Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Disaster In 12 Minutes

If NHL hockey games were only 48 minutes long... the Blue Jackets would be a better team.

I won't say they would be a Playoff team... but that's only because I can't show you the stats on that.

*wink*

However, I can tell you with certainty that the Jackets would have gotten at least a point against Detroit.

However, as usual, the Hockey Gods did not approve. Henrik Zetterberg scored the tie-breaking goal at 8:26 of the third, and the Jackets just lost her composure from there, giving up another quick one not even a minute later.

It's a shame, really, because for those first 48 minutes, the jackets looked like a team that could play with the Red Wings -- who only recently took a loss at home two end an NHL-record 23 straight home wins.

Of course, the Wings were not at home for this game, but is anyone in Columbus knows, you are just as likely to see someone wearing a Red Wings jersey as a blue jackets jersey in Nationwide Arena when these two teams play. Hell, there was even a woman behind the benches with a "Welcome to JLA" sign.

While Nationwide might as well be Joe Louis Arena on most nights with the Wings in town, the announced attendance of 14,000-plus (not that it looked that full) was decidedly less red than usual, and cheering for Blue Jackets goals seemed louder, for once.

You know what they say about gift horses... so I'll just leave it at that.

It's a shame to smaller wings crowd had more to cheer about, because those last 12 minutes essentially erased two amazing, highlight reel special teams plays by the Blue Jackets. Rick Nash (more on the Trade Deadline fiasco here) made the Jackets faithful completely forget about that whole trade deadline fiasco on Monday (no, not really...) with a power-play goal on a tip-in of his own shot... and with Niklas Kronwall cross-checking him over Joey MacDonald, at that. Derek MacKenzie provided the other marker, after outracing Jiri Hudler to wrist it past MacDonald for a 2-1 lead.

Ah... those first 48 minutes... I remember them fondly.

Although I can't imagine that the hit counts after two periods was actually 27-2 through two periods, as it read on the Jumbotron (and I'm obviously not the only one to notice), but I will say that the Jackets, for the most part, seemed in control of the physical aspects of the game for two periods-plus. From coming out of corners and physical battles with the puck, to just flat-out hitting Red Wings players. The team looked damn good.

But once Zetterberg got that tie-breaker... the wheels just fell off (sadly, not the "winged" ones).

A sad sign of the times here in Columbus.

The Jackets hit the road for couple while "The Arnold" is in town. First, they'll seek a little retribution in Denver on Thursday, then visit Antoine Vermette and a slew of other former Blue Jackets players in Phoenix on Saturday, before returning to Nationwide to face the same Coyotes team next Tuesday.

Thanks for stopping by. Go Jackets!

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bad Season... Turned Nightmare...

After hours of (take your pick(s) from the following) sitting, waiting, watching a live and mostly unexciting feed of SportsNet's NHL Trade Deadline coverage, stalking Twitter and deflecting the various rumors from New York Rangers fans who insist it's a done deal...

...finally, 3 p.m. arrived on Monday. Shortly after, the CBJ Twitterati received word from the media that General Manager Scott Howson had confirmed Rick Nash was not going anywhere at the Deadline.

Ah... victory.


[Again... horrible overdubs provided by yours truly...]

Ah... there's that old, familiar buzzkill.

In the press conference that followed, Howson revealed that it was actually Rick Nash who approached the team about a trade, provided the list of teams he would go to, and so forth.

Ah... betrayal.

The last couple of times I approached the topic of Rick Nash, it started with unyielding confidence. Surely Scott Howson would see that trading away the team's best player would seriously set the team back, and hinder the team's ability to achieve a short-term turnaround. The fans expect a contender, and would not have the patience for yet another attempt at "rebuilding."

But as Nash went on the block, and rumors began to swirl to the point where they were almost intolerable, and Nash's agent Joe Resnick opened his trap... and the process just continued to drag on... that confidence waned.

Still, jerking Nash around like this for a week or more... would you want to stay on a team that was dangling you over a proverbial pit of vipers like that? I'm not trying to garner sympathy for him, mind you... believe me, fans have 7.8 million reasons a year not to feel sorry for Rick Nash.

But... apparently Rick Nash wants out of Columbus. He has apparently been feeding CBJ fans a line of B.S. for the past two weeks since the trade search went public. He signed a lucrative, long-term deal, but the losing got to be too much for him to take. And that's understandable... it can wear on anyone. But he wants out, and told the management as much. Screw him, right?

Well, what if he felt forced? Suppose the stuff that's floating around out there is true... about Nash going over Howson's head and asking the ownership about changing management, and then requesting a trade after he says no?

I've been looking... nothing is out there to substantiate it so far. But something here doesn't add up in this. Has Nash been BSing his teammates as well, while they're telling me media how he "bleeds Blue Jackets" and so forth?

A tad optimistic, maybe. Perhaps even crazy. Sure, it's only speculation. But no one has had a chance to ask Nash, and he hasn't spoken about it yet. I don't think he can avoid it for long, though.

There is plenty of blame to go around. First and foremost, sure... Nash hasn't been forthright about this process.

Second... I'm sorry, we can't avoid the proverbial elephant on the ice. This team has played like hell. Back-to-back wins in regulation... what are those, anyway? Steve Mason has a hard enough time getting confidence to stop pucks by himself, without the guys in front of him playing like the Future Jackets we see at intermission.

Last... Howson has handled this team terribly. He cruised into last season without making moves, operating under the assertion that the team's subpar performance was an anomaly. That failed.

The organization did a top-to-bottom look within itself last summer, Howson was assertive before the NHL Entry Draft. He got Jeff Carter. He got James Wisniewski. He got Mark Dekanich, Radek Martinek and so forth. Surely, this was it. All the pieces were in place. Yes, there were injuries. True, it wasn't all Scott Arniel's fault. But Howson took too long to take action. That failed.

He pursued a good return for Nash. He didn't let the team get short-changed, he didn't let Brian Burke or Glen Sather underpay. That, Howson did right. I'm sure some other GM's don't look on him very kindly... but that's hardly a concern here.

Plus, plenty of people were saying Nash would likely get a better return in the offseason, so not getting the deal done on Monday wasn't going to make or break anything... aside from the expected tension between Nash and Howson, maybe.

Then he undid it all in ten words: "He approached us, and asked us to consider trading him."

