Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
One of the great things about this time of the year, the days after players have started to drift back into NHL cities in anticipation of training camps starting in a matter of weeks, is to project, to dream, to imagine what might be.
And what better thing to imagine than which of the 30 teams will still be standing in June at the start of the Stanley Cup finals?
It is an exercise in fancy and maybe a little fancy stats with intuition and common sense thrown in, although we know that hat sense is oft-times uncommon come playoff time....
Nashville Predators versus Columbus Blue Jackets
When this matchup actually unfolds next spring, I will preface all coverage with “as first reported by ESPN.com.” Because it could happen. For a stretch last season Nashville was the best team in the NHL, led by Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne and two-time gold medalist and team captain Shea Weber. The Preds swooned down the stretch and were bounced in the first round by Chicago but should learn from that experience and once again be a playoff team in spite of the intense competition bound to unfold in the Central Division. Columbus, meanwhile, was last fall’s Eastern Conference darling but a rash of injuries dashed playoff hopes early. Still, the Blue Jackets played hard and were tied for the league lead in wins after March 1. Add Brandon Saad to an already hard-working, talented team and factor in former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in goal and this is a team ready to make noise.
Prediction: Columbus in 7; Scott Hartnell with the Cup-winner on a rare breakaway after the Nationwide Arena cannon inadvertently fires during a Nashville power play in double overtime.
four more matchups...
from Rob Mixer of BlueJackets.com,
A year ago at this time, the word was “faster.”
“We want to play faster,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said heading into the 2014-15 campaign. “And we need to play faster.”
It pertained to quicker thinking on the ice, quicker puck decisions and a variety of other factors that enabled the Blue Jackets to dictate the pace of the game and force their opponents to react. After this past season, Richards said he felt the team played faster, but thought they could take it to another level.
This year, he wants his players to think a little differently – he wants them to think about pressure. But not the external brand of pressure.
“We're going to use that word a lot," Richards told BlueJackets.com. "I think if you’re playing hard and pressuring the puck, then you’re playing faster already. When you have the depth that we have here, you should play with more pressure and play a faster game because you’re able to get good rest in between shifts, and that allows you to maintain a high level of play and a high level of speed in your team game.
“We’ve got great depth right now. This will be my fifth year in the organization, and I don’t remember ever having this type of depth. It’s a credit to the team and everyone upstairs, as far as drafting, restocking the cupboards with some young talent.”
from Craig Merz at NHL.com,
Will the season be spent chasing the playoffs? The Blue Jackets opened last season with four wins in six games, then injuries ravaged their roster; Columbus lost an NHL-high 508 man-games.
By the end of November, they were 6-15-2 and didn't make up much ground until it was too late. A 12-0-1 finish left them 42-35-5 and nine points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"We need to find better ways to maintain and not have major dips," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "We might have injuries this year, and you've got to find ways to stay afloat instead of sinking."
In the previous three seasons, the Blue Jackets started 2-12-1, 5-12-4 and 5-10-0.
"It's pretty obvious you have to have a good start to have a successful season," defenseman Fedor Tyutin said. "That's going to be our team goal. We don't want to use injuries as an excuse. We still have good players here.
"That's something we're searching answers for, why we're having bad starts to the season."
added 11:59am, The Nashville Predators have the same thing and include the salaries.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Blue Jackets are the chic midsummer pick to leap the pack in the Eastern Conference. They ought to be. Expensive teams that are not the Philadelphia Flyers look good on paper, especially in July. And the Jackets are expensive.
The salary-cap ceiling for 2015-16 is $71.4 million. According to NHLnumbers.com, the Jackets have but $3.6 million in remaining cap space — and most of that is set aside as a “bonus cushion” (in case, say, Ryan Murray activates some bonus clauses in his entry-level contract).
In fact, the Jackets are one of the seven most expensive teams in the league. That might change as other teams fill out their rosters, but the bottom line is the Jackets’ bottom line. They are no longer a budget team. They have spent just about as much as any team can spend. We are not accustomed to this, not in our market.
So, Jackets fans ought to doff their cap to majority owner John P. McConnell. Whatever else one might say about the man, he has been willing to spend on talent. That is all one can ask of an owner. The rest is on management and on the players.
from Mark Williams of the Columbus Dispatch,
The sponsors attended sessions providing more information about digital-media trends and strategies, insights on Columbus sports fans and how to use the logo rights that they acquired as part of their sponsorship for marketing.
They also picked up fresh data about the Blue Jackets fan base, which have higher household incomes than the typical Columbus family and spend more on things like Internet purchases, cellphones and groceries.
Larry Hoepfner, executive vice president of business operations for the Blue Jackets, said the team’s goal is for sponsors to get more business because of their affiliation with the team.
“If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t doing our jobs,” he said.
The team’s No. 1 challenge is to continue to grow the fan base with more season ticketholders, casual fans coming to more games more often and to get people who’ve never been to a game to come, he said.
“We’ve got to find ways to get them to a game,” he said.
After an injury-plagued season in which the Blue Jackets missed the playoffs, this year’s team is positioned to be much better this season, said John Davidson, the team’s president of hockey operations, and other team officials.
“We’re really excited about our hockey club,” he told the sponsors. “Our team is going to be good, very good. So are a lot of other teams.”
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
Even now, three months after the Blue Jackets’ season ended, it’s staggering to consider the impact injuries had on it.
It was the cloud that formed before training camp opened (Nathan Horton’s back) and hovered until the final days, when even trade acquisitions David Clarkson and Rene Bourque were quickly injured and missed the final month.
That cloud has become an asterisk. As the hockey world slowly turns its eyes to next season, every projection involving the Blue Jackets seems couched with a qualifier.
The Blue Jackets should be able to compete in the Metropolitan Division … if they don’t lead the league in injuries again.
The Blue Jackets feature one of the NHL’s more formidable groups of forwards … if they can stay healthy.
Blue Jackets third-year defenseman Ryan Murray could redefine the club’s blue line … if he can stay in the lineup.
“It’s behind us now,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said. “You hear what people say about our team, and a lot of people are excited to see what this group can do if we stay healthy. What we endured last season … it’s something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t ever want to go through it again. But it’s behind us now.”
“I like our club — a lot of people like our club — but we have to go out and perform. We haven’t proven anything to anybody yet.”
-John Davidson, president of the Columbus Blue Jackets. More on the Blue Jackets from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.
from John Dietz of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
If fans want to place blame anywhere, it should be with Saad, who said he allowed his agent to handle all contract negotiations with the Hawks.
Had he been willing to accept a deal in the $5 million range, he'd probably still be a Blackhawk. He'd hear that earsplitting national anthem 41 times a year, be playing in front of a packed house every night and on a team that figures to compete for the Stanley Cup year after year after year.
Instead, he wanted an extra $1 million a year. And that's his right. So now he's playing in Columbus.
Then there's Andrew Desjardins, who signed a two-year deal with the Hawks on Friday for less than he could have made elsewhere. He stayed for the chance to win and because he loves the city and the players in that locker room.
And he played here for less than four months.
"Obviously the desire for players is to win. That's why they play," Bowman said two days after the Hawks eliminated the Lightning in the NHL Final.
"So there's always that point -- what is enough for them and that's something I can't answer. That's always an individual thing.
"But we know that all of our guys that are here, that have been here for a long time, they all sacrificed. And they all took less money than they could have, because they wanted to be part of something special.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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