. There was no movement whatsoever in the market.", but the fact of the matter is that this is horrible. It's not even that the pick is a fifth rounder (though to be fair, I expected a third rounder at most, and a fourth rounder at least). It's that it is a fifth rounder for the next draft.

I don't know what MacLean is thinking, but the last thing this team needs is to wait a whole year to just get their hands on some lower rung prospect that more than likely has the odds stacked against him when it comes to even making it in to the NHL. If MacLean is simply going to trade for picks (much to my and many fan's chagrins considering the already bankrupt levels of patience Columbus has for a roster capable of winning and making a playoff push), he needs to trade for picks for this draft. There is no more time left. This team has already worn out its welcome, and it's going to lose what devoted fans are left unless some sort of step in the positive direction for next season -- not the 2008-2009 season -- is made.

That's it from me. But one more thing ...

HUGE FONT ANNOUNCEMENT!!

Next week, a very important and informative post is going to be put out by me, with help from Drew at End of the Bench. This post is going to be on the topic of the upcoming 2007 NHL Entry Draft, which is taking place in Columbus from June 22nd to the 23rd. With just a under 4 months left before the draft, it's been decided that we -- the CBJ bloggers -- are going to do our best to roll out the welcome mat for all visitors to Columbus, especially fellow bloggers. Information on Columbus, on getting tickets (free admission tickets) to the draft, where to stay, where to eat, and a possible blogger reception/gathering will be in this post.

So stay tuned, folks. We hope to make this as great of an event as possible!

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Game #61: Blue Jackets vs. Oilers

Thursday, February 22, 2007
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Record: 23-31-6
At home: 14-14-3
Last 10: 3-6-1
Bloggers and local media:
Death Cab for Woody
End of the Bench
The Jacket Times
Evaluating the Blue Jackets - Columbus Dispatch (Portzline/Arace)





Synopsis:
Well, I'm back from the dead now. Kind of. I'm still feeling under the weather, but I won't bore you folks with a woeful recounting of my coughing, sneezing, and achy feelings.

So what did I miss out writing on? Oh, just the majority of that six game homestand which went a depressing 2-4 overall. Despite beating Calgary, then shutting out San Jose, the Jackets still lost to -- wait for it ... -- the Coyotes, the Blackhawks, the Blues, and then also a Montreal Canadiens team that had been on one of its worst losing streaks all season long.

But that's not the worst of it. No, as if to add insult to injury, the Blue Jackets then went on to drop a heartbreaker against the Blues just the other night in the shootout. Fredrik Norrena, for all the good he is capable of (and that was certainly one of the uglier games he has played, even factoring in a wretched penalty kill that continues to vex the Jackets), just can't buy a save when it comes to the shootout. Whatever his problem is, this team has to do everything humanly possible to avoid having to go in to the shootout if Norrena happens to be in net.

Then there's other bad news, such as the recent revelations that something is bothering Leclaire in his knee. I made a mention of this at HFBoards, and it was mainly of the tongue-in-cheek sort of comment ... but the more I think about it, the more I wonder. Just how awful is the strength & conditioning staff on this team? Consider how susceptible certain players have been to injury, or the fact that other players have been the target of scrutiny for how they appear. Rick Nash and what apparently has been his being out of shape around the start of the season leading up to now (which is mentioned in the Dispatch's own scouting report), and then how last year when Sergei Fedorov was traded for, Francois Beauchemin was the target of criticism for his conditioning when he first arrived in Anaheim.

Don't forget the slew of other injuries that have ailed this team for the past couple of years, as well. And what about these injury "complications"? Leclaire had swelling in his knee this time around, but what about more serious "complications"? Think of how Bryan Berard's more severe, other back disc injury was grossly overlooked until it was way too late. Just who is the Blue Jackets' organization relying on for prognosis reports and the operations on their players as a whole? Were Leclaire and Berard going to the same place? It makes you wonder just how much of a physical wreck the team could very well be at times.

Presumptions about strength, conditioning, and medical team aside ... the fact of the matter is that Leclaire is now out for at least a week (probably longer), and Norrena is once more going to have to play long strings of games in his stead, starting tonight against Edmonton.




