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Blue Jackets Links

Friday's post is sponsored by the letter A, and the number 52.

Friday, June 29, 2007
Uni Watch digs the Jackets' new threads

Here's a dandy of an article from Uni Watch, courtesy of their ESPN.com affilitation. What does it say? Well, I'm glad you asked:

Actually, maybe this is what a hockey uniform should look like. This version of the team's logo (inspired by Ohio's state flag, don't ya know, which of course is the coolest of all state flags because it's the only one that isn't rectangular) has always been miles better than the club's letter- and insect-based insignia. Although the streamlined look isn't very traditional, Uni Watch likes it, right down to the thin hemline piping. Only problem is that the jersey is so clean and crisp that the breezers and socks look clunky by comparison. Uni Watch is just thinking out loud here, but is it possible that this jersey would actually look better with Cooperalls? Just askin'.


He does have a point about the clunky appearance of the socks, however that could very well be more a matter of player preference. But then again, Tapeleg noticed the same thing when he snapped some shots of the new jersey and pants/socks on a mannequin during the draft. You would think sock slippage would be an easy thing to remedy, though.

Overall, Uni Watch gives the new Jackets' jersey a spiffy A-. I wonder if that includes a shiny star sticker on the nose, too!

Foote regrets leaving Colorado; I yawn

You know, for the life of me, I just can't will myself to get all that worked up over this. Like I said in Kukla's post where he posted this article, I am just very apathetic to Adam Foote's public declaration of regret and remorse that he left for Colorado for the money in Columbus.

The only thing that really makes my interest perk up just a bit as I read this, is whether or not this will lead Ken Hitchcock or other members of the organization to question Foote's role as captain of the Blue Jackets. Irregardless of whether or not Foote is a good leader, questions are going to now hang all around Foote as to whether he has the energy or the enthusiasm to lead a team that he wishes he hadn't joined.

If not, who becomes the new captain? To me, Rick Nash and David Vyborny may be the only two options available on this team ... however Dan Fritsche, being the Ohio native and seemingly one of the team's emotional leaders, could be an outside candidate (though if Veebs or Nash is promoted, that does open up an available Alternate Captain slot, so long as Foote is outright stripped of the 'C' and not simply demoted to an 'A').

Jackets' tab Claude Noel as new assistant coach

Apparently the Predators' fire sale isn't limited just to players (yeah, I doubt this has anything to do with that, but still). Claude Noel, who up until now had been the the head coach of the Nashville Predators' AHL farm team -- the Milwaukee Admirals -- for the past four seasons, has been brought on as a new Blue Jackets' assistant coach.

So, just who is Claude Noel? A quick overview shows us that he's ...

  • 51 years old.
  • Has been coaching in different capacities since 1990 in the AHL, IHL and ECHL.
  • Has a history with Ken Hitchcock from Hitch's days in Kalamazoo.
  • Recently led the Admirals to two Calder Cup Finals, winning one in 2003-04.
The strength of Nashville's farm system aside, leading a team to a Calder Cup is nothing to sneeze at. I'm actually surprised that he'd come on board with us, considering we already have your standard duo of assistants and a goalie coach. But Hitchcock had been saying during the town hall meetings and elsewhere that he was on the look-out for a new assistant coach, and it looks like both he and Scott Howson were able to find quite a pick.

I got to admit, this actually has me feeling a smidgen of optimism right now for the coming season. Just a smidgen, though.

---

So, okay. I know I promised a M/W/F format from now on, but seeing as how I find myself a bit preoccupied with some preparations for a vacation back home to New Jersey starting on Sunday, I am not going to be able to get up anything on the Jackets' picks today. Yes, I know, I keep procrastinating on that ... I apologize.

But I'll bend the rules on my format because of this, and have something up by sometime tomorrow afternoon. As it stands, I already have all I need for me to cook up an article on the picks ... I just haven't gotten it down on paper (or on keyboard) yet.

Until then, just hang tight!






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NHL Draft 2007 ... Part 2 of 2.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Notice:
With the NHL Entry Draft now over, and me being in desperate need of a more relaxed few weeks after the past several, I'm going to be scaling back Army of the Ohio posts to a M/W/F format instead of the full weekday format. Right about now, a break is looking real nice, and soon enough I'm going to be preparing to move in to my new place sometime in either mid/late-July to early August.

Besides, even with the free agent market on the horizon, I don't foresee too much to talk about on a near-daily basis that I couldn't touch on every other day instead. But if anything rather dramatic does happen on those off-days, I'll do my best to post.

With that out of the way, on to the conclusion of the draft!

---------------------

Saturday (full day): Let me preface the recap of Saturday's events by saying that the league should consider starting the draft around noon, and not at 10 am in the morning. Now given, I am sure that both Columbus and the NHL never, ever expected such a turnout for the first day, let alone the larger-than-expected turnout for the second day, so it's understandable that they presumed it best to just kick things off early, and get on out of Nationwide Arena before 3 pm in the afternoon. Still, for many people, a start just an hour or two later might've been appreciated.

Despite the turnout, the 2nd day was still modest and definitely a ton more low-key than the first, as teams had only a couple of minutes each time to make their draft picks. I was actually surprised that the final pick happened sometime around 2:30 pm; it seemed as though everything just went by so fast.

During the day, I actually ran in to a few people in particular. Besides seeing The Acid Queen, Sarah, Tapeleg, and Truth Serum one more time each, I also bumped in to a writer for ESPN the Magazine, who I spent some time talking with and feeling out for his opinion on the pick of Jakub Voracek as the Jackets' first round pick. I also ended up bumping in to Columbus' third pick (their additional 2nd round pick) Will Weber, who definitely seemed like a pretty cool guy. I know that he is taking part in the developmental camp down at the Dispatch Ice Haus this week with the likes of Jackets' prospects and players Marc Methot, Gilbert Brule, Derrick Brassard, and Adam Pineault. If you have the time and are around the Columbus area, head on down and check things out; the camp lasts from Tuesday to Saturday.

