DKM Hockey Podcast

Thursday, December 13, 2012

DKM Presents: Pond Hockey 2013

Well, it's been a while since there's been an official DKM post.  Tom over at DBJ has robbed the most handsome, skillful, and brightest of contributors here at DKM.  Content Director John Kemp has been in and out of rehab to treat his addiction to network television shows stored on his DVR - which pretty much means he's been unable to contribute here.  But luckily, the arrival of winter brings something magical.  Something special.  And that something is Pond Hockey.  For the past 4 or 5 years a core group of us have been making a trek out-of-state for a weekend of racous pond hockey action. 

Sure we all have our backyard rinks, but the wives, kids, and neighbors peer through windows with judgmental eyes.  We travel north, far away from the three-balled oppression of Ohio to a place where hockey is woven into the fabric of the people and their culture.  While there, we play games of 2-on-2 shinny, hockey puck curling, and the ever inspired games of W-H-O-R-E-S (it's like a game of HORSE or PIG, just more inappropriate and played on the ice.)

Since the likelihood of there being any NHL hockey this year slips with each passing day, we at Distinct Kicking Motion will be providing an all access pass to that magical weekend's festivities.  There will be Podcasts, special guests, and copious amounts of libations.  DKM will have you covered bringing you all the beer soaked action in the comfort of your living room.   What are these weekends like? Well, see for yourself.  Enjoy and stay tuned...


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hockey Haiku Tuesday

The long forgotten DKM favorite returns just in time for election season here in the US.

Lockout coming soon
Owners have learned nothing new
Players make too much

As clever as we may seem to be, we at DKM would never make a comparison to the Toronto Maple Leafs being the NHL's "One Percenters."  How dare we assume that since they make so much money that they should share it with the less fortunate teams in the league.  It's also worth noting while those in the hockey world poke fun at the Blue Jacket's naming origins, ask a Leaf's fan why it's not spelled "Leaves."  Clearly, obscure military references aren't singular to the Blue Jackets.

Someone in Washington hopes you don't understand corporate tax, capital gains, and the current NHL revenue sharing program.

Friday, August 24, 2012

In your dreams...

I often have a recurring hockey nightmare.  I dream that one day I make it all the way through camp and sign a contract with a pro team.  Then one day, I get a call from the big club to pack up and meet the team on a road trip in Detroit.  I arrive at the rink, no time for the equipment staff to do anything else other than throw my name on the back of a sweater and prep my uniform.  I'd open my gear bag that had magically followed me from Gwinnett to discover I didn't pack my skates.  The other players in the dressing room look at me like I'm a giant knob.  I wake up relieved, sweating.  But I had made it...

Oops, these are kind of important.

Then the other night as I was falling asleep, I had my ear buds in and I was listening to music.  Maybe it was the Talking Heads or something, but in this hockey dream I was suddenly the owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  How did I get this wife?  Instantly and out of nowhere, I was now the owner of a team that had lost money every year since the last lockout.  Now, it was September 16th and the NHL owners voted 29-0 to lock out the players.  But in this dream, everyone perceived me as the Blue Jackets owner from the beginning of franchise history.  I had no recollection of anything I had done as the owner of the CBJ.  The office at Nationwide Arena was frantic about the one-day-old lockout.  The media was everywhere, cameras were in my face.  Everyone in Columbus was buzzing over what would happen to the NHL now that it was locked out.  I quickly retreat from the press, and ask the team President, Tom Selleck, to schedule an immediate meeting with key staff members to review how I had obviously voted for the lockout. 

As I sat alone in my office waiting for everyone to gather in the executive room next door, I quickly run through my head what I must have done last time.  See, this team made money before the last lockout.  Back then, the CBJ were new, they were fun, and the arena was rocking.  Then, for something called 'cost certainty' I took my miserable arena deal that Lamar Hunt said would never work, and voted to lock out the players.  An entire season was lost, an entire cog in the downtown economy flopped, and the Columbus Blue Jackets got cost certainty.  But now it's 2012, and the team I own hasn't made a dime since 2004.  What have I been doing?  There was suddenly a knock on my office door.  Tom Selleck had gathered the staff together.

I walk into the board room and stand at the end of the rich mahogany table rimmed with looks of intent.  I ask the head of the marketing what would happen to attendance if there was another lock out.  I knew hockey seating capacity at Nationwide Arena was 18,136.  Average attendance for the 2003-2004 season was 17,396.  After the last lockout, the 2005-2006 season, average attendance was 16, 796.  Not a bad decline attendance.  If there was another lockout, attendance shouldn't be negatively affected too much, right?  Last time we did ok.  "Not so fast," the VP of marketing says. She pointed out that average attendance in 2007-2008 was 15,146 and then 13,495 in 2010-2011.  The attendance numbers were running downhill.  My VP of marketing suggested that while the was an uptick in attendance in 2011-12, the Blue Jackets are coming off of the most uninspiring season in team history.  Not the lasting memory to leave a dwindling fan base with.  She said, "I reminded you on the 14th that with attendance dwindling, it might not be prudent to reduce the number of games played, or dare I say it, eliminate the season.  Especially since the arrival of Sir Urban Meyer will already be a challenge to attracting the average fan before January."  My VP of Marketing is none other than Margaret Thatcher.

Standing there, I thought to myself that maybe a lockout won't be so bad.  The team losses from last season are rumored to be an 8-figure number. Certainly it won't cost us that much money to not play this year.  Then Paul Newman, the VP of Finance, coughed to get my attention; almost as if he were reading my mind.  He opened his briefcase and slid one of the dead seas scrolls across the table to me.  I unrolled it and it read, "Franklin County Approves Purchase of Nationwide Arena" in German.  Yes - the Dead Sea scrolls are written auf Deutsch and contain Blue Jacket's headlines.  "So What, Regg" I said.  Then Paul Newman pulled from his brief case the new lease agreement the team has with Nationwide Arena and a copy of the Buser Report.  He set them on the table in front of him like pieces of evidence in a murder trial. 

"So you really want to screw the folks who just bailed you out.  The county gets a sweetheart deal in purchasing the arena trying to protect the tax revenues from that place outside called the Arena district.  The first thing they do after buying the arena is cut you a check for $10 million dollars a year by way of no rent payment.  Oh, and not to mention those six storm troopers from Nationwide over there in the corner now own 30% of your team too.  They also happened to give us a 52 million dollar loan while you nance around your steel mills. They are actually paying $2.8 million dollars a year to keep their name on the side of the building."  I look at him strangely.  Newman continues, "It's been rumored that you walk around your office at 'Worthington' muttering that you dare the players to call your bluff on a lockout this time.  Did you think what a lost season, or part of a lost season, might do to the folks who just gave you a hand?  Maggie over there just told you attendance is already down, and did you forget about the All Star Game?  You've got to be a pretty big a-hole to vote for a lockout when your county, the county that just bailed you out, could really benefit from hosting an All-Star game this year.  But no, you were hell bent on taking out your red ink on the players, weren’t you?”