Team: Edmonton Oilers
Record: 28-26-6
On the road: 10-15-4
Last 10: 4-4-2
Bloggers and local media:
The Battle of Alberta
Hot Oil
Covered in Oil
Tjarnqvist back on blades - Edmonton Sun







Synopsis:
FERNAEEAAAAAEEEEEEENNNNNDOOOOOO PEEEEEIIIIISSAAAAANNNNNNIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

I still find your in-arena announcer's way of saying things laughable, Edmonton. And I intend to remind you of how lame he sounds every time your team meets mine for the rest of my blogging days. Too bad this is our last meeting this season ... alas, parting is such sweet sorrow.

Anyway. The Oilers aren't exactly doing much better as of late, and look to be spiraling right out of any chance of being in the playoffs. Don't believe me? Consider that St. Louis, our rivals from down in Mizzou, are a measly one point behind them. Yes, the same St. Louis Blues that were dead last in the league last year, now find themselves within 9 points of the playoffs. Of course you could spin it to say "But Edmonton's only 8 points out!", but bear in mind they're on a slump just slightly better than the Jackets. Even their schedule is laughing at them!



Yeah, not the funniest of jokes, but with a loss tonight, their recent miseries would go from an "LOL!" to an "LOLOL!" And who doesn't like to see a team like the Oilers get mocked with Internet shorthand?

It's pretty easy to tell that I'm still mildly delusional with fever, huh? Mad rambling put to the wayside, I'm expecting the worst tonight. The Oilers are beyond desperate to stay in the hunt, and are most likely going to do all they can to crush the Jackets early, knowing well that the CBJ have the worst time trying to come from behind.

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Scouting, done Army of the Ohio style.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
(Writer's note (2/16): Everything up to the analysis of Ron Hainsey was done before the game on Friday against the Sharks, and so a stat or two might be out of date, but the point remains the same.)

(Writer's note #2 (2/18): The positives of Foote are where I left off before Sunday's game.)

(Writer's note #3 (2/20):
Some things may be in the tense of my talking or writing as if I was writing last week. The thing is, I was. So please keep that in mind when reading this entry.)

I'm going to level with you, my awesome readers. This past week has been a veritable pile of "sick" and "insane" for me, with issues ranging from a bad case of a stomach flu and head cold-like feeling, cold sweats, and rage directed at Chase Bank due to financial issues, coupled with an unexpected shutdown of my Internet connection (Time Warner Digital) tied in with said financial quandary. Even now, my head is still spinning like it was on some sort of axis. Alas, Advil has failed me and left me for dead.

Coupled with a five day work week this week and a pretty crazy Blue Jackets' home schedule, I've not really had much time to soak in the games and watch during my breaks, leaving me with little motivation to only be able to watch the 2-3 minute long video recaps on NHL.com or YouTube when they're put up, and Google Video taking half a month to post the most recent Blue Jackets' game.

With this in mind, I'll just have to rely on some other way to add content to this blog. And last night I decided that something I've been wanting to do is churn out something of a scouting report for each of the players on the Blue Jackets who have at least spent a majority of the season up with the team, in some capacity or another. And no, this has nothing to do with Drew's own trade analysis of each player. Sorry.

Pull up a chair, grab a snack and a drink, and get ready for something of an extremely long-winded post, folks. We'll be going in no particular order, save for the dividing up of Defensemen, Forwards, and Goaltenders.

Defensemen:
Anders "Bubba" Eriksson
Positives: One of the more obvious upsides this season to Eriksson's play has not been in the defensive zone, but instead the offensive zone. He ranks 2nd on defense in assists, only behind Ron Hainsey.

This isn't to say his defense is bad. On the contrary, his type of defense is of the sound variety, and Eriksson prefers to avoid taking risks more often than not, parking himself right near his goalie. Blue Jackets' fans will recall during the two game shutout streak that Fredrik Norrena had that it was Eriksson who, thanks to his positioning, was able to stop two impossibly unstoppable pucks from going in to the net. Additionally, Eriksson is the only defensemen on the team with a plus/minus rating in the green at +3, the other being Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.

