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This Blog

OK, we had a healthy discussion about my blog and I really appreciate ALL of the comments, even those that said I was an idiot.

I won’t make the game tonight because of hockey work, but I’ll watch it when I return, probably Monday.  Things are positive at the moment, but we’ll all know more when we play St. Louis, Nashville, and Detroit.  If the Jackets can at least split those series’, we have something worth getting excited about.

Returning to this blog.  Do I pick on The Dispatch?  Yes, I do.  I would pick on our local TV stations too, but they don’t really cover hockey.  Unless Jim Tressel goes to a game.  (And really, do we want Mindy Drayer involved with hockey?)  Is there a second local print media covering the team?  No, we have the benefit of living in a one paper town.  And I give a professional courtesy to all local bloggers, no matter how much bullshit they write.  Because without them, there would be no coverage or discussion of hockey in this town.

Every time I hear someone tell me about all the hockey fans in this area, I look at OSU hockey to say, no, there really aren’t that many fans here.  Last night, with no CBJ game scheduled, no OSU football this weekend, the hockey Buckeyes had their home opener.  There could not have been more than 1,000 fans in the building, counting the band.  All the boys scouts helped swell the numbers, but really, where were the hockey fans?  Parking is FREE and the you can get a seat for a fraction of what it costs at Nationwide.  You can’t have a beer, but I hear that students can help you get around that.

So I will continue to blog about hockey and at the same time rant against The Dispatch whenever I feel it is warranted.  I wish nothing but success for the team and the best sports journalism that The Dispatch can offer.

Arace Gets Political

Who is he writing about?  Obama?

In 40 months, general manager Scott Howson has overhauled the roster and the coaching staff. His predecessor had 111 months and left a nine-year mess. Is it cleaned up? Not fully, not yet.

Coming Back

Dispatches from Columbus is coming back in the next several days.  I’ve been pretty busy with lack of work, family, and hockey.  Most of these issues have been squared away and I can return to blogging again.  But there will be changes.

First, when I started this blog, my goal was to make it more than just a hockey blog.  I envisioned coverage of local culture, politics, and other sports.  Since the Blue Jackets seem to be on a collision course with mediocrity, moving to other topics will be easy.  I’ve tracked all the local hockey blogs and the big national ones and the numbers show a downturn in interest.  In regards to politics, the next two years promise to be pretty interesting.  Finally, this area of Ohio is becoming more diverse and dynamic with lots of things to blog about.

I’m not getting all mushy here.  I look forward to seeing more OSU hockey games this season because I let my lower bowl CBJ tickets expire.  I’m still officiating as much as I ever did and play on two teams, so my love of the sport has not diminished.  But after ten years and probably $100,000, I’ve had enough of our local brand of NHL entertainment.  I hope the team proves me wrong and shortsighted, but I don’t see much improvement for a few more years.

So I hope of all you understand and like the changes you’ll see.  I’m not going to do a worst case/best case scenario like Puck Rakers did on the upcoming season, although I think the worst case for the Jackets is that they don’t improve and the team leaves Columbus.  But I suppose Aaron Portzline was not permitted to write that.

No Mike, You Don’t Have It Right

Yesterday, Michael Arace wrote a piece with his comments on the Raffi Torres trade.

I have been mildly surprised about the virulent reaction to general manager Scott Howson as the trade deadline came and went last week.

Arace explains, quite clearly, why he thinks that Scott Howson had no choice but to trade Torres (and Jurcina and Picard and Roy and Modin) so that he would have room (money) for next season.  He talks about how all of this might cause a season ticket holder to not renew their seats for next season.  So let me say right here, Michael, that these actions do not make me want to renew my tickets for next season, but they are not the only reason.

First off, with regard to Torres only, I’m upset because the Jackets really didn’t get much for him.  A journeyman, Nathan Paetsch and a second-round pick just does not replace a player who contributed so much to the woeful Blue Jackets.  Raffi Torres might not really be worth all that much on the open NHL market, but as we have seen since the trade, his goals and effort haven’t been replaced.  I think Howson may have waited too long to pull the trigger on this deal, but that is the history of the Blue Jackets, a day late and a dollar short.  If Nathan Paetsch can suddenly pop seven or eight goals in the net during the rest of this lost season, I’ll have to take it all back.  But Torres was a replacement for Gilbert Brule, another first round pick who didn’t work out in Columbus, and last night Brule scored his 14th goal for the even worse Edmonton Oilers.  So all in all, the team gave up ANOTHER first round pick with no return at all.  And with Raffi Torres gone, how will Jon Michael of FSN Ohio keep his job?

As for Jurcina, what was the purpose of acquiring him?  Are the Jackets doing conditioning and player development for the Capitals?

Picard was with the team way too long and I could never figure out why Howson didn’t cut him the first week that he became GM.

But Michael Arace, my point is this.  As a season-ticket holder, the team is asking me once again to shell out thousands of dollars to buy tickets for a team that has no coach, no strategy other than to save money on players by not giving them long-term contracts, and (this is the main point) no secure future in Columbus.  I could hold my nose and ignore the first two points, but I am not going to give them more money in May when I have no idea if they will stay here.  Oh sure, all the signs look positive, but still nothing has happened.  The current owner of the team has not come out and said that things are moving along and he hopes to have a deal done in the near future.  The owner of the arena has not said that it is going to reconsider what the team means to the area and propose a new lease in the near future.

