(HFNHL) Alterations on the horizon for struggling Blue Jackets?

Discussion in 'HFNHL Talk' started by Ohio Jones, Feb 24, 2011.

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  1. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    CD - Columbus, OH

    Nationwide Arena - The Columbus Blue Jackets are reeling after yet another losing streak, the longest of their season, has left them in 12th in the West. Granted, they're still just three points out of a playoff berth in the close Western Conference, but this is a team that was as high as fifth earlier in the season, and was expected to challenge for the Central Division title: they are are currently 4th with almost all of their divisional games already behind them thanks to a quirk in the schedule.

    The team pulled briefly out of its tailspin with two convincing wins over the Isles and Colorado, before stumbling again last night to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the hated Sabres (a rivalry going back 5 years to the Jackets' first-and-only appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals). It was a close, hard-fought contest, but Columbus came out on the losing end of a 2-1 decision at home to the current Eastern Conference leaders.

    Enough, it appears, is enough.

    "It's just unacceptable - to management, to ownership, and to our fans," Jackets GM Doug Emerson declared following last night's loss, promising that there would be movement. "It's the attitude in the room - despite playing for the best coach in the world, with guys in the room who are supposed to be leaders, these guys just aren't hungry enough. There's a culture to losing, and despite every expectation, this team has settled into it. Everyone in that room has received important minutes, Mike (Head Coach Babcock) has tried dozens of combinations, but these guys just aren't scoring, and some nights they aren't even skating. Our goalies have been good, but not good enough when they get no goal support, like (last night). It's enough."

    The team is at the cap, which will make it difficult to find dance partners, but Emerson is determined. He vowed that no player should feel safe.

    "'We've had a couple of guys playing well most nights, but at this point, anyone could be moved in order to shake this up and change the culture in that room."

    Stay tuned - more to come!
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011
  2. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Oh Captain, my - wait, who the hell are you?

    The winds of change are blowing in Columbus, and the first change is something this league has (to the best of this reporter’s recollection) never seen before.

    As rumoured yesterday, Detroit Red Wings Captain Kimmo Timonen is indeed on the move to Columbus. Heading the other way is the Blue Jackets Captain, Ed Jovanovski. No word yet whether either player will wear a letter with their new team, but it appears to be a unique situation: it’s extremely unusual for two rival teams to trade Captains – simply unheard-of for them to do it in the midst of a season where both are jockeying for playoff position.

    The trade may make sense, though, as both players have had massively underachieving HFNHL seasons to date. Jovanovski has tallied just 0 goals and 7 assists for 7 points and a -5 rating in 28 games for the struggling Jackets, along with 10 penalty minutes, 40 hits and 35 shot blocks. Timonen’s struggles are even more perplexing given the unexpectedly strong performance of the Red Wings as a whole (they are currently an astonishing second overall in the West, narrowly ahead of Central Division rivals the St. Louis Blues); in 24 games, Timonen has just 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points and a team-worst -9 rating, to go with 16 pims, 33 hits and 32 shot blocks. The hope on both sides is that a change of scenery will spark improved overall play. It’s a cap-neutral move – both players are under contract for next season at roughly $6 million.

    Also heading to Detroit in the deal is top defensive prospect Charles-Olivier Roussel, who was taken with the last pick in the first round of the 2009 HFNHL Entry Draft. Roussel’s development has taken a step back this season with his move from Shawinigan to Montreal in the QMJHL, where he has just 20 points in 38 games. It’s suggested, however, that he’s taking this opportunity to work on the other aspects of his game, and it’s quite possible that he’ll develop similarly to another right-shooting defensive prospect Columbus once traded to Detroit for veteran blueline help, Dennis Wideman. Either way, it’s a steep price for Columbus to pay for a defenceman who may look better on paper, but who – based on the scoresheet – is not much different from Jovanovski.
     
  3. Vaive-Alive

    Vaive-Alive Registered User

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    Well - you just won the battle of the underacheivers... $#@!
     
  4. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Yes, and my reward is I slip *down* in standings to 13th, behind a Canucks squad that seems to finally have figured things out, making my playoff hopes all the more unrealistic. Outstanding. :(
     
  5. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Jackets taking care of business, signing one-year extensions for Nik Kulemin, Dominic Moore and Marek Zidlicky, as well as multi-year deals for defensemen Mark Giordano and Mike Sauer. No word yet on possible contracts for RFAs Smid, Budaj or Thorburn, or UFAs Foote, Roloson or Langenbrunner.
     
  6. Wildman

    Wildman Registered User

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    I can live with 6th OV pick:D
     
  7. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    The second domino fell today as the Jackets announced the trade of playmaker Tim Connolly and power forward Dustin Penner to the Montreal Canadiens in return for 25-year-old pivot Travis Zajac.

    "It's always hard to give up good people", GM Emerson said in making the announcement. "These were two quality players on the ice for us, and quality people off the ice. Connolly has really started to come on of late, and hopefully he'll be able to continue that progression for Montreal. Penner -- he's been a Blue Jacket since he left school, and he's been a big part of the identity of this club - literally and figuratively. I know our powerplay is going to miss having that big body in the crease, and our organization is going to miss a great guy.