Negative: There's a few problems in Eriksson's game from a defensive standpoint, and at least from what I am able to watch. Although Eriksson has a strong body and the weight and height to throw it around, he generally avoids full-on confrontation with opposing players in the defensive zone. This could be partly because of his staying near the net most of the time, and maybe even just a desire to not get caught out of place with his hockey pants between his legs. Ironically this inactive approach can prove costlier than a more proactive approach.

Ron Hainsey
Positives: Regularly cited as a great example of endurance and ability to play great amounts of time during games, Hainsey continues to eat up minutes whenever he's given the opportunity to get on the ice. He also is the leading scorer on defense with 24 points, seven points ahead of Eriksson.

Negatives: Unfortunately at this time, his endurance and his point scoring touch are all that are positives for him this season. Hainsey has had the same problem as Eriksson where he just hasn't been able to efficiently use his large body, even though he's shown scrappiness at times. Worse, unlike Eriksson he has had a tendency to get smoked or caught twisting in the wind when in the defensive zone, partially due to a lack of discipline when it comes to placement and what he should be doing. It's pretty obvious why he sports a -11 plus/minus, the only defensemen besides Adam Foote to be in the -10s (Duvie Westcott excluded due to the fact he's been on the shelf for a horribly long period of time now due to both hand injuries and concussion issues).

Rostislav Klesla
Positives: Like Anders Eriksson, Klesla has shown an affinity at being a modest, scoring defensemen when given the opportunity. Unlike Eriksson, who has all 17 of his points in the "Assist" column, Klesla has spread the wealth on his stat sheet, with 9 of his points being goals. Klesla's one of the defensemen on this team who hasn't been afraid of throwing his weight around, having brought the big hits every now and then, particularly up against the boards.

Additionally, Klesla's been able to do just what TSN's scouting report said he has to do: avoid serious injury. Through the season thus far, Klesla's only been out two games due to injury. The other two games he missed were due to a suspension because of that nasty hit on Blackhawk's player Turomo Ruutu during the pre-season.

Negatives: Mentioning that hit is a good way to lead in to what I feel is one of Klesla's negatives, which is that he currently relies too much on the hitting aspect of the defensive game. It's well and good that he regularly brings with himself a physical force to the ice, but it's burned him more than once this season. Although this is the "Negatives" section, I do have to admit that he's managed to stay the third best amongst defensemen on the team in the plus/minus department, with a -5. That's nothing to be jumping through hoops over, but then again only two other defensemen have a positive rating, those being Eriksson and Tollefsen.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen:
Positives: Tollefsen, who was drafted in the third round by the Blue Jackets back in 2002, has actually done quite well so far this season. Alongside Eriksson, O.K. holds a +4 on the plus/minus rating, tying him for best both on defense and on the team. But there's more to it than that. Tollefsen doesn't have a 17 point cushion to pad his rating like Eriksson has, currently with the second worst amount of points on the team with a measly 3 assists in 51 games. Berard is excluded from this list, considering his just recent return. Only Jody Shelley has less points while playing about the same number of games (Shelley has a big, fat egg ... or zero).

Any one with half a lick of awareness can conclude just from these observations that Tollefsen, then, plays extremely well when in the defensive zone. He knows where to go, he knows who to cover, and he always knows where the puck is. He also knows how to give opposing players headaches both in the frustrating sense, and the hard-pounding sense. Let's not forget he's also second on the team in fighting majors this season.

Negatives: While it is nothing severe, O.K. could work on helping out more in the offensive zone, as I alluded to by pointing out his low point total this season. He plays a very conservative game, which immensely helps his defensive prowess and just cements the fact that he is, in every sense of the word, a defensive defenseman. However on a team which holds the least amount of goals, players need to step up from the unlikely of places, and O.K. could do that by so much as taking more part in offensive attacks, so long as he can continue to excel at his defensive play and not get caught in too deep.

Adam Foote
Positives: One of the first things that you can give Foote credit for is his ability to bring the body despite his age. While he isn't always looking for the biggest hit nowadays, he is still able to take down opposing players without too much difficulty. Off the ice, Foote has been apparently able to show some good amounts of leadership when it comes to the team, but then again, scouting reports don't exactly care much about how a player does off the ice, huh?

