Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Michale Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
Last night, they took a step.
Hitchcock is 483-328-120 with six division titles and one Stanley Cup in 931 games with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Jackets.
Here he is, at the start of his third year in Columbus, where he has fashioned a 77-79-20 record and had a hand in a major overhaul.
“I don’t get the joy out of winning,” he said. “I get the joy out of watching guys come together and act as one. To me, it has always been about the feeling, never about the result.”
Hitchcock described a brick-by-brick building process. He said a lot of pieces are now in place. He said the Jackets are knocking on the door. He said, “Now, we have to break that thing down.”
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
Hitchcock doesn’t see the Sharks as simply a collection of All-Stars with unfathomable statistics. He sees them as an example of where the Blue Jackets need to get.
“We want to move from the middle of the pack to the next level, and the next level isn’t technical,” Hitchcock said. “It’s having more people engaged for longer periods of time.
“That isn’t something you talk about, or wave a magic wand and it happens. It’s something that takes a lot of work, a lot of adversity. We’re moving that forward. It’s not just being willing to pay the price to win. It’s understanding what the price to pay is.”
from Suzanne Hoholik of the Columbus Dispatch,
A lot of work goes into making and maintaining that sheet of frozen water. A team of technicians uses equal amounts of sweat and science to make the surface perfect for the Blue Jackets and their professional-hockey opponents.
The arena temperature is kept between 58 and 60 degrees, depending on how warm it is outside, the humidity and the dew point.
All these things and more are monitored before, during and after games to keep the ice cold, hard and fast. When needed, adjustments are made.
“It’s a science, but it’s nowhere near an exact science,” said Scott Lofton, director of operations for the arena.
On good ice, players skate with less effort, and pucks glide across the surface. On bad ice, you get bouncing pucks and tired skaters.
from Adam Proteau of the Hockey News,
So here are four teams I’m ready to say are out of the playoff picture as of today – and the punishments I’m willing to accept if they defy the odds and continue to play once the regular season is done:
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
I feel awful for long-suffering Blue Jackets fans. But I cannot in good conscience put any faith in a team that currently has a 9.9 percent power play efficiency rating.
That’s right – nine-point-nine stinking percent. Is it possible to decline penalties like they do in the NFL?
If They Make The Playoffs, I Will: Attend a Blue Jackets game wearing a Civil War-era military uniform and sit quietly while Doug MacLean regales me with his draft record as Columbus’ GM.
read on for three more teams that won’t make the playoffs…
from Jeff Hale of Slap Shot at the NYT,
Hands up out there if you had Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks as your candidate for the Calder Trophy this season.
Versteeg, 22, leads N.H.L. rookies in points (22), assists (15) and plus-minus (+13). Versteeg’s route to prominence was a long one. He has escaped major notice because he was drafted four years ago in the fifth round by Boston, who dealt him to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in February 2007. The Bruins would probably love to redo that deal.
It’s possible that Versteeg’s main challenger could be just as unexpected. Steve Mason, 20, the goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is 6-3-1 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average. He also has two shutouts.
continued with some WHC and Phaneuf talk included.
from Craig Custance of the Sporting News,
Brassard is winning 51.3 percent of his faceoffs, compared to 42.5 in 17 games last season. Hitchcock attributes Brassard’s success as one of this season’s top rookies to the fact he took the correct path to the NHL.
Brassard, 21, played four seasons of junior hockey. He spent most of last season in the AHL. This season, the coaching staff is putting him in position to succeed in the NHL.
When you look at which rookies are struggling this season and which are playing well, there’s a common theme. Rookies like Brassard, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Kris Versteeg and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mikhail Grabovski (the top rookie scorers) all spent considerable time in the AHL honing their skills.
It’s not only on the ice, it’s stuff like managing money, managing free time and playing professional hockey without the pressure that comes from being a highly hyped young NHL player.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Disptach,
(Steve) Mason, who posted his first NHL shutout Saturday, will start at 7 tonight when the Blue Jackets play the Phoenix Coyotes in Nationwide Arena. It’ll be his seventh start in the past nine games.
“Right now, we’re going day to day with the situation,” Howson said, delaying a decision on the Blue Jackets’ three-headed goaltender situation for a few more days. Mason, Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena remain on the active roster.
But when coach Ken Hitchcock was asked to map out the club’s upcoming schedule—seven games in the next 12 days—he mentioned Mason and Leclaire at least sharing duties, a signal that Mason’s next month is certain enough that he could buy a Christmas tree this weekend.
“The kid’s earned it,” Hitchcock said after Mason’s 15-save effort in Atlanta, a 2-0 Blue Jackets win. “What else can you say, but the kid has definitely earned the chance (to start tonight).”
From Ben Marrison, Editor of the Columbus Dispatch:
The caller said she is “sick and tired” of our negative coverage of the team, and said we’re trying to drive them out of town. She was particularly irked by the large photo we ran of goalie Pascal Leclaire in Wednesday’s paper, who gave up 7 goals in a loss Tuesday. She said we had the worst coverage of an NHL team of any newspaper.
Worth a read, given that the matter of “negative” coverage is something that fans around the league often have strong feelings about. And the fact that the ownership company behind The Dispatch also happens to own a 10% stake in the Columbus Blue Jackets and their arena, is another interesting twist.
from Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch,
There is only one Torres family in the NHL, and their tale is both familiar and unique to the hockey world.
They are a hard-working, fun-loving, tequila-drinking clan that overcame tough financial times and racial prejudice to produce the NHL’s first player of Mexican and Peruvian descent.
“The NHL should do more to promote stories like these,” Blue Jackets center Michael Peca said. “It would help inspire kids of multinational backgrounds and let them know there is room for them in our game.”
from The Good, The Bad And The Duthie,
We did the Oilers and Blue Jackets game Wednesday night. Columbus has two of the best rookies in the NHL in Derek Brassard and Jakub Voracek. Coach Ken Hitchcock, not one to over hype young players, calls them this year’s version of Toews and Kane. Brassard scored Wednesday, and leads all NHL rookies in goals and points. He has arguably been the best player on the team.
more hockey bits…
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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