Thursday, October 9, 2014

How You Take It: The Test Ahead

There's an old bumper sticker -- probably some posters, and nice little neat square quote thingies that wind up on Instagram, too -- that has a saying that comes to mind often in business:

"Life is 10% how you make it, and 90% how you take it."

How the Columbus Blue Jackets will do this year will depend very much on that 90 percent.

Nathan Horton: Out with a degenerative back problem, until God knows when.

Boone Jenner: Out with a broken hand for about five weeks.

Brandon Dubinsky: Out after abdominal surgery for about six weeks.

At least the Jackets got ol' whatshisname back... the, uh, name escapes me because he skipped training camp, and I focused on memorizing that roster.

As the Jackets take the ice, they are likely among the youngest teams in the NHL, and sport two of their three first round draft picks from 2013 on the Opening Night roster.

They get some reinforcement of NHL experience with the re-acquisition of Jack Skille, and the addition of Adam Cracknell, both off waivers.

They aren't the kind of moves that easily replace guys like Dubinsky and Jenner -- or the kind of player everyone knows Horton can be when healthy. However, they give the Jackets some additional depth... and with depth comes options, while the Jackets navigate their way through the early part of this season.

The good news is that -- despite the shots of hard luck on the forward corps --  the defense looks solid, and Ryan Murray is hoped to return soon from a knee injury.

And I haven't even mentioned Sergei Bobrovsky. Solid, sturdy, badass goaltending. And if all goes well, potentially locked up in Columbus for the foreseeable future.

But as for the more immediate and pressing future, avoiding the kind of slow start that has plagued the team in previous years is the key to getting in good position when the team is healthy. Dubinsky and Jenner should be healthy by sometime in November.

Horton is another matter altogether, but one must consider the Jackets only had his services for 26 games last year after his 2013 offseason shoulder surgery... and one could argue in the wake of the abdominal surgery he had after last season that he was never 100 percent.

The hope, of course, is that he gets to that 100 percent sometime this year, because a healthy Nathan Horton can do amazing things on the ice.

The missing forwards will definitely be missed, make no mistake, but young players like Michael Chaput and Alexander Wennberg were widely expected to make the team anyway after having a good camp. The guys on this roster earned their spots.

Yes, NHL action will be one hell of a test. But this is not the Columbus Blue Jackets club of the past. It's not the front office of the past, with the rushed player development issues of the past.

Yes, we may see some growing pains in these first few weeks. But there is an air, an energy surrounding this team that says it will emerge stronger.

"Second in the Metro" stronger? Under the circumstances, third might be more realistic. The Rangers will be a threat, if they can stay healthy and don't have to test their depth.

Washington could mix up the standings with Barry Trotz at the helm, if Alex Ovechkin is coachable... though that is a big "if." My bet is that the Pens will wish they had parted ways with Dan Bylsma sooner and gotten Trotz when they were shaking things up after their playoff collapse.

Cap issues and lack of consistency may hurt the Flyers, especially with the New York Islanders' exploitation of Boston and Chicago's cap woes in acquiring Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, respectively, to bolster their defense. If their new goaltending duo clicks, the Isles will push the Flyers out.

Expect the Metro to be tight, but here are my picks:

1. Pens
2. Rangers
3. Blue Jackets
4. Isles
5. Caps
6. Flyers
7. Hurricanes
8. Devils

Happy hockey season.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The CBJ-Johansen Marriage of Inconvenience

So now that we've all had a chance to cool off a little... things are supposedly "civil," as talks have resumed between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt.

Training Camp got underway in Columbus and across the NHL nearly two weeks ago, and as expected, Ryan Johansen was not among the guys on the ice.

Two weeks ago, it wasn't such a big deal. If Kurt Overcharge eventually caved, or Johansen eventually decided he's sick of Overcharge being a dick (and subsequently making him look like one)... then a deal gets done, maybe the team doesn't hurt too bad from it, and we move on.

However, the Jackets are sadly much more in a position of necessity than they were two weeks ago.

Nathan Horton is out indefinitely with degenerative back issues. Boone Jenner is out until at least mid-November with a broken hand.

Thus, we have the perfect storm that forces the Jackets back to the table with a dumb-yet-talented kid and an unscrupulous-yet-claiming-the-high-road agent.

I would have been content just letting him rot, trading him, or letting him slum it in the KHL (albeit, tax-free).

Disagree if you like, but the longer Johansen sits this out, the less he deserves to be a part of this club. That won't change even if/when these two sides make nice and walk down the aisle.

Yep... here comes the "shotgun wedding" metaphor -- Jarmo and our  blushing bride RyJo, with Overcharge and a steaming, red-faced John Davidson holding the shotguns (trained on each other). Classic double-barrel ceremony.

[Note: If there's an illustrator who can make this particular vision happen, let's talk... there might be some beers involved.]

Johansen freely made a decision to not be part of this team.

Directly? Perhaps not. But having one good season, and then sitting and pouting like a spoiled brat because the team doesn't think it's enough to make a 22-year-old kid the highest-paid player on the team?

It's not that dissimilar a message.

But now we're here. They'll probably find something agreeable in the middle before camp starts.

My two cents: Go no higher than $8.5 million over two years, let him get to form, prove himself and gather trade value... trade him at the deadline next year for a similar player with some class and a brain in his head, and who doesn't have Overhardt as his agent.

But if this holdout cuts into the season, pull everything off the table and let him sit... preferably trade him if the price is right.

Yes, Johansen's absence hurts the roster. But the team is better off without him and his attitude.

It sucks that injuries make these talks necessary now.

It's infuriating... a couple bad bounces, and boom... instant marriage of inconvenience.

Get your rice ready....

You'll understand if it takes some restraint on my part to not chuck a rock.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VOTE: Who's The Next CBJ App Poster-Guy...?

Well, this whole Ryan Johansen thing isn't looking like it's going to go well.

First, Jarmo Kekalainen drew a line in the sand.

Now, John Davidson sounds like he's ready to shoot anyone who crosses it on sight.

As I opined a couple days ago, a guy who's willing to hold out on his team should not be the face of the team under any circumstances.

So... yeah. I feel pretty safe in posting this poll... so let's hear from you: Who do you think should be the first guy you see when you open the Columbus Blue Jackets app...?

Let's go with the foursome of Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski as our candidates. If you have a write-in, leave it in a comment below. Or just comment anyway. I won't judge.


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