A Nash trade was the only trade during this deadline in which Howson was guaranteed that he'd be able to call all the shots. And those ten words probably screwed up all of that for June. Now that potential trade partners know Nash apparently initiated the trade request, the chances of Howson getting all he wants for Nash down the line just got tougher.

But Howson has made one thing clear: He expects to be here next year. He is in control. It's his game, and they're his marbles. Cross him at your own peril.

For the record. I don't think we've heard all there is to hear about this. But will Nash address it?

Howson's revelation is the proverbial "shot across the bow" to Nash. Apparently, he's not afraid to burn a bridge. Not exactly a mark of great leadership.

So, where do the Jackets go from here? Will Nash address the media Tuesday? Will he take the high road?

And what of the fans? There are certainly quite a few who have turned on Nash at this point. Plenty are calling for Howson's head, as well. That kind of divided mentality is certainly not the best way to go into a game... never mind that the damned Red Wings are in town tonight.

Hell, it's hard enough to tell who scores in Nationwide. How would we know who's being booed?

I'm somewhat kidding there. My point is, fans should resereve their judgment on Nash, until he has a chance to explain. He's still wearing the sweater. Debate his worthiness to wear the "C" if you lie, but he's still wearing the same sweater the rest of us are.

However, for the time being, we have two entities who are apparently at odds... and whatever happens between Scott Howson and Rick Nash, the fans are stuck in the middle. That's the last thing this team and its fans need. Or deserve.

WRANDOM WRISTERS
Defenseman Grant Clitsome is headed to Winnipeg, after the Jets claimed him off waivers. The Jackets trim another couple million off the books. Meanwhile, Winnipeg gets a decent stretch-run defenseman on the cheap.

Columbus trimmed another $2.65 million (per CapGeek) by sending Samuel Pahlsson to Vancouver for a couple mid-round draft picks... I think there was a prospect thrown in later (you'll forgive me if I was a little distracted). Vancouver adds some experience at center in the hope that they will manage another deep Playoff run this year.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Trade Deadline Day: The Beginning Of The End (?)

Well, if that was it... Rick Nash's short-handed goal to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a short-lived lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins gave CBJ fans something to remember.

Less than two weeks ago, when I first wrote about the CBJ's most-likely-to-go guys... I honestly thought there was no way.

However, as we wake up this morning on NHL Trade Deadline Day, the Rick Nash Era in Columbus will more than likely end this year. It's just a matter of whether it's today before 3 p.m., or sometime before July 1.

For the reason why, one needs to look no further than Jackets GM Scott Howson.

We knew Howson would dump salary. We knew the Jackets were going to have to get closer to that salary floor than the cap. We knew we would see some marquee names go.

I'm not sure anyone saw Scott Howson screwing up the Trade Deadline situation this badly.

"Rick Nash is untouchable."

"Rick Nash isn't going anywhere."

"Eh... well... now we have a short list of places we can send him."

Then the media starts talking to Nash's agent, who starts yammering about finding a deal that's "fair and equitable for the Blue Jackets."

Now, again, Rick Nash may be just "saying all the right things" when he talks about wanting to stay in Columbus, how the fans deserve a winning team and so forth. I'm not so sure. He did, after all, sign the long-term contract extension under which he's currently playing.

The dude could use a little more passion/anger/rage on the ice, sure... but he doesn't seem like a bull$#!+ kind of guy. Maybe that's just me, though. Pro athletes say a lot of stuff.

Sports agents, though... well that's just nature. Joe Resnick doesn't care which team is signing Nash's checks. He gets his cut any way you slice it. I'm sure Allan Walsh could care less what happens to Antoine Vermette in Phoenix... though five bucks says there's a clause in his client contract that says "Client must call me with how he does in a game so I can tweet, 'Hey! LOOK WHAT MY CLIENT DID TONIGHT!' (because I more than likely wasn't watching)."

But we would not even be sitting here, waiting to find out if/when/where Nash is going... if Scott Howson hadn't decided that, "You know what...? Let's pick up that red phone...." 

The infamous "Daisy Ad girl" hasn't got squat on CBJ fans...

There is no longer a question if Scott Howson is about to nuke the Columbus Blue Jackets back to the expansion age.

I'm fully prepared to say it's a matter of when.

By putting the team's captain up for grabs on the trade market... Scott Howson has ensured that -- whether it's immediately, or after these last 20 games -- Rick Nash is for all intents and purposes not wearing Union Blue in 2012-13.

Brace yourselves.

To find the proper analogy to continue (and to demonstrate that I fear no crazy, parallel pop culture reference), let's look at another failed experiment... for instance, the third lineup of Van Halen. You know... the one with Gary Cherone singing.

Never heard it? Well, you probably never will. The band doesn't even list Van Halen 3 in its discography, and has taken every measure possible to recall and destroy any and all evidence of said album. I'm pretty sure I own the only remaining, un-incinerated copy.

This, of course, is a very slight exaggeration. But here's my point.

The as-yet-unremoved evidence of Jeff Carter

Album sales were dismal, tour sales were dismal. So, suffice it to say, your first course of action is to toss the guy that didn't work out (Cherone).

For the CBJ equivalent, so hello to our little friend on the right.

See where I'm going with this?

Put simply, Scott Howson is talking about kicking Eddie Van Halen out of Van Halen.

Yes, friends... I went there. However, you see my point.

Rick Nash has not been perfect (see Eddie's rehab phases, his failed marriage and his short-hair-and-goatee phase). But for Gretzsakes, when the rest of the band isn't scoring... you don't kick Rick Nash out of Van Halen!!!!

Wait... what was I writing about?

Oh. Right. Okay, back to just hockey.

Even if Nash is still a Blue Jacket at the end of the day... how long? Sure, hockey is a business. But if your boss was constantly talking about how great you were, how he's going to build a company around you and said competitors could never have you... then dangles you in front of competing companies and jerks around everyone involved for a week? And then doesn't do the deal?

Well, what would you think?

You'd probably tell him to smooch it, right?

If Rick Nash remains a Blue Jacket beyond this afternoon -- or even beyond June 30 -- and the relationship between him and this team can be repaired after all this... well, Rick Nash is a bigger man than Scott Howson.

This may be a little bit of sentiment talking -- something I know is very foolish at times like this -- but I'd love to find out if it's possible.

However, I'm just not confident anymore.

I still hope I'm wrong.

But hey... we're staying tuned together. Thanks for stopping by.

Go Jackets... just not out of town.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

No More "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing"...

