Friday, October 17, 2008

Opening Night thoughts...

So, tonight is the home opener for the Jackets -- 1 win, 2 losses, and now a home-and-home against Nashville this weekend.

Nashville -- the much-reviled, older expansion brethren (by one year) to the Blue Jackets. The team that has beaten the Blue Jackets every game except one for the past two seasons. The team that the Jackets must turn it around against this season to have any shot at the playoffs, and that probably means finishing above them, as well.

Yep, I hate 'em, too.

The Preds are a little depleted already, having lost Alexander Radulov (to a Russian attempt at an NHL knockoff league), and Jason Arnott (injury). They're still pretty good, of course, and they still have the guy (not sure I'd call him a man, but a "guy") who is probably the most hated visiting player for Columbus fans: Jordin Tootoo.

Jordin Tootoo. The man whose bite on Tyler Wright's finger during a fight on January 29, 2004, is the namesake of this blog. On the thug scale, the only difference between Jordin Tootoo and Todd Bertuzzi is that Tootoo hasn't ended a career (yet) with his frequent cheap-shots -- that, and Todd Bertuzzi is a somewhat talented hockey player who at least had potential.

But, I'm not going to devote much time to him today. Like Coach Hitchcock said last year about him (paraphrasing very slightly): he's an insignificant player... you didn't see him out there when the game was on the line.


In other happenings, I read a couple days back that the Jackets are retiring "Machinehead," the Bush song they always played as the team took the ice. It's about time. They haven't said what the new music will be, but it's time for a new attitude. My vote would be for Megadeth's "Crush 'Em," but that song is probably too old. I hope it's good, though, whatever it is.


The CBJ's top pick Nikita Filatov, is expected to play tonight. Looking forward to seeing him in action.

Well, there's no place like home. Go Jackets!

Another Opening Night thought...

Another opening night thought that is much more significant than the rest of them, therefore I'm posting it separately:

So tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets will pay tribute to John H. McConnell, the team's late founder. There will be a tribute ceremony before the game.

I was living in Portsmouth and working at the local newspaper when the NHL announced that the city of Columbus was being awarded a franchise (and I subsequently bounced off the walls with joy). I could go out and see a game I had absolutely grown to love, and not have to fly to do it. That was eleven years ago.

I remember it took several weeks after the name and logo were announced before I could find a basic white cap with the now-classic/retired CBJ logo at a local sporting goods store. At the time, driving a Chevette, it seemed silly to drive two hours to Columbus just to shop, and you can certainly bet the Ashland (Ky.) Towne Center and Huntington (W. Va.) malls didn't have them.

So, a few years went by, and it just so happened I took my first TV news job in Columbus a matter of months before what would be Inaugural Night in 2000. My girlfriend had already bought me my first ProPlayer jersey for my 25th birthday -- and we hadn't even been dating that long at the time, so that was huge.

It wasn't until the third or fourth home game of that year that I witnessed my first NHL hockey game, with the Jackets playing the Colorado Avalanche (one of two franchises I had followed closely since I started regularly watching hockey several years earlier). I wore my jersey... she wore an Avs jersey to represent that whole "house divided" thing. Of course, we always root for the Jackets... I figure heck with the Avs, they can take care of themselves.

But anyway, on many nights since, it was a very common sight to look up at the Jumbotron during a timeout, where they do random crowd shots -- couples, children, the occasional napper -- but the montage would end with a shot of John H. McConnell in his box, wearing a hat. Over the years, sometimes he was clean-shaven, sometimes a full beard, and sometimes sported a really good looking goatee.

But every time, the crowd reaction was the same: thunderous applause -- and for those who really love hockey, standing thunderous applause. He would realize he was on and would smile and wave.

I never really knew anything about John H. McConnell as a person or a businessman growing up, even when I was a kid in Columbus. As an adult, I read a lot of great things about how he ran his business, how much he loved hockey and how much he wanted to bring an NHL team to Columbus and how much he loved it. People notice how fans see sports team owners in other cities -- with reverance in some markets and absolute contempt in others. Yet, with Mr. Mac, it seemed like not only love, but respect as a fellow fan -- and not only as an owner, but a regular guy like everybody else there.

Even if fans never knew him personally, maybe they felt a little part of them did. I think I'll always appreciate that.

Thank you, Mr. Mac.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Peca

By the way, one of the Dispatch beat writers said during the first intermission Tuesday night that the murmurs he's hearing are that Peca's suspension could be just three games. That basically amounts to the games he missed before Thursday, and I guess Friday's home opener. His hearing was Thursday. Still no word yet.



The three-game level of the so-called Abuse of Officials infraction is for grabbing an official's shirt to attempt to argue a horrid non-call last Friday. The officials apparently claimed Peca's stick hit a linesman when he swung it at the glass, which is why they were originally talking ten games. Surprise, it was unfounded.



Still, three games is too many, but what can you do. For the record, I still say it's garbage.

There's no place like home... we hope...

That's a pretty well-lit concourse they have at the Shark Tank in San Jose. Just an observation. It is just really well-lit. Maybe it's the light-colored floors, because it makes me think of Port Columbus. It's not natural light, because It was about 9:30 in the evening there when I saw the live shot during the second intermission.

That well-lit was about the only light I saw after 5:18 in the second period, when Christian Backman almost immediately responded to SJ's tying goal with his first goal in a CBJ sweater. From there, the Jackets just went to hell.

Still seeing good things on the first line, such as Huselius' goal. Chemistry still seems to be a problem, otherwise. This is not how a team is going to make the playoffs. It's tough enough that Columbus has to open up at home against Nashville, a team that is hard enough to beat. They can't have these problems this weekend (even worse, they have to play the Preds twice).

