Thoughts on the trades

cbjlogonew.jpgSo Howson frees up a couple of million this year, some fans go nuts, and some fans are cautiously optimistic.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m sure the Jackets could not have done much better with regards to Fedorov. With the possibility of him bolting this summer, at least they got something out of it now.

Same with Foote. To me, the way his situation worked out seemed more like “shades of MacLean” than anything else. Still, it was clear that Howson saw the writing on the wall here and thought now was as good a time as ever.

The surprising thing to me, though, was that it stopped there. Peca, Vyborny, et. al made it through yesterday without having to change PO boxes. I can’t tell if this was a wise, ‘surgical’ approach to making the team more competitive, or a rather poorly-executed attempt at cleaning house.

One thing is clear: come summertime, the Jackets will be at least $20-25 million under the salary cap. Whatever Howson’s plans for the summer were, at least now he’ll have a little more breathing room.

Nash’s take on the trades:

“I just don’t know what the thought process is. I feel like we have been building for a few years now to get to the point that we’re at. It’s tough to see these guys leave, but if they don’t feel like this is our year and they want to free up some money and get some young players I guess.”

I like this quote. There’s so much here for us to read-between-the-lines. Rick expresses his puzzlement, and wonders where this fits into the moves the team has made over the past few years. Then he wonders aloud if the trades mean the brass is surrendering on this season. (Ruh-roh, Astro.) Rick wraps up with a final shot about them wanting to “get some more young players in here.”

It says a lot.

His thoughts on possibly wearing the ‘C’:

“I’m still a guy who’s 23 years old. It’s kind of tough telling a guy who’s 30 years old to pick up his game and things like that, they might not listen, but I’m ready to take that jump, starting trying those things and I’m sure a lot of guys will be behind me.”

After having some more time to think about it, I’m fairly certain that Nash will be the captain next year. When Hitch came to the team last season, he told a Columbus radio station that the reason he immediately put Nash on the PK was because Nash played his best when he was forced to work outside of his comfort zone. Paraphrasing, he said, ‘Nash is a great shooter with great talent, it’ll be up to me and the veterans to make him a good, well-rounded hockey player.’

And I wonder if that’s how we’ll define Fedorov’s CBJ legacy — if nothing else, as a mentor to the younger players like Rick, Nik, Zhil-Bayre, etc. Sergei didn’t come in here and challenge any scoring records, that’s for sure, but he played hard and did anything asked of him. First line center? Okay. PK? Youbetcha. Oh, want me on the blue line for a couple of weeks? No problem. That attitude had to be contagiously beneficial to the others alongside him in the dressing room.

But back to the trades. No matter what, the first reasonable expectation of playoff-level performance should come next year. Hitch and Howson have set themselves up for a rather critical evaluation next season. We’ll be watching with higher expectations, for sure.

Foote traded

cbjlogonew.jpgToday was the trade deadline, and the Blue Jackets have announced that Adam Foote is moving to Colorado.

Captain Adam Foote.

Foote was traded to the Avs for a 2009 first-round and conditional fourth-round pick.

So, who will be the new team captain in 2008/9? Nash is still quite young, but will no doubt be the fan favorite. I wonder if the team will go with Fedorov for his experience.

Who do you want leading your Jackets in the locker room?

UPDATE: Fedorov has also been traded (to Washington). The trades of the past few weeks make it clear that (1) Howson is trying to free up tons of money for a free agent, and (2) he doesn’t care how much of a veteran you are, you’re in danger if you don’t have a good plus/minus.

MotSaG Mailbag – Jackets whining; Influenza; OSU’s 2008 recruiting class; VG to the Jets?

Blog/site newsTime for a new feature on Men of the Scarlet and Gray, where we respond to comments, feedback, questions, and suggestions provided to us via the MotSaG Contact Form and/or individual post comments.

MotSaG reader Rob writes:

“You should change the name of your website. Every time I come on here, it is all about the Blue Jackets. On national signing day in which OSU pulls in one of the best classes of that last several years you put this article about how the Blue Jackets have given up.

What gives?”

No excuses here, Rob. You’re right, we totally dropped the ball. In our defense, el Kaiser, the MotSaG recruiting specialist, has spent the past week playing host to an unwelcome visitor from the Solomon Islands. And the CBJ post was written in frustration right after Tuesday’s loss, when yours truly was still loopy on cough medicine after hosting the same overseas traveler the week prior.