First off, you have my solemn promise that the title of this post is the only Jack Johnson joke I'm going to make in this post. If songs get stuck in your head, I will take full responsibility.

So... the scorecard now reads or two down, and God-knows-what to go. Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets sent Jeff Carter to Los Angeles for a first-round draft pick and defenseman Jack Johnson.

With that transaction, the Jackets get Carter's looooong contract off the books... although you can't really call this move a salary dump, because Johnson's current contract carries a slightly smaller cap hit than Carter's (at $4.3ish million, per CapGeek), and for the next six years, after L.A. signed him to a long-term extension last year.

It's a new start for a couple players that aren't having great years. Carter... well, we know his deal: Got traded to Columbus, went into a fetal position until the Jackets coaxed him out of hiding, played inconsistently, got hurt a couple times, tried to say all the right things, and so forth.

Maybe he never wanted to be here. We don't have to worry about it anymore. I'm sure the Jackets' and fans' egos are bruised enough from this season without preoccupying ourselves with whether wittle Jeffy wikes us or not. (Me? Snarky? Naaah...)

Howson's dossier on Johnson is a young defenseman who "eats up big minutes and strengthens our blueline." He was a 3rd-overall pick, just two behind Sidney Crosby. He's apparently a likeable enough guy. L.A. fans seemed to be wishing him well on Twitter last night. He has struggled offensively... but who on the Kings roster hasn't this year?

In brief, though, this is a good trade. The Jackets got somebody younger -- possibly better -- and could strengthen the defensive corps. This definitely isn't a deal anyone should be upset about. I know I said I'd rather see what happens with Carter, but... well, I slept alright.

What's ahead the next couple days? Well, in the presser following the trade, Howson not only said "reshaping" (rather than "rebuilding"), he also re-emphasized "reshaping" when a reporter's question hinted at rebuilding.

That tells me -- just my interpretation here -- he's not blowing anything up... there's no proverbial "red button." I know Rick Nash is technically still on the table, but I still don't see a trade happening. I do think there is still some salary reduction in the works, so fans can expect a couple more deals.

I think Howson got a good trade scenario and a good return here. The first-round pick certainly never hurts, whether it's in 2012 or 2013.

With that out of the way, that brings us to wardrobe. With the announcement of the number Johnson will wear...

...what to do? Carter didn't even wear that number for a year.

Well... I, for one, like this suggestion...


Surely, Carter's in a good mood... maybe he can pay for them...?

Happy Friday. Go Jackets!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bubble Hockey (Players) R.J. Umberger

[PART 4 OF A SERIES LOOKING AT THE COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS' POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES AT THE NHL TRADE DEADLINE]

As I was picking up some dinner this evening, I was listening to the call-in show with Coach Todd Richards, and one of the first phone questions that came on was a woman who essentially asked why the Columbus Blue Jackets would give up a good, healthy player for a guy who... well... isn't healthy.

And while host Scott Torgerson and Coach Richards were explaining the whole roster-limit thing and so forth, I thought to myself, "Man, over the next few days... this woman is going to be pissed."

Mostly because the Antoine Vermette trade that went down Wednesday -- at least in my opinion -- has set the tone for what a trade situation could look like for anyone not named "Nash" or "Carter."

And sadly, that includes our next candidate... and likely the last one, since the aforementioned trade obviously kind of re-focused the Vermette piece I originally had planned.

He was the eventual silver lining from the "Adam Foote Debacle."

The sting of the Blue Jackets' last captain bailing on a team that was five points out of the Playoffs was considerably lessened when the Jackets used the extra first-round draft pick they got from the Colorado Avalanche to get R.J. Umberger from Philadelphia during the NHL Draft.

He was a good hockey player. He had improved in the offseason to bring himself and the Flyers back to the Playoffs after an abysmal 2006-07 campaign (as abysmal as the one the Jackets are currently having, in fact... if not more so).

Big bonus? The dude's a Buckeye. What's not to love about that? Hell, I'd venture a guess that Umberger's arrival even made some among Buckeye Nation realize... "hey, we have pro hockey here in Columbus!"

Still, like the rest of the team, Umberger has struggled this year. Even before missing five games with a concussion, Umby's presence on the score sheet has not been overwhelming. His scoring pace since his return (3-4-7 in 13 games) has actually been better than his first 44 games (7-11-18).

This might not be a huge issue going forward, except for the fact that his contract extension kicks in next year... and that's $4.5 million of cap room on the books, per CapGeek.com. Sadly, that kind of leaves him exposed as a candidate for a deal going into the deadline... assuming a team wants to take on that kind of money.

Obviously, it sucks, because Umby obviously wanted to stay in Columbus for five more years -- and who in Columbus wouldn't want to keep him? -- because he signed. But this is a game of numbers: The Jackets currently sit just a shade under $62 million in Payroll. Whatever the plans are for the off-season, the Jackets need to trim salary... and probably get closer to the salary floor then the ceiling.

Umberger showed some flashes of brilliance Tuesday night... getting that Gordie Howe Hat Trick was a gem. And while I have seen a couple people on Twitter musing that after that game, they don't want to see anyone moved this week... the harsh reality is that it is probably too little, too late.

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't love R.J. Umberger in this town... except for the handful of bashers who frequent Puck Rakers' comment section, who don't know their five-holes from their belly rolls. However, if there's one lesson to be learned about hockey fandom... you can't expect the front office to make business decisions based on sentiment.

And if the Antoine Vermette trade is any indication -- decent center for two draft picks and a guy who might as well be in a cryogenic chamber -- teams will be able to underpay for anyone the CBJ puts up, unless his name is Rick Nash or possibly Jeff Carter. I think Nash is the only guy on the block for whom Howson can call all the shots in a trade. I do think Carter can get decent return, but I doubt the Jackets get back what they gave up to get Carter in the first place.

Anyone else... I'm not gonna kid you, folks: I shudder to think what we might see over the next few days.

Final verdict…

SHOULD HE GO? Possibly... but I'd be willing to see his performance the rest of this season, and move forward before July if necessary.
WILL HE GO? More than likely... and I don't think the deal will be pretty.

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FOR THOSE CATCHING UP:
Part 1: Rick Nash
Part 2: Jeff Carter
Part 3: Steve Mason

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Going... Going... Twan...

Oops.

Guess I should have made Antoine Vermette part four of the "Bubble Hockey (Players)" series.

