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.

Scroll Down For:

    Kassian has ‘no hard feelings’ towards Canadiens

    Edmonton Oilers v Tampa Bay Lightning
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Zack Kassian never played a regular season game for the Montreal Canadiens. But unless he is held out of Edmonton’s lineup on Saturday, he’ll face his old team as a member of the Oilers.

    The Habs acquired Kassian from the Canucks in the summer, after the 25-year-old forward essentially wore out his welcome in Vancouver under the team’s new management. However, an October car accident that Kassian was involved in set forward a number of events that appears to have ultimately changed Kassian’s life for the better.

    He told reporters that car accident might’ve been the best thing to happen to his career.

    After the accident, he was placed in Stage 2 of the Substance Abuse program and suspended without pay. He was reinstated in December and immediately waived by the Canadiens. A couple of weeks later, he was traded to Edmonton.

    And, after opening up about his struggles with alcoholism, he’s since been recalled to the NHL, appearing in eight games for the Oilers, scoring twice and adding four points.

    “I’m not looking for any redemption,” said Kassian, as per Sportsnet.

    “Me, I got an opportunity to play for the Edmonton Oilers and I’m very thankful for that. I’m not mad at Montreal by any means. If anything I’m mad at myself for screwing up that opportunity. I’m just looking to move forward. Obviously it will feel nice if I get a goal [Saturday] or even better if we get a win but there’s definitely no hard feelings.”

    Video: It took only 4:33 of the first period for Hurricanes to build 3-0 lead on Jets

    Leave a comment

    The Carolina Hurricanes got off to a spectacular start on Friday. Conversely, their opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, got off to a horrendous start.

    Before Friday’s game was even five minutes old, the Hurricanes had built a three-goal lead. Phillip Di Giuseppe opened the scoring at 1:43 of the first period. By the 4:33 mark, when Jordan Staal scored, Carolina was up three, forcing a goalie change for the Jets.

    Connor Hellebuyck was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots.

    Update: It’s 4-0 Hurricanes . . . 10:04 into the game. Yup. Could be a long one tonight in Winnipeg.

    Scrivens and slumping Habs face daunting task against McDavid and suddenly high-flying Oilers

    506090854
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Connor McDavid is kind of good.

    In the two games since his return to the Edmonton Oilers, he’s kind of — just kind of — had an impact. Five points in two games — that counts as an impact, right? Oh, and did you see this goal in his return earlier this week?

    Since McDavid’s highly anticipated return Tuesday against Columbus, the Oilers have outscored the opposition 12-3 in two games. Small sample size? Yes. Against teams currently not in playoff positions? Yes.

    But that’s still very impressive and with him in the lineup, there appears to be a sense of optimism in Edmonton.

    Enter the free-falling Montreal Canadiens. Enter goalie Ben Scrivens, who only made his debut for the Habs at the end of December and will face his old team, the Oilers, on Saturday.

    In four games with the Habs, Scrivens has been scored on 15 times.

    The Habs, without Carey Price, have been in a tumble down the Eastern Conference standings for a long time now. And, really, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

    Now, the Habs and Scrivens are tasked with facing McDavid and the suddenly high-flying Oilers.

    And Canadiens fans probably aren’t the cheeriest right now, as their team has gone from on the verge of NHL history in October to becoming an afterthought in the playoff picture in February.

    In each of their last seven games, the Habs have failed to score more than two goals in regulation. So it would seem that if Montreal is to get a win, Scrivens will need to be as close to perfect as possible.

    No pressure.

    “Unfortunately, it seems like my whole career has been playing behind teams that don’t have that confidence, except for my time in L.A.,” Scrivens told reporters.

    “It’s a challenge as a goalie but all you can do is worry about your job. I can’t go out there and start trying to break pucks out and do anything I’m not supposed to be doing. My job is to try and stop pucks and try and stop as many as I can.”

    With the way McDavid and the Oilers have been scoring since the break and his return, it appears that will be a monumental task for Scrivens.

    And with the Habs in a 1-8-1 slide in the past 10 games, the timing probably couldn’t get any worse.

     

    Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

    Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

    Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

    In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

    With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

    Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.