The rest of Saturday was somewhat uneventful; I took a glance at the trophy display, but just couldn't get too enthusiastic at any of them outside of the Stanley Cup. True, they're all very shiny, very pretty, and very big ... but they just aren't the Cup, which I spent a good few minutes just admiring.

I'm going to cut things off here. To be honest, I'm sort of preoccupied with a couple of things involving school preparation as well as a bit of an inventory check prior to boxing things up in my place over the next few weeks. Before I do go, though, the newest news from the Jackets' via The Columbus Dispatch ...

Jackets don't qualify Aaron Johnson
It really puts just how much this organization is looking to change in to perspective, when you see that Aaron Johnson isn't given a qualifying offer. Under Doug MacLean, we had been under the impression that A.J. would definitely be getting a qualifying offer. Under Scott Howson, we're seeing a completely different direction taken, with Johnson being shown the door to free agency.

Johnson just didn't live up to expectations, and they were unrealistic ones, at that. The contract that he and his agent managed to get out of GMDM is probably what ended up burying him, as it meant that a qualifying offer just wouldn't be fair to the Blue Jackets after seeing A.J.'s play this past season.

During one of the more injury-laden periods in January, Johnson found himself beginning to play some wing position on the 4th line, instead of just defense. This could very well have been a sign of things to come, as Ken Hitchcock may've been grasping at straws to find a place to put Johnson that would work for the player, for the team, and possibly even make Johnson more of a use for them the rest of the season and possibly the next.

Meanwhile, Howson did extended qualifying offers to Alex Svitov and O.K. Tollefsen, which was almost to be expected considering their play last season. It's true, I dogged on Hitchcock's decision to try and put Svitov up on the top line during the season, in large part because it was at the same time that Geoff Platt had that hot hand and even hotter stick. But regardless of that, Svitov has still made some great strides, reviving a career in the NHL that was on the brink before he was shipped from Tampa Bay a couple of years ago (thanks, Drew).

We'll see where things go from there. I'm out 'til Friday. I hope to have a modest player analysis of the Jackets' draft picks by then.






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NHL Draft 2007 ... Part 1 of 2.

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Since it's now been at least a full day since the very last pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was announced, I guess I've had enough time to rest, relax, and otherwise shirk my blogging duties. Not that I wasn't going to post sooner or later, or anything ... I just would prefer to post later, after what amounted to a wild/crazy/tedious/fun/interesting weekend.

That, and I got a little too into Resident Evil: Dead Aim while just unwinding today, since I hadn't used my light gun on my PS2 in forever. Don't tell Jack Thompson or any morally righteous politicians that, though ... they might try to arrest me for playing an ultraviolent videogame. Oh no!

So, yeah. The 2007 NHL Entry Draft from Columbus, Ohio is officially over. The dust's only now starting to settle in and around Columbus, and more specifically the Arena District and its surrounding radius, because for those who didn't know, at least three other major events were happening near Nationwide Arena.

-Comfest, the Columbus community festival. Come for the beer ... stay because you're too blazed and/or hammered to get off the ground.

-The Columbus Ohio Pride Festival, which drew members of the LGBT community from far and wide in a show of gay pride.

-The Yu-Gi-Oh! playing-card national championship, where it was time to D-D-D-D ... D-D-D-D-D-D-D-DUEL!!

Talk about an eclectic gathering of people at an eclectic combination of events. Also, if you happen to read the Columbus Dispatch article that is linked to, you might even notice a quotation from our own Bethany at Bethany's Hockey Rants.

Today, I'm going to be covering the more personal aspects of the draft. So let's kick things off ...

June 22, morning: After a rather sporadic sleep schedule all night long, unable to shake that feeling that I was like a kid trying to go to sleep before Christmas, I headed down to the Arena District in the morning to take care of some responsibilities prior to the draft. Sometimes, you just have to do some things before you kick back and relax, and this was no exception. Still, being in and around the Arena District, I was able to see quite the rogue's gallery of NHL members and media members throughout the area. For example, I believe I saw members of the Edmonton Oilers chatting at Starbucks in the morning, including Craig MacTavish.

It was easy enough to tell who was a member of the media and/or a member of a team or the league, even without the lanyards around their necks with their credentials. Prospects were also easy to distinguish from for the most part, based off of their attire and also some of their builds. Seriously, Alexi Cherepanov looks like he could tear a phonebook in two with his bare hands if he really wanted to; then again, his shirt was also two times too small, so he might've looked more ripped than he really is ... aren't prospects usually told they need to bulk up, anyway?

Even in the morning, the entire place seemed to be buzzing with activity and life. As has already been reported on by several different people in the media, Columbus was as receptive to the NHL draft as could ever be hoped for, and then some. This much was apparent by the rush of people moving around the area even before the doors in to Nationwide Arena were supposed to open up to admission at 4 pm in the afternoon.

June 22, afternoon: Now we get to the blogger gathering.

After finishing up all the errands and things I had to take care of downtown, it was time to prep for the blogger gathering. Fortunately for me, I was able to get in to the Bud Light Arena Pub a good bit of time in advance. After speaking with whom appeared to be the manager at the BLAP -- or at least the head of operations that particular day -- it became apparent that no relocating would be required. The back booth was open, the place wasn't all that busy, and I had time to sit back and relax as the clock ticked towards 4:30.