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded Vermette this afternoon to the Phoenix Coyotes, in exchange for a second round pick in 2012 and a fifth rounder in 2013 -- fourth rounder if the Coyotes win a Playoff series this year, apparently -- and goaltender Curtis McElhinney.

I found out from Vermette's number one fan's Facebook page while getting lunch. Figures the team would do that while I'm away from my computer. (I'm kidding)

However, the crack research team here at MartiniHockey.net [read: me scrambling to get to McElhinney's page on NHL.com] got on top of the job as quickly as possible to get the most important nuggets of the deal.

The Jackets get the picks... those never hurt. The Coyotes are hot right now despite injury problems -- credit to @SputnikAZ, as we were shooting the proverbial breeze about the emergence of goalie Mike Smith and the ownership situation. Their acquisition of Vermette gives them another threat down the middle for the Playoff Push.

The Jackets get Vermette's $3.75M a year extension off the books. Oh... and a goaltender. McElhinney is more than likely not an immediate solution in net, so look for another goaltender to join the Jackets in the next five days, or in the summer.

McElhinney is... ummmmmm, well-traveled. 

Screencap from NHL.com

Yep... the Blue Jackets will be his fifth team in as many years.

It is what it is. The Jackets need to reduce payroll to get done what they need to get done for whatever tweaks or rebuilding lies ahead. Sure, it's a bummer, but that's business.

The Jackets can't be called winners in this deal at this point. No way Scott Howson would have been able to get someone to overpay for Vermette... the numbers just don't match up.

Oh hey... just found out after some of you have read this from Jas Chaffin (@En4cer45) that McElhinney is done for the season after abdominal surgery. More good news.

But hey... we'll see how those draft picks turn out, right?

Vermette will be missed. But I'm sure I'm not the only one wishing him success moving forward.

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WTF Is A KDDOFYG?

That, my friends, was a fun hockey game.

A high-scoring hockey game.

A celebration hockey game.

A crazy, fist-pumping, chest-thumping, make-up-a-new-hockey-word... KDDOFYG kind of game.

What's a KDDOFYG? Well...

KD-DO-FYG (KID'-oh-fihg) noun - See CBJ vs. San Jose NHL game, February 21, 2012.

What happened in Nationwide Arena was a "Knock-Down, Drag-Out, "F*** You" Game.

Directed at whom...?

The San Jose Sharks? Well, that previous meeting in the Pirahna Tank was certainly unpleasant... so, maybe.

The doubters who've jumped off the bandwagon and/or the "I told you so" masses? Could be.

A radio host who enjoyed Derick Brassard getting his ass kicked in a fight (never mind that he stood up for himself after the assailant boarded him... no call, by the way), and then deleted the post on Facebook once people gave him crap about it...?
Eh... could be.

Or... we could focus on the more positive, less vulgar second definition... a "Knock-Down, Drag-Out, "F*** Yeah!" Game.

Positivity's good, right? Especially with all the trade talk, doom-and-gloom, NHL vultures circling Nationwide waiting to try to underpay and take their pick of what the Jackets make available.

This was a game to celebrate. Let Sharks fans complain about losing to the (statistically) worst team in the NHL. We saw a team that has struggled all year finally look like it had it all together. A hat trick by Jeff Carter. A Gordie Howe hat trick by R.J. Umberger. Another contribution from young defenseman David Savard, and of course a goal and assist from Rick Nash.

It would be horrifically neglectful to not mention that Steve Mason played one hell of a game to become the CBJ's all-time leader in goaltending wins.

Guys having fun playing hockey. And winning.

The fact that it's what could have been isn't important. What happens leading up to 3 p.m. on Monday, happens.

This was a moment for this team. They put forth the effort. They deserved this game.

It was a moment for us, the fans. We deserved it, too. Let's enjoy it.

Eff yeah.

Go Jackets!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Bubble Hockey (Players): Steve Mason

[PART 3 OF A SERIES LOOKING AT THE COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS' POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES AT THE NHL TRADE DEADLINE]

Some will look at this particular post and mock it for its pure obviousness. I can accept that.

I think just about everyone involved with the Columbus Blue Jackets can take some solace out of this season, knowing that the sad saga of Steve Mason will almost imminently come to an end this year.

Whether it comes before Monday at 3 p.m., or in late June is probably the only question left on the table.

However, I will take a wild stab in the dark that unless the Blue Jackets can get a starting-quality goaltender for one of the other trade deadline contenders, Mason will be safely nestled in the backup spot behind Curtis Sanford once he comes back. I don't see any sense in sending Allen York into the net as a sacrificial lamb any more this spring.

I will never forget -- I don't think anyone here will -- the heroics that Steve Mason pulled during the 2008-09 season. Coming up in relief of Pascal Leclaire (and eventually making him expendable), setting shutout records, winning the Calder trophy and almost the Vezina trophy. The kid was a damn beast.

And then, he just wasn't able to match it after that. He was never able to re-establish that confidence. Maybe he lost faith in the team, or maybe the team lost faith in him. Probably a little bit of both.

Scott Howson brought in Ian Clark as the team's full-time goaltending coach. The speculation among many was that he could be the most valuable piece of the CBJ puzzle this year. Someone to get Steve Mason back to his old form. After all, Mason was the only question mark most people had in their NHL previews coming into this season. He was the chief reason most "experts" had the Jackets missing the Playoffs.

Now, to be fair, the Blue Jackets' problems are not all about Steve Mason.

Has he let in some soft ones? Absolutely.

Has the team in front of him failed him? Absolutely.

This team has hung Steve Mason out to dry, and they have done so for the better part of the last three years.

It is time to let him go. Unlike other trades and transactions, the Blue Jackets need to take decisive action and not worry whether it comes back to burn them later.

Steve Mason has lost his confidence in net, he has lost his composure in net, and -- whether he was chewing out his coach or a Blackhawks fan after skating to the bench on Saturday -- the kid has undeniably lost his cool.

Steve Mason is broken. The Jackets can't fix him.

The Blue Jackets need to do the right thing and send him somewhere... anywhere.

Anywhere that he can find his legs. He deserves that much.

Final verdict…

SHOULD HE GO? For the love of God, yes.
WILL HE GO? Probably not until June, but it depends on what happens in other potential trade deadline deals.

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FOR THOSE CATCHING UP:
Part 1: Rick Nash
Part 2: Jeff Carter
Part 4: R.J. Umberger

Sunday, February 19, 2012

As Uninspired As It Gets...

