Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Blue Jackets will have up to $20 million to spend on roster improvements this summer, along with a directive from ownership to get better quickly.
Now comes the potentially hard part—persuading free agents to take the Blue Jackets’ money, to sign a long-term contract with a club that outsiders view as the Tampa Bay Rays of hockey.
Today, the NHL hosted a teleconference call for the media to ask questions of Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff and Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock.
Here is the transcript of that Q&A.
Q. The emphasis has been in the west all year now. Now the popular belief is whoever comes out of the west is going to be the Stanley Cup champion. Do you have that sense, as well?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I don’t. I think one of the problems is when you have so many good teams that what’s left of your team at the end of the three series that you have to play in sometimes isn’t much. I think a lot of it depends on the damage that gets done in some of these series.
I think when you look at the competitiveness of the teams and the closeness of really almost all eight teams in the playoffs, you know, I think health is going to be a major issue on whoever comes out from this series because it has the makings, especially in these early rounds, of some really long series here.
from Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets’ season was effectively over during Christmas shopping season. If you attended a party on New Year’s Eve, you might catch somebody discussing the talent at the top of the next summer’s draft.
This season wasn’t the same. It might seem like it because of increasing expectations, but it wasn’t even close. Coach Ken Hitchcock achieved his goal of making the Blue Jackets difficult for others to play against. His system allowed a team that didn’t have a depth of veteran talent to consistently beat teams that do, and he might have been one goal scorer from getting the Jackets into the playoffs. And they even had that scorer—Fredrik Modin—but injuries limited him to 23 games.
Gary Bettman faced some question from Blue Jackets fans…
from the Columbus Dispatch,
Q. Doesn’t the NHL need to increase its TV exposure, say, by getting back on ESPN?
A. When we came back (after missing the 2004-05 season), we felt it was important to go to a place that would give us special, priority treatment. Coming out of the lockout, ESPN was not prepared to love us the way I thought we deserved to be loved. I’m not sure being on ESPN at this point would give us what we need in terms of presence and promotion.
via the Columbus Dispatch,
Blue Jackets goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk was involved in an altercation this week in Nashville, Tenn., The Dispatch has learned.
No report was filed with the Nashville Police Department, and Malarchuk did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The incident occurred several hours after the Blue Jackets arrived in Nashville on Monday for a game Tuesday.
Malarchuk, whose face was badly bruised, did not fly back to Columbus late Tuesday with the team, instead returning to his ranch in Nevada.
General manager Scott Howson said the club would have no comment.
The Blue Jackets had lots to say about Nashville winger Jordin Tootoo, who took a run at defenseman Rostislav Klesla and had two fights in the third period, one with Jan Hejda and another with Jason Chimera….
Hitchcock had lots to say about Tootoo after the game. He even took a swipe at his good friend Barry Trotz, coach of the Predators. Here’s what he said: “That’s embarrassing. (Tootoo) is too good a player to do that stuff. I find it really embarrassing, but the (Predators) must allow it, so what the heck. I just don’t like the clown shows.”
Trotz, when asked about Tootoo taking a shift with 45 seconds left, said: “It wasn’t to send a message or anything. It was just to get him some ice time.” Apparently, this was delivered with a straight face.
From Aaron Portzline at Puck-Rakers (Columbus Dispatch),
I’ve asked Ken Hitchcock this a number of times, and he won’t go there publicly, which I totally understand. But a lot of the players here don’t have it in them to compete in 82 games a year. Yeah, they have moments where they look capable, and they say the right things, but they just don’t have the heart and guts to do it. Every five or six games, they prove that.
The Jackets are under-talented, yes. We’ve written that a bunch of times. But a roster gutting needs to be done to bring in some hyper-energetic guys who have fire in their bellies and the confidence that they’re good enough to outplay players on playoff-caliber teams.
Let’s face it: we’ve see what a lot of these players can do, and it’s simply not good enough.
From Tom Reed at Puck-rakers,
You just knew the Jackets’ good health wouldn’t last. Goaltender Pascal Leclaire will miss at least the next two games with a possible concussion, coach Ken Hitchcock said. He was struck in the mask with a puck during pre-game warm-ups on Sunday.
Freddy Norrena will make his second straight start against Calgary on Tuesday night in Nationwide in what promises to be a testy game. [...]
Jackets’ winger David Vyborny is out for 7-to-10 days with a knee sprain. There was fear Sunday night that Vyborny’s season and possibly his Blue Jackets career might have been over.
And from TSN: “The Blue Jackets called up goaltender Dan LaCosta from the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL on an emergency basis.”
via Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets’ desire for a No. 1 center is well-known, but the free-agent market is short on top-flight centers, so they might need to explore the trade route. Could the Jackets and Sharks be a match? Maybe. The Adam Foote deal gave the Jackets another first-round draft pick (assuming the Avs make the playoffs), so it’s possible they could package one pick with a good player or two and come out with someone to play next to Rick Nash.
Marleau, 28, has struggled this season, with 14 goals and 22 assists and a minus-16 rating, but his track record is impressive. He had 87 and 78 points the previous two seasons.
Do remember, Marleau has a NTC kick-in this summer, so he will have to approve any trade.
From the Columbus Dispatch,
The Blue Jackets have called a late morning press conference at which time they are expected to name Rick Nash as the team’s new captain.
The franchise will not confirm this until the 11:45 a.m. gathering.
Coach Ken Hitchcock had planned to play out the balance of the schedule without a captain following the Feb. 26 trade of Adam Foote to Colorado.
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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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