2010 NHL Draft - Round One

Blue Jackets start reshuffling front office, “strive to build a championship-caliber team”

It’s been a rough couple of seasons for the Columbus. The Blue Jackets finished 13th in the Western Conference this season with only 81 points. It was the second straight season they finished last in the Central Division as they were 14th in the West in 2009-10. Back-to-back catastrophic seasons like those make the 2009 seasons seem like a different era. As the old saying goes, “when the going gets tough, find a scapegoat.” Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson did exactly that when he announced that the organization fired both Director of Pro Scouting Bob Strumm and assistant General Manager Don Boyd. Boyd was the head of amateur scouting for Columbus and has been with the organization since it was formed in 2000.

A simple look at the standings would tell the most casual fan that something needed to be done. Howson gave Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch his reasons for firing two high ranking front office members:

“When a team does not have success for a long period of time, there’s an expectation that changes will occur. It’s a fact of professional sports. Everything is results-based.

“We’re all responsible for where we are as an organization. We’re all responsible, and we all have to take responsibility.”

At least that was marginally better than the canned quote he offered during the formal announcement:

“We believe it was time to make changes in key areas of our organization as we strive to build a championship-caliber team. I want to thank Don and Bob for their hard work and commitment over the past 12 years as each has made very positive contributions.”

There’s no question that things have been rough in Columbus over the last few seasons. The hope of the franchise’s only playoff experience in 2009 has been replaced with the reality of two pathetic seasons and no end in sight. Unfortunately, the tough time in the standings has spilled into other parts of the organization as well. The team lost $25 million last season and “barring news that ‘moves the needle,’” they’re looking at another season with serious financial loses. They currently sit at 7,000 season tickets sold and hope to go into the season with a total of 8,000. Compare those numbers to Winnipeg’s “Drive to 13”and it’s plain to see that things could be better at the box office.

Obviously this is a move to shake up a team that desperately needs some shaking up. What was once a team that was showing potential only a few short years ago is once again back to their familiar place in the basement of the NHL. If the team continues into next season as currently constructed, is there anyone who thinks they’d be a contender for the Central Division? Would they even be considered a contender for a playoff spot? Remember, this is a team that is still looking for their first playoff victory. Not series victory—the franchise has never won a single playoff game. They can change the pro scouting director and swap out the assistant GM, but sooner or later they’re going to need to bring in some players to re-energize the fanbase. Michael Arace of the Dispatch shares the same thoughts:

“General manager Scott Howson has a window of opportunity. The conventional wisdom is he is offering the No. 8, perhaps in a package, in exchange for immediate help. They need it. How many legitimate top-six forwards do the Jackets have at this point? Two or three? How many top-four defensemen? One? Do they have their goaltender of the future?

These questions inform the goal of the coming weeks, namely, to flesh out on the top end of things – rather than add more fourth-line pluggers and/or No. 6 defensemen. The Jackets need more talent. They may have to be bold to acquire it.”

No matter what the organization chooses to do, they need to do something. Perhaps the front office reshuffling is just the first step as the Blue Jackets try to legitimately change the culture around the franchise. They can make a trade, acquire a defenseman (or four), or be an active participant in free agency. But do something to get the community talking about the Jackets again.

Then again, winning a few more games could help re-energize the fans as well.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

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Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.