As I watched a technician crew from 103.9 FM set up the booth at the front of the room for the 4:00 pm start of their radio show, I found out that some of the guests were going to be Gord Murphy, Gary Agnew, Ken Hitchcock, Rick Nash, Manny Malhotra, and Pascal Leclaire. All in all a pretty awesome cast of interviewees, although I was only able to catch some of Murphy's interview before the bloggers began to roll in.

In no particular order, here is who was able to come around ...


And I can't help but feel as though I am forgetting someone. And if I am, please don't kill me.

In all, that makes 11 people that came around. And honestly, I'd say that's impressive. After what had happened with the linkage from both Paul and Spector, I thought there was the off chance that some people could very well wander up and scope things out, if not stay long, though that wasn't the case. In retrospect and some analyzing of my Google Analytics statistics, a lot of the traffic stayed on the draft guide I'd drawn up, but that's cool.

Conversation definitely wasn't at a premium, especially when we found out that Tomas Vokoun had been traded to Florida, at which point I was thankful that the technical folks with the NHL apparently don't know how to encrypt their wi-fi, since I was able to get on their Internet right there with my laptop to get the specifics of the trade.

The gathering lasted for about all of an hour, with people coming and going. Hearing about Eric's trials and tribulations when it came to getting press credentials for the draft was certainly very sobering, coming from someone who would like to apply for them some time during a Blue Jackets' game in the future.

To everyone who came to the gathering? Thank you very much for helping to make it successful.

After we dispersed, I gave Christy from Behind the Jersey a ring on her phone, after Paul had relayed that he'd received a note from her saying she'd not be able to make it to the gathering. Fortunately, I was right outside of Section 114, where both she and her friend were sitting down; and that's despite the fact that apparently that section was supposed to be closed off to everyone except officials and draft prospects and their families. I also didn't have a bit of trouble getting past the ushers there, who simply saw I had a ticket and let me on my merry way to meet up with the woman behind BtJ.

The seats, as luck would have it, were prime ... positioned just several yards away from the draft floor, with a perfect view of the Canucks', Red Wings', and Devils' tables. As an added bonus, we'd soon find out that sitting in the row of seats right ahead of us was quite the important people ... but I'll get to that soon.

June 22, evening (the draft begins!): Nationwide Arena was as packed as it could possibly be. Despite the fact that a section of the arena had to be closed down because of where the draft stage was, there must have at least been 12,000 filling the rest of the arena to a loud and enthusiastic capacity crowd. Like I said earlier when I said many media outlets were reporting the city's receptivity and excitement at the draft, this was the proof of such a claim right here. Cheers were erupting all over at all times as majority owner John H. McConnell spoke from his seat in a luxury box, thanking the Jackets' fans for their patience, and for sticking with the team through thick and thin -- "mostly thin," he was quick to joke.

Then came the unveiling of the Blue Jackets' new jerseys, made due to the league-wide introduction of the RBK Edge jerseys which will be implemented as of next season. After watching on the jumbotron something of a homage to Columbus, to Ohio, and to the state's and city's history in helping so much during the American Civil War, "Machinehead" was qued and Dan Fritsche and Jody Shelley came on stage a minute or so later, sporting both a dark and a white jersey. Lacking in a picture of the event, here's the image being used on the Jackets' website:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My opinion? It took a day or two to grow on me, but in the end ... I can dig it. I can dig it because I like the use of the kepi and Civil War-esque patches on each shoulder instead of just one. And also because I prefer this emblem to the CBJ emblem ... and while I understand that the CBJ logo will always be a part of the teams' history, I think this is the right move to make. If there's one thing I'm still a little let down about, it's the lack of any kind of ties at the top of the jersey. For a while I had heard from a person or two that using ties like on the (now defunct) third jersey would not be possible with the RBK Edge ... however I've now seen them on the jerseys for the Bruins, which seems to prove contrary.

Anyway, back to the draft itself ... after all of this is when the draft officially began!

Boos came pouring down from all areas of the arena as each of the other NHL teams choosing before the Jackets were told they were on the clock by Gary Bettman, only turning to cheers once or twice before Columbus picked, in particular when Phoenix Coyotes' coach Wayne Gretzky came up to announce his team's pick. Like Bob Hunter said in his commentary, "Think these fans don't know hockey?"

Then came the announcement that it was the Jackets' turn to choose, at which point the arena again grew loud with cheers and chants of "Let's go Jackets!" Even as Scott Howson and the rest of the Blue Jackets' members at their draft table took their time, the cheering never completely stopped.

Once Howson made his way to the podium, he had to patiently wait as the crowd cheered, and cheered, and cheered. Talk about an enthusiastic and electrically powerful reception from the fans, right? Although many of them may not have understood the impact that picking a player like Jakuk Vorachek 7th overall will hopefully have on the future of the franchise in a few years, they were still as happy as ever when they announced his name, welcoming him with proverbial open arms.

Throughout the rest of the draft, the crowd dispersed little by little, but a fair amount of people stayed from start to finish. Me and Christy spent much of the time chatting and talking about the prospects, peeking at her printed out list of top prospects from TSN, and pointing out familiar faces on the draft floor. We saw such things as Bob Hartley and Lindy Ruff chatting for at least a good five minutes, and Charles Wang chumming it up with Lou Lamoriello. Christy also was able to hop on down the seats and speak with Red Wings' assistant GM Jim Nill for a minute, which was cool to watch.

Now remember when I said that there were some important people sitting in front of us? At some point during the middle of the first round, we got to talking about how the Red Wings hadn't had all that many 1st round picks as of late, having traded them away more often than not. Teasingly, I said to her that we'd give the Wings Sergei Fedorov for their 27th overall pick, which she chortled at in response and declined.