    "But it's no secret that top centers are at a premium in this league, and when you have a chance to get one, you have to take it. Travis is someone we've watched for a long time; he's having a down season that we were able to take advantage of to pry him away from Montreal, but we're convinced his production will rebound, particularly in our system. More importantly, he fits the profile of the kind of player we want in our organization: he's another big body down the middle, he plays all three zones, he's strong on faceoffs, he hustles, he communicates, he delivers hits, he blocks shots, he has good vision and soft hands... the fundamentals are really strong with this kid, so even when he isn't scoring, he's doing the little things to help a team win. A consummate team guy."

    Zajac has been huge for the Habs in their surprising season, eating up a ton of minutes 5-on-5 and on both special teams, tallying 9 goals and 19 points with a -1 in 30 games. It's expected he'll have a slightly lighter workload on the Jackets' more balanced roster, and the hope is that will leave him fresher and better able to contribute offensively.

    Head Coach Mike Babcock spoke briefly with Zajac this morning. "I told Travis he's going to slot into Conney's spot in between Alex (Burrows) and Danny (Briere) for now while we get him used to our systems, then we'll see. That line has been playing really well lately, and it's always risky to disrupt it when guys are in the zone, but Travis is a complete player, I think we'll find a good fit for him."

    Nikolai Kulemin is expected to pick up Penner's minutes - the versatile winger has been twiddling his thumbs down on the fourth line. Having that kind of quality depth will help the Jackets absorb the loss of Penner on the wing.

    For the Habs, the trade makes room for super Sophomore Matt Duchene to play a larger role, while giving them more skill and flexibility on the wings. The Jackets, meanwhile, free up almost $3 million in cap space, suggesting that Emerson is not finished dealing.

    "We're still not where we expect to be, and it may take a couple more moves to get there. We're only halfway to the trade deadline, but we've found you can't leave these things to the last minute or you risk losing out on the guy you want. So yeah, we're in buyer mode for now. We're trying to shake things up, bring a new mindset to the team."

    The Jackets are currently sitting 10th in a very competitive Western Conference, 4 points back of 7th. But if they want to earn a playoff berth, they're going to have to avoid the prolonged slumps that characterized their first 30 games.
     
  8. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    The Blue Jackets held a players-only meeting this morning following a 3-0 blanking at the hands of the Division rival Chicago Blackhawks. The loss is the fourth in a row as the team compiles yet another extended losing streak, dropping to 13th overall in the West. While only 6 points out of 8th place, the Jackets are definitely moving in the wrong direction – they’ve managed just 5 wins in their last 20 games.

    No word on what was discussed, but the players looked pretty grim after the meeting as they came out for practice. Head Coach Mike Babcock chose not to speculate, simply observing that “these guys are professionals, they have a lot of pride – I’m sure they don’t like what’s been happening.â€

    Babcock indicated that his coaching staff were opening to trying different looks to find the chemistry that carried the team to such a strong start – briefly leading the Division after 14 games before things turned sour. The coach acknowledges that he’s on the hot seat as much as the players.

    “Losing is never acceptable. Losing with the talent we have here – that’s unforgiveable.â€

    The Jackets face a surprising Coyotes club before returning to tackle the Blackhawks tomorrow, as rumours swirl around the team suggesting that GM Emerson has more moves in mind.
     
  9. Dryden

    Dryden Registered User

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    Interesting that less talented teams like the Hawks and Wings are handing you beatings and in the playoffs. Hope you turn it around and make it 5 central teams in the playoffs. Nevermind that I hope I stay in there too
     
  10. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Interesting is one word for it... I can think of a few other ones. But Scotty Bowman was seen leaving Nationwide Arena following this mornig's pratoce - no word whether he was scouting for the Blackhawks, or offering some pointers to Coach Babcock. I guess we'll see...

    Anyway, rumours out of Calgary suggest that Jackets backup Peter Budaj has been traded there, pending league confirmation, for a Pick in this summer's entry draft. The Jackets' front office would not confirm the report, but prospect netminder Semton Varlamov was seen catching a plane earlier today, which would suggest he's being called up.

    If the trade rumours are true, it marks the second time that Budaj, an original Jackets draft pick, will have been traded by the GM who drafted him.
     
  11. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    The Rumoured trade has been confirmed - Budaj is now a member of the Calgary Flames, with the Jackets receiving the Flames' 3rd round pick in this summer's entry draft in return. The Slovakian netminder - an RFA this summer - was philosophical about the move: "Last time Mr. Emerson, he trade me, it was to Capitals - team at bottom of standings. Now I go to Calgary, team at top of standings. This is better!"

    "We're here to help!" quipped Emerson on jearing Budaj's comments. "Weknew Peter wasn't going o be in our long-term plans when we acquired him in a cap-relief move earlier in the year. But he's a good kid, and a good goalie, so we were glad to be able tofind a situation that would work for him."

    Word out of the league office is that another Jackets trade has also received approval, but Emerson would not provide details. "we're trying to notify all parties - we don't like it when players hear about this stuff from you guys. We'll let you know as soon as we can."

    Shortly afterwards, the team announced that it would be hiding a press conference later this afternoon, suggesting that this is a bigger trade.
     
  12. Dr.Sens(e)

    Dr.Sens(e) Registered User

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    Holy shake-up, batman!
     
  13. Hossa

    Hossa Registered User

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    Wonderful. Another Western Conference contender with goalie issues acquires a good starter. The BJs join the Preds, Blues, and Oilers on that list. Our two conferences mirror the last half-decade of the NBA.
     
  14. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    In what appears to be the HFNHL's worst-kept secret (despite every effort), the Blue Jackets Announced that they have acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun and forward Dave Steckel from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Going to Toronto are top prospects Zach Boychuk and Ryan McDonagh, along with New Jersey's 3rd round draft pick in 2011, acquired last summer with Jamie Langenbrunner.

    Vokoun, 35, is in the last year of his contract, making him an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st. Steckel, 29, has one year left at just under $1 million.

    "These are two players we expect to make a dramatic impact to our club," GM Doug Eraon said in announcing the trade. "i know you media types are all talking about the goalie, but Steckel is a big part of this trade. He's a big man, a huge presence down low, he plays a very sound defensive game, and he's one of the best face-off men in the business, along with (current Blue Jacket Manny) Malhotra. (Mike) Fisher, (Travis) Zajac, (Dominic) Moore, these are all guys who win more draws than they lose. We feel that will be a real strength for our club going forward, as we look to play a puck-possession style off game."

    Vokoun, of course, is one of the top five goalies in the world - possibly top 3. We're a club that expects to contes for the next several years, having that kind of player between re pipes foes a long way toward making that possible. And this isn't to detract from the job that (current starter Dwayne) Roloson has done for us at all: he's played well, he just hasn't had the goal support we planned on. We hope we've addressed that issue in recent weeks, adding (Kimmo Timonen and Zajac, it'll just take time for the new players to gel. But Roloson's not a kid anymore, and he let us know he was worried about wearing down. We'll be able to deploy him more strategically now, with Vokoun taking the larger part of the workload the rest of the way.

    "As for the players we're giving up, those are two high-first round draft choices, and we know, that's a lot to give up for any player - especially a 35-year-old with an expiring contract. We're going to make every effort to extend Vokoun before July 1st. Right now, though, our focus is on this season, on digging out of the hole we find ourselves in."

    When asked if the Jackets were done trading, Emerson said he had one or two conversations still under way, but that he needed to give Coach Babcock time to work with the new lineup and see what they could do. "We still have a window from now to the trade deadline to make another move if the right deal falls into our laps. And because of the timing of our deals and the way cap is calculated, we have a good chunk of cap space left if we want to use it. But I'd say, yeah, we're pretty much done."

    Babcock said that he would be trying Steckel on a line with Moore and Chris Thorburn, meaning veteran Wayne Primeau (another good factors man) is probably scheduled for assignment.

    Fans in Columbus are ecstatic, except for a small minority (most of them belonging to spme website called "Hockey's Future")who are very critical of Emerson for gutting what had been the leage's second-highest rated farm system. This season alone the Jackets have moved out Boychuk, McDonagh, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Max Pacioretty and Andre Petersson. This time last year the exodus involved Derek Stepan, Brendan Smith, Maxime Sauve, Kirill Petrov and Adam Henrique.

    Some consider this a lack of patience on the Jackets' part, others suggest it means that the Jackets' prospects weren't that good after all. Emerson simply had this to say: "This is what a farm system is for: to give you options. You look at a guy like Nik Lulemin, he's fit into our roster well. And there's lots more young guys on the cusp: Loktionov, Geoffrion, Klingberg, Cormier, Varlamov, Sauer... So we haven't completed gutted things. But having that depth has given us the flexibility to build the team we want, and give our fans a competitive team. Now we just have to get on with showing it on the ice."

    It won't be enough merely to compete: Emerson needs a contender. Rumours suggest his job could be on the line if the team does not make the playlets and advance past the first round.

    *****

    Okay, cheap seats: have at 'er!
     
  15. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    PS: I won't even bother correcting the many typos that in that post. Damn izphone keyboard!!!
     
  16. kasper11

    kasper11 Registered User

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    Can someone update the trade log? It is bad enough that I got beaten out for Vokoun, I would be kind of pissed if my third round pick in 2012, which I haven't traded yet went to Columbus too.
     
  17. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    That would help. The NJD pick that Toronto received was 3rd 2011.

    And sorry you lost out, Rich. I suspect we've both been working on this for a month or more. I've found myself in your shoes more than once, I know first-hand how much it sucks.

    Jus be glad you didn't win, though - I overpaid enough for the both of us (thanks to you, grble grumble...). :d
     
  18. Hossa

    Hossa Registered User

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    Doug, can you send us an e-mail then with the right future considerations. We didn't check on the draft picks I guess, but what appears on the trade log is what was submitted to us.
     
  19. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Email sent, with my apologies -- typed NJD again for the Future Considerations web it's supposed to be TOR 3rd 2012.
     

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