As a man known for his subtleties, his words were profound in the board room.

 Yikes - the All Star Game.  But what's in it for me?  Because other than some new boards for Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets don't get much in return from the NHL All Star game. I mean really, there isn't going to be a player from the team playing on the All Star team.  And if the fans do vote Jack Johnson to the All Star game it would be like voting Matt Moore to the NFL pro-bowl along with either Manning boy, Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Ugh.  The All Star game.  The media buzz, the player buzz, the outpouring of income to Franklin County in the form of hotel tax, sin taxes, and tax taxes. Oh, and National Sports Spotlight on Columbus that doesn't involve NCAA infractions.  But hey, the Blue Jackets really don't have much to gain from the All Star Game - Just the people who bailed me out not five minutes ago and saved me $10,000,000 a year.

Then sitting at the end of the ridiculously long table in the board room sat my girlfriend from the 3rd grade.  She was quietly crying.  Confused, I asked who the heck she was supposed to be.  "Your Team's Biggest Fan" she said.  I asked her why she was crying.  "Because you'll just expect that I'll come to a game same as it ever was.  You're betting that my love for your team will be so strong that I won't care how long hockey is gone.  But you're right. I will come back, but shame on you for just expecting that.  It's just like 3rd grade all over again!"  She squealed as she ran out of the conference room.  As she left, I noticed her "Est. 2000" T-shirt.

Thank God is was my girl friend from 3rd grade.  I was kind a jerk to my girlfriend after college - she may have stabbed me had she been in this dream.

There was nothing I could do, it was September 16th.  My employees all thought I was a real jerk for locking the players out, costing the very county who just bailed me out hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Not to mention directly affecting the lives of the 10,000 people who earn a living from the arena district.  What was I thinking?  I was left speechless.  Alas, the damage had been done.  Disgusted, all the employees left the room.  The last people to leave the board room where the six storm troopers from Nationwide.  As they walked out past me, each of them speared me in the stomach with the butt of their blasters.  Everyone hated me.  What had I done?  Why hadn't someone talked some sense into me?  Where was the leadership?

Walking out the door ashamed at myself, I flipped off the lights and noticed Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh sitting in a kingly chair just outside the conference room in the hallway - all by himself.  He was listening to one of this father-in-law's speeches during WWII.  I asked him what he was doing there and who was he in my dream.  Slowly I began to wake, but not before he answered my question.  "I am the NHL Commissioner," he said smiling softly.  “I am largely unknown to most people and play no meaningful role in the empire I control.  I let the aristocracy run things their way and speak up when it serves me best.  Most people don't know who I am, but in your psyche, I knew that my complete irrelevance to the hardships facing the NHL would best be manifested as an insignificant figurehead who only speaks at awards ceremonies."  For those keeping score at home, Prince Philip - Duke of Edinburgh, is married to the Queen of England - The perfect metaphor for Gary Bettman.  He takes no responsibility for anything that goes wrong with the empire, but celebrates its growth and always gets great seats.

I woke up saddened that I had done nothing to repay the people and folks who had been loyal to a floundering franchise.  Laying here I realized that it was only August 24th, and despite this clich├ęd dream of a Hollywood script, I had time to make a difference.  Even if every other owner in the NHL was going to vote for a lockout, I was going to vote against it.  I had to do something SINCERE to the folks who stood by me and helped bail out this money losing team.  I would vote “no” to lock out the players.  I had no real credibility with the owners or governors any way.  I felt good knowing that if I was owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I would do the right thing.  Even if it had no impact on the lockout, the fans, investors, and county knew I was grateful.  I looked over at my alarm clock and it was 5:59am.  I hate it when that happens, I hate it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Impressions of CannonFest

Impressions - well, I normally don't do any impressions...
I went to CannonFest at the recommendation of #cbj twitter celebrity @johntkemp.  John and I have been close friends for over a decade.  John is the one who encouraged me to start blogging about hockey and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The thought of blogging and getting on twitter really didn’t appeal to me at first. I am not at all wired to understand fandom.  It took literally 8 or 9 beers one July afternoon in 2011 for me to get a twitter account.  After a few months of tweeting, despite my “negative” persona in the #cbj twitter-verse, John encouraged me to start blogging as well.  It was my ‘perspective’ he kept saying.  “It’s your perspective that is great.”  He also mentions a little less perceived negativity might be good.

Happy Happy Joy Joy, Happy Happy Joy Joy!

I am fully aware that my expectations for the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets are high, and fairly unpopular.  The Blue Jackets have been in the NHL for 12 years and should be positioned to compete for a Stanley Cup.  Celebrating little positives from a loss in Major Pro sports is like giving your child money for getting all D's on their report card.  Yes, there are those games we two teams battle and it’s a heartbreaker that one team had to lose.  Those games are great for fans.  The Blue Jackets haven’t found themselves to be regularly competitive for some time.  When the Blue Jackets are finding themselves in that situation where they are regularly competitive, I’ll happily start drinking the CBJ Milk.  Until then, my expectations will remain high.

"You think this is mini-mites you Jack Wagon?  The fans better boo your ass for wasting their money!"

I have been on record and will go on record that Columbus is not a hockey town.  It’s ok to wish it was, and someday, maybe someday, it will become one.  But it is not.  However, that does not mean there isn’t a great core of loyal and passionate Blue Jackets fans in Columbus.  There is great levity from a core group of fans.  I think fans do open themselves up to a little ridicule when it’s suggested Columbus is a hockey town.  But honestly, there would be no Columbus Blue Jackets today if it wasn’t for passionate fans.  There would be no fun tweet ups or CannonFests without a solid foundation of fun, loyal CBJ fans.

Passion and emotion in this face.
I learned some other things about Blue Jackets fans and the twitter-verse at CannonFest as well.  I learned what a DD hat trick was.  I learned that network TV camera turn away from you when you’re talking about bathroom humor and 4 letter words. I learned that the twitter #cbj hash tag has interesing dichotomy. I learned that while I hate video editing there is a guy who really loves it and is extremely gifted at it.  I learned why the Arch City Army stands up all game.  I learned that I was not at all prepared to answer reader questions, because honestly, I didn’t think anyone other than “@mjr_pnlt” read the blog (and we’re flattered he does!).  I learned that a NATO peace keeping force will be deployed in Columbus if Derek Dorsett is ever traded.

One day, you could be this cool - totally.

I blog about some funny stuff, I blog about equipment, I blog about poetry, I blog about the glaring short comings of the Columbus Blue Jackets – I don’t blog about why Steve Mason is going to turn it around this year nor do I blog about how much better this team is without Nash.  I love hockey and wish this franchise would turn the corner, but like the old Russian proverb goes, “The fish rots from the head first.”  The new arena deal will help with some of the red ink, but other changes must be made.