"Did you say Sergei Fedorov?"

One of the two men in front of us had turned around to face us, his thick Russian accent quite obvious. I responded, albeit surprised, that I did. At this point, he then began to direct our attention to the man next to him.

"He's Fedorov's agent."

(Update: Turns out he was also his father ... which, when I think about the fact his ID tag said "Fedorov" on it, I should have remembered last night. But I was tired when I wrote this! Bah!)

At this point, I'm stumbling over myself to explain that I was kidding (... I think I was kidding, at least), which Christy was able to convey better than I was. But the guy was friendly enough, and soon enough he turned more towards us to show us his hand, on which was a Stanley Cup Ring! The guy was also an agent ... and damned if I can't remember the name of the player whom he said he is/was representing. Was it Viktor Kozlov (it was Pavel Datsyuk's agent)? I'm sure it'll come back to me at some point.

The rest of the draft, I'll admit, I spent in a semi-state of interest and fatigue. The week had been long, my energy was sapped, and I was ruing the day after, where I'd have to be up as early as 6 am ... on a Saturday, no less! I parted with Christy and her friend outside the arena afterwards, and grabbed a cab home.

Man ... this post turned out to be epic in length, didn't it? Well, don't let the time stamp at the bottom fool you; I'm putting this up at 9:14 pm, meaning it's taken a while to write this today.

I'm going to turn in for the night, and then I'll continue with Saturday's ongoings sometime either tomorrow morning, or tomorrow evening.

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Landing on my bed in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... *CRASH!*

Thursday, June 21, 2007
Less than 21 hours until the 2007 NHL Entry Draft!

Que the dramatic music and effects!



I am tired. Dead tired. I'm keeping this short, because I have an early wake-up tomorrow:

-The prospect clinic that took place down at the Dispatch Ice Haus was awesome to watch, and it was great to see some of the more notable ones such as Patrick Kane, Kyle Turris, Sam Gagner, Karl Alzner, and Keaton Ellerby all participate in a hockey clinic alongside not only Blue Jackets' players Rick Nash, Dan Fritsche, Manny Malhotra and Pascal Leclaire, but also with at least two dozen youth hockey kids from in and around Columbus who were given the opportunity to lace it up with them.

If you're curious to see some footage of all that happened, apparently the NHL has been uploading YouTube videos left and right of what went down:

NHLTube

-I've been getting hit with e-mails left and right, and for now, accept my apologies and bear with me as I tuck a majority of them away in to my archives for later responding. The draft, as well as my own personal ongoings, has taken away every waking hour of freedom from me, only allowing me time to make these daily posts on Army of the Ohio. I promise I'll do my best to respond.

-I said I'd get pictures of the area in the Bud Light Arena Pub I was referring to, and by damned I got pictures!:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The front of the Bud Light Arena Pub, just around Section 118 to 119. A key point for anyone entering the BLAP from inside. Sadly, I lacked the time to snag a shot or two of the exterior entrance. :-(

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Rear side of the BLAP, left side. This spot is actually where the radio hosts and other media personalities do radio shows during games and during special events. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, there's the possibility of a show being set up there around the same time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Alright, now this is key. You see that booth there? That's on the right side of the rear part of the BLAP. And that is where I intend to do my very damnedest to hunker down alongside Drew and any people who show up early, in an attempt to seize a perfect place for a good group of people. I don't know how easy it'll be, but it's worth a shot. And if push comes to shove, there's always the possibility of table linking, eh?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Remember that outer alcove I mentioned? Apparently I mis-remembered it, and instead of chairs and couches, it's a bar and stools. Irregardless of that fact, it can still work as a secondary option if need be.

And that's it. That's all. I am tired. I need sleep.

Good night, and see you tomorrow afternoon!






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Hully gone, and contingency plans revised.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
So Brett Hull wasn't invited back for another season alongside Ray Ferraro and Bill Clement at the NHL on NBC, as has been reported by a few media outlets, as well as other bloggers. What was originally celebrated and trumpeted as a way to add a bit of an edge to the pre-game, intermission, and post-game coverage down at "30 Rock", turned out to be one of the more awkward and seemingly annoying parts of any NHL coverage on NBC.

Now before anyone jumps on me and defends Hull, let me make it clear that I liked a lot of what Hull tried to do in adding controversial and/or important topics to the mix. Clement's a great lead host, however he can lack passion at time ... and Ferraro, while articulate and emotive, still seems to be as threatening as a cardboard cutout when put in to a position where he needs to explain his opinion. With Hull thrown in to studio, Clement and Ferraro were forced to think quicker, actually put up a more lively debate, and deal with something of a Devil's advocate for the NHL's status quo.

But there's a lot to be said for chemistry between co-hosts, and on numerous -- numerous -- occasions, it seemed as though Hull just did not click well with either Ferraro or Clement. A personality conflict, perhaps? Or maybe it was simply the way that Hull presented his side of things. Regardless of why, Hull didn't seem to fit the role of an in-studio commentator.

I think, in large part, one issue was Hull's method of humor: scathing, and sometimes hard to tell whether he was kidding or being sarcastic, or if he was actually being serious and/or malicious. There's a fine line between the colorful, animated yet civil debates between the 3 - 4 panel of hosts on NFL Live on ESPN, for example ... and something of a combative environment, a la the NHL on NBC.

What NBC needs to do is find someone with a similarly inquisitive personality as Hull has, but who is more easily deciphered in terms of body and verbal language, and who may also have an even more amicable personality. To that end, I'd be all for seeing Jeremy Roenick send in a resume.