Negatives: It's sad, but I really could go on an amazingly long rant just about Foote's negatives alone. Foote has one of the worst plus/minus ratings on the team, and you can see why whenever he is on the ice. He looks extremely confused, and never really seems to know what to do in his own zone, which is very scary. He ends up trying to reach for pucks, unable to really get at them before they're passed by an opponent or he's simply trying to get a pass.

Bryan Berard:
Negatives: It might not be fair, but with only a few games under Berard's belt, I've seen almost nothing positive come from him. However I continue to see bad things come from him, and the worst thing he does on a regular basis? He passes the puck right to the opposing player. I can't even count how many times I've seen him fire a pass up the ice, and almost perfectly on to the tape of an opponent's stick. I don't know if it's rust, or even an issue with his vision, but I do know it's driven me to utter insanity at times.

I know Berard deserves some credit for managing to come back after missing a whole 82 games over the last season and this one, and I'm sure much of it is also the fact that he has not been back for all of 10 games. Yet this just is not what the team needs right now out of him.

Although I wish I could recollect anything feasible, I wouldn't be able to do Aaron Johnson much justice if I covered him. The fact of the matter is that although he's played a fair amount of games this season, nothing just seems to stand out about him. It's true, he's an improvement over Berard, who has since taken his spot on the team since his return eight games ago based on seniority and experience, but even thinking back to those games, nothing "Wow!"-ed me about him. He was just ... there.

Forwards:
David Vyborny
Positives: David Vyborny continues to be David Vyborny; dependable, and like a rock when it comes to stability on the team's forward lines. No matter who Vyborny is paired with, he will always -- always -- be able to get a pass off, or do something with the puck that leads to a Blue Jackets' goal (when the team as a whole isn't getting shut out, that is). Currently at 49 points as of February 19th, Vyborny has a 13 point lead in scoring over the next best point getter, Rick Nash.

Negatives: All Blue Jackets' fans are probably guilty of wanting to cut themselves whenever Vyborny has had the puck, a wide open net, and instead of firing off a shot? ... he passes. Vyborny just seems to hate the idea of shooting, and almost seems to avoid it like the plague unless it is under very special circumstances. And the funny thing is that despite his strength being in the assists department, he can score pretty goals if he actually puts some faith in to himself. Think back to that slow-motion spin-o-rama that Vyborny pulled off on VERSUS several weeks ago against Boston. That's a prime example of what he can do if he just does it instead of second guessing himself. There's also the fact that Vyborny, in four penalty shot attempts over the years as a Blue Jacket, has never been unsuccessful (this is ignoring shootout results). If he shot the puck more, and he could very well be at 59 points at this point in the season.

Rick Nash
Positives: It's taken just about all season, but Rick Nash seems to finally be getting back to his "crash the net" style of play when it comes to getting the goals. Considering his size, it's about time, too. As well, Nash has begun to show a ferocity that he hasn't always been known for, when he got into scrums with Flames stud and Hockeygirl crush Dion Phaneuf and a turtling, babymaker-hacking Sharks coward. Hitchcock has also been able to finally teach Nash at least a thing or two about defensive responsibility by not shying away when it comes to throwing him on to the penalty kill, and to his credit has helped on at least one short-handed goal this season.

Negatives: Nash has always had issues in the defensive zone, that much we know. But something else that has had me scratching my head lately is the lack of real pressure he has been able to apply in the offensive zone. I can't put my finger on what it is, but he doesn't seem to be capable of just grabbing the puck from opposing players when he comes flying in to the zone. The few times I've seen him do so, he seems to come in a step too late before an opposing player manages to get the puck to a teammate, resulting in nothing but a 'nice' hit along the boards and nothing more.

Sergei Fedorov
Positives: At his worst, Fedorov has still been able to play a level of defense that the warm bodies which actually make up the defensive corp. of this team seem unable to do on most occasions. Fedorov is always the one you'll see scouting the ice, looking for any opportunity to strip a puck, be it on the penalty kill or at even strength ... the best example of this is his team leading two short-handed goals this season. Although age has slowed down his goal scoring touch, he is still able to make players around him better, but not to the extent that Vyborny is able to. He's always had a bit of a sixth sense to what is happening around him.

Negatives: There seems to be times where Fedorov will play in slow motion, and that could be attributed to a combination of age and past injuries. Even so, Fedorov needs to use that large body to better effect, much the same way that Nash should be able to overpower players or knock the puck away from players with a strong physique as well.