Beer, beer, everywhere.

You know how you sit in a bar for a while, and bartenders make their rounds, pick up cans and bottles, give them a little shake just to see if you're empty? You know... you have to keep the bar neat and so forth.

Well, buy some twist of fate... as Mrs. Martini I were sitting at the R Bar watching the closing moments of Saturday's 6-1 ass-kicking at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, our bartender apparently gave my tall Molson Canadian a little squeeze.

Seeing as I had not yet poured any beer out of this can… Suddenly, this small geyser of beer comes gushing out of the top and splashing on the bar.

Suddenly, after I had stopped laughing hysterically, and high-fived our bartender... it hit me.

Aside from the Derick Brassard goal that opened the scoring, this incident was the best highlight of this Blue Jackets game.

Brass' goal was no slouch. It was a beauty, actually, after he stole a pass and slapped the puck past Corey Crawford.

Derek Dorsett provided the only other really inspired moment of the day when he picked a fight with John Scott. Come on... the height/weight differential? That's at least an Olsen Twin.

He got his ass handed to him, but had the rest of the team played that inspired... well.... I need say no more.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wrandom Wrister: Song Wars

Inevitably, someone got a hold of the TouchTunes at RBar and played "Chelsea Dagger" and something that I'm guessing is called "Here Come the Hawks."

The next two songs that played...

Cee-Lo Green's "F*** You," and Shinedown's "The B*tch Came Back."

Coincidence? I think not.

We hockey fans are a fun bunch.

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Bubble Hockey (Players): Jeff Carter

[PART 2 OF A SERIES LOOKING AT THE COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS' POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES AT THE NHL TRADE DEADLINE]

Some might argue that the Columbus Blue Jackets are in a bad position with Jeff Carter.

Okay... maybe a lot of people might argue that.

Sure, he's on the payroll for the foreseeable future, at a $5 million-plus cap hit. He hasn't jelled with Rick Nash on the top scoring line. Then there's that whole PR nightmare that was created when he went underground after Philadelphia traded him to the Blue Jackets in the first place.

Take those factors into consideration, it's easy to see why someone on the outside looking in would be thinking Jeff Carter just wants the hell out of Columbus.

Hey... maybe he does. You would never know, however, because he always seems to be saying all the right things.

But that's just NHL hockey at the trade deadline, though. Try to get a straight answer from anyone and... well, try is the operative word. [Read: Don't bother.]

It's no secret that Jeff Carter has underperformed. The statistics don't lie.

Carter has not had the luxury of playing in all the Blue Jackets' games, because of two injuries. During the more recent layover, because of a shoulder injury, Carter had expressed to the Columbus Dispatch that while he was not surprised to be the subject of trade talk, he was in Columbus to play hockey, and he just wanted to get out there on the ice again. The dude obviously had (and still has) something to prove.

Give credit where it's due... Carter has performed well since returning. In six games, he has two goals and two assists, with an even plus/minus. Yes, his personal bar is low this year, but that points-per-game is already an improvement. Plus, he has looked like he's enjoying himself out there.

Sure... with the Jackets out of Playoff contention, maybe he's just trying to raise his trade value to get the hell out of Dodge.

Or... maybe he's on board, and he wants to be a part of this team.

Again, you can't rely on straight talk from anyone having to do with a hockey team within two weeks of the trade deadline.

Supposedly, no one in the NHL has offered a suitable package for Carter. And that's understandable.

However -- and I know I'm just playing armchair GM here... maybe even sounding overly optimistic -- but I think Howson should take this as a sign.

No, not to move Carter for whatever he can get. I mean to keep him.

Although the ridiculous length of Carter's remaining contract is a caveat, the Blue Jackets have the luxury of the fact that Carter's no trade clause became moot when Philly traded him to Columbus. So, why should the team feel rushed to get rid of him?

Why make a panic move? The Jackets have time. See what he does the remainder of the season, when the Jackets essentially have nothing to play for but pride. Or jobs.

These last 25 games just might show us the true strength of Jeff Carter's character. Or, maybe not.

But Jeff Carter should have that shot.

Maybe keeping Carter is a big "what if...?"

So what? Wouldn't you like to find out?

Final verdict...

SHOULD HE GO? Not at this point.
WILL HE GO? Eh... probably... if Howson can get good enough return.

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FOR THOSE CATCHING UP:
Part 1: Rick Nash
Part 3: Steve Mason
Part 4: R.J. Umberger

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bubble Hockey (Players): Rick Nash

[A SERIES LOOKING AT THE COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS' POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES AT THE NHL TRADE DEADLINE]

Okay... everybody say it with me now... let's just go ahead and get it out of our systems...

OH MY GOD!!!! RICK NASH WASN'T IN PRACTICE TODAY!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!


(bad overdubs courtesy of yours truly)

FIRE!!!! BRIMSTONE!!!! PANIC!!!!

Give me a break... the fans and writers in other NHL markets pining for Rick Nash are like a quilting club this week.

No, wait... that's offensive to quilters... let's try again.

The panel on The View is more informative than...

...you know what, never mind. I'll stick with the quilting club analogy.

And so... the carousel goes 'round.

Rick Nash is now taking his turn as the Columbus Blue Jackets player around whom there is all the speculation of a blockbuster (or in the CBJ's case, a roster-buster) deal at the trade deadline, and officially giving up on this particular cast of characters in Union Blue.

It seems a lot of the chatter revolves around the fine fans of the New York Rangers or perhaps the Los Angeles Kings... or maybe those have just been the loudest (except maybe the Leafs). Regardless of the teams involved, the constant discussion of potential trade scenarios has almost become deafening.

Let me just say it up front. I don't see a Rick Nash deal happening. I would say everything has to fall very, VERY solidly into place for Nash to be anywhere but Columbus on February 28, when the Jackets take on Detroit.

This has nothing to do with sentiments. It has nothing to do with loyalty. Yes, Rick Nash is the face, voice and heart of Blue Jackets. Heaven knows he has succeeded and failed with the rest of this team this year... and he has not by any means been the best player on the ice this season.

However, I still think he's the guy. The captain. The cornerstone of this franchise's (next... *sigh*) rebuild. Again, that is not sentiment. That is business.

The front office has tried to build this team around Nash these past several years, and I don't see them stopping now. True... history will likely judge this year's team not so much by the blast of our cannon, but more comparably to that Mythbusters cannon incident back in December.