We've all seen Roenick as he's made the rounds on TSN, Sportscenter, ESPNews, Pardon the Interruption, TBDSSP, and the like. The guy has a very sociable personality and most every show host seems to just love to have the guy on; but he's also not at all afraid about giving people a piece of his mind.

So, yeah. That's just my take on that issue.

A small note on Friday's draft gathering: a helpful Anonymous has informed me that a radio show may be hosted at the Bud Light Arena Pub just around the same time as me and Drew are planning things. At the moment, everything is still "GO" in terms of where we meet, when we meet, and the like. However, if things turn out to get too crazy or things are much too packed at the BLAP by 4:30 pm, there will be a backup plan.

Outside of the back entrance/exit of the Bud Light Arena Pub, where the stairs leading down to Cotters are, there is something of a lounge area: seats, couches, a TV, a table ... pretty much a nice, comfy, cushy spot for people to lounge in. While it isn't in the pub, per se, it's just a mere several paces from the doors into the pub. If we are unable to find any room at all in the pub, this'll be the perfect place to relocate to.

I'm going to do my very damnedest to get some photos of the places in question I am referring to during the day today so that no one is left lost or confused, since I have a bad habit of explaining directions in the worst ways imaginable. So just hang tight, folks.






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Blindsided!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
So here I am, all settled in after a long but gratifying weekend where my mom stopped on over for a visit (and in the process reminded me that I need to do a better job keeping my apartment tidy ... pfft, mothers), and I was about to get to work on making some dinner and getting to my evening exercising before preparing for the next two, long, work-filled days before the NHL Entry Draft.

I hop on over to Sitemeter to check on my traffic, and what do I find?


Good golly, Miss Molly! I've been Zerg Rushed!


I feel ... I feel so claustrophobic!

I also have the sneaking suspicious that I might have to make an extra batch of Betty Crocker brownies (or ten) for the blogger gathering on Friday, but that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Bad jokes and equally bad references to real-time strategy video games aside, a metric ton of 'Thank you!' to Paul at Kukla's Korner for linking to both me and Drew at End of the Bench in your blog post at NHL.com, as well as to Trade Rumor-meister general Spector over at Spector's Hockey, where I'm getting absolutely barraged from. I'm definitely feeling positively over whelmed right about now ... but again, positively!

But, yeah. Okay. Honestly, I sort of feel like the guy caught with his trousers down at his ankles, because I wasn't at all ready to post anything today, instead readying to post on Wednesday like I said I would on Friday. But let me toss out a few things before I go and make sure I don't overcook my chicken breasts on the grill:

Scott Howson was officially introduced as the GM of the Blue Jackets on Friday, and Jackets' fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief that no last-minute change of heart came to hit Howson a la Bob Murray. Now all people in Columbus have to do is hope that he doesn't pull a Billy Donovan, but I'm pretty sure that won't happen.

I was able to see Howson's press conference in full, and liked what he had to say when he was answering questions from the modest contingent of media that was there. Although he did what was expected in dancing around some questions, you had the feeling that he takes this opportunity very seriously, and will be going about the evaluation of the franchise, both in terms of the players and the front office, in an efficient manner.

This includes, of course, what to do with former Doug MacLean hires such as Jim Clark and Don Boyd (who both interviewed for the GM position as well), the majority of the scouting staff, assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Gary Agnew (and it is given that Hitchcock will have a fair share of say in what happens with them), and the like. But with the draft just a measly 72 hours away from now, it'd be folly to do a giant shake-up now. Save that for after the draft, either during the free agency period, or just before the start of the pre-season.

Then there is the speculation about both Adam Foote and Sergei Fedorov, whose contracts leave the Jackets in a bind in terms of their own, team-enforced salary cap. The general consensus seems to be that Foote, at $4 million for this year, might not be worth buying out at two-thirds value over the course of two seasons. Fedorov, however, has a $6 million contract that wraps up this year, meaning a two-thirds buyout spread over this year and next equals $2 million per year against the salary.

Here's the million dollar question, though: is there anyone out there on the free agent market that ...

-Is a capable center.
-Can be bought for about $4 million a year.

As it stands, the Jackets are in desperate need of a centerman who is of a higher quality, but it's already been beaten in to our heads that a Daniel Briere, a Chris Drury, or even a Scotty Gomez is just not within the Jackets' salary. So where do you look for a poor man's version of these players?

Then there's the search for a top tier defenseman, but I don't even want to get in to that just yet.

Anyway, I've got to get going. I still have dinner to make and eat, exercise to do, and one or two other errands to run before it gets to be too late. The draft gathering is still set for 4:30 PM on Friday at the Bud Light Arena Pub, in the rear of the pub. And if that doesn't work? Once again, re-converge outside of the R-Bar at 4:45 PM ... but trust me, I'll be as shocked as a fly hitting a bug zapper if the BLAP isn't a possibility.






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HowsOn to be introduced at 1 p.m. today.

Friday, June 15, 2007
Before I get in to today's quick post, someone help me out here; why didn't anyone tell me I've been misspelling HowsOn's name for a while now!? Not to mention calling him "Jim" at one point in the last post. My God, it's like I just flat-out had a mental lapse over this whole GM search. My brain ... it's turned to mush!

Damn, if this isn't embarrassing, I don't know what is. Now I need to go and edit his name accordingly in the last few posts, too.

I only have a little time here before I am gone for the day, but as the title of this post implies, Howson's introductory press conference is going to be at 1 p.m. today at Nationwide Arena. Sadly, it's doubtful that there'll be any media coverage of the conference, though for everyone in and around Columbus, it might be worth checking out 10TV, just because they're connected to The Columbus Dispatch. The Blue Jackets website might also have some sort of streaming video, or at least some post-conference video to be uploaded at a later time. One can only hope, right?