Rob Blake was a freakin' beast on the ice last night. He was key on a lot of shot blocks, and that patented hip-check did not fail when he used it. I'm not hiding the fact that I'm a big Blake fan. I rooted for him against the Canadiens in the Cup Finals (199.....3, right? It was a long time ago), and then he was an Av for some time. When one thinks about it, it's weird to see him not wearing either and Avs or Kings uniform. Tell you what, though... you see that hip check and you know it's him. The guy on the receiving end of it knows, too. He had some good shots, too. The dude's a threat, even in his late thirties. He's on my fantasy team, too, although it's not helping much.

I gotta tell you. I know Jody Shelley is not longer here, but I'm sure I'm not the only CBJ fan that absolutely adores that guy even now. I'm glad the Sharks realized his value and re-signed him for another two years during the summer. The guy can make people hurt, but what a class act off the ice. He's one of those very approachable, fan-friendly guys.

The Sharks made their money on shorties last night. Two of them. Ouch. For as far back as I can remember with the Jackets, it seems hard as hell to hold a lead against the Sharks.

I should add, as I may have said before, I often link to the Dispatch's coverage of the CBJ, because those guys get paid for it. I'm pretty knowledgeable, but I'm not an expert . This blog is a fan's perspective. Their Puck Rakers blog is really terrific... Portzline, Reed, Arace... I read them every day, because I care about what they see and what they think. First class work. Here's where you'll find them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Suspended indefinitely?!?!?!

Are you serious?

Someone in the NHL needs to explain to not just me, but any self-respecting (and game-respecting) hockey fan why Michael Peca is suspended indefinitely by the NHL for making contact with an official because he contested a very questionable non-call? Since when is questioning said non-call (Peca was tripped in fornt of the net by Brenden Morrow, who eventually scored a goal just a few seconds later), a suspension-worthy offense?

A) If a guy wants to plead his case, the referee doesn't need to over-react.

B) and C) Four words: "Marty McSorley" and "Todd Bertuzzi."

Everyone saw the McSorley stick-swing against Donald Brashear. McSorley hit Brashear in the head with his stick (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnP18StCoHA). That essentially ended McSorley's career, and rightfully so. That started with an indefinite suspension.

Bertuzzi? He attacked Colorado's Steve Moore by jumping on his back and mashing his face into the ice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPxQOvIWu3E&feature=related), over a play in a previous matchup between the two teams -- in which Moore had a clean hit on Vancouver's captain, Markus Naslund, and knocked him out for a few games with a concussion.

Yes, given, it was a concussion, but it was not intended. No penalty was called. The Canucks raised a stink (and rightfully so, sure) because it was their captain and leading scorer. However, it was a clean hit.

Meanwhile, Bertuzzi's cheap-shot ended Moore's career. Yet, Todd Bertuzzi is still playing. What began as an "indefinite suspension" wound up with Bertuzzi missing a handful of regular season games, and the one series Vancouver played in the playoffs that year.

Then the lockout happened. And Bertuzzi wound up reinstated in time for the end of the lockout and played in the 2005-06 season, and is still playing.

Steve Moore has not played since.

Someone tell me how fair that is.

According to the NHL, mere contact with an official is somehow equivalent to the McSorley and Bertuzzi incidents? Under this "Rule 41, Category 2," Michael Peca has to wait until later this week for a hearing to determine when he can take the ice again.

Yet a thug like Todd Bertuzzi is still playing hockey.

I'm not condoning abuse on an official in hockey. Their jobs are hard enough. But is trying to argue a call really worthy of a minimum ten-game suspension (according to what the Columbus Dispatch is quoting http://tinyurl.com/4vh9tb)?

Peca already sat out a loss against Phoenix overnight. If he sits more than one game for this garbage, that is a huge injustice. Commissioner Gary Bettman let Todd Bertuzzi play again, and what Michael Peca did doesn't even come close. What message does that send?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Holy ----, what a game!

Well, what can I say. I haven't put anything up since July. I feel like a putz. I'll have to play catch-up on the free agency stuff at a later date.

HOWEVER -- the season is up and running... and how!

The Jackets managed to leave Dallas with a 5-4 win in OT, after Rick Nash scored with 20.6 seconds left in the extra period. Amazing end to a crazy, back-and-forth game.

(For the story from the guys who get paid to do this at the Dispatch, here's a link: http://tinyurl.com/3wheob).

Anyway, it was great to witness a few of the new guys scoring. The Jackets' first-round pick from the '07 draft, Jakub Voracek, opened up the scoring in the first with a goal that had to be reviewed to be counted (it hit the top of the back of the net and bounced out weird, so it looked like it hit the crossbar). Nice to see, however, that the Jackets were on the good side of a review, for once -- couldn't seem to catch a break from Toronto last year.

Then the second period was a disaster, with two 5-on-3's for Dallas, and Michael Peca (believed by many to be the best penalty killer on the team) got tossed for bumping a ref while arguing a non-call.

The rollercoaster continued into the third as the Jackets took a 4-2 lead on three goals in under five minutes, including a welcome-to-the-CBJ goal by Kristian Huselius and goals by young guys Derrick Brassard and Andrew Murray. Dallas managed to get two quick ones though, inside of three minutes left. Infuriating to see the Jackets blow a lead like that. There are still signs of panic when the Jackets get a larger lead and the opponent gets within one. They have to work that out.

Nash's timing in scoring a goal just iced it, though. He seemed quiet most of the game, but man, that goal was a roar.

It also meant two guys on my fantasy team scored. :)

Coyotes tonight.... For now, I have to get prepped to go tailgate on campus...

...and enjoy the CBJs' lead in the Central Division. I know, it's only one game, but a fan has to enjoy it, and it sounds really cool. One win down, let's say... 46 more to clinch our first playoff spot.