Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Letestu Extends Deal

            The Blue Jackets’ smartest player will hold that label for a little while longer as Mark Letestu signed a contract extension through the 2014-15 season on Tuesday afternoon.
            The move was Jarmo Kekäläinen’s first and one that reassures that John Davidson’s “brick by brick” mantra is still the driving force behind each organizational decision.
            Letestu has been a beacon of consistency during the Blue Jackets’ sprint for their second playoff birth in franchise history. The Western Michigan product is second among Columbus forwards in each major offensive category with 9 goals, 11 assists, and 20 points through 34 games.
            He’s a defensive forward on the back check and penalty kill but he’s an offensive threat when the team needs a goal. His ability to recognize what style he needs to play may be his most valuable skill and it’s a huge part of what makes him Columbus’ smartest player.
            The brains and the skill have combined to make him a dynamic player, a player who has worked to prove through his statistics and intangibles that he will be worth more than the fourth round pick his was traded for in 2012.
            Perhaps Matia Marcantuoni, Pittsburgh’s draft pick acquired in the trade, will have more goals than he does vowels in his name and the Letestu trade will be another mark on Scott Howson’s already tainted résumé, but for now, the little stick lifts on the back check and the blocked shots on the penalty kill are enough to make Letestu a piece of the foundation the Blue Jackets wish to build upon.

This Season: 9-11-20 - 34 GP
Career with CBJ: 20-24-44 - 85 GP
NHL Career: 35-38-73 - 170 GP

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Revenge Lost In Realignment

            Just when the almighty Central Division appeared to be stepping down from its throne, the Blue Jackets got their wish in the most bittersweet way. NHL realignment put them in a better position to play games, but in a worse position to make a statement.
            After years of disappointment against Detroit, Nashville & co. it appeared that Columbus was finally emerging from its shell of futility. Then, with the announcement of its moving to the Eastern Conference, the team was excited for a less hectic schedule.
            But with so much positive energy towards the future, the Blue Jackets may be overlooking what they’ve lost. Barring a sweep of their remaining Central Division matchups, they will not get the chance to stick it to the teams that have served to them an embarrassing divisional record dating back to the 2000-2001 season.
            While the move to the East will lessen Columbus’ heavy travel demands, it will also bring about an abrupt change for a team that finally seems to be fitting into its division. The Blue Jackets’ transition from the bullied to the bullies has been impeded and thus their opportunity to get revenge will be lost.       
            Columbus will face Detroit, a team it posted a 4-0-1 record against this season, only three times next year. On top of that, the Blue Jackets will play only two games against current divisional rivals Chicago, St. Louis, and Nashville next season.
             It’s a tough situation for a Columbus team that appears to be finally moving in the right direction. Nine games will not be enough time for the Blue Jackets to prove to the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Predators, and Blues that they are no longer a pile of pieces, but rather a product of managerial changes, coaching stability, skilled players, and a lengthy building process.
            While Columbus could continue its success and climb the divisional ladder this season, it cannot build its reputation as a dominant team in a 48-game season. The Blue Jackets cannot redeem themselves in a sprint. Twelve seasons of losing will not be outweighed by a hot streak in a truncated season.
             The chance for the Columbus to erase its reputation as the division’s stooge has passed and now the team will have to work even harder to make a lasting first impression in its new division. Needless to say, the Rangers, Penguins, and Devils aren’t exactly going to roll out the welcome mat for the Blue Jackets come next season.
            Perhaps Columbus’ losing years will make it stronger, but with the team’s switch to the Eastern Conference, it appears that the ultimate satisfaction has slipped away.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Predictions!

Here are some predictions for the season that almost wasn't and the team that will be tougher than cafeteria steak.

Rick Nash will not be missed.

            The time to grieve Nash’s trade has come and gone. Regardless of whether or not Blue Jackets fans believe the team got enough in return for its face of the franchise, talk of no. 61’s absence will not dominate intermission discussions.
            Sure, Nash was a 30-goal scorer and the team’s lone All-Star representative since Espen Knutsen earned the honor in 2002, but he wasn’t the superstar Columbus needed. He was a power forward on a team that couldn’t put pucks on net.
            When you consider the fact that R.J. Umberger notched 20 goals last season Nash’s contribution doesn’t seem as vital to the team’s success. Furthermore, Vinny Prospal came only four points shy of Nash’s team leading 59.
            Nash is a player that thrives when surrounded by skill players, but he never had that luxury in the state capital. Dubinsky and Anisimov should more than make up for Nash’s departure.
            It will be another year of blue-collar hockey in Columbus and the team has acquired better personnel to fit the mold.