Be sure to check out this article from the Dispatch on what Howson will be expected to jump right in to once he's gotten comfortable in his new office. You know, I'd never once considered the possibility of buying out Fedorov or Foote until now, and it isn't all that wild of an idea, either.

A new link has been put to the left which will direct right to the post on what is going on with the blogger get together, where, when, and everything, so no one forgets or has trouble tracking down that post if it gets bumped off the main page.

I might be gone for a few days, as I have family visiting between Sunday and Tuesday, so don't expect anything until possibly Wednesday. Until then, ciao!





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And with a flourish, the search is (finally?) over!

Thursday, June 14, 2007
To tell you the truth, after the Bob Murray situation, I considered simply disregarding the news yesterday evening/this morning that Oilers' Assistant GM Scott Howson has agreed to become the Blue Jackets' next general manager until it became officially official on Friday, when the press conference to introduce Howsen has been scheduled.

But I'll take my chances on this one. After all, lightning never strikes the same spot twice, right? ... right!?

So, let's run down the list of ye olde reactions, articles, and opinions around both the mainstream media and blogosphere first:


The general consensus?

Howson's a quiet yet hard-working guy who had notable role in both the blockbuster moves made by the Oilers last season in which disgruntled defenseman Chris Pronger went to Anaheim for a handful of picks (1st, conditional 1st, and 2008 2nd) and players/prospects Joffrey Lupul and Ladislav Smid, as well as the trade that sent Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders for a couple of prospects and a 1st round pick.

He's young, he's connected to coach Ken Hitchcock via a Kamloops connection back in the late 80s, he's well educated (he has a degree in law) and also was a hockey player in the NHL for a handful of games, as well as several seasons in the minors.

He's well-versed in the salary cap and how to handle negotiations of contracts in the "new NHL", and considering what he'll be stepping in to with at least a few bloated salaries and plenty of room to be had in the salary books once those vanish by next season, he'll have a great opportunity to show Columbus just how well he can manage this team.

It's hard to deny that what happened before with Bob Murray has most likely left a bitter taste in many fan's mouths, especially now that Murray is back in Anaheim sipping from the Stanley Cup. But I'm not about to hold that against Howson, who will definitely be doing his best to steer this ship in the right direction. I don't expect an immediate, 180 degree turn by this coming season, either. Right now, Howson's boxed in to a corner by many of Doug MacLean's trades and contract/salary decisions over the past few years, meaning there's only so much that he can do at the moment. Once large contracts given to Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote, for example, are done and over with, we can hopefully see what he can do.

Until then, it's a matter of patience, and also seeing what he can do with the limited team salary he'll have to play with this off-season, coupled with any influence he may have on Columbus' draft picks, irregardless of whether or not the current front office has already started setting a course for who they'd like to pick in this year's draft.

With that, I'm out for the day.







Edit: Oh, and one more thing ...


Stay classy, Columbus Dispatch. Stay classy.

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Almost ready for take-off!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I'm going to get to the newest Blue Jackets' news sometime later tonight or tomorrow, as right now I have to run around and take care of a few things this morning. I also want to focus on the final decision made on where and when every one who is coming to the blogger bash should meet, as I can now say without a doubt that this is the choice:

Where: The Bud Light Arena Pub inside of Nationwide Arena
In the end, the best possible location turned out to not be one of the places around Nationwide Arena, but a spot inside of the arena itself. Why? Well, there were a few factors. First, there was the fact that it was practically the best location for people who were going to be going directly to the arena via their directions or MapQuests or whatever, or who preferred to not spend any time trying to figure out how to get to one place or another around the Arena District, especially since it's going to be extremely busy throughout much of the day outside. Additionally, we didn't want to run in to any complications with younger bloggers (I agree with what Drew said as this was brought up ... saying 'younger bloggers' makes me feel like an old man), if we had decided to choose a spot like a bar. And while the BLAP is a bar to an extent, it's also open to people of all ages.

So worry not, kiddies! Uncle Mike had you in mind!

So the next question is ... "Where in Nationwide Arena is the Bud Light Arena Pub?"
Well, there are two ways to get to the Pub when entering Nationwide Arena ...

1) Not too many people I know tend to notice this method of getting into the Arena during game days, but at the rear of the Arena, there is another restaurant called Cotters; a fancier, more upper class sort of shindig that is attached to the arena, and is next to the ticket office and rear entrance. The doors which lead in to Cotters also lead to a set of stairs that you can take directly to the Bud Light Arena Pub. Will these doors be open? I couldn't really say, but I'd reckon they will be.

2) If you decide to enter the arena the old-fashioned way, via the rear or front entrances that most people file in to during events, just remember to turn left, and keep going left, until you see the entrance to the Bud Light Arena Pub. Rear entrance people will be going up an escalator first, at which point you'll be around Section 118. Just hang a left around the concession area. People coming from the front entrance will want to take a left after they've passed by The Blueline -- the team store -- and keep going that way until they see the BLAP.

As for where in the pub to find us? I am leaning towards the rear of the pub, where there are more tables, and would allow for more flexibility in moving around and where people can relax. The front of the pub where the bar is and there's a great view of the Dispatch Ice Haus from inside is nice and all, but it wouldn't be conducive to a group of people all gathering together, unfortunately.

When: 4:30 PM
Although this might seem like a pretty late time, remember that we'll be in the arena itself already, meaning no rush to get inside from outside. Additionally, seating for non-season ticket holders only begins around 6:15 pm, and the draft itself isn't going to start until 7 pm.