At a personal level, it was good to see a core group of CBJ fans to be around other fans  to share hope and a passion at CannonFest.  This franchise cannot survive without them.  Hockey is the best sport in the world.  I realized I’m not wired for fandom, and I’m trying to learn the nuances of social media and how to best share my perspective – this is why John Kemp is paid $185,000 a year to be my director of content. I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and interacting with folks on twitter.  I’m sometimes unsure that despite the stats on the blog, that anyone really reads our posts.  But hope for the season and the DKM blog came to me at CannonFest in the most unexpected of compliments.  A well respected member of the CBJ blogosphere shared that they read the DKM blog because we were ‘willing to have open and honest conversation about a 30th place team.’  When the measuring stick for all CBJ blogs has something measured to say about Distinct Kicking Motion, it lets you know that while we may not have the brightest shining goal lamp in the CBJ world, that a few folks actually do notice it when it’s on.  Thanks CannonFest.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blue Jacket Pride

Hockey season officially starts for the Columbus Blue Jackets on August 21st.  Well, for the CCHYA 01A Columbus Blue Jackets any ways.  Much like any hockey team, there are many new faces on our squad this year.  "Management" has made their decision who stays, who moves up, who gets cut and the coaching looks to install it's winning formula with the players management has given us.  Most decisions I support, one or two I have issues with.  But as a coach you move on and work with the squad you have.  Half the team from last year is the same, half the team is new.  All the boys are turning 11 this year and come fully equipped with a set of passionate parents.  We've had a combination of 6 on ice skills sessions and 6 hockey training sessions with the boys so far this summer.

There is still pride in putting on that Columbus Blue Jackets jersey to these 11 year-old boys.  The new boys show a slight glimpse of envy to last years boys who are wearing their fitted practice jerseys from last season.  The new boys are wearing their two sizes too big "Brand X" jersey from some camp with mis-matched gloves and helmets.  There is some pride knowing there set of game jerseys, practice jerseys, and embroidered travel gear with their name on it is coming very soon.  But it's the pride of putting on that travel gear that drives the boys.  But that CBJ logo doesn't have the shine to the boys beyond it signifying a travel team.  We could be the Tallahassee Dumpster Hornets and there would be as much pride putting on the gear if it were to signify a travel team. 

As a general rule, I forbid anyone on the team from selecting the jersey number of 99, 61,and 87.  I have nothing against those players, but feelings get hurt when kids fight over the numbers - and no one over the age of 8 should step onto the ice in any competitive capacity wearing the number 99.  But for a 3rd year in a row, no one is fighting for Derek Dorrset's number.  No one knows what number Brassard wears.  None of the defenseman fight for 44, 97, 6, 21, or 7.  My goalies avoid whatever numbers the CBJ goalies are wearing, even if it means spending $250 for a new set of jerseys.  No one wants number 18, and he was a Buckeye.

What does it say when the impressionable boys on a Columbus Blue Jackets travel hockey team start showing up with LA Kings hats, Flyers T-shirts, and Red Wings hoodies?  The day Nash was traded we had a practice.  The boys were confused and couldn't understand why the CBJ would want to trade their best scorer.  There was no ill feeling from the boys towards Nash, no convoluted talk about honor or duty.  Just confusion, but the understanding that no one wants to play on a last place team forever.  After all, the connection to the Blue Jackets isn't a strong one to youth hockey in Columbus - the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association has the right to use the Blue Jacket name and logo for it's travel team - that's about it.

Sure, there is the "Blue Jackets Hockey School."  Seldom, if ever, is an NHL Blue Jacket to be found at the rink during Blue Jacket hockey school.  But this year the kids did get Martin Spanhel, a guy who barely played a dozen games a decade ago.  There is great instruction at these camps, but the  Blue Jackets do very little to capture the hearts and minds of the hockey playing youth in Central Ohio.  They are missing a great opportunity to give the kids a chance to fall in love with the Blue Jackets. Because really, when you're losing 10 million dollars a year and only generating $34 of revenue per fan, getting autograph sessions at Front Street Friday is more critical than a grass roots campaign.  I guess somewhere in the marketing brilliance of of the NHL and Columbus Blue Jackets, going after the disposable income located within a few blocks of the arena is a better formula than an all out blitz where hockey is played every day.   I understand the number of people who play hockey in Columbus could barely fill the lower bowl at Franklin County, er, Nationwide Arena.  But hey, the "Nick and Rick Show" poster at Dublin Chiller is all that need remind me of the successful marketing campaign the Blue Jackets employ.

My single A travel team will start their twice-a-week practices next week.  They will pull on their Blue Jackets practice jerseys, put on their union blue socks and helmets, and talk about players from other NHL teams while they are stretching.  They will be proud to be part of a travel hockey team, despite their name sake doing very little to inspire them.  They will skate every practice not knowing that the majority owner is more passionate about a lock-out than he is about hiring the right kind of management team.  Arena deals and salary caps may fix the financial woes of an NHL franchise for a while, but those deals were in place in 2001, 2002, and 2003 when this miserable NHL franchise turned a profit and packed the arena.  Regardless of how the NHL franchise does, the 01 A Blue Jackets have a title to defend and have a banner to raise.  They learned how to play together as a team, and once they bought into that, the championship was inevitable.  Perhaps the Blue Jackets have something to learn from us.  Maybe if the franchise did come to the Chiller every now and again, they could see what passion looked like in a CBJ sweater.  Maybe just the mere sighting of a player at the rink would actually endear players to the kids on a travel team.  But that's wishing for a lot, much like wishing for anything from the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Inside the Dressing Room: We talking about practice

Welcome to the latest addition of the Inside the Dressing room series here at DKM Hockey.  The equipment used in the sport of hockey is evolving at rate that rivals the Golf Club industry.  Every year something newer, faster, lighter comes out.  And while some things seem gimmicky, some things really do have and impact on how the players perform.  Even somethings we take for granted or see as benign, like the practice jersey.

We ain't talkin' bout the game.

When I think of a practice jersey, I don't think of high end technology fabricated into a practice jersey.  But in the NHL, no piece of equipment is left in the dust in terms of modernization.  You have to upgrade, or how else are you going to sell a $250 hockey stick?  At the turn of the millennium, NHL practice jerseys were polyester moo-moos.  They were big, loose, and heavy.  As an example, see this circa 2003 practice jersey from the Calgary Flames in a size 54.

@johntkemp looking dapper and happy to be wearing a Team's Jersey.
The "Center Ice" practice jerseys of the day were to game jersey specs: Fight strap, double shoulders, elbow patches, and gussets.  The NHL logo was embroidered into the back side of the lower hem.  The jersey size was embroidered onto the lower front hem.  These jerseys 'wicked' perspiration like public restroom toilet paper and weight a metric ton.  Not to mention they were the "Hammer Pants" of professional sports.  In the picture above, you can see how John Kemp could have easily hidden two of his three children in his armpits.  So the league got in touch with CCM and solicited feedback from the player on how to improve the practice jersey.