I also get the nagging suspicion that sometimes Fedorov may become frustrated with what is going on around him, and simply throw his hands in to the air in irritation at what is going on around him. Almost as though he'll sometimes feel as if the team around him is letting him down. Remember that Red Wings' fans felt this way about him at times as well, but mainly because of possible concerns between him and "The Captain" Steve Yzerman during those glory days in Detroit.

Dan Fritsche
Positives: I could really go on and on about the things that Fritsche has done great this season. Coming in to this season on a two-way contract all because MacLean refused to give him the benefit of the doubt that he'd be worth anything more (and I'll admit, I also had my doubts about him after his play last season), Fritsche came on strong somewhere around the mid-way point of the season. He's been able to blow past opposing players, and he brings more energy than probably half the team does combined. He's proven to be extremely effective on the penalty kill, always a constant threat when at the point and whenever coasting about and applying pressure.

Don't forget that he's currently played in four less games than last season, yet has doubled his point output, and is tied for points with heralded veterans Anson Carter and Fredrik Modin. He's also only one of five players with a positive plus/minus rating (+3).

Negatives: Even home state heroes have their problems. It's hard to accurately pinpoint one, since it seems as though he plays firing on all cylinders every night, and doesn't seem to make too many mistakes. On the other hand, playing full-tilt might be a reason why Fritsche, even after having joined the top line alongside Nash and Vyborny, is still only clocking about a quarter's worth of a game's total time at around 14-16 minutes. Fritsche is young, and needs to be able to use that energy for even more of a game's length.

Fredrik Modin
Positives: I'm going to touch on one thing that I like about Modin. Even though he's had a hard time this year, and has struggled when it mattered most in the offensive zone (this is mentioned in the negatives), Modin continues to chug along and work his very hardest game in and game out. He holds himself to such high standards, and his body language is obvious from all the way up on the upper concourse whenever I'm watching the games at home. Modin, though he lacks any recognizable symbols such as an 'A' or a 'C' on his jersey, is a role model for a team that needs to learn a thing or two about work ethic.

Negatives: Just like Fedorov and Nash, Modin seems almost adverse to using his body when it would really be beneficial either in the defensive zone, or when trying to grab a puck in the offensive zone. While Modin isn't a finesse skater who is capable of staving off opposing players while ramming in to them, he has nothing to lose by using his height and weight to his advantage.

Beyond that, there's more serious issues. Modin has been unable to capitalize on so many opportunities this season, and recent home games have really made this painfully obvious. Pucks that go to him almost act like kryptonite to him, where he'll whiff on shots, juggle it with his stick and lose it, or lose it in his skates. This seems more like a mental thing than anything else, and he needs to get over this hump.

Anson Carter
Positives: Here's something I never quite understood, and maybe Canucks' fans can enlighten me. Why do people keep saying that his year in Vancouver was "his best ever"? Because looking at his statistics, what I see is that his best year ever was in 2001-2002, when he tallied 60 points and had a +3 rating with the Edmonton Oilers -- not the 55 points, -1 rating over 81 games he had with the Canucks. Incidentally, he also had another 60 point season in 2002-2003 when he played for both Edmonton and the New York Rangers.

Is this some sort of delusions of grandeur thing that Canucks' fans have going on? Or maybe I just don't "get it"?

Either way, Carter's positives really seem to involve his garbage goals this season. I've seen him more than once cherry pick a rebound, and the guy is essentially a vulture, knowing when to strike after much circling. Playmaking ability seems to be there, though he has to better use it.

Negatives: TSN is more or less spot on when they say that Carter just does not use his body. This could be a part of his vulture-esque way of dropping in. It's almost like Carter hates to do any dirty work, instead relying on lucky bounces and breaks ... and those aren't always going to happen. Carter needs to actually hit people, and also try to ram his way down a team's throat, be it across the ice or just in front of the net.

Jason Chimera
Positives: Of course the easiest thing to say about Chimera is that he's fast ... and he really is! While it might not be the most amazing of nominations, remember that Chimera was named as one of the players voted for in the NHL as the fastest skater in the league a few weeks ago during an ESPN vote, when a combination of 141 non-active and active players were asked to name names. Although it was just 1% of the vote, that's still 1% of the vote when only 16 other players were even mentioned amongst the fastest in the league.