The doors in to the arena will not be opening until 4 pm, as well. Feasibly, we could kick things off right away at 4, but then we'd be in a mad dash to get to the BLAP right as the doors opened.

IMPORTANT NOTICE:
In the unfortunate event that, for some reason or another, the Bud Light Arena Pub is not open by 4:30 pm, a secondary gathering spot will be just outside of The R Bar, where the patio is, by 4:45 pm (this allows for some wiggle room for people to head from Point A to Point B when they find that the pub is closed, if it really is). How do you find the R Bar? Well, if you're standing at the front of Nationwide Arena and looking at the arena, simply look to your left, and you'll see a vertial sign that says "R Bar". Just cross the street and head in that direction; it'll be to the right of the parking building you'll also see, and behind the brick building with the "Darz" sign.

So, the next question is, who are you looking for? Well, just follow the bouncing the Union Army kepi!




I'll try to update this a little bit later tonight. I got to bolt for the bus downtown now!







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Give me a chaser of caffeine with a side of Tylenol, stat!

Monday, June 11, 2007
Ugh ... I feel like I have a hangover the size of China, complete with human rights violations to the tune of someone banging on my head with a pole. And I haven't even drank since New Years, either. Maybe it's just a case of the Mondays, in which case I can hopefully shake off this nagging "blah" feeling soon.

I'm going to keep this update short today, just because I have a bit of an apartment cleaning that needs taking care of, coupled with some grocery restocking, as well as the fact that I really need to get a new computer keyboard. This keyboard -- which I've had for 5 years now along with my computer -- is finally starting to fall apart, and it's become a task to try and use the space bar, which is in its death throes due to the spillage of orange juice on it the other morning. I swear, I'm normally not so clumsy!

GM candidates coming out of the woodwork
With Bob Murry withdrawing his name, the only real candidate for the Blue Jackets' GM job who is regularly brought up appears to be Oilers' assistant GM Scott Howson; but that doesn't mean that one or two other names haven't been thrown around as well, if only because it makes speculation prior to the draft all the more interesting.

Earlier today, as first linked to on Kukla's Korner, the Ottawa Sun came out with the rather surprising news that the other Murray, Ottawa Senators' coach Bryan Murray, had recently had his name brought up by the Jackets to possibly speak with. To say the least, his history sure is a long and winding one, when you consider he's had several prior GM stints all the way up to when he became the Senators' coach in 2004. From the Capitals, to the Red Wings, to the Panthers, right up to the Ducks, Murray is not lacking in any experience. Also interesting is that Murray apparently has some direct connections to Doug MacLean, due to his stint in Florida during their Stanley Cup Finals run in 1996.

But let's put some things in to perspective here; Murray's still under contract up until July 1st, for one, meaning that unless the Senators decide on a total lark to allow him to talk to the Jackets, he would not become the general manager -- if he even accepted the job -- until after the draft. Regardless of Mike Priest's comments about how he is in no rush to install a new GM before said draft, this still leaves the Jackets in a high risk situation, where if Murray decides at some point after the draft to re-sign with the Senators, and the Jackets were sitting on their hands waiting for his contract to expire, they've suddenly lost out on having another GM properly in place for the draft, such as Howsen.

Also, and this is just my own opinion here ... why would Murray want to leave such a perfect place in Ottawa, where he has the opportunity to finally win a Stanley Cup at some point before it's too late, for a team that most likely won't be seeing the playoffs for another two seasons? Murray's 64 years old, and has had to deal with the sting of losing three SCF series ... one with Florida, one with Anaheim, and now one with Ottawa. Ottawa is the only real opportunity he has at the moment to reverse this misfortune of his, and do so before he decides to retire.

Either way, it seems like a real long-shot.

Meanwhile, The Dispatch reported over the weekend that while the Jackets continued their search for a GM, one former Blue Jacket has rather eagerly and happily thrown his hat in to the ring: former coach Dave King.

Now, it's worth noting that Kinger has no GM experience in the NHL, but that doesn't mean that he's not an interesting person to consider, nor has he not had his opportunities to be a GM, either. As Aaron Portzline reports, for example, King was offered the position of GM of the Quebec Nordiques in the 90s (for you newer hockey fans, they're the Colorado Avalanche now), but turned it down because he preferred to coach at the time.

Where's King been lately? Not in the NHL, to say the least. He's been over in Europe and Russia, coaching different teams since his dismissal from the Jackets in 2003.

Although the Dispatch article cites a Blue Jackets' source who has nothing but high praise for King, and Michael Arace had even posted on his blog in the middle of May that bringing King back in some sort of capacity -- and even considering him for GM -- would be a sound idea, the organization has been very mum on any kind of thoughts or official comments about if Kinger is even being considered ... which leads me to believe he isn't.

Having arrived in Columbus a whole two years after King was fired, it's hard for me to really get a feel for how he may have been such an apparently great coach during those tough, early years as an expansion team coach. Many comments and thoughts on King that I read from other Jackets' fans seem to indicate that he was really loved, and he did everything he possibly could with nothing more than a mash-up of discarded players from other teams, and could have done even more had he not been fired by MacLean.

Does nostalgia play a role in this? Perhaps. Still, it wouldn't hurt to have him in for an interview, if he was able to get from Siberia to here as soon as possible.

And that's all I got for today. Now to find some Advil.






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The topic sample platter post; several topics for an appetizer-sized price!