No, everything is in limbo with this team.  This year’s #1 draft pick may or may not play in Columbus.  This year’s coach has yet to be hired and by the way, the team will give him way too much time to work things out when they go bad because that’s the way they do things here in Ohio.  And players (see Manny Malhota) will ask Columbus for more money to stay here because the team has no playoff potential.

I will most likely NOT renew my tickets next season.  I don’t want to hear about what they might accomplish, because I already know what they haven’t completed.  I don’t want to buy seats for a team that can’t prove it will stay here for more than three years.  I don’t want to see the GM and Coach have a tug of war over the direction and style of the team.

Besides, if I want to go to a game, I can just walk the gauntlet of scalpers and get any seat I want for a lot less than face value.  Or I can just buy a cheap ticket and move down to the lower bowl and sit in my original seats.

It’s been building, Michael, and the PSL holders are frustrated.  It’s been one thing after another.

Shameless Blogger Trick

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.

Holy Duvie Westcott!

If the Jackets aren’t hungry enough, a favorite cliche that Ken Hitchcock likes to use when asked why the team can’t f*#cking win a game, last night was not a good game for the team overlord and motivator coach.  It was all you can eat night for us season ticket holders, a special night where I overindulge myself on food that I wouldn’t donate to a food bank.  Arriving at Nationwide for the 5:30 feeding frenzy, I took great delight in all of the culinary delights usual stuff that I could eat for free.  Judging by the play of the Blue Jackets last night, many of the players also ate too much before the game.

To re-quote myself from last week, the usual suspects did all the damage for Nashville.  Steve Sullivan had a superb night with three goals, Jason Arnott had his way with the Jacket defense, and Dan Ellis was solid in goal for Nashville.  Barry Trotz, the man who leaves a coat hanger in his jacket when he wears it, showed that he can beat Columbus with one had tied behind his back.

I won’t go into how bad it was to see in person and who was terrible for the Jackets last night, although you should be able to tell from the title of this post what I feel about a certain defenseman who wears #3.  Jacob Voracek played with a lot of energy and had something to show at the end of the night, but the big guns have been silent lately.  RJ Umberger thinks he gets a free pass because he used to play for OSU, but RJ, the fans who bother to show up are getting wise to you.  You need to score an important goal now and then, not a meaningless third period scoresheet entry.  Leave that to Chimera.  Antoine Vermette, we’re all waiting for you, so anytime you want to show your stuff, go right ahead.  Mike Commodore, we don’t see your name on the reservation list.

Tonight’s game is not on TV in Columbus or Minneapolis.  An early Christmas present.

***This is something I have to post and it has nothing to do with hockey.  Yesterday, Marina Davis passed away suddenly.  Ms. Davis was principal of Dublin Scioto High School.  As far as I know, Ms. Davis was well-liked by all who knew her and was a hard-working and caring person.  I learned of her death last night after I returned from Nationwide and I quickly went to dispatch.com to see if they had any additional information.

I made the mistake of looking at some of the comments on the report of her death and was horrified to see the comments of some people.  But it was in truly bad taste that The Dispatch did not exercise any editorial oversight and allowed them to be printed.  Fresh in my mind was the fiasco of the popular blog Puck-rakers being put behind a subscriber wall.  If The Dispatch can take the time to withhold its content, then it can certainly take the time to keep low-life scum from degrading the memory of Marina Davis.  You want me to take you seriously, Dispatch, then you show some maturity and leadership and keep the riff-raff from hurting those who cared about this woman.  Shame on you.

Your Questions Answered

1.  Why is Vince Vaughn such a big Chicago fan?  Because he is from Chicago.  Although he was born in Minneapolis, he grew up in Chicago (Buffalo Grove) and graduated from Lake Forest HS.  Lake Forest is where the “Home Alone” movies were made.  Vaughn can be seen at Bears games, too.

2.  Who is worse, the Versus announcers or the local FSN guys, Rimer and Davidge?  Joe Beninati and Jeff Rimer both worked for the Washington Capitals, although Beninati is still there when not doing Versus games.  But I’ll take Rimer any day over Beninati simply because Jeff does not sound like he is doing a car commercial when he calls games.  Now Darren Eliot, who did the color for last night’s game, is a former NHL goalie and gets my vote over Bill Davidge.  He does work for the Thrashers when not doing Versus and writes for SI.com.  Although both men have similar voices. Eliot gets my vote simply because he doesn’t repeat things over and over.  No question about it!

3.  How long will Rusty Klesla be out?  I’m afraid a lot longer than six weeks.  Groin injuries are one of the worst for hockey players and I suppose you could say a groin tear would be catastrophic.  The simple act of pushing off in the skating stride can’t be done without a healthy and strong groin.

4.  Does Kris Russell get down on himself all the time when he makes an error?  Of course he does, because Hitchcock makes damn sure of it.  But after the last two games, the leash that he keeps Russell on might get longer.

5.  Is Steve Mason back?  He might be.  The signs are there, but if the team doesn’t play better in front of him, he could get lost again.

6.  Will the crowds at Nationwide ever come back?  Well, the Maple Leafs are here on Thursday, so that should mean a bigger crowd, although they won’t be cheering for the local boys.  Membership in the Adam Foote Haters Club has dropped some over last year because the guy usually weasels out of Columbus games, so I wouldn’t count on a big crowd for Saturday.  Maybe Tiger Woods will make an appearance as part of his rehab tour.  I can’t wait to see him at Muirfield next June.

7.  Any stats we fans should be watching?  Yes; the Jackets have won all games this season when they have outscored the opposition after three periods.  Also, the Jackets have won more games at Nationwide than any other NHL team.