Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Central Division Interview - End of the Bench

Hey - remember when I was asking questions to other people who follow teams in the Central? Well I'm back at at it. I got lazy and didn't email questions out for a while so sorry about the delay... Here's an interview with Drew from over at End of the Bench, Blue Jackets site

The Blue Jackets seemed to have a ton of players coming and going for this year - how is that going to impact the team? Who are players to watch and who is the team going to miss?

All signs (at least, what the media tells us) are that the changes are a net plus. The big name on the "OUT" list is Nikolai Zherdev. While I hate to see a guy with so much promise leave the organization, I get the impression that he wasn't exactly a great locker room guy. He'd run his course, and I think it's pretty apparent that he's not a "Hitchcock guy". Of the guys coming in, there is the skilled name of Kristian Huselius who should help replace that which was lost in the Zherdev trade. Of the "difficult to play against" names, you have Raffi Torres, and Mike Commodore. Neither of these guys is going to be one of the three stars on a regular basis, but you know they're going to bring it every night and will be fan favorites. And the defensemen coming back from the Rangers, Tyutin and Backman... they're names I recognize and they're "proven" NHL'ers. They should help replace the departed Ron Hainsey, and stabilize a backline that has always been suspect in Columbus.

Stefan Legein? Is he in or out? Is that a big prospect to lose? I hadn't heard anything about him til he decided to retire (at 19).

He's out. Is it a big prospect to lose, I have no idea. Some folks say "yes", but let's be honest... nobody really knows. I do know this: the decision he made was certainly not an easy one. I am someone who had a dream, and pursued it from a young age until midway through college. When the time came that I knew I didn't want to do it anymore, it was tough to change direction in my own mind, to say nothing of the folks around me who thought I was throwing away a certain future. I wish him the best.

Dirk from On The Forecheck said some shit about your team (and Nash's mom) last week, here's your chance to fire back (I suggest mentioning that someone wanted to live in the Republic of Bashkortostan rather than Nashville.) They're asking for it.. Or do you want to battle it out with St. Louis to see who should have to change the color? Two teams with "blue" in their names is a bit too much for one division, isn't it?

I hate the Predators with all my being, but I have nothing bad to say about them. Seriously, until the Jackets beat the Preds more than once a decade what do I have to say. Plus, I happen to like the city of Nashville. But if they (whoever they are) paid me more to live at "home", I'd probably do it, too. I didn't follow the reaction on the Radulov situation much, so I can only compare it to some stereotypes I've created in my own head. Americans have a propensity to think that anything they created (NBA) or think they created (NHL) is the greatest thing in the world (maybe it is) and that this should be the end destination for all the greatest players in the world (there are other factors besides competition, money, etc). Radulov is the first (relevant) big star to jump ship. Wait until LeBron James signs in Spain, Randy Moss plays in the CFL, or Rick Nash goes to play in Sweden. Of course those scenarios are all speculative, but we'd be naive to think it's impossible.

After seeing last night's preseason game(short recap - Crawford looked pretty solid, Kane's vision and passing is still sick, Sharp and Campbell need just a bit more time to get going and a lot of the kids on the team look good, but need time) I have to think there's a bit of a rivalry going on between the BJs and the Hawks right now. I don't know if it'll ever escalate into much but it really seems like the teams don't like each other right now. There were a fair number of fights last year between the two teams and even though it could have been nothing more than young kids trying to make a name for themselves, it seemed like we could have some pretty exciting matches against Columbus this year.

Honestly, who had the better highlight reel goal last year, Toews or Nash?

Which Nash goal? The between the legs shot against the Blues or the double-depantsing in the desert? :) I'll go with Nash vs. Phoenix for the win, John.