Chimera's also feisty. While he isn't prone to glove dropping, he has an in-your-face style that fits extremely well with his third line, grinding methods. He pisses players off, and knows just how to do it.

Negatives: As speedy as Chimmer is, he has the puck control of a toddler just learning how to hold a stick. And it's frustrating, because Chimera is one of my favorite players, too; if he could learn how to better stickhandle, imagine how good of a player he could be. Imagine if he could just sap Nikolai Zherdev of his toedrag move, and turn it in to his own thing while going at the speed he usually is skating at.

Alexander Svitov
Positives: Several posts back, I touched on Svitov's upsides, and the main point was that he's like a faster, more versatile, and scoring Jody Shelley. I still stand by this observation, but I also must give credit to Svitov for starting to temper his wild energy. He's not getting as many dumb penalties, and while he still barrels in to opponents like a hummer at full-tilt, he's making sure that he doesn't do anything stupid in the process.

Negatives: If there's one thing that Svitov has to work on, its his offensive skills. While he has definitely started turning the curve and is beginning to score more and more after being left for dead in the minors by the Tampa Bay Lightning, he is still a moderate amount of time away from being an offensive threat on par with his third overall pick label back in 2001. The best way he can do this is by working on his skills when it comes to assisting goal scorers, since he's most likely not ever going to be a pretty scorer, relying mainly on scrum goals and goals involving flattening the defense during bullish rushes down the ice, which he's actually done recently.

Nikolai Zherdev
Positives: Speedy, wily, and sometimes even unpredictable when he has the puck. Although the toe-drag is so last year, and Zherdev has now been analyzed to death by the opposing players as can be noted by his inability to make the toe-drag work, he is still able to turn on the speed and the goal-scoring touch when he's in the mood. That's the problem, though ... he hasn't been in the mood for much of the season. Recent games this season, however, have shown everyone just what Zherdev is capable of when he is motivated. Interesting that this coincided with his ejection from practice.

Negatives: In order from biggest issue to smallest issue: work ethic, inability to rely on others on the ice, and defensive play. Zherdev's work ethic has been documented frequently in The Columbus Dispatch, and while I know that Truth Serum at End of the Bench likes to stand up for Nikky Z for all the bad attention he receives, it's impossible to ignore that he's clashed on more than a few occasions with the coaching staff. He's also had a hard time relying on others on the ice, and one great way to point this out is the fact that he still tries to do it all on his own, as seen by his abuse of the toe-drag. His plus/minus is testament to his bad defensive play, and he doesn't seem to really understand how to apply pressure on opponents when in those situations. While Nash has started to gain a sense of defensive responsibility, Zherdev has lagged behind.

Jody Shelley
Positives: Besides his pugilistic style of play, Shelley has actually shown to be quite the efficient scrummer when fighting for the puck up against the boards. While he lacks any points this season, he still manages to hold his own when it comes to puck cycling and digging in down low to keep the pressure on the opponents. He also exudes motivation whenever he fights, whether he wins or loses. He's a charismatic team leader, and if he wasn't just a fourth line enforcer, would probably have a bigger role on this team.

Negatives: Seriously, can this guy buy a point? No points this season! Not one! Shelley is totally snakebitten, and at this rate he'll finish this season without any sort of tallies in the Assist/Goal columns. That's a scary thing to consider. Even though Shelley is anything but an offensive threat in most cases, this is a serious issue and something needs to be done about it. 10 points in one season ... even 5 points in a season? That's all I ask for from Shelley.

Manny Malhotra
Positives: Malhotra is like a more defensively responsible Jason Chimera. What he lacks in the speed that Chimera has, he makes up for in being more reliable on both ends of the ice when it comes to offensive pressure and defensive coverage. He also has a better understanding of cycling and how to handle the puck, making him an efficient player when it comes to frustrating the opponent when they are trying to regain control of the biscuit.

