Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blowing away the Windy city

Wouldn't that be nice? Go into the United Center and just blow the Hawks away, leaving them with a sour taste in their mouth when they come visit on Saturday?

Hey, crazier things have happened, but the fact remains that Chicago is damn good and the CBJ have their hands full tonight.

That doesn't mean it can't be done though. Our last game against them was a nailbiter and a heartbreaker. The game brought out the best in our team though, and set a standard for how well we can play. Despite the loss to St. Louis I still believe this team can play like they did that night in Chicago; the same way they played that night in Calgary; the same way this team was built and taught to play.

As much as I would love for our team to be on a roll like that of Chicago I'm a firm believer in working for what you get. Let's face it; the CBJ are a blue collar team who can't expect anything to be handed to them without a paying a price for it.

That's fine with me. It keeps the boys level headed and more focused. We don't have the highlight talent like Chicago, but that doesn't mean we don't have talent. We don't have triple the wins that we do losses, but that doesn't mean we can't win. It only means the boys have to be work horses out there tonight and give a grinding effort full of grit and passion.

They can do it. They can win.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

The boys are back in town!

Hopefully the boys didn't party too hard after back to back wins, but who could blame them if they did? The win in Edmonton was a relief, but that win in Calgary felt damn good!

It's too early to say if things have turned around for this team but it is enough to say that the CBJ have given me a new hope, a new belief and a new reason to love them even more than I already do. If I could freeze frame some of the looks on their faces after the final horn last night I'd etch them into my mind and make them my happy place because that, to me, as a fan, is the best feeling in the world.

Sunday will bring a new challenge to meet and overcome, but I will be sitting right there in the arena rooting them on along with my CBJ posse! Here's to hopin' we pack the house!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Someone always has it worse

I thought I'd blog about a thought I just had while looking up at my CBJ wall.

The tension is so thick around the Blue Jackets these days and the feeling of something giving in is looming on the horizon. Whether it is a good or a bad thing has yet to be determined, but in the meantime I'd like for the fans to ponder something.

Let's face it, even the most positive fans (*raises hand*) are guilty of griping and moaning about the woes that surround the team right now, but as fans, even though we blindly pour our hard earned money into a season of questions, do we really have it that bad?

I think about the Red Wings game at home and how it must've felt for the boys to finally get that win and some pressure off their backs. Then they go into New York and bear the burden yet again. They come home for a New Years Eve nail-biter, putting so much energy and so much heart into winning that game....and come up short in OT. Suddenly, that Detroit game didn't mean as much.

We all went home disappointed that night. Some were angry, some were disgusted and some swore up and down they were through with the Blue Jackets. Fortunately for us as fans, we got to dwell on it for a while and then snap back to our own realities where it wasn't at the forefront of our issues.

Those players on the other hand, weren't able to forget about it. They had to sit in the locker room and soak up the disappointment. They had to go home and dwell on the misery. They had to come to work the next day and re-live the pain.

My point is they don't get to walk away from it. They have to carry that burden with them everywhere they go. Yes, it's their job and they get paid enough for us to justify that they should be able to handle it, but I know those players would gladly give up half of their salaries to be able to lift this jinx off of themselves and be the winning club they know they can be.

Here's to hoping that the fans are able to stride a mile in the players skates before passing judgment on them.

I wish the boys a determined work ethic, a calming presence and strong belief in themselves as they fight to stay out of last place tonight. I have no doubts that they have what it takes to start climbing the ladder again, even if it is one step at a time.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How sweet it is.....

I didn't know whether to pinch myself, pee my pants or cry uncontrollably last night as Freddie Modin single handedly buried the overtime game winning goal against a sellout crowd last night in Nationwide Arena....against the Red Wings nonetheless.

I simply have no words for how that felt.

Earlier, my best friend and I were lounging around the house and she was reading me the CBJ news from the day. I listened as she quoted Hitch as saying him and the players were nervous about how the fans were going to be. This broke my heart so I looked at her and said, "Go make a sign."

And she did.

So we sat at pregame with our little sign that simply read, 'WE BELIEVE'. We know the players saw it. We know they appreciated it. Our only hope now was that they too, believed.

The game speaks for itself. The boys played with heart and soul, with determination and giddy up. They played a full 60 minutes and then some in a very Hitchcock hockey style and they came away with two well deserved, much needed points.

My favorite part of the night was celebrating the win. I don't think I believed it at first as I jumped up and down screaming with the rest of the crowd.

My very close second favorite part was hearing the cheers and the push from the crowd. For as many Red Wing fans that were there, you sure couldn't tell throughout the whole game. Great job Columbus fans. I was very proud and I know the boys were very grateful.

My least favorite part of the night was hearing about the Jason Chimera trade. It breaks my heart to see one of our boys go, but I wish him well in Washington and hope he knows we appreciate his hard work and loyalty to the team.

Might as well give mention to my second least favorite part of the night. We sat in the upper bowl behind a wall of glass that we propped our 'WE BELIEVE' sign against. During second intermission we left our seats and returned to no sign. The man beside us said he moved it because it was in his way......which I knew was a crock. (He was well over six foot three and our sign was maybe 10x14)

Needless to say it went right back up there...... and THAT is how I carry the flag ;)

Here's to another great performance tonight against the Islanders!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Scotty for a day

A fellow blogger has asked me to participate in answering a few questions that have recently been asked to Scott Howson. My answers are written below.