So after a season lost to a fight over a salary cap, the brilliant minds at CCM hammered out this puppy in about 15 minutes.

Kempy, still not happy.

The NHL and CCM gave it the old college try with this first Reebok branded practice jersey in 2006.  I think most jersey collectors put this in the category of the "6100" jersey, but don't quote me on that.  Collectors creep me out. This particular example is a size 52.  First, they added lightweight and breathable material under the arms. A good start - however, the rest of the jersey was still straight up polyester and remained heavy and hot.  While CCM did make the jerseys SLIGHTLY slimmer fitting through the trunk, the sleeves still looked like Dumbo's ears.  Oh, and for some reason reflective piping was sewn into the sleeve for reasons we're still unsure of. The jersey still had double shoulders, elbow patches, fight strap, and the NHL logo moved to the collar in a Hi Vis area. 

Not to be discouraged, CCM took what it learned from this iteration and moved onto this in 2007-2008:

John Kemp smiles wearing the good old CBJ practice jersey.
Dubbed as the "Edge" by Reebok to coincide with it's revolutionary game jersey in 07/08, the Edge practice jersey took every complaint from the players about the previous jersey and went over the top to correct them.  The jersey pictured above is a size 58.  Only Cat Ladies and Turk Broda ever wore a jersey that big.  Now, it was the SMALLEST size jersey one could wear.  However, They were very light weight.  A lightweight breathable mesh was used on the front and back of the jersey.  A spandex weave was used in the material under the arms.  The sleeves and shoulders were a thicker polyester, but gone were the elbow patches and double shoulders.  Very lightweight and breathable indeed.  But, The trunk had a 'bell shaped taper' that looked weird over equipment.  The life expectancy of the practice jersey was reduced as there was no reinforced fabric in the high wear zones.  Players struggled to get this jersey over their shoulder pads.  The extreme taper on the sleeves made it tough to wear with elbow pads.  The jersey met approval in terms of being lightweight and breathable, but was very, very snug.  The fight strap and NHL logo remained.  The jersey size was now a weird looking patch on the lower front hem, maybe to capture the "Property of" spirit from 1964.  The equipment manager whined a little bit that there wasn't enough room on the back to add names/numbers on the back for camps. The reflective piping remained. 

Undaunted by failure, Reebok rolled out their Opus in 2010-2011, the Edge 2.0

John Kemp, grumpy once again in a Size 58 practice jersey.
The "Edge 2.0" practice jersey hit the head on the nail, or something like that.  The jersey uses three types of material.  One on the back, one on the front and sleeves, and a third under the arms and sides.  The sleeves are still slightly tapered, but have more room for bulky elbow pads.  The shoulders were widened a bit, and the taper in the trunk is no longer 'bell shaped.'  Double shoulders and double elbows returned and extra material was added to the lower hem and cuffs which are also high wear areas.  Remaining is the chinsy looking size 'patch' on the lower front part of the jersey, but oh well.  The material is light weight that embroidering into it is kind of tough.  Gone was the uber annoying reflective piping on the sleeves.  The fight strap remained as it has been throughout the evolution of the practice jersey.  This is over all a great practice jersey very well received by the players in fit, form, and function.

While no team is required to wear a specific style of practice jersey, most teams are wearing the Edge 2.0.  No rule or CBA requires any sort of standard for a practice jersey.  You would think that all teams would move to this new lightweight, cool, and durable jersey right?  Wrong.  There is one team that refuses to be swayed by fancy practice jerseys.  One team will not budge and sticks to old rags like polyester is the fabric of the Gods themselves.  And appropriately, that team is the New Jersey Devils.  Because after all, the New Jersey Devils are like the 'New Jersey' of the NHL.  Polyester is king, like Ed Hardy T-shirts.  Fist Pump.

"A drug dealer wouldn't be caught dead in those polyester rags!" - Data from the movie The Goonies 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A day in the life of a Blogger.

What funny little reel this is. As any blogger can attest, if you're not blogging about bathroom humor, chances are you will run into a contrary opinon.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sum of the Parts

Rick Nash has been traded.  The all time everything for the Columbus Blue Jackets will now be taking powerplay feeds from Brad Richards instead of digging hospital passes from (insert joke here) out of his skates.  I still find it it disappointing that Doug MacLean did more to try and find Geoff Sanderson a center than Howson ever did for Nash.  There, I said it.  Am I calling Howson a bad GM?  Dunno, but after Carter washed out and Arneil was canned, Nash had every right to ask to be traded.  10 years is enough.


The Saga.  More like the Horror.  I find it completely unprofessional that while Howson had no problem at the deadline letting everyone know that Nash asked for a trade, that he was virtually tight lipped about everything else regarding the trade since.  It makes it easy to say good-bye when you demonize someone.  You can tell us he wanted out, but can't tell us anything else?  This was all handled poorly.

This was funny when it was just a joke...

If you've read anything else I've written, I hold all NHL athletes in the highest regard.  You're a hell of a hockey player to even get a cup of coffee in the NHL.  This isn't the 80's any more.  But let's look at the reported trade:

Brandon Dubinsky - a guy who had to rediscover his scoring touch at the tender age of 23.  I didn't write the articles, the New York Post did.  I think Dubinsky will quickly become a fan favorite.  Not for his stellar Jacob Voracek like numbers (look them up), but for his emotion on the ice.  It's been a while since the Jackets had anyone who regularly took bad penalties, so this will be a breath of fresh air.  But, Dubinsky's point output should be similar to that of Jack Johnson, the defenceman.

Artem Anisimov - Another long list of acquired 2nd or 3rd line centers for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Not sure why the CBJ would have picked up another center 'OK' 2nd or 3rd line center.  Unless... unless they plan to dump Brassard.  Because really, you want your number 6 forward to have at least 40 points, something Anisimov has done once.  But hey, passing to Derek Dorrest for 82 games gets you 55 points easily.

Tim Erixson - he refused to play in Calgary, so I'm sure Columbus is right up his alley.  Wisniewski and a first to Edmonton for Nugent-Hopkins anyone?  Remember Columbus, we don't like guys who are tired of losing in Columbus and want out, remember.  It's ok if they come here because of the Malls, Public Schools, and Country Clubs.  Erixson = too good for Calgary, just right for Columbus?

1st round pick - see "Columbus Blue Jackets Draft Success" then see "Nash Traded to New York Rangers."

What every pee wee says, "I'd like to spend my entire career with the worst team in pro sports!"