True... the addition of Jeff Carter has not yielded that "top line center/lethal top scoring line" thing that we have wanted and need for years in Columbus.

True... injuries are not an excuse -- I know that's a Hitch thing that I'll never let go of, although at this point, I'm starting to waver....

This team's performance is not Rick Nash's fault. It's the fault of every single player on that ice.

Now, that's not to say Nasher doesn't need some work. His game is more or less fine -- it still needs consistency, sure, but when it's on... he's ON.

However, the adjustment Rick Nash needs is in his head.

The dude's too damn quiet. Too damn diplomatic. That's a leadership style for some... but I don't think it works in hockey.

I'm not saying go all Ovechkin-style and start dishing out knee-on-knee hits, or check a ref through the glass or anything. Just... you know... get mad.

I'm also not saying call guys out in the media and/or throw guys under the bus.

Just... you know... get mad.

It doesn't have to happen overnight. Obviously, you can phase it in a bit. For starters, go a little... you know, go a little Network on 'em.



Anger can be healthy. Anger can also be honest.

If the team's playing like $#!+, tell the media, "You know what? We played like $#!+ tonight."

Come on, admit it... wouldn't you love to see Rick Nash go crazy? Just freaking lose it? Just once?

Rick Nash can be a great leader, but he has to want to be. Great leaders are not afraid to show a little passion once in a while. Hell, at $7.8 million a year, Rick Nash can afford a fine for dropping a few colorful four-letter words in front of the media corps in Columbus.

C'mon... when was the last time you heard a good, old fashioned {BLEEP} in a local sportscast?

That having been said, you can't completely rule out a trade involving Nash. I just don't think it makes business sense. The deal would have to be absolutely perfect. You'd have to be talking about a capable starting goaltender, some depth and/or maybe a first-rounder. And that's just to make this deal tolerable. Nash is a huge piece of this franchise. This franchise knows that it has to do some degree of rebuilding starting this month. But as many among the CBJ Blogging Community have discussed, the "nuclear option" is not how to do it.

The front office has to be thinking that the rebuild will focus on creating the turnaround the team and the fans want. The catch is that this turnaround has to be in the short-term, rather than the long-term. Jackets fans are already impatient... waiting a few more years for this turnaround won't be enough.

Trading away Rick Nash would very much set this team back, and do more harm than good.

Final Verdict...

SHOULD HE GO? Absolutely not.
WILL HE GO? Not very likely.

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Part 2: Jeff Carter
Part 3: Steve Mason
Part 4: R.J. Umberger

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine (Of Sorts) For Hockey Widows (Part II)

I try to avoid doing sequel posts. Much like their movie counterparts, there's always the risk that a sequel post is not going to be nearly as good or entertaining as the original.

However, as a writer I tend to think that common themes are okay... plus it's a special occasion, so what the hell, right?

Happy Pink Puck Day to my widow, and all the hockey widows and widowers out there. Once again, we the fans are hopefully paying some kind of tribute to you and your never-ending patience with our sport and the myriad of shenanigans that go with it.

Again, I turn my focus to my own Mrs. Martini. After all, she endured what was probably the longest year and the shortest off-season in 10 years.

Ten years ago was the last time the Mrs. had had to suffer through My "holy-crap-I can't-miss-a-single-playoff-game" demeanor.

However, since she was in the process of moving up to Columbus after finishing grad school, she was appropriately tired... and very much asleep when I was failing to contain my excitement that Raymond Bourque was hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in his 22-year career. She was completely oblivious to my gentle nudges of "holy $#!+, honey, you got to watch this, this is awesome!"

Then, of course 1 AM came around, and I had to make myself somewhat presentable, kiss her good night, and go to work.

Ten years later, after suffering through the bad taste in my mouth from the Boston Bruins' early exit from the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, I dragged her through the grueling playoff run that culminated in the Bruins' first Cup in 39 years.

Now, of course, she was a good sport about it. And for the record, I did have to deal with some consequences -- first, her  developing a girl crush on a certain well-spoken goaltender, and then her blatant violation of the dress code at CannonFest.

Beyond that, our hometown team has seen much better years. In fact, last Valentine's Day fell in the middle of what was probably the only semblance of positive momentum the Columbus Blue Jackets have experienced over the last 12 months. It was a couple weeks before the Trade Deadline, and the Jackets had persevered through another rough December and January and managed to get themselves within a reasonable distance of the Playoff line. Then, as we well know, the wheels fell off.

This season, even after offseason upgrades, it is difficult to even claim that the wheels were even put back on. The Blue Jackets have been mathematically out of the playoffs for about a week and a half. And after all that… I still continue to watch Blue Jackets games.…

…and Mrs. Martini continues to let me live.

In honor of this act of generosity -- and in protest of  the additional fact that an unexpected glitch in her schedule has her working tonight and scuttled our original plans for Valentine's Day -- I will be foregoing this evening's hockey game. Sure, I may tape it... maybe do a writeup later... but I will not be obsessing about the game or rocking my acidic wit and/or alleged wisdom on Twitter tonight.

Well... except to promote this post (heh-heh).

I am going off the grid, and I'm taking Mrs. Martini with me when she's off work.

That said... have a great night. Be sure to do something really awesome for the loved ones who don't choke the hell out of you because of the sport we love.

Thanks for reading. I gotta go pick out a bottle of wine.

Happy Pink Puck Day. Go Jackets!

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wrandom Wrister: Really, Canadian Press?

I won't kid you, my heart sank a little when I saw it.

I had not yet checked my Twitter feed until about 2:30 Friday afternoon. But then I saw the story that came from the NHL on NBC account that said Gordie Howe's family had no plans to donate the hockey great's brain to concussion research.

Seriously, for a moment, I thought he was gone. Now, having only started watching hockey 20 years ago, I openly admit I have never seen Mr. Hockey play on TV (except in game film), nor do I own any memorabilia -- a Howe Whalers jersey is difficult to acquire, and I don't even allow Detroit Red Wings hockey cards in my house.

But, I'm a die-hard hockey fan. I know what Gordie Howe means to the game. The man is a living legend.

Oh... and by the way... still living.

Apparently, this story stemmed from a recent appearance by Howe's sons on talk radio, in which they said their father was suffering from a "mild cognitive impairment" that could progress into dementia.

Now, this is bad enough for a family to deal with... without having to hear from overzealous reporters who decided it's a good idea to ask Gordy's son Marty, "So... what are your plans for your father's brain when he dies?"