Negatives: Oh, what a sad fall from grace. After a record season last year with 21 points in 58 games prior to a season-ending shoulder injury, Malhotra has only tallied about half that total in 59 games. What happened, exactly? Maybe Malhotra just turned out to be the odd man out amidst the numerous line shufflings, and the victim of Alexander Svitov's sudden surge in skills and ability to be useful. Regardless of the reasons, Malhotra still needs to work on a better work ethic, at least in my opinion. He needs to be hungry for more, and if he isn't, he'll continue to be relegated to the fourth line alongside Jody Shelley, despite his ability to be an efficient third liner.

Gilbert Brule
Positives: Brule's starting to finally come around offensively, and even before he started to hit the net and help with scoring goals, he continued to be just on the cusp of something special. Brule plays with an amazing intensity despite his smallish stature, and can score goals in a variety of ways ranging from twisted wristers to net crashing. Given enough time, Brule is going to be able to hone his playmaking skills in a way that instead of just making himself better, he'll make others around him better.

Negatives: His defensive skills are still lacking, and despite his limited ice time until just recently, he still has one of the team's worst plus/minus records. Brule doesn't seem to be able to use that 'kamikaze', crashing-against-opponents style of play to good use when in the defensive zone, leading to more problems than anything else for the rest of the team.

Goaltenders:
Pascal Leclaire
Positives: Lightning fast speed, composure under pressure, and the ability to get himself 'in the zone' during big games. Many of Leclaire's goals this season have, in my opinion, been more the responsibility of a poor defense than anything else. The thing that makes Leclaire stand out the most, of course, is his legs. I'd kill for leg speed like that.

Negatives: Like this one isn't obvious. Leclaire's conditioning is deplorable, and he continues to suffer from injury issues. One of the things that TSN mentions in their scouting report for Leclaire is the fact that he will overcommit, which is true. The thing is that this overcomitting is actually what leads to his injuries, which have all been leg-based. The one he got against Ottawa back in December? It was because he found himself stretching much, much further across the crease than he should have. While Leclaire has the lightning fast legs of a cheetah, that doesn't mean he's immortal. Unless he works on his endurance, he will have problems latching on to a number one goaltending position with the Blue Jackets.

Fredrik Norrena
Positives: Norrena is something of an anomaly. His ability to play so well while playing in an unorthodox manner continues to perplex me ever since the first game I saw him play in. He also seems to be on the longer end of the stick when it comes to how the team plays around him lately, possibly due to the fact that they've grown so accustomed to him during Leclaire's absence. Regardless, Norrena has many upsides. When he's gotten rest, he's about as unbeatable as a brick wall, and has three shut outs on the season so far. His puck handling skills are also of modest quality, and while he's no Brodeur, he knows what he is doing with the puck at all times.

Negatives: Inconsistency is going to be death of Norrena. With the exception of an amazingly stellar run during December, Norrena has found himself having the hardest time stringing together two games in a row, and this could be an endurance issue more than anything else. As well, even though Norrena has a firey drive and motivation, it has sometimes backfired and instead led to anger, frustration, and outright rage as can be seen by his reaction to many goals and situations on the ice. He needs to temper that energy without losing it, so that he can keep himself on his game during crunch time.

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Emo, emo, emo.

Monday, February 19, 2007
Anguished anthropomorphic pear is anguished over last night's game.




The post I promised for Sunday? Taking longer than expected. It's coming along though, and I seriously hope to have it done by this evening Tuesday evening. Promise.

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Wait, what?

Friday, February 16, 2007
Rick Nash starting fights, dropping the gloves, and wrestling people to the ice in rage (and the player turtling instead of retaliating)?
Adam Foote with a maniacal, almost evil grin on the jumbotron as he grappled with a Sharks player?
Nikolai Zherdev doing dives a full quarter rink width's distance to deflect a shot in to the netting with his skates?
Jody Shelley playing sound defense, even without a stick?

... Columbus shutting out San Jose?

This makes about as much sense as a huge anthropomorphic pear laughing and grinning with teeth the size of my head.

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Well. I stand corrected.

(I'm still intending to post on Sunday, by the way. Just had to get this out of my system before I went to bed. Accursed 11 PM shift on a Saturday.)

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At least the game was only on in Chicago and Columbus, right?