Thursday, June 07, 2007
Just Ducky
And so it goes that this Stanley Cup Finals ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. As has already been plastered on every hockey blog imaginable, the Anaheim Ducks ran roughshod over the hapless Ottawa Senators with a 6-2 drubbing, winning the series 4-1 and effectively crushing the hopes and dreams of fervent Canadian hockey fans from Vancouver to Montreal that the Stanley Cup would be won by a Canadian team for the first time in a decade and a half.

Yeah, go ahead, tell me that not every Canadian hockey fan wanted to see the other Canadian hockey team that isn't theirs be the first to bring it back, and also how the Anaheim Ducks currently have more Canadian players than any other team in the NHL. Irregardless of those facts, you can't deny the possible sense of anguish that comes with seeing half of all Canadian teams fall, one by one, over the past three years to three "non-traditional" markets where the Stanley Cup, if the mainstream media is telling the truth, is mistaken for a spittoon or an ash tray.

As for how I feel about seeing the Ducks win, well ... like I said last year when I favored the Carolina Hurricanes from a "spreading the game" standpoint, I have no qualms with the Cup spending some time under the hot sun, and rubbing bling with Snoop Dogg. Pundits far and wide will remind you, as they have been since the game ended last night, that this is a horrible thing to happen to the league. And as far as looking at it in macro terms, it certainly doesn't help in the here and now. But you just can't expect a team to grow the sport, let alone draw fans, without seeing them win. And the Ducks have done just that. As a result, they now have both doubled sponsorship and merchandise sales, as noted by James Mirtle. The issues concerning their claims of still possibly being in the red can be saved for another day.

Mike Priest talks ... just not in Columbus
Does anyone else find it even mildly curious that Mike Priest decided that he would instead speak publicly about the team over in Akron, instead of right here in Columbus with The Columbus Dispatch. While the Dispatch's parent group does have a minority stake in the Blue Jackets, you can't help but wonder if there could be any kind of rift between the front office and the Dispatch. I mean, since when did Akron care about the Blue Jackets, anyway? Something about this doesn't sit right with me.

What does he say? Well ... to me, it isn't much. I sort of feel like I walked in a circle, and didn't get to see much scenery before being planted back at square one.

Something of mild concern is the way that Priest dances around this issue, but ultimately makes it clear that the free agent market is not something that the Blue Jackets will be doing much moving and shaking in this off-season. The team is in a bind right now due to large contracts, as mentioned in the article, tied to Sergei Fedorov and team captain Adam Foote, who have both not been able to give the Jackets a bang for their buck. If that is the case and this team will be looking for poor man Daniel Brieres and the like, hopefully the upcoming general manager will be something of a quality judge of talent, since he'll have to be doing a lot of sifting through the bargain bin, it appears.

Speaking of the GM search ...
With the fact that Neil Smith, Jim Clark, and Don Boyd were all longshot candidates exposed to the public after the withdrawl of Bob Murry as the top candidate, the new focus on who will be the next Jackets' GM turns toward Dallas and Edmonton, where Les Jackson and Scott Howson, respectively, are slated for interviews at some point. When? No one knows, really, but it should obviously be before the draft, even if no one is named before then.

Both Howson and Jackson have experience playing hockey in the professional leagues, are assistant GMs for their respective teams, and both have coaching experience in some capacity in the minor hockey leagues. Howson, however, seems to have more direct general manager experience, as seen by his stint as the GM of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Jackson's history is not as easily accessible either through searches or through the Stars' own website, where it is mentioned that prior to his time as assistant GM to the Stars, he was also the assistant GM to the Atlanta Thrashers up until last season (at least I assume until last season ... the part in his bio which states " Les Jackson enters the sixth season of his second stint with the Stars after spending the previous two years as the assistant general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers" leads me to believe as such, barring it being obsolete).

Meanwhile, back on the topic of ESPN ...
... the usual prodding and mocking of the NHL, except with even more venom than usual, came spewing forth from cranky, crabby Tony Kornheiser's mouth as though he was just dying for the chance to yell, scream, and cause a ruckus during Pardon the Interruption this afternoon. Never have I wanted to wring his neck so badly, as he took every opportunity he could in the minute and a half he had to tear the NHL apart.

The rest of ESPN's "fine" line of original entertainment hovered between "respectable" to "ignorant", as Jim Rome -- despite the apologist way in which he tried to portray himself as a lover of hockey and the NHL -- jumped on the opportunity that the NHL never has, and never will be a major sport. Rome must have been born in the 21st century and had his aging process sped up, as if he had lived during the mid-90s, he would have remembered that the NHL was indeed outdrawing the NBA at many turns, both at the gate and on television, back then.

... which was something that was brought up by panelist Woody Paige when the NHL was brought up on Around the Horn. With the exception of biasedly anti-hockey journalist Bill Plaske, the panelists generally agreed that the NHL could actually somehow, someway, someday pull itself together and get itself back to greatness. Paige gleefully teared into Gary Bettman, while unabashed hockey lover Tim Cowlishaw shared inside information concerning an executive or owner in the league making it very clear that the league was missing ESPN right now, and wished there was a way to get out of its contract with Versus (at least that's what I thought I heard).

I guess that's about par for the course. Though Kornheiser's violent rage almost makes it seem like a proverbial double bogey in terms of media coverage.

And let's not forget the draft!
I think, for the most part, Drew and I have done all we can to get the word out, with the help of at least a dozen different bloggers out there who have been extremely helpful in spreading the word about the draft get together. To everyone who did, I want to say thank you very much!

Like I said earlier this week, I am hoping that by the middle to the end of next week, some sort of finalized plan will be hammered out in terms of where everyone should meet. So again, stay tuned!

On that note, it's been a long day, and I have some things to take care of this evening.






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"Rick" Roll
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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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