Blue Jackets' transition to new style will require patience

ricknash1.jpgTransition years can be a bear to go through. They can bring about a lot of hope, but they’re almost meant to be difficult by nature. One such team looking at a change of pace transitioning from one style of play to another are the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Aaron Portzline of Puck Rakers took a look at the Blue Jackets roster and the anxiety that could run rampant through Ohio this season as the team switches from Ken Hitchcock’s bland, boring style of hockey to what new head coach Scott Arniel hopes to do to make things a bit more exciting.

Arniel plans to play a puck-possession, high-tempo style that most players prefer, a style that is in stark contrast to the retreat-and-react style drummed home the previous three-plus seasons in Columbus. But there are no guarantees this will work, especially with regard to the Blue Jackets’ defensemen.

The message has been sent (or will be soon) to Blue Jackets’ blue-liners that Arniel wants them to be aggressive getting the puck up ice, whether that means carrying the puck or passing it. He also wants to see the Blue Jackets’ defensemen join the rush when the opportunity is there. The new message: taking risks will be tolerated.

This looks good on paper, and any hockey fan with a soul will cheer the advent of exciting, offensive-minded hockey in Nationwide Arena. Let’s face it: not only were the wins in short supply last season, but some of the wins were downright snoozy.

But this change may not be easily executed with the same players. It could very well require more than a mental shift. You can scream at your Hummer all day, but it’s going to have a hard time keeping up on the Autobahn.

There’s a lot to like in Columbus. Obviously Rick Nash is the focus of everything there and with good reason, but young players like Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filatov could provide the spark needed to jump-start things in Columbus. That said, any high expectations have to be tempered with reality.

The defense will be suspect and flipping the switch from the careful, plodding style Hitchcock employed to what Arniel hopes to do takes time. Blue Jackets fans might not like this comparison, but if you want to see what a team looks like when going through a whirlwind change of pace, looking at last year’s Minnesota Wild is a good place to go.

The Wild changed from Jacques Lemaire’s traditional defense-first brand of hockey to Todd Richards more aggressive style. The Wild were inconsistent last year, but started to find their way around the ice eventually after a couple of months. While the Wild do have some talent, given the youthful build up of players they’ve got in Columbus, change and improvement will take time. After all, it’s not as if success can’t come out of nowhere, last year’s Colorado Avalanche are a good example of that. Still, patience will be required in Columbus but there is hope.

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    Modano, Ciccarelli, Roenick and Savard highlight Minnesota-Chicago alumni rosters

    Mike Modano
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    There’ll be no shortage of star power on display on Feb. 20, when alumni from the Wild, Blackhawks and North Stars do battle at TCF Bank Stadium.

    On Tuesday, the NHL unveiled the rosters for the Stadium Series outdoor game — one day prior to the tilt between Chicago and Minnesota, a slew of ex-NHLers will compete for bragging rights, including Mike Modano, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick and Denis Savard, to name a few.

    The full rosters:

    North Stars/Wild

    Fred Barrett, Don Beaupre, Brian Bellows, Brad Bombardir, Neal Broten, Andrew Brunette, Jack Carlson, Jon Casey, Dino Ciccarelli, Curt Giles, Craig Hartsburg, Darby Hendrickson, Antti Laaksonen, Reed Larson, Dennis Maruk, Brad Maxwell, Giles Meloche, Mike Modano, Richard Park, Steve Payne, Willi Plett, Gordie Roberts, Brian Rolston, Bobby Smith, Wes Walz, Tom Younghans.


    Adrian Aucoin, Murray Bannerman, Chris Chelios, Dave Christian, Denis Cyr, Eric Daze, Reggie Kerr, Steve Konroyd, Jerry Korab, Cliff Koroll, Dave Mackey, Peter Marsh, Jamal Mayers, Grant Mulvey, Troy Murray, Brian Noonan, Jack O’Callahan, Jeremy Roenick, Phil Russell, Denis Savard, Reid Simpson, Brent Sopel, Jimmy Waite.

    The North Stars/Wild will be coached by Lou Nanne, Mike Ramsey and Tom Reid. Tony Esposito and Pat Foley will man the Blackhawks bench.

    Veteran NHLer Moss signs in Swiss league

    David Moss
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    Another journeyman has been forced to find work overseas.

    David Moss, who had four goals as 12 points in 60 games for Arizona last season, has signed with EHC Biel of Switzerland’s National League A, the club announced on Tuesday.

    Moss, 33, is a veteran of over 500 games, split between the Coyotes and Calgary Flames. He nearly landed in Switzerland last season, reportedly agreeing to a deal before utilizing his one-week out clause to catch on in Arizona.

    After playing out his one-year, $800K deal, Moss failed to land a contract in free agency and eventually signed a PTO with Milwaukee, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.


    Chara isn’t satisfied with Bruins’ recent success

    Zdeno Chara
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    The Boston Bruins didn’t get off to a great start in October or November, but in both instances, they were able to turn things around in the back half of the month.

    Right now, everything seems to be going right for Boston, but if you think they’re satisfied with their current five-game winning streak, guess again.

    “We did some things well, and we did some things that we need to improve, keep working on and keep getting better,” captain Zdeno Chara told CSN New England. “ It’s nice to win games, and it’s nice to be getting points. But I think we also want to improve our play systems-wise, and be better in certain areas.”

    A big reason for their success comes from their improvement on special teams, specifically on the penalty kill.

    Boston still has the 27th ranked penalty killing unit in the league, but they’ve killed 15 of their opposition’s last 16 power plays during their recent winning streak.

    They’re power play is clicking at a mind-boggling 32.5 percent, which is tops in the NHL this season.

    The Bruins will get their first crack at former GM Peter Chiarelli’s new team when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

    Does Columbus have a fitness problem?

    John Tortorella

    Interesting note from the Dispatch this morning regarding Monday’s Blue Jackets practice, in which head coach John Tortorella put his players through some rigorous skating drills.

    Especially interesting, given what Scott Hartnell had to say.

    “You can tell by the way we practiced today that [Tortorella] wants us in better shape so we’re not fading at the end of games,” he explained.

    Fitness, or lack thereof, has been a recurring issue in Columbus this season.

    In late October, Tortorella called out All-Star center Ryan Johansen for being out of shape — coincidentally, Johansen was “singled out” for extra skating on Monday — and, in a recent conversation with, Torts again brought up the team’s conditioning problems.

    “I think it’s a team with a number of different mental and physical bad habits that we’re trying to turn into good habits to where it becomes an instinct, but we’re a ways away,” he explained. “These are mental habits that have nothing to do with X’s and O’s.

    “It’s a pretty young team, and quite honestly it’s about what it is to be a pro and doing the little things.”

    So, does Columbus have a fitness problem?

    It’s hard to say.

    Back in October, GM Jarmo Kekalainen told the Dispatch all players passed their training camp conditioning tests and, when asked, said “I don’t think anybody can say we’re out of shape.”

    But it stands to reason one of Kekalainen’s objectives in making the coaching change from Todd Richards to Tortorella was to light a fire under the team, and get them back to playing “Blue Jackets hockey” — the hard-working, hustle-filled style with a decided lunch bucket approach.

    And in order to play that brand of hockey, the team has to be in shape.