Jenner will fly with the Falcons

            Todd Richards announced on Thursday that Blue Jackets top prospect Boone Jenner had been reassigned to the OHL's Oshawa Generals and that Tim Erixon had been bumped down to AHL's Springfield Falcons 
            Columbus will keep Jenner with the Falcons for the entirety of the abbreviated season to avoid burning a year of his entry-level contract. In the 48-game season, call-ups can play a maximum of five games before one year of their entry-level deal is used.
            Jenner has the potential to be the Blue Jackets’ next big name and Columbus’ front office under the direction of John Davidson understands this. As the team has learned in the past, big names are hard to keep in the 614 and even harder when they’re asking for a big wad of dough when it comes time to negotiate their second contract.

Mason will make a comeback

            Every year this argument is about as lofty as the rainbow backhanders that seem to always beat Mason’s glove hand, BUT, this year is different because of one man: Sergei Bobrovsky. 
            Before Bobrovsky was dealt to Columbus he pushed the spaceman Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia, and one could argue that Bryzgalov has had a bit more success in the league than Mason. By that I mean, if Bobrovsky can push a goalie who has posted a 2.52 GAA over 10 seasons, he can probably push goalie who has been in a three-year hibernation.
            Mason will get the picture quickly…and if he doesn’t I’ll save this prediction and insert it in next year’s post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NBC Deal Gives Hope

            Forget the monster deals Zach Parise and Ryan Suter scored this offseason, the league is more concerned with a much less publicized contract. That contract belongs to the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC, and it may be the catalyst that ends the impending lockout.
            Last year, the NHL and NBC Sports Group agreed to a 10-year deal that would make NBC and NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus, the exclusive homes for NHL action. The partnership extends until the 2020-2021 season.
            NBC and its cable station have aired and will continue to air special events such as the NHL Winter Classic, NHL All-Star Weekend, and “Hockey Day in America” in addition to the “Game of the Week.” The deal also encompassed a provision that stated NBC Universal would televise each game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This contract marked the first time the NHL and its broadcasting partner agreed to air the entire postseason.
The longevity and contents of the deal coupled with the NHL’s history of labor disagreements prompted NBC to stipulate that in the event of a lockout it would still pay the league the $200 million annual payout, though it would require the sacrificed games to be tacked on to the end of the contract. In other words, part if not all of the 2021-2022 season would be played and televised without compensation if there is a work stoppage.
The rate of inflation dictates that for NBC the monetary benefits of a lockout would outweigh the burden caused by the disruption of programming. This is very important for the league as the $200 million paycheck it receives largely contributes to the hockey related revenue that the NHL and NHLPA have battled for rightful shares of in year’s collective bargaining agreement.
November 23rd marks the first nationally televised game of the 2012-2013 campaign. With this date in mind the money hungry owners may feel the pressure of striking a deal before they start losing the some of the revenue they so desire. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lockout Looms

            On September 15th commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to announce the league’s decision to lockout the players. It will be the NHL’s second lockout in a decade and third in Bettman’s 19-year tenure.
            The divide between the owners and the players hinges on a word neither side can manage to define: hockey related revenue. This revenue is built by funds from ticket sales, ads plastered on the boards, grill covers with the team emblem, and so forth. With a few exceptions, hockey related revenue is everything hockey related but its meaning is still a bit equivocal.
            Currently the players own 57 percent of the revenue while the owners collect 43 percent. However, with the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement looming, the owners want a larger cut of the cash and they plan to suspend play until their requests are met.
            The owners initial offer to the NHLPA asked the players to cut their share of HRR to 43 percent. Upon reviewing a counter-proposal from the NHLPA and its director Donald Fehr, the league upped the player’s share to 46 percent; however, this too failed to make any headway.
Copyright 2009 KoKo Press Inc.
            Fehr and the NHLPA have asked for nothing in the CBA negotiations. In fact, by submitting a counter-proposal they have already agreed to take a pay cut. It comes down to what the owners believe they can squeeze out of an NHLPA that made huge sacrifices in the 2004-2005 lockout.
            In addition to gaining a more favorable share of HRR, the owners are also asking for a few more changes to the CBA. The league would like to institute a salary cap floor, set a contract term limit, and continue to place a portion of the players’ salaries in escrow.
            Most of the changes the league is attempting to make would aid the small market teams that have been losing money in past seasons. The players are sympathetic to this problem as they agreed to take less salary money in the next few years if the wealthier teams agreed to increase revenue sharing to help their less fortunate clubs.
             Finding this common ground provided some traction, but not enough. The stalemate continues and the likelihood of a lockout is all but guaranteed.  And it stinks worse than a pair of hockey gloves.