Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have made overtures to Sergei Bobrovsky’s camp about signing a long-term deal after next season, but I can’t imagine it’ll get done unless the dollars are in the Tuukka Rask range (six years, $7.5 million). Rask is 27, Bobrovsky 26. Right now, Goalie Bob has a salary-cap hit of $5.675 million. The Russian Olympic goalie, who has a broken finger and might return to the lineup on Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers, is the Jackets’ most indispensable player.
- Ray Whitney, 42, is still in Scottsdale, Ariz., waiting for the phone to ring to offer further employment, but this is probably it for The Wizard after 1,330 NHL games. Twenty per cent of the NHL season has been played and a call is probably not coming. Whitney can live with that. He was never going to play as long as Jaromir Jagr, his teammate in Dallas. Only 48 guys have played more games than Whitney.
Matheson also has a nice story on Dominik Hasek.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton is stuck in a living hell and facing a torturous decision.
Horton, who hasn’t played since April, is in near constant pain — sometimes agony — because of a degenerative back injury that has derailed his NHL career.
“I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over,” Horton said in his first public comments about his condition. “I can’t run. I can’t play with my kids. To get in and out of the car, I’m like a 75-year-old man … so slow and stiff. I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime.”
But the alternative to dealing with such misery is just as awful. Horton could have surgery to relieve the pain, but the procedure — likely a three- or four-level spinal fusion with a titanium rod — would mean the end of his NHL career at only 29 years old.
“I don’t want to have surgery, because of what that means,” Horton said, his voice breaking behind a smile. “I don’t want to live with this pain, but I don’t want to make that decision. It’s hard for me to say that, at 29 years old, I’m done. I mean, really? Done at 29?”
from Shawn Mitchell of Puck-Rakers,
The Blue Jackets, as has become custom, fell behind in the first period, worked their way back and ultimately lost. That’s nine in a row (0-8-1), tying a franchise record winless streak. The number of consecutive losses now matches the number of injured players. This is no coincidence. Not by a long shot. But it is also no excuse for record-tying skids. “We have to be better,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said before the game. “We have to build better depth and learn from this. We went through a similar situation last year and came out stronger. That’s the way you have to look at it.”
continue for more on the loss to the Capitals...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Columbus' star netminder will be a restricted free agent after the season. Re-signing him two years ago wasn’t easy. And you can expect there will again be serious overtures from his native country in Russia to go play in the KHL.
The Jackets made an offer during training camp that was rejected and the two sides haven’t spoken since. Bobrovsky is represented by agent Paul Theofanous.
"We love Bob, we want to obviously keep him," Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "We made a fair offer in our opinion and it didn’t go anywhere. We’ll keep after it. He’s an incredibly hard-working player and he’s a leader that way and such a good example. We absolutely want to keep a guy like that and for long-term."
Bobrovsky is earning $6.25 million this season, although his cap hit is $5.625 million.
He's a restricted free agent for one more year and then has UFA eligibility starting in July 2016.
more on the Blue Jackets...
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers at the Columbus Dispatch,
So how did the Blue Jackets show up for practice today? Angry? Engaged? Rambunctious?
"I didn't like the way we started practice," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We started slow and sloppy."
Richards seemed to take it upon himself to provide motivation. His voice got louder. He started barking at specific players during drills when the pace wasn't high enough. His language was dotted with a word that can not be printed in this space.
All of this played out while Richards put the players through physical drills around the net: 1 on 1s in the corner, followed by 2 on 2s. It wasn't a "bag" skate like last week's, but a practice you might typically see early in the training camp.
"We haven't done battle drills in a long time," Richards said.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Blue Jackets were missing nine players last night because of injuries and/or suspension. They carried in a seven-game winless streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most dynamic teams in the Eastern Conference. It was time to light a fuse.
This is supposed to be a cannon fight, right? The Jackets forgot where they placed their artillery, fought with pocket knives and got slaughtered in the first period.
