Dark Blue Jacket, a person who has a blog, The Dark Blue Jacket, which I don’t link to and he graciously returns the favor, asked me to answer the questions that Aaron Portzline asked Scott Howson as published this morning in The Dispatch. It’s a quiet holiday week and I’ve got nothing to do until I head out to WCHA country on Tuesday, so I’m up for it. Here goes.
So, to my fellow CBJ bloggers: Copy the questions in the interview and paste them into your own blog, and try answering them yourselves! If you participate in this exercise, please post a link to your responses in the comments.
Question: Given the expectations surrounding this club heading into this season, how surprised are you to be closer to last place than a playoff spot in the Western Conference? I’m stunned, but I should have seen this coming. After all, the only team in our division that didn’t improve is Detroit. But a weaker 2009 version of the Red Wings is still a tough team for the Blue Jackets to compete against. In all honesty, we made one big roster move, signing a competent back-up goalie for our team. Other than that, we haven’t changed much.
Q: What player, what aspect of the club, has been most surprising? I’m not happy with the overall play of the team. For crying out loud, it looks like the boys went home over the summer and forgot about the demands of playing in the NHL. We do not come prepared to play hockey most nights this season. And we have failed to consider the changes in the NHL, like the speed and puck possession styles that successful teams utilize.
Q: Why is coach Ken Hitchcock the right coach for this club right now? Because he is the one that we have. Hitchcock was in place before I got here and I am doing my best to work with him.
Q: You have one of the youngest clubs in the NHL. Does he work well with a group like that? You could make the case that he is not getting his plans across to the team. The players know that he has the experience and knowledge that a successful NHL coach needs, but the younger guys are not comprehending him very well. It’s kind of like taking calculus; some students do well with Professor Huang while the more experienced Professor Jones can’t get through to anyone in his class.
Q: Do you feel like you over-estimated Derick Brassard, expecting him to be a No. 1 center this season? No, Derick is the right guy for our club. You know, the Blue Jackets don’t have a lot of offensive talent, just Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius. After those two, we have a significant drop in NHL talent and skill.
Q: How close did you come to making a deal over the last few days, before the NHL’s holiday roster freeze went into effect on Saturday? If I wanted to trade Steve Mason or Kris Russell or Jakub Voracek, I could have made a deal. But the rest of the NHL is not interested in our roster beyond those guys and Rick Nash.
Q: Do you consider talking during the next week, even though you can’t make a move until after Dec. 26? I’m always talking, that’s my job as an NHL General Manager.
Q: Any thought given to a minor league call-up? Excuse me? We don’t have anyone to call up.
Q: You made one change to your blue line last offseason, adding defenseman Anton Stralman. If you had it to do over again, would you have done more to upgrade the defense? We looked at Martin Skoula, but Hitch passed on him. I’m a little surprised Hitch didn’t ask me to go after his old buddy, Darryl Sydor. Sydor was available, but the guy is 37 and I told Hitch we don’t run a retirement home here. Besides, he was here a few years ago and hated it. I don’t think he wants to come back, friend or no friend.
Q: Could this club use another strong veteran presence in the dressing room? We could use something! But then I don’t hang around with the guys after practice. They’re all young and they like to go out at night and it’s not to the local library. Sure, they didn’t mind Peca hanging around last year, but some of them told me he smelled like an old man in a nursing home. The only veterans who want to come here are Hitch’s buddies and I don’t see one of them I want. The kids have worked their entire lives to get to the NHL and this maybe another task that they need to check off. I tell them to think of this as Junior Hockey, but without a curfew.
Q: You talk about “going through the process” and “working through it”, but isn’t that what last season was about? Didn’t you feel like you’d already gone through all of this? We have to do it again, unfortunately, because our team is not the same as last seasons’. No Jason Williams, not Manny Malhotra, no Peca, you get the picture. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a two season process.
Q: Do you need an enforcer? No. We don’t have the roster space to waste on a dancer.
Q: [Why or] Why not? It’s more important that we develop hockey players who can play. When we didn’t have them, a guy like Jody Shelley kept the other teams honest.
Q: Sitting here, five days before Christmas, do you still feel as if that’s a playoff-caliber club? I have two hopes. One, that the boys get their shit together and start playing better. And two, that a few of the Western Conference teams cool off and come down to earth. It’s more likely that number two is going to occur.