Tag Archives: Columbus Blue Jackets

Let’s Talk…..

The heat is on. Enter the Collective Bargaining Agreement to shake up your summer. The same waiting game on the CBA is exactly what was experienced by New Jersey Devils fans as captain Zach Parise’s fate was out of their hands. Let’s hope the hands holding the CBA’s fate ends in a positive outcome.

This summer Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Shane Doan will decide what to do with their 2012-13 season, depending on if there is a season. With the continual rise of hockey’s popularity, this lockout would change the momentum of the entire game, the NHL and its players. Fans are holding their breath.

The snubbing of New Jersey by Zach Parise was a shock. It shouldn’t have been. Parise voiced his displeasure over the course of several seasons. The Devils were never seen as contenders without Parise. Now, without Parise, the team rebuilds with alum Scott Stevens returning as an assistant coach. Fans had faith that Parise would return….supposedly, he was a fan of the Shore. Career moves are nothing personal in the NHL, but those moves are taken personally by the fans.

Shane Doan’s fate in Phoenix is another conundrum. Doan has taken that community and ran with it. Doan and his family have been supporters of charitable organizations in the desert for some time. The impact of a Doan loss could cause a ripple effect on the deal to keep the team in Glendale. Fans are loyal but moody on attending games. Very few fans wait after morning skates to get a glimpse of their favorite ‘Yote. Doan may be contemplating the move for a last push on his career since the Coyotes did remarkably well in the playoffs.

Shane Doan after Morning Skate in Glendale (HPWerner)

Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Rick Nash just want to move on and feel appreciated. Semin needs a boost to his game and a new team may solve the problem. Ryan isn’t seen as a valuable asset as he once was in Anaheim, so off he goes to some lucky team (Let’s Go Rangers). Ryan is fresh, young and has the skill for a team to build upon.

And who can blame Rick Nash for wanting a change of venue in Columbus? Nash is an island in Columbus. Unfortunately, he’s the face of the Jackets and his departure will be felt heavily. GM Howson can’t replace Nash with another big name, rather a few newbies who will take time to grow. With a rejected trade offer from the Detroit Red Wings, it’s apparently clear that Howson doesn’t want to deal Nash to division rivals or western rivals. The San Jose Sharks, who are also in the Nash lottery, probably won’t land him either.

The CBA talks now coincide with TV deals and those logistics. Hockey writers shiver when the lockout is mentioned. It is debatable whether the strength of the current NHL will withstand the blow and recover. Let the GM’s do the talking until they’re blue in the face. This summer, patience is the new sunblock. Don’t get burned is the name of the game.

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NHL realignment winners and losers

The NHL Board of Governors will meet in Pebble Beach next week to discuss realigning the NHL to better serve the long hours of travel teams must face. Since the Atlanta Thrashers folded giving birth to the second resurrection of the Winnipeg Jets, the League has  been  bouncing around a few scenarios they hope to decide upon while taking in a few rounds of golf. Is this really that big of an issue? It is for the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There has been some grumbling from the Nashville Predators who would like a piece of something in all this meandering, and then there is the Dallas Stars who for some reason think they should be the helm of a new division.

But it gets better like a hint of juicy gossip that really isn’t that great as much as the  anticipation. Supposedly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised the Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch that the Red Wings would join the Eastern Conference among the modern-day dynasties like the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and even the New York Islanders. Detroit would fit right in.

Football and hockey are united in the Michigan/Ohio battle. As anyone raised in Michigan knows, at some point Ohio sticks its nose into Michigan’s business, just as the Columbus Blue Jackets are making a case for their own Eastern Conference  bid. Worried Red Wings fans? Teams like the Rangers and Bruins would prefer the ailing Jackets because they are easy prey. Detroit is serious competition.

Border Wars

The complicated plan of realignment represent this type of promising and not delivering; the easy plan swaps the Wings for the Jets. Steve Yzerman would than face his former team and who wouldn’t want to see that in Hockeytown?