The Lightning scored four goals in less than 15 minutes on the way to a 7-4 victory in front of 14,892 at Nationwide Arena.
“Any (derogatory) word you want to choose to describe it, you’d probably be right,” coach Todd Richards said....
The Blue Jackets are in trouble. They are in 15th place in the Eastern Conference. Forget who is playing, or who is not. It is embarrassing.
“We’ve got to deal with what the reality is, and where we’re at,” Richards said. “I know from past experience that if you dig yourselves a hole -- and we’re sitting in one right now -- it’s tough to get out of that hole.”
from Sam Page of Sports Illustrated,
There's no mystery what Johnson's flaws are. He's a great athlete who lacked polish as a prospect. He often found himself out of position, standing still on key plays. He made bad first passes. All I want to advance in this column is a unifying theory for why his many faults persist and why no amount of NHL experience or athleticism will ever erase them: Jack Johnson has no spatial contextual awareness.
Hockey is a game that happens at a high speeds, with multiple people, all with unique traits, moving in different directions. The ability to recognize who is where, what they can do, and where they will be, is the fundamental skill of the modern game. This was the great innovation of Wayne Gretzky, the hallmark of the legendary Red Army teams, the thing that separates Sidney Crosby from a handful of equally-skilled, physically more impressive peers.
from Shawn Mitchell of he Columbus Dispatch.
“It was no surprise,” defenseman Fedor Tyutin said, dripping sweat at his stall after practice. “It’s the way it works and the way it should be, really.
“If a guy doesn’t want to give 100 percent during a game, then it’s going to happen in practice. This is not a country club where you can just work whenever you want. It’s normal, and I think it’s good for our team at this point. Hopefully, we learned a big lesson.”...
The Blue Jackets had a lengthy team meeting yesterday morning. Among the topics of discussion was taking pride in doing gritty, inglorious things that were once second nature. Then they hit the ice, and Richards began barking. At one point, he had five-man units skating end-to-end during 50-second shifts.
“I don’t believe in using practice as punishment,” Richards said, “but there are days when I think you have to.”
Watch the hit below...
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
It could be worse. What if the Blue Jackets did not pluck Jack Skille off waivers last month? Where would they be without Scott Hartnell?
Sure, the Jackets are dealing with an injury situation that is unprecedented in franchise history. Yet, they have enough quality and depth to withstand it, and to be better for it. Is that a fair premise? I think so.
The very soul of the team — Dubinsky, Jenner, Calvert, Bobrovsky and Letestu are a major part of it — has been compromised, but the sky has not fallen. The Blue Jackets are dealing with it.
Foligno is averaging more than a point per game. Hartnell is averaging just under a point. You want soul? There it is.
Ryan Johansen has accepted a massive burden and has 13 points in 11 games. Atkinson has become an ever-present danger. Skille has been terrific.
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
What are the Blue Jackets to do? Their personnel losses are no longer on paper, they are holes on the ice. You could feel what an ordeal it was for them to score. They got pucks to the net. They generated some traffic. Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier was pretty good. Yet, with $29 million in prime talent unavailable, the lack of finish is palpable.
The Jackets (4-6) have lost four in a row by an aggregate of 18-6.
“No matter who is in or out, if you’re not doing the little things … this league is just too good,” center Ryan Johansen said. “The big thing to me, though, is we’ve got to score goals. I had seven shots on goal tonight, and I’ve got to bury some of those. We’ve got to find a way to get more pucks in the net.”
Columbus fell in love with the Original Jackets because they left all they had on the ice almost every night. That is what coach Todd Richards must demand of his club as it treads water until help arrives. That is what the youngest players on the youngest team in the league must embrace. And if a prized prospect such as Alexander Wennberg is not ready, well, next man up.
Columbus can root for this team. We love underdogs, especially those of the junkyard variety. One might suggest, though, that they cut down on the blue-line turnovers and odd-man rushes against, the sorts of things that vaporized their small margin for error against the Maple Leafs — who, by the way, are no powerhouse.
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.
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