I have always said a trade for Nash couldn't be a 'sum of the parts' trade.  By that I mean, you can't replace a 30-40 goal a year guy with a couple of Jacob Voracek's and expect to remain competitive.  If this were true, a team of 12 Jason Chimeras would beat the 1991 Penguins every time.  There is the slimmest of chances that the no pressue atmosphere of playing for the Columbus Who Jackets will perk those guys up.  I'm having a hard time finding guys who's production went up as a result of playing here, exception to RJ Umberger.  Two second line centers, and also ran young defenseman, and a 20-something first rounder for Rick Nash.  Say it out loud.  Say it again.  Now are you glad he's gone?
Did I mention that Rick Nash goes to the New York Rangers with a minimalized set of expectations?  Who did the Rangers give up to get Nash.  Dubinsky?  I've sure there's the 2% on twitter saying to themselves how can you trade Dubinsky for Nash?  Quiet easily and any day of the week.  The NHL is full of 40 point a year centers, just as the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Yes, Nash comes with an exceedingly high cap hit and that in itself carries a lot of weight.  Richards, Gaborik, and Nash on a powerplay?  Those expectations just got a little easier to handle.  What, that doesn't sound as good as Nash, Umberger, and Prospal?

So, this leaves the reasonable Columbus Blue Jackets fan with some sobering thoughts.  Nash is gone. You're left with Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov.  Who is the face of your franchise now?  Who's jersey number will every 8 year-old argue over at the first hockey practice of the year.  When you're at an airport in Boston, people aren't going to be able to name one player on your team.  Will there even be a #CBJ player on an All Star team hosted IN YOUR CITY?  But remember Blue Jackets fans, theirs been more passion over Rick Nash wanting out than there has been passion over the Blue Jackets being the most losingest franchise in major pro sports since 2000.  The new era begins today and it starts without one of the most consistent goal scorers in the game today.  Again, I could be wrong as sometimes I am - Dubinsky and Foligno hook up for 100 pts and Bobrovsky is a Venzina finalist; playing in Columbus was the one thing it took to make it all happen.  Join the Battle.
PS - spell check had a hard time with "Losingest."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Perspective: The NHL CBA

The opening salvo, the first salvo, the pending lockout, doom and gloom for hockey fans.  The NHL is not popular in the United States where 23 of it's franchises are located.  Yet, the sport is as popular as it's most likely ever been.   At then end of 2011, 18 of the 30 teams lost money, up from 16 at the end of the 2010 season.  And these aren't clever accounting numbers, they are revenue over expense.  In fact, if taxes, interest, and depreciation were considered, I'd be shocked if more than 8 NHL teams are actually making money, and that's with the NHL's version of a government assistance program. Yet, the sport is as popular as it has ever been.

 The first thing any business enterprise does when it's not making money is change benefits and compensation to employees.  It is not always the right thing to do, but it is typically the largest expense and the only non-question mark on a balance sheet.  Right now the United States' most unpopular of the 4 major sports, the NHL, awards 57% of generated revenue to the players.  The worlds most popular sport, which has probably the least player friendly CBA, gives 48% of the revenue to the players.  The NHL's last labor stoppage, Commissioner Gary Bettman's second, was all about 'cost certainty' for the owners.  The owners got their cost certainty in the form of a hard salary cap.  The players actually got an impressive amount of revenue at 57% and a generous salary floor, albeit a good portion of their salaries go into escrow with no certainty they will see it. 

Since Bettman's last labor stoppage, the average worth of an NHL franchise is up 47% more than what they were before the lockout 04-05 lockout, yet more than half the team's franchises lost money in 2011.  The NHLs "worth" has gone up 47% while over the same time NHL revenue has increased 29% and inflation of roughly 20%.  If you watched the news in 2008 or 2009, this should sound eerily familiar. Bubble economy.  9% real growth (excluding weakening US dollar against he CAD) and 47% increase in value.  Sounds like a Clinton-era policy.  The top five income generating teams would be hurt by a lockout, they made heaps of money and will continue to do so under just about any CBA.  This CBA is about teams with bad arena deals, weak TV markets, and fan apathy leading to an inability to be profitable - and they're taking it out on the players.   It's worth noting that teams in Toronto, Detroit, Vancouver, Boston, and Montreal make tens of millions a year while teams in Tampa Bay, Miami, Phoenix, Columbus, and Raleigh combined to lose 58.9 million in 2011 and take league money generated from those top teams.  Which of those 10 teams sound like 'hockey cities' and which don't?

So fans, what to do?  Remember, owners got what they wanted in the last lockout in the form of a hard cap, you lost a year of hockey.  They got their cost certainty, you got made fun of at work.  NHL revenues are up 29% since the lockout outstripping inflation so there is legitimate 'growth' in the NHL's revenue.  The owner's ability to turn a better profit did not have an affect on revenue, your interest as a fan did. 7 years after the owners got their cost certainty, which above all else, would provide the Columbus Blue Jackets with the same opportunity to succeed in the market place as the Toronto Maples, now sees those two cities $100 million dollars apart in profitability for 2011.  That's what brings us to the pending CBA negotiations.  This CBA is all about the owners ability to make a profit, forgetting they have terrible arena deals located in markets where hockey is foreign to the populace.  If revenue was down, attendance was down, and all of hockey was at the brink of ruin, I'd expect a CBA like this and I would expect the players to sacrifice.  Hockey, while not vastly popular, is as popular as it's been in decades in just 7 years after a season was wiped out.  Baseball has NEVER recovered from it's lost time, so don't get too over zealous NHL owners.

So my advice to those glaring sticking points in the latest CBA offer:

Players - NFL and NBA get 48% of revenue and they are more popular than you, it's time to accept that fact.  If you get to 49%, take it and don't look back - assuming of course you no longer have to put 17% of your salary into escrow.  Don't accept a 10% revenue cut without fixing the escrow problem.

Owners - you don't like 13 year contracts?  Then DON'T offer them. A reduced amount of revenue, a hard cap, AND max 5 year contracts with UFA after 10 years?  Does Vaseline come with that Mr Sandusky?  A reduction in revenue is a good place to start, but lets be fair.  How about a little RETRACTION if things are that bad (counter intuitive, I know but a move I support).  You put out a product for 10 years that no one wants, but you worth and revenue is up?  Shame on you and it's not the players burden to bear 100%

NHL - 1) change you're freaking transfer agreement with the CHL so your top draft picks have another option for development.  2) If a player gets their hands, elbow, or stick up on a check - suspend them.  3)Go to no-touch icing. 4) If a team can't make money and wants to move, let them.  5) How about a little marketing, that might help.

#CBJ - changing the revenue split won't help the fact that you're attendance is down 25% since 2002, that your team will still not make any money without NHL assistance, and your front office is made fun of by every other front office in the NHL.  You hit the lottery with the Nationwide Arena deal.  The new land lord is motivated to keep collecting the lucrative sin taxes from the arena district on game nights and bought the arena for pennies on the dollar.  Make the most of this opportunity and lose the front office, STAT - assuming of course affable, capable, and knowledgeable replacements want to come to Columbus.