Still, after a quick perusal of our archives and some quickie math that involved sticking a finger up in the air, throwing a dart at a dartboard, and dividing the value by pi (which was hard because we missed the board entirely and hit the wall instead), we’ve discovered that over 1 out of 2 articles here at MotSaG are OSU-football related. The remainder is made up of other college football news, Ohio pro and amateur sports teams, and other miscellaneous time-wasting, mindless, and quite frankly, embarrassing entertainment (of which this post is a pristine example). The CBJ comprise only 4.9% of our time – which seems fair, because They Have Given Up anyway.

So, point taken, sir. You’re right, perhaps we should have been analyzing OSU’s recruiting class instead of writing fake Pryor chat logs. Keep an eye on this space for our take on the Buckeyes’ 2008 class. We promise to give our two Abe’s worth just as soon as the fever breaks and the NyQuil wears off.

MotSaG reader and most excellent Jets blogger Brian Basset writes:

“Greetings! …I wanted to inquire about Vernon Gholston… could you send me a rundown on him? Many fans seem excited that he might be sitting at #6 when the Jets will likely pick.”

Happy to do it, Brian. Here’s the MotSaG man-crush’s relevant information:

  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 265 lbs.
  • Bench Press: 455 lbs.
  • Bicep circumference: Unknown (The Cray supercomputer on west campus is still working on that number)
  • Lawsuits pending: 1, against NBC (Vernon claims that Law and Order are the trademarked names of his left and right biceps)
  • 2007 TFL’s: 15.5
  • 2007 Sacks: 14
  • # of mothers of said QBs who felt a sharp pain in their uterus after their son was sacked: 14
  • # of QBs he made to fill their shorts with excrement: 28 (includes the backup QBs who were watching game film)
  • Number of patents he holds: 1 (his sweat is collected into cans and sold under the name Red Bull)
  • Records: Single game sacks – 4, for minus 32 yards (the QB is recovering nicely, btw), single season sacks (tie – Mike Vrabel).
  • Moves it takes him to win a Connect Four game: 3

Sounds to me like we’ve got another excuse to post a Vernon Gholston pic:



They’re starting to give up

cbjlogonew.jpgThe most disappointing thing about this team since the All-Star break isn’t the four losses, or the fact that they’re letting teams come from behind to win.

It isn’t that three of those losses were at home.

It’s not even that Pazzy – once again – won’t be able to pull off an injury-free season.

No, the most disappointing thing is that the team allowed Pazzy’s injury to go unanswered. Laing bull-rushed a franchise neminder – an All-Star player by most opinions – and not one Jacket stood up for his goalie? Where were the enforcers? Does the squad miss Jody that much already? (Would Jody have done anything if he were still here anyway?)

To me, that’s indicative of the team’s attitude. For the first time in franchise history, the team has had something to lose, and now that they’ve hit a slump, cohesion is clearly suffering.

The primary reason the Jackets were fighting for that 8th spot was LeClaire’s performance. The forwards’ collective numbers are comparable to last year’s; it’s only the French Alfalfa’s performance that had the team in position for a playoff push. If there’s one player you do stick up for, it’s him.

Now, down four points from the last spot, with a stretch of eight of nine games on the road starting on the 15th, the Jackets’ playoff hopes are probably dashed. It’s not likely they’ll be able to make this up with the rough month ahead. Sure, it’s possible; stranger things have happened. But realistically, it’s quite unlikely now, especially with a mighty-cold Norrena between the pipes (saving only 77% in relief last night, 80% in his last three starts).

So the question remains… what will the team do? What tone will the leaders set heading into spring? Men or mice? Fall apart and start pointing fingers, or pull it together and keep working toward that long-term goal (in this case, playoffs in 08/09)? Time will tell, and we’ll be watching.

So long, Jody

cbjlogonew.jpgshelly.jpgEnd of an era.

I can’t say it was a surprise, especially with how well some of the new guys (like Jared Boll) have worked out, but it’s still sad to see Shelly go. Old-school, tough-but-fair enforcers are hard to come by in the “new NHL,” and Jody was the classiest. Even my kids knew him well enough to look for #45 whenever the Jackets were on the ice.

I agree that the move is probably best for both the team and for Shelly. The Sharks will give him a chance to extend his career and contribute more as a player, which is something that Howson wasn’t going to do (the GM had already said he wasn’t going to re-sign Shelly).

Still, I’ll bet we see Jody back in Columbus eventually. His wife is from around here, and he’s settled here, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay in town during off-seasons and/or look for a job in the Jackets front office someday.

Thanks for the years of entertainment and hard work, sir. Best wishes.

Some of us are willing to have Nash’s baby now

cbjlogonew.jpgRick, you made my six-year-old daughter jump up and run around the room screaming & cheering for five minutes.