Question: Given the expectations surrounding this club heading into this season, how surprised are you to be closer to last place than a playoff spot in the Western Conference?

-To be honest, I'm not very surprised. I've always seen this team as a team who has to work extra hard to get results and was never under the impression that wins would come easy. Blue collar. That's a great way to describe my view of this team; starting at the bottom and working their way up. I think the excitement of clinching the playoffs last season shadowed a lot of peoples realistic view of how the team was built to perform and in that had their expectations set too high.

Q: What player, what aspect of the club, has been most surprising?

- Most surprising to me has been the lack of physical play from everyone. Everyone knows a Hitchcock team is going to be a brutal in your face, down your throat team, but I haven't seen enough of that this season. Checks aren't being finished and pressure isn't being put on the opponent on a consistent basis.

Q: Why is coach Ken Hitchcock the right coach for this club right now?

-You can't look past a resume like Hitch's. Beyond that though, I believe that Hitch is the right coach for this team because he genuinely wants to help this team and this city succeed. I can see the emotional attachment Hitch has to the group of guys he coach's. His 'tough love' approach is his way of humbling the players and not letting them get above their heads because he knows that can only take you so far. He teaches them to work, work, work for what they want knowing that it will make them an all around better player.

Q: You have one of the youngest clubs in the NHL. Does he work well with a group like that?

-Just like a teenager thinks his parents are out to make his life miserable, so it is with young kids and Hitch. What few of them grasp right away though, is that while his process might be a bit harsh it is setting a foundation of character and grit. Nothing measures a players inner strength more than putting them in situations that might make them feel belittled, uncomfortable or inferior, and seeing how they react to it. He makes them earn their place and their ice time which coincides with the 'blue collar' work ethic that Hitch embodies.

Q: Do you feel like you over-estimated Derick Brassard, expecting him to be a No. 1 center this season?

-It seems that way right now, but that's not to say that Derick isn't capable of the duties. That is a lot of pressure to put on a very young kid who is just coming off a season ending injury and I think even Derick set his own expectations too high. He is still a very bright, young, promising player who has the determination and passion for the game. The team slump and his personal slump are probably causing him to grip his stick too hard these days, but knowing Derick, once the kinks start getting worked out so will his performance and he will then be able to be the player he thrives to be.

Q: How close did you come to making a deal over the last few days, before the NHL's holiday roster freeze went into effect on Saturday?

-I will admit that after the Colorado game I was expecting things to get a little hairy on the trade front, but I believe Scott when he says he thinks the answer is in the locker room. With such a tight knit group of guys it is probably hard to do anything that might mix up emotions or chemistry. If the guys can stick through this slump and climb the hill together I don't see Scott doing anything drastic.

Q: Do you consider talking during the next week, even though you can't make a move until after Dec. 26?

-He said he did, so the answer is yes. For a team in the situation we are in, he's a smart man for doing so in the case that things don't start looking up.

Q: Any thought given to a minor league call-up?

-You can't turn aside the fact that Matheiu Roy has been a breath of fresh air in the face of injury. He's a big physical guy who has great hockey sense so to keep him around for the long term wouldn't surprise me at all. As far as any other major call-ups, I don't see it happening in any case other than injury.

Q: You made one change to your blue line last offseason, adding defenseman Anton Stralman. If you had it to do over again, would you have done more to upgrade the defense?

-When our defense is playing up to par they are damn good. We saw it last season and we've seen snaps of it this season. Anton Stralman has proved his worth here and with those two facts it's hard to argue a do-over.

Q: Could this club use another strong veteran presence in the dressing room?

-There can never be too many veterans in a locker room (just look at Detroit), but that's not to say it is a dire need. With the likes of Freddie Modin and Jason Chimera-among others-this team is not lacking in veteran presence. I think we have a pretty healthy mixture of young and 'older' in the locker room, however I wouldn't turn away someone like Michael Peca if the option came along. The great thing about the mixture we have is the fact that the young can learn from the old and vice versa. That is essential for a team who is trying to stay on the same page.

Q: You talk about "going through the process" and "working through it", but isn't that what last season was about? Didn't you feel like you'd already gone through all of this?

-Last year was a rush. The team was on an upward spiral and had their mind set on making the playoffs. This year, with somewhat of a slump going on, they have to start looking at the picture as a basic process. i.e. buying in, playing 60 minutes, winning and continuing down that same path. Every year is a different process the team has to conform to so to think that after last season the team was set to go for this one is completely unreasonable.

Q: Do you need an enforcer? [Why or] Why not?

-I don't believe so. Our entire team, when playing the way they are molded to play, serve that purpose. There are more than a handful of guys on the team who would be more than willing to drop the gloves if the situation called for it, but right now I think the boys believe that if they aren't getting momentum from within, breaking out into fights isn't going to be much of a boost either. Their priorities need to lie in the focus of doing what needs to be done to win the game and if a situation comes up that requires bare hands, then someone will be there to act accordingly.