Now, to be fair, I'm sure whatever callous jackass started this at least tried to phrase this question in a much more sensitive manner then I have made it out to be. However, that does not make the question any less asinine or insensitive.

Believe me, I totally get that concussions are a major concern in today's NHL, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been a big topic of discussion. And I understand that Marty has even said he thinks concussions could be a factor in his father's cognitive impairment.

But for God's sake, whether or not Howe is having memory loss or other symptoms, he is still up and about, and even doing fundraisers to support dementia research. The man is in his 80s, and is still out there fighting the fight. This goes beyond hockey... he's a person trying to make a difference. What the hell gives a reporter the balls to ask the man's family about end-of-life issues?

That's not even a matter of balls. That is just blatant disrespect.

When the time comes to discuss it, it is an issue for Gordie Howe's family to discuss, and the result of that discussion is none of the media's damned business, until the family says it is.

This isn't newsworthy... it's just inappropriate.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valiant Effort, But Just Short...

The Columbus Blue Jackets played a hell of a game Thursday night. They just fell behind too far, too early.

That wasn't even the worst part of it. Sure, there was that goal off a rebound by Jamie Benn that found its way through traffic and into the net... or that goal by Alex Goligoski after the puck fell right in front of him, just dying to be tapped in.

The worst part of it is that the puck he knocked in had just connected with Marc Methot's face, knocking him out of the game minus what appeared to be quite a bit of blood. So, not even five minutes in, the Jackets were down a blueliner.

Later in the game, they went down a forward as Jared Boll apparently broke his foot.

It really has been that kind of season hasn't it?

However, even with two guys out, the Jackets didn't let the game slip away. Even with Stephane Robidas scoring a goal early in the second to go up 3-0, the Jackets put it together and fought it out. They took advantage of three power plays -- almost back-to-back-to-back, no less -- by netting two goals. The first came from Vinny Prospal as was getting position in front of the net. Hey, if the guy's going to get an extension, he might as well make us really happy he got it, right?

The second came from Rick Nash, after Derick Brassard got Kari Lehtonen to buy a faked slapshot, and instead slipped it to Nash through traffic... and the captain wristed it into the gap behind Lehtonen's back.

Lehtonen shut the door the rest of the way, however... with a little help from the post on a Jeff Carter shot.

So, despite getting burned by not playing 60 minutes -- along with some plain old bad luck -- the Jackets figured out a way to stay in it, in front of just shy of 16,000 people. Fans are still coming to home games, and the Jackets are giving them hockey.

The season hasn't ended, no matter what the math tells you. The Jackets have shown during this homestand that they've received the memo.

Playing for jobs... perhaps.

Playing for pride... you betcha.

Most importantly... they're playing for the fans.

Go Jackets!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wrandom Wrister: "Classy"? Or Just "Not Stupid"?

I know Nate Prosser drew quite a bit of praise for that "class" move of removing his helmet, before commencing his fight against Derek Dorsett. This, of course, was before Dorsett unceremoniously handed it to him... but I digress.



I won't argue that taking a moment to remove his helmet was a tad classy. "Good for you, ol' chap... doffing thy cap before engaging thy foe in a donnybrook!"

If that seems a bit snarky... well, it is.

Let's not lose sight that the primary objective of removing his helmet was more likely to avoid earning the bonus instigator penalty, rather than to spare Derek Dorsett's knuckles. Prosser clearly wears a visor. With the cross-check to the back and slash to the legs, you can certainly argue he instigated the fight.

Sure, give him credit for class... but the credit is probably better spent on the fact that he's not stupid.

Perhaps unwise, considering the results of the fight, but....

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Not Particularly Wild... But A Win

Although the Columbus Blue Jackets certainly have had a myriad of other issues over the last 2 1/2 months (and beyond), there had been this cloud hanging over the team that seemed... well, nagging.

That issue of momentum... and this team's apparent inability to build on it.

It seemed it could be an issue again when Minnesota answered David Savard's beauty of a goal -- his first in the NHL -- with a slapshot from Nate Prosser... who can take a beating (did he ever!) and still get up and play hockey.

However, despite being outshot in the second, the Jackets remained solid and Curtis Sanford was a beast in net. Then the Jackets started getting contributions from the guys who were expected to be contributing all along. Antoine Vermette scored off a nice backhand after taking the pass from Rick Nash and skating into traffic. Very nice play.

Then there's Jeff Carter... gotta love his jump in his first two games back from injury. He certainly showed he's not afraid to put himself in front of the net to fight for a puck. It certainly worked, as evident by the rebound he put in early in the third.

His play so far gives me pause, as far as whether he should stick around, but that's a topic for later.

However, with that goal to ice the game, the Columbus Blue Jackets won consecutive games for the first time since November 19 (at Nashville) and 21 (Calgary). That nagging "momentum" thing is addressed for the time being.

Playing better because the Playoffs are out of reach and the pressure's off, or are they getting it now?

Or are we being picky by even asking? It's a win, baby.

Go Jackets!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sooooo Needed That...

After a massacre in the Piranha Tank on Tuesday and a screwball loss that had Kings GM Dean Lombardi pulling a scientific explanation for a clock "malfunction" out of thin air (and that's the kindest way I can put it)... the Columbus Blue Jackets ended the road trip from hell with a 3-2 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks.

And two of the guys who made it possible, were two guys who needed some positives as badly as their teammates needed this win.

They earned the Jackets some style points in the process. Each Jackets goal brought them into a tie. First, with Brassard taking a pass from Rick Nash -- through traffic, no less --  and putting it past Jonas Hiller late in the second period. However, Teemu Salanne took advantage of the Jackets' tired penalty kill -- courtesy of what was then the fourth penalty out of five in the period.

Then Carter was right on the mark into a wide-open net after Antoine Vermette managed a centering pass as he was falling down.

Even after things like giving up five power plays in one period and being down a defenseman after losing Brett Lebda to an apparent hand injury... the Blue Jackets managed to have good things happen to them at the right time. But they gutted it out. They worked hard for it.

And it paid off when Derick Brassard got a takeaway in the defensive zone and streaked down the left side and let loose a slap shot that flew right past Hiller again. I have to say, it's really great to see the things that Brassard has done since Scott Arniel's doghouse lost Arniel as its landlord. Now, while going 4 goals, 3 assists and 7 in the last eleven games is not exactly earth-shaking, it's certainly better than the 5-7-12 in the previous 33. He's doing good things with the increased ice time.