Monday, February 12, 2007
( Note: I actually was aiming to put this up as a podcast. Livejournal -- that evil yet useful journal site -- has phone numbers which you can call and make voice posts with, and I planned to narrate this instead. But the voice quality through the phone number, coupled with using my cell phone, was just way too poor. )

Three games down. Three games to go.

This six game homestand was supposed to be the Blue Jackets' last stand, in a sense. Starting out at 15 points behind the eighth seeded Minnesota Wild, there was still a sliver of hope that if the Blue Jackets could come out with a respectable record during the home games, that they could at least make some sort of push in the last third of the season.

What that push would lead to is anyone's guess. Right about now most Blue Jackets' fans have to be shaking their heads in disbelief as the team now sits 17 points out of the playoffs, and doesn't look like it will make any sort of headway towards even staying within a decent point margin for the sake of respectibility. The Jackets have dropped two of three at home, showing just how maddening their inconsistency can be by first losing badly in a shutout to Phoenix, winning against Northwest Division-leading Calgary, then losing again to fellow cellar dweller Chicago.

It's true that most Jackets' fans would shrug their shoulders and say that they've accepted this as a fact of life when it comes to their team, but that doesn't help to soften or soothe the sting any more.

Keep in mind that even though last season's Blue Jackets had the best record and the best point total ever, they still didn't finish any closer to the playoffs than they did in their inaugeral season. In that inagural season, a ragtag band of castoffs from other teams managed to stay within 19 points of the eighth seeded Vancouver Canucks. To at least stay in the teens was something worth respecting for a new expansion team.

Yesterday afternoon's game brought with it a variety of concerns and questions leading in to the middle of February, with just a couple of weeks left before the trade deadline. First and foremost are concerns about Fredrik Norrena's ability to hold down the fort when in net. Ever since that five game winning streak back in December, "Steady Freddy" has been just about unable to string together two strong outings in a row unless he has had ample time to rest. He's become a Jekyl and Hyde in a sense, much like the rest of the team around him. With his new two-year contract extension announced on the same day that he was chased from the nets against Chicago, you almost want to wonder if this was the right decision, even factoring in his amazing play earlier in the season.

Next, and this question is extremely important; who is traded, and what can Columbus possibly get in return? The usual list of Blue Jackets' players on the trade block has stayed the same, with underachieving Anson Carter and Fredrik Modin at the top of the list due to General Manager Doug MacLean's struggles in re-signing one or both of them, and Nikolai Zherdev has occasionally been mentioned, but as the severity of his recent illness began to become more public, clamors for his departure also quieted.

Besides the usual suspects, other names have now begun to creep in to the mix, with The Columbus Dispatch recently throwing out players such as Manny Malhotra, Bryan Berard, and team captain Adam Foote as would-be trade bait.

But what can the Blue Jackets get for these players? With the playoff hunt in both conferences so tight, other GMs are acting very shrewdly, and it could very well be a game of chicken between the few teams out of playoff contention, and those teams on the playoff bubble desperately seeking some sort of piece to complete their own team puzzles. While it's normally the teams making it or trying to make it to the playoffs that will blink first, Doug MacLean must be feeling the heat that if he doesn't swing a deal soon, other teams may take advantage of that. If they do ship off their own players to fill other team's gaps before he can, MacLean and the Jackets will be left high and dry, with UFAs aplenty that they'll get nothing for.

MacLean would be wise to not trade for draft picks. Or at least not trade only for draft picks. It stands to reason that this upcoming NHL Entry Draft is not going to have anywhere near the yield of skill as the last one, and the Blue Jackets need fresh blood that can help the team if not immediately, then at the start of next season. This team does not have the luxury of time to go in to a rebuilding mode, especially when it has not yet made the playoffs.

Either way, the Blue Jackets find themselves in the sixth year of their short history, and still no playoff berth to offer up to their fans as appreciation for being so loyal. While storied teams such as the Blackhawks and the Bruins suffer and writhe in what seems like fanbase death throes all thanks to several bad years, the Blue Jackets continue to coast by due to their expansion label, and a fan base that has adamantly clung to this team despite their poor performance year in and year out.

The question is, how much longer can this keep up? Something has to give. Let's just hope that it's the Blue Jackets who give the city of Columbus a taste of the playoffs first, before the fans simply give up.

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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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