Q: Sitting here, five days before Christmas, do you still feel as if that's a playoff-caliber club?

-I absolutely believe that this team is a playoff-caliber club. Recent play may suggest otherwise and if things don't start looking up within the next ten or so games that could be an inaccurate assessment, but what these guys possess inside of them is what's going to determine the answer to that. They all have it in them to do what they need to do to play, shut down and win a game - the question is whether or not they are able personify that on the ice.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Passion, belief and other matters

I've finally had enough.

No, not with the Jackets; with the lack of passion from the fans.

I get it; I really do. Your team is making a habit out of losing and you're sick of wasting your time and money on watching it happen. There are no changes being made to lead you to believe that things can turn around. There's no yelling and screaming and calling out in the locker room, the coach can't force the players to buy into the system and the GM's patience is much like that song that never ends. (Yes, it goes on and on my friends.) Your back is slowly turning on this team and it's getting to the point where you could care less anymore.

All I have to say to that is you know where the door is, please let it hit you hard on the way out.

It breaks my heart to see so-called fans give up on their team. It kills me to sit at a game that the boys are losing and watch the drones of fans leaving early while the team watches from the bench during a T.V. time out. What could possibly be going through their heads in a moment like that? That's no kind of motivation in my opinion and in a time such as this I think the boys need their fans more than ever. Unfortunately, right now their glass is half empty and they see the fans leaving, not the ones staying until the bitter end. You can't blame them for that; it's all part of being human. It's easier to see what stands in front of you than what stands behind you and when the fans stand to leave they see them giving up; their failures are magnified and a part of them is sick inside because of it. Lately, a big portion of fans who have stayed behind have only stayed behind not to support, but to express their frustrations to the team when the final horn sounds. As if their wounds weren't deep enough, now the salt is just being poured all over them.

Something happened in the Phoenix game on December 17th though, that brought me to a realization. I watched for the first two periods as the Jackets faltered scoring chance after scoring chance. Even from home I could tell the crowd was starting to say, 'here we go again!'. But then something happened. A gust of wind hit Nationwide Arena, (and no it wasn't from Tyutin's whiffed shot) as the entire crowd breathed a sigh of relief when Rick Nash hit it home on the power play with a little over eight minutes left in the third period. Fans cheered loudly, they clapped along with the goal song beat and stood on their feet in support of their team.

And they didn't stop.

For eight minutes of regulation, five minutes of overtime and six shooters of shootout, the fans stayed behind their team and that's when I realized that all the fair-weather fans, all the negative words and all the frustrations that the city has with the CBJ could never outweigh the fans who enjoy, support without waivering and believe in this team. I even believe that the fans who find themselves grinding their teeth and debating whether to go to a game or not, still have a belief in this team.

It's hard not to believe in this team with all the promise it has, but lately there have been too many disheartening and disgusting comments made toward and about the Jackets that don't sit well with me as a fan. I can take it from the media; their job in a loss is to highlight what the Jackets did wrong, look past what the opposing team did wrong and skip or graze over anything that might've went right. As a fan however, I simply do not understand the lack of support and passion.

Like the Jackets, I have a high boiling point. Being a Cleveland Browns fan for upwards of twenty years proves that. I've heard it all with them just like I'm hearing it all now with the Jackets, but the difference is the Browns don't have what it takes yet. That's not a knock to them; I love the Brownies. I will admit that I've watched very few games this season, not because I'm falling off the fan-wagon, but because it breaks my heart to see them fail week after week in a system that just isn't working. The feeling is different with the Jackets. Minus the teams record, I believe we have a very good thing going. I don't see a glitch within the organIzation that suggests to me changes need to be made. I think our GM is a God send, I could literally sit and talk to Hitch for a week straight because I think the man is a genius and I don't believe there is a player in our locker room who isn't at least trying to contribute in their respective manners.

So then why is it so hard for this team to win a game?

No one has the exact answer to that. One day it's this, the next it's that. I'm wondering if it's just simply the weather.....haha, just kidding.

I don't think when they tell us that the answer is in the locker room they are simply feeding us a line of crap. I truly believe that. I could break the roster down player by player and tell you exactly why I think that player belongs on this team. -Maybe I'll do that in my next blog ;)- We have what it takes, but for whatever reason we just can't turn that into a win.

Maybe I'm beating a dead horse; maybe this is just another loss in many more losses to come for the Jackets and they'll never get things turned around this season. If that is their fate then so be it, but I won't accept that fact if and until that fact is official.

In the meantime I'm going to do what I do best and believe in this team with all I've got, root them on every step of the way and carry my flag, along with the flags that have been dropped along the worn and beaten path. If I could single handedly pull the boys out of the wreckage you can bet your bottom dollar that's what I would die doing, but until they come summoning my services I will continue to set an example for true, passionate, unconditional love for my team. I hope you will follow. :)


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Biding my time

I've sat back now for a couple of weeks and observed the team, the fan reaction and the media's interpretation of what's going on with the Blue Jackets.

Give me another game or two and I'll spit out a post about what I've been mulling over.