A WINNING STYLE OF PLAY
One of the biggest challenges facing the Columbus Blue Jackets this season was trying to figure out how to score goals and ultimately win games when the team has no “goal scorer” on the roster. (OK, maybe one with Cam Atkinson, but he’s been hurt.) I, too, have been perplexed about this for some time, and – to date – I haven’t really seen a model of offensive play that would be able to carry the Blue Jackets and relieve the pressure on the defense and goaltenders.
That is, until last Thursday.
Simply put, the philosophy behind that Detroit win appears to be physical strength and tenacity to make up for lack of scoring skill. And while the new Blue Jackets hockey operations team of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekäläinen will surely have something to say about improving the skill quotient over the years ahead, this looks like a philosophy that will keep the Blue Jackets in games and win their share over the balance of this season.
A REALIGNMENT WIN IN THE CARDS?
Elliotte Friedman, of the CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” broke the story last night that the National Hockey League realignment was back on the table – but with a few tweaks. I strongly suggest that you read the linked article for the whole story, but I’ll talk about the impact on Columbus here.
The prior proposed realignment, which was nixed by the NHL Players Association, proposed that Columbus would be in a “conference” (one of four such groupings, with no divisions) comprised of an expanded Central Division. This new version expands the existing Atlantic Division with Columbus, Washington and Carolina joining the likes of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and New Jersey.
When you consider that an 82-game season would see roughly 5-6 games against each conference foe, that’s nearly half the schedule against some primo opponents. The balance, I understand, would involve a two-game, home-and-home series against every team in the other three conferences.
Just like that, the number of West Coast games ending at 1:00AM drops like a rock. In its place are games against some of the highest profile teams in the National Hockey League. What do we lose? Games against the current Central Division…but I’ll take that trade-off any day of the week.
The Blue Jackets like the proposal (and, I would guess, have been pushing for something – anything – to play more games in the Eastern Time Zone), both for the cost-savings of shorter travel and the fact that their fans want to see the team play in the East.
Sounds like a big, big win to me if this is approved as presented.
HOUSE CLEANING BEGINS WITH SCOUTS
The Dispatch is reporting that since Kekäläinen took the reins as the CBJ general manager, European scout Kjell Larsson has been fired and London Knights (of the major junior Ontario Hockey League) co-owner Basil McRae has been hired as a part-time scout.
With those two moves, our new GM has started to make his mark on the Blue Jackets.
It’s not too surprising that scouting was the first area to grab Kekäläinen’s attention, what with the team’s historically rough drafting record, Kekäläinen’s proficiency in scouting and the all-important three first round picks in June’s NHL draft. Simply put, the Blue Jackets need to draft productive, contributing players with each of those picks (or trade the picks for equivalent veteran talent) to begin to close the talent gap that exists between the Blue Jackets and so much of the National Hockey League.
Kekäläinen surely knows European hockey and its scouting circles, so it does not surprise me that he would want to either 1) trust his own judgement on European prospects or 2) find his own man to canvas Europe for him. The McRae hire is a little more intriguing, giving the Blue Jackets an additional, knowledgeable set of eyes in the Canadian major junior system.