Then there are the Western Conference teams who don’t want to see the Red Wings leave due to revenue stream. Hey, how about pumping up the Vancouver Canucks or the Colorado Avalanche for some money-making ventures.  The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks feed the celebrity machine which should be raising some type of cash flow or call on the Edmonton Oilers with their dynamic duo of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

That's a goal!

Both Conferences see Detroit as the excellence in the League like fighting over the driving a hot car: it would be cool to drive, but the dangers of that much power could get you pulled over.

Goons be gone

Fighting…it isn’t cool anymore. It won’t change the game, but maybe hockey fans need to change their perception of fighting. Very few hockey players earn the position of Enforcer. The tragic deaths of Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard have raised serious questions on depression, drug abuse and violence. The focus needs to be on the individual certainly, but as a hockey culture the promotion of violence sells.

Columbus defender James Wisniewski has been suspended four times since March 2008. He’s a repeat offender because his job description implies this. The regular season hasn’t started, yet Wisniewski will sit out the rest of the preseason and eight regular-season games for his hit to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. Clearly, James needs a performance review. His job is defender not retaliator. But how far apart are those two skills really?

Minnesota Wild forward Brad Staubitz was suspended for the rest of the preseason and three regular-season games for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cody Bass. His intention is as follows:

“I was on the forecheck, and it’s obviously not the outcome I wanted from the hit. I say I play hard but not dirty. … You’ve just got to be conscious all the time of what you’re doing. It’s tough. You’ve got to play hard, especially in the role that I’m in. It’s a narrow line.”

The Enforcers are the emotion of the team, raw emotion. These guys didn’t have character flaws as most read in tributes for Rypien, Boogaard and Belak. Their roles were to carry and defend the burden of the team’s angst. Being a defender isn’t being the emotional misfit of the team who can’t cope, rather they are the guys who go out every night watching the other guy’s back.

Rypien, Belak and Boogaard were the “burito” on the team. Teaching in urban Denver, I befriended many gang members who sat in my classes. These were not stupid guys, rather appeased at what their role was in society. “Burito” is the man in the gang who cleans up and does the dirty work, always involving someone who crossed the gang or a gang member’s family. That’s a “team” in North Denver who face poverty, murder and gun violence.

What about the team at the Pepsi Center? Cody McLeod is the goon for the Avs, and if you’ve ever seen him smile you’d doubt he’d pop a fist at all. The Colorado Avalanche are in no danger on the ice with poverty, murder or guns. Let Cody play his game, if he has one. Enforcers have a tough time breaking out of that role partly because their other skills on the ice don’t ring to the same tune as a Pavel Datsyuk or a Ryan Kesler. Both Kesler and Datsyuk have thrown down despite their excellent puck skills.  

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler

Once the fighting is gone, then the NHL will be healed, right?  Apparently, not so. Preseason hockey has left a few tough guys out of the first week of regular play via suspension for blindside hits. It all evolves from the same defensive job.

There are always the guys who have to do the dirty work. Belak said he was okay being the fighter because that was his place on the team. How many men and women in the military prefer the raw combat? Tough as nails ones do. How many cops are eager to patrol the beat in Bayonne? If it’s a spot on the force, then they do it willingly knowing it will harden them. Rookies in the NHL do not succumbed to the enforcement pact. Only experienced goons take the slugs. Rookies make hits, which leads to more hits.

Police, soldiers, and hockey players all play an emotional game. Each career choice asks them to hand over their heart and dedicate it for the team. The NHL needs to protect the Enforcers to save their lives, is the nature of this beast. Bear hugging has been the alternate for hits and to a brawl taking the NHL from pissed to polite. Good sportsmanship never gets old.

The NHL wants to monitor the physical and mental health of its employees; other companies could benefit from joining this bandwagon. Corporate values have always been about the money, and if you don’t think the NHL is a corporation then you haven’t heard: our society has moved to care about money, not people. In today’s workplace you are replaceable if you are mentally or physically not tough enough, so goes it on the ice.

Blood, sweat and tears.