PS - Gary Bettman, your number one job is to make sure progress is being made on the CBA and that not one second of the 2012-2013 season is lost regardless of where the CBA is.  Don't screw the fans out of hockey because a niche product can't turn a profit in markets where 'play hockey' is 8th or 9th on a list of a sports to play.  However, you will remain commissioner as long as you fight the good fight for the ownership group and continue to use the same marketing plan as the Turbo Grafx-16 and Pepsi Clear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

December 4th, 2010 - A day that will forever live in #CBJ infamy.

I hear a lot of Blue Jackets fans talk about how Columbus is a great hockey town.  I'm from New England, went to High School in Northeast Ohio, and lived in the Detroit Suburbs for 4 years.  I've lived in good hockey areas.

I think Blue Jackets fans confuse "great hockey town" with "We have 2000 really, really loyal fans."  A hockey town means your town appreciates hockey.  Your town loves hockey.  Hockey is one of the things your town does well.  A hockey town means you can name the high school head coaches like you can the second line center in Springfield.  Columbus is a great football town.  Want to know how I know?  I have to schedule my TRAVEL HOCKEY practices around house league pee-wee football in September and October.  Half my team plays football.  Football is what this town lives, eats, and sleeps.

But, don't let my observations be the only guide.  Let's look at some metrics.  The metro area population of Columbus is 1.8 million people.  I believe that is the 32nd largest metro area in the US. 

Of those 1.8 million people,

 - less than 0.001% of the population is registered to play youth hockey (per CAHA, CCYHA, and EYHA).  Wow, not even 2,000 kids.  2,000 kids play football in Marysville alone.

- less than 0.01% of the population would pay to see 41 home games of the Columbus Blue Jackets in a single season. (Respectable, but Edmonton, Toronto, and about 8 other teams have 4 and 5 digit wait lists for season tickets and they suck too.)

 - less than 0.004% of the population is registered with an adult league hockey on 9 sheets of ice at 6 rinks. You can figure this out sitting in the upper bowl halfway through the first.

However, for me, the most eye opening moment was on December 4th, 2010.  It was on this night where the Columbus Blue Jackets played the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena. Since I started coaching travel hockey, most of my discretionary time is spent at the rink coaching.  But, my father was going to be in town and I was able to score seats in section 102 from a friend, the boys only had one game that day, so we went to the Blue Jackets game that night.

My father and I are students of the game.  We don't say much to each other besides, "nice hit" "great pass" "I thought he had that" "When is Nash going to get help"  "he'll get him back later in the game."  We talk between whistles, stand for fights, cheer when the Blue Jackets score goals, and grab drinks during the intermissions.  We're there to watch the game of hockey in the venue of a team we like.  Seldom do we engage other fans or partake in fandom, except for my obligatory explanation to a CBJ fan within earshot that a 1-2-2 is not 'The Trap.'  This night in December, we were really looking forward to seeing Malkin and Crosby, and were hoping the Jackets would win 5-4 with Crosby getting a hat trick.  Alas, Malkin was hurt, but Crosby was sans concussion.

We had our dinner and headed to "the rink."  We still call it 'the rink' or 'the ballfield' no matter who's playing or where it's being played.  When we got the rink on this night, things seemed a little strange.  We couldn't quite figure out what it was at first, but we soon figured it out.  There were about 12,000 Penguins fans at Nationwide Arena that night.  Now, the Leafs travel well, the Wings have fans everywhere, but Penguins are creepy.

December 4th, 2010

Being raised by, in, and around professional athletics it was the "professional" part that I was taught and understood.  Professional like you're at a job interview, always honing your craft, learning, and asking questions.  Not professional as in "I can do what the hell I want, people idolize me."  My father who taught me that was sitting next to me when we took or seats along the isle in section 102 surrounded by mouth-breathing Penguins fans.  If you've read any of my posts, you know my loathing of blindly loyal fandom.  My father and I were completely surrounded by stereo-typical Penguins fans. He is a bazillion times more tolerant of belligerent fandom than me, he's actually had to exercise grace and compassion to fans.

4th of December 2010

The two guys seated directly behind my father and I were the biggest of #Pens superfans.  Before the puck dropped, they were making fun of the arena. the parking, the cannon, then Boomer came out. They were even making fun of the Jumbotron.  Well, I've seen about a dozen games in the dump formerly known as the Civic Arena.  How quickly the Pens fans forget their past after only two months in a new arena (built by a rigged selection).  I find nothing wrong with passionate fans, I have nothing wrong with zealous fans.  But when you travel to a great venue like Nationwide and start making fun of it after you've watched games in a dump for 40 years you've got something wrong with you mentally (and are probably single for life). 


It just wasn't my father and I surrounded by Pens fans.  It was the whole arena.  The laughter that erupted when Boomer was on the ice was embarrassing.  There were penguins fans EVERYWHERE .  The cheers when the Pens scored were loud!  The handful of CBJ goals were even more embarrassing when the Cannon and AC/DC blared to the din of scattered fanbase cheer.  The guys behind me figured out they were getting to me when I laughed aloud every time they called D to D passing "the cycle."  They kept making fun of players, using Pens players nicknames, and razzing goalies when the score got to 4-0 and Mason got pulled.  To stop the chatter behind me, I turned to the mouth breathers and said, "until this moment I thought the Flyers has the worst fans in pro sports.  Please be respectful and let me enjoy watching the game of hockey."  They capitulated, felt shame, and ate Nachos like they cured fatness.

4.12.10 (WTF Germany??)
My father is a pretty understanding guy, tolerant, wise, and good with the ladies (but he loves my mom).  We left the game and he asked me, "The fans want the team to play in a division with these guys?  Why on earth would you want to get another team 3-4 more home game a year?"  And that's the point of this post.  Columbus is a great hockey town?  No.  Columbus has a great core of 5,000 or so fans who support the team to all ends.  But Columbus is not a hockey town.  A hockey town would not allow Penguins fans to overrun Nationwide Arena because they themselves would be at the game to root for the CBJ and see a great team like Pittsburgh on a SATURDAY NIGHT.  The Penguins fans were at Nationwide Arena like Buckeye Football fans are at Bowl Games.  Black hawk fans do not dominate Joe Louis Arena when they visit Detroit.  I'm pretty certain the MTA in New York closes tunnels, bridges, and ferries when the Devil play at MSG.  Boston said to the Whalers they had to drop "New England" from their name in 1980.  Those are hockey towns.


So please Columbus, don't call yourself a hockey town until your season ticket wait list gets in the neighborhood of at least Edmonton's.  I'm pretty sure the Leaf don't schedule Saturday broadcasts around Argonaut's games either.  Again, there is a commendable small core of fans that are fantastic, but you're not a hockey town until 51% of the people in attendance (not bogus paid attendance) are there to root, root, root for the home team 41 games a year.

I put this on for a game against the Blue Jackets?  Really?  Can someone bring me a flannel oxford and a fleece hoodie?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crap, I was wrong about Murray

As it turns out, an oversight in my ability to discern the SJHL and the SMHL have minimized the CBJ's options with Ryan Murray this year.