And Carter. Wow. Yes, this is just one game. It's also only his 31st game out of the Jackets' 52, because of injuries. I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy. I know the rumors are rampant, and I know the term of his contract is ridiculous... but I still think it might be premature to think about moving him.

Again, that's just me.

Now the team has a few days off before coming home for a couple games, the first of which is against Minnesota.

But this was a damn good win. And the CBJ sure as hell earned it.

I'll tell you something, though. I'm glad the California road games are over. Two straight games with extra time is enough for me.

Go Jackets!

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Final Insult... In All Its Ugliness

Dear NHL:

Yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets were just about officially out of Playoff contention.

Yes, the prospect of the Jackets winning 32 straight to get to 96 points -- and potentially clinch an eighth-seed -- was laughable.

Even then... your little cavalry of idiots in the War Room in in Toronto couldn't look at a few seconds worth of video?

On a game-deciding goal?

Really?



By the way... a freshman broadcasting major could have rolled that tape back, frame by frame, and shown you this. Same kid could probably run the War Room better, too, for that matter.

You guys are idiots.

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The Worst Possible Way...

The Columbus Blue Jackets were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention (based on a 95-point Playoff line) in a manner that was just... wrong.

Drew Doughty -- who is barely on pace to match his underperforming 2010-11 season, before he held out to be paid more than the more-productive Anze Kopitar (just saying) -- scored the game-winning goal with officially 0:00.4.

What actually happened... well, let's just say it is what fans in Columbus have come to expect from Toronto:

For them to do nothing.

And it's all as simple as looking at the clock.

Ah, yes... that thing with the numbers on it, which conveniently stopped during the final flurry... long enough to have nullified the goal and sent the game into overtime.

Fox Ohio's Ray Crawford can call it "clock operator error." Actually, he more than likely has to be diplomatic about it.

I, however, don't. That call was bull$#!+.

The worst part is... unlike 24 hours before, the Blue Jackets had a shot. Despite a hell of a shot by Justin Williams in the first and an R.J. Umberger turnover that led to a Dustin Penner goal in the second... the Jackets tied the game up each time. The first tying goal came from -- less surprising every day -- Derek Dorsett, after a sweet pass from Derick Brassard between the feet. The second, from Colton Gillies off a pass through the slot by Antoine Vermette.

However, despite those goals... the one that counted -- and shouldn't have -- was the one that, at least mathematically, has now put the Jackets' roster into "audition mode."

Unfortunately, it is what it is. The Jackets had everything in their power to avoid this situation weeks... hell, months ago. A little effort here, a little... no, a lot of sound defense there, maybe some goal scoring.

But this...

No team -- not even the Blue Jackets -- deserved to go out like this.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vote in the Pre-GOON Hockey Movie Fan Poll!


A tripod and timer probably would have been helpful...

Every so often, Hollywood ventures in the world of hockey to make a movie. Some are good, some are bad... and there are some that are little bit of both.

I'm not sure what to make of this new movie, Goon, which is set to hit theaters in a few weeks.

I have to admit... considering that the last hockey entry in Hollywood that I can recall was Miracle... well, the fact that Seann William Scott (Stiffler from the American Pie movies) is on the marquee for this hockey film... this movie is either going to be hilarious (or at least pretty damn funny) or it's going to be awful. Either way, I do not see an overwhelming box office smash here.

But you know what? It's a hockey movie, and you know as well as I do that we are at niche market. It's probably going to work either way. I'm sure each and every one of us is at least a little curious.

So, here's the trailer available on Yahoo! Movies, if you haven't seen it yet:


Anyway... this movie did get me thinking about great hockey movies and favorite hockey movies. Plus, I've always liked the idea of this blog being more interactive and doing more polls here. So I figured, why not start here?

So, here's the deal. I decided to Google how many hockey movies and made out there, and found an interesting list (and here's another with a couple more movies on it)... including a few I'd never heard of. Cripe, John Wayne was apparently in one at some point!

So I have pulled films from this list and put them in a poll. I stuck with theatrical releases for the top choices, thus excluding straight-to-video sequels (sorry, Slap Shot 2 and 3 fans).

Vote for your favorite. It's that simple. If you want to write one in, go ahead and put it in the Comments section below, or e-mail it to me at martini@martinihockey.net. I will keep this poll open until February 22... that's three weeks from today.

So please take a second to vote while you're here... and tell your friends to come and vote. The poll results will be published here in time for Goon's release on February 24.

Meanwhile, I will re-watch these, and put in my own two cents with a top four or five list.

Well... that's my spiel. Happy voting!

And, as always... thank you for taking the time to stop by.

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Jackets Tanked

Sometimes you're the Sharks...

...sometimes you're the chum.

Guess which was which.

The Columbus Blue Jackets took the ice in the Shark Tank, having had the better part of six days off... and played like they haven't played hockey in weeks.

Though not entirely through any fault of his own, Steve Mason earned his 86th regulation loss in his 200th game... likely further cementing that his days are numbered in Columbus. Sure, failure to control rebounds is on him. The turnovers that led to the scoring chances are on the defense.

The two things that went right in Tuesday's game, unfortunately shone a glaring spotlight on all the wrong things. Not that the wrong things needed any additional help.

Interim Head Coach Todd Richards pretty much summed it up in the postgame presser: "You can tell the guys that care. You can see the guys that want to make a difference."

He was referring to Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll.

Derek Dorsett worked his ass off. He and Boll both got involved. Boll fought. Dorsett jumped into the frays in the third. They both stuck up for teammates.

And there's the problem... where the hell were the other 18 skaters?

When Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll are the two best players on the ice in a game, that's a bad sign. No offense to them, but they're not the goal scorers. They're not the guys who are expected to provide offense -- though Dorsett has had a fine season in that department this year.

"We need more guys that care, like those two."

Those are harsh words from your coach... implying that you don't care about winning.

However, when the other 18 guys on the ice don't care, that's how a goaltender gets hung out to dry, and that's how you take an uninspired, embarassing 6-0 loss. Never mind the fact that Derick Brassard was boarded by Dan Boyle and there was no extra call for the actual boarding. It's not like the power play is doing anything.

Dropping gloves and getting in fights when the game is 6-0 doesn't mean anything.
 
The question is... how do you react?
 
How do you prove him wrong?
 
It's probably a good idea to come up with a plan. And there is less than a day to figure it out.
 
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