Yes, it was your high stick that gave the Coyotes the tying power play goal with a minute left. But it was your octuple-inside-outside-deke faking-two-lighter-guys-out-of-their-skates-and-humiliating-the-goalie awesomeness with 25 seconds left that won it:

(Link to the video if you’re reading via RSS.)

That’s just SICK.

There’s no other way to put it.


Best goal of your career, and likely the best goal of the NHL season so far. I never thought you would surpass the between-the-legs masterpiece from last October.

Oh, and Nik, your wraparound goal in the 3rd should get some love, too.

Luongo out, LeClaire in

cbjlogonew.jpgleclaire.jpgUPDATE: See Below.

It looks like the French Alfalfa is going to start in goal for the Western Conference All-Star team. Way to go, Pazzy.

LeClaire was a “distant second” in voting, but Luongo has a very pregnant wife to take care of. Therefore, the Columbus netminder will fill the slot. Even though LeClaire did not win first place in the All-Star voting, he is still second in the NHL in GAA with a 1.97, and is tied for first place in the Three Stars standings.

In other Blue Jackets news, some outlets are (prematurely) starting to talk about Columbus’ chances to make the playoffs. Sure, it might happen; the Jackets are in a small group that will compete for those last two or three spots. Chicago is one team that is probably in that group, and they’ve been playing pretty hot and cold, which might help the Jackets’ chances.

My suggestion, though: don’t get your hopes up. The team is perfectly capable of making it, but things can change so quickly in January that it’s a little early to start getting excited about the chances for postseason. Personally, anything that proves the team is headed in the right direction from recent years past should be good enough. It seems that the consensus is that, while competing is good enough for this year, the playoffs would be a “bonus.” Next season, after Hitch has worked the bugs out, would probably be the time to start expecting more from this team.

Oh, and finally, good on ya, Nik. Took the hit earlier this week, played sore tonight, and gave some payback. And wasn’t Vyborny’s long pass setting up Nik for his second goal a thing of beauty?

Thanks to MotSaG reader Matthew for the LeClaire tip.

So… the assumption was that since LeClaire was #2 in voting, he’d get the nod. However, the NHL clearly disagrees, and has decided to snub Pazzy from the game after all.

A league spokesman said the department considers many factors, including fan voting and the desire to represent all 30 teams, though that is no longer a requirement.

Translation: “There weren’t enough Red Wings on the team.” Detroit’s Chris Osgood will take Luongo’s place. Shame.

You stay classy, Zherdev

cbjlogonew.jpgSOMEone’s got to write a few positive words about the Jackets’ prodigal son, and how hard he played tonight.

With one coast to coast masterpiece (follow the link on the next page to launch), and a snappy shot on a breakaway that sent the goalie’s water bottle flying, Nik had a chance for a third goal. Skating toward the empty net in the final minute, the goal was his for the taking, but Zherdev shared the love – graciously giving up his hat trick – with an unselfish dish to Beech for the final goal.

Blue Jackets fans have a love/hate relationship with Nikolai. He’s taking a bit longer than most of us expected to develop into that major threat. Flashes of greatness have been mingled with stretches of underachievement. Last summer’s contract holdout left a sour taste in many mouths.

But aside from the goaltending, the 2007 season’s other surprise has been Zherdev. He’s clearly bought into Hitch’s scheme, and has tried leaving the comfort zone of the ol’ toe drag for a more aggressive, crash-the-net attitude, and it’s beginning to pay off.

Nik still has a long way to go, but he’s clearly headed down the right path, and tonight’s performance shows that he’s improving as a team player, to boot.

It’s very satisfying to see a player, for lack of a better word, “mature” in a Blue Jackets uniform.

Here’s Nik’s de facto hat trick; note how the crowd gave him a standing ovation at the beginning of his final shift.



cbjlogonew.jpg…nobody tell them that we’d be happy with 8th place… okay?!?

“Jumpin jack flash…”

cbjlogonew.jpg“…it’s Riiick Naaasshh!!!”

…or so screamed George Matthews after Nash scored the sweetest goal of the season so far. After a wide shot by Hainsey, Nash reached for the puck, pulled it between his legs, and scooped it over Toivonen’s shoulder, off two crossbars and into the net.

Another great game by the Jackets. Nash scores a goal that will be on Fox Sports highlights for the rest of the year, Boll gets another goal (didn’t I tell you he’d become a fan favorite?), and the French Alfalfa gets his fourth shutout. What a start to the season.

“The goal” isn’t on YouTube (yet), but here’s a link to the highlights of the game. I’d embed the video, but the flash vids from don’t play well with MotSaG’s WordPress theme. Watch for Nash’s goal at the 2:30 mark.