I had read where Ryan Murray played his 2008-2009 season with the Moose Jaw Warriors presumably of the SJHL, which is a tier I junior hockey league in Canada.  Ryan Murray did play with the Moose Jaw Warriors in 2008-09, however the Moose Jaw Warriors are a Midget AAA team that play in the SMHL.  So, what's the difference between playing a year of Midget AAA or Tier I junior as a 15 year old?  It's actually quite tremendous when you're a 19 year old drafted by the worst team in the league.

See, the CHL and the NHL have sort of a 'transfer agreement' in place.  In case you didn't know, the CHL is a Major Junior hockey league across Canada and (last I checked) four states in the USA. The CHL is the largest development pool for the NHL.   The CHL is one body consisting of three leagues:  The WHL, OHL, and cake eating QMJHL.  Players are drafted into those leagues in various ways.  Like the NCAA in the exploitation of teenage athletes, the CHL doesn't lie and focuses on making millions through the development of U20 players whose goal is professional athletics.  The NCAA hipocracy doesn't like competition and almost all forms of participation in so much as being listed on a CHL team ruins your NCAA eligibility.  There is one way you can play for a Major Junior team and maintain your NCAA eligiblity, but it is next to impossible for that to happen.  Anyways...

Using Host Families to Exploit Teenage Boys since 1975

What the NHL and CHL have in place is an agreement that any player selected from the CHL in the NHL Entry draft cannot be sent to a minor league affiliate unless one of the following two criteria has been met:

1. The player has played or used four years of eligibility in Juniors
  • Playing 25 games whether it be regular season or playoffs consumes a year of junior eligibility
2. The player will turn age 20 by Dec 31st of the season they are participating in.
  • If Ryan Murray turned 20 by Dec 31st 2012, the CBJ could sign him and then send him to the AHL instead of returning him to his junior team if the CBJ do not feel he's ready for the NHL.
This prevents the NHL from taking mature and capable 19 year olds from the sweat shops of CHL arenas.  Before you start trolling this post, these rules only exist between the CHL and NHL for players drafted while on a CHL team.  While uncommon, you can be drafted by the NHL before playing for a CHL team.  And, you don't have to play in the CHL to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft.

Now, Murray did play parts of four seasons in junior hockey.  However, his first year 2008-09 he only played 5 games.  I mistook Murray's 40-odd games with the Moose Jaw Warriors as a full season in Jrs, satisfying the agreement with the CHL.  It was not a season in Jrs and does not count.  Unless there is a change in the agreement between the CHL and the NHL as a result of collective bargaining, Ryan Murray will only be able to play in WHL or NHL next season.  At this time, the AHL is not an option.

What I said in my "Welcome to the AHL" post does not change.  You will not help Ryan Murray develop by having him play as a 3rd pair defenceman on the worst team in the league.  Nor is it fair to ask the boy to be a 2nd pair contributor no matter how willing he may be to do so.  He needs 22-25 minutes a game playing against men to develop.

I still feel the AHL would be a perfect place for Murray to spend this season.  I still believe that Murray has outgrown the WHL but the Blow Jackets aren't where this kid should spend 2012-2013. 

Maybe Ryan Murray can be the poster child for 19 year olds who have outgrown playing against 17 year olds in the CHL.  Perhaps a new agreement can be reached where the minimum age for AHL eligibility is moved to 19, or maybe a 135 game minimum can be instituted instead of a 4 season minimum.  Regardless, Ryan Murray will get little benefit from another season in Juniors or the Jackets would be throwing away cap space to sit this kid on the bench 45 minutes a game.  But hey, this is Columbus, why not?

Don't feel bad Murray, I've played 5 seasons in the CHL.  I may be on board for a 6th!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome to the AHL Ryan Murray

Welcome to the AHL Ryan Murray.  Well, if I were the GM anyways that's where I'd put him.  Why? Because I don't think he's NHL ready?  No.  It's because I don't think he's ready to be the 5th or 6th defenceman on what's sure to be a repeat performance of the NHL's worst team.

I applaud the Blue Jackets for selecting Ryan Murray.  A few posts ago "My 2012 Draft Recommendation.." touched on how the Blue Jackets needed to pick a kid beyond his years in poise and mental toughness.  I also suggested he score 30 goals, but the point of the post was that the Jackets pick a player that was an out of the box professional, 'wise in his years', and would give us honest but positive interviews.  That kid was Ryan Murray when it came time for the Blow Jackets to draft.

If you truly are a jackets superfan and you're learning hockey along the way, ask yourself this:  who does Ryan Murray play with in 2012-2013?  Your top four defenceman are Wisniewski, Johnson, Tutyin, and Nikitin.  Do you put Murray with Methot or Martinek?  Surely you don't give Nikitin a qualifying offer if you're going to make him a 5th defenseman...  And this brings us to the oft mistaken phrase, "It takes longer for a denfenseman to develop."

You think he'd have a bigger smile. Columbus, OH - Hooray....

This statement is both true and untrue.  It takes longer for a defenseman to physically develop.  You can't be a 6'2" 178 pound defenceman in the NHL.  Wayne Primeau would eat you up.  So yes, you want your defenceman to have their man strength when you have them start skating against men.  This physical maturity typically comes about naturally by age 22 or 23.  Some dude physically transform earlier.

But more to Ryan Murray's case is two points:  1) Defenceman have to make decisions on the ice in an instant.  That is the number one difference between a forward and defencemen.  It is this decision making that takes time to learn.  The first pass makes or break your breakout.  It's the decision by the defenceman that directly influences the start of the breakout, or whether you're lining up at center ice after an opposing team's goal.  I think with 2nd pair ice time, Murray will take less than two years to properly develop that skill set.  I say only two years because he's wise beyond his years.

Secondly Or 2), his development is going to be dependent on his ability to get 18-22 minutes of ice time per game. He doesn't get that being a 5th or 6th (beit a 3rd pair) defenceman skating for the Blue Jackets.  If he's a 3rd pair guy, he'll see 12-16 minutes a game, mostly in the 1st and 2nd period.  If I were GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, he'd get an entry level NHL contract and spend his first year in the AHL playing with men and getting 20-25 minutes a game as a 1st or 2nd pair defenseman.  Murray is a smart kid, he needs to see the plays breakdown and develop in order to learn.  He's bright, so he won't need three or four years to learn this, but he will need at least one.

It's also worth nothing that I can't think of a worse thing to do to a teenage stud than make him a third pair defenceman and watch his team suck for 82 games.  I also don't think its good for his confidence to expect him to be a 2nd pair kid on the NHL squad his first year and expect him to contribute 22 minutes a night.  Send the Murray to Springfield for 2012-2013.  Call him up for a couple 4 or 5 game homestands with the intention he's only there for 4 or 5 games to see how he's doing.  He'll be ready to rock in 2013-2014 with 22-25 minutes per game where he can thrive.

Who remembers the highly drafted defenceman the CBJ tried to rush into the NHL??

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hockey Haiku Tuesday - CBJ Style

This is a recap of the Breaking Stories in #CBJ land this week.  Lots of speculation mixed with, lots of catchy things to get .0072% of the population to buy 42 tickets to the Blue Jackets this season.  That's right, in a city of 2.2 million people, less than .0072% are inteterest in season tickets for a last place NHL franchise.  Carry the Flag.  March On.  Ignite the Night. 

Will Nash Be Traded?
Where's our hero Davidson?
#JTB - Warcraft?

Battle Dudes living in their mom's basement?
Battle some political party?
Join the RAF for the Battle of Britian?

Friday, June 15, 2012

NHL Draft advice for CBJ fans.

It seems like only yesterday we were talking about how mythical beast John Davidson would convince Rick Nash to stay in Columbus.  Where was Rick Nash going?  That's right, nowhere as long as he was in Columbus.  But today we are talking about swirling rumors around his pending trade and the 'talent rich' upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

Rick Nash traded.  Oh how I don't envy the CBJ front office this time of the year.  They look to trade Rick Nash, the CBJ's powerhouse of offence to another team who could use him as a solid 2nd or 3rd scorer.  No other team besides the Blue Jackets have envisioned building an offense around him.  Well, maybe the Islanders would have.  Nash is the missing piece to most other teams, and the only piece in Columbus.  Now that same organization tries to dump Rick Nash, a solid number two scorer as envisioned by 28 NHL general managers, for top scorer compensation.  Did I mention Nash's contract is player friendly and not anti-lockout friendly?  Rebuilding.  Laughable.  It's a term Howson uses openly so he can rationalize the minimalist return the franchise will get for Nash - aka Salary Dump.

The Blue Jackets have claimed that they are entering into a rebuilding phase, but I'm having a hard time finding more than parts of one season when they were ever 'built.'  Super-fans are placated by the possible loss of Nash by the manufactured fact that this year's draft is deep.  Deep.  It's more like Knee-deep.  Think I'm wrong?  Why does a story about Edmonton shopping the first pick get buried behind Rick Nash trade rumors?  It's a ho-hum draft year and everyone but the fans know it.  Admittedly, I've only spoken with two front offices this week.

Each GM has their formula for winning, and the successful GM can draft players to fit their team.  Some take time, some take luck.  A smart GM spends 5 minutes looking over stats, and months looking at everything else the player does.  What kind of person are they?  Are they coachable?  Does he alienate teammates?  Does he work hard?  Is his mom hot?  Is he ready?  All things being equal (which they seldom are) there are two solid fundamental ideals to go by in the NHL draft if you're a GM with an otherwise coin toss for a pick. 1) Take the best player available. 2) DON'T DRAFT THE RUSSIAN.

I am not being funny with ideal number two, if you're drafting on potential in the top 10, DON'T DRAFT THE RUSSIAN.  And really, if you're a CBJ fan, 'Don't draft the Russian' should be right next to your 'Carry the Flag' tattoo.  Think I'm just some blow-hard with a blog who knows a guy that knows a guy?Let's take some random draft years and look at our top 10 Russian picks.

2001: 1st - Ilya Kovalchuk; 3rd -  Alexandre Svitov; 5th - Stansilav Chistov
2002:  No Russians in Top 10
2003: 4th - Nikolai Zherdev
2004: 1st - Alexander Ovechkin; 2nd Evgeni Malkin
2005: No Russians in 1st Round
2006: No Russians in Top 10
2007: No Russians in Top 10
2008: 6th - Nikita Filatov
2009: No Russians in the Top 10
2010: 8th Aleksandr Burmistrov
2011: No Russians in the Top 10

The NHL is comprised of only like 4% Russians.  So naturally there would be fewer in the draft.  But still, at the U20 level, Russia has talent.  There are three Russians on this list that were legitimate "can't miss" players. There was media frenzy around them, you knew who they were when they were 15 years old - Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, and Malkin were studs from Day one.  Filatov and Zherdev were drafted on pure potential, which when faced with drafting a russian in the top 10 purely on potential, DON'T DRAFT THE RUSSIAN.  Of the Russians taken in the top ten the past decade, four are still in the NHL.  Three of the four that are not spent some time in Columbus.

Nail Yakupov is this year's top North American prospect (not already drafted).  There is no 'potential' on Yakupov, he should settle into a nice legitimate second line scorer somewhere.  He puts up legit numbers in the OHL.  However, his numbers aren't typically number 1 overall pick numbers, but they are in this year's draft.  They say 'North American prospect' because he plays major junior in the OHL - a most non-traditional route for a Russian considering how xenophobically protectorate Canada (I mean CHL) is of hockey for Canadians.  Yakupov's numbers are noteworthy, even though they are in the OHL.  How does he do if he played the WHL?  He did win CHL rookie of the year in 2011, but we know how well Rookies of the Year fair in Columbus.  His personal background is certainly unique, making for what is sure to be awkward interviews during post-game, if not making him more awkward than Steve Mason in the bars after a game. Oh wait, bars serve alcohol...

Anyways, to my point, Nail Yakupov will likely be available at pick number two if Edmonton doesn't trade it's number one pick.  Considering how badly Edmonton needs defensemen and how stacked they are with legit young forwards, it may be possible they look to trade the number one pick.  And really, if Wisniewski hadn't gotten a Nash-like contract (Nash-like in it's NTC, over paying-ness, and consistent Cap hit), he'd be on his way to Edmonton with he Kings acquired draft pick giving Columbus a number one pick in this year's draft.  Ok - I spoke with three front offices this week.

Columbus, if you find yourself in a position to draft Yakupov, only draft him if you plan on keeping him in Jrs one more year.  He had a multi-injury shortened season in Jrs this year, only his second in Major Jr, and he needs to play another year there.  While it may be foreign to people in three-balled Columbus to leave your number 2 pick (and possibly your number 1 pick) in Jrs, you are rebuilding and there is no hurry to force him into the NHL.  Having him play a frustrating season on the worst team in the league is not what this young man needs.  Leave him in Jrs one more year.  Come to think of it, it may be foreign to the NHL to put a non-goalie No. 1 or 2 pick back in Jrs.

Don't give me this Hall/Nugent-Hopkins crap.  Hall was an NHL ready pick ready after three full seasons in Major Junior.  He put up Nash like numbers his first two years in the NHL playing 75% of each season.  Nugent-Hopkins played parts of three seasons in Jrs, got to play on a team with a talented and same-aged Hall, and went balls-so-hard in the NHL.  Good luck finding film of Yakupov doing that.  There are lots of great videos of Yakupov dangling 17 year olds on the internet - not a lot of film of him banging in the corners.  Yakupov will have a good career in the NHL splitting time on the second line and top powerplay units.  He may make an All-Star team year.  Don't expect him to turn around a team or be the face of the franchise should he be drafted by Columbus playing in the Central Division.  Doing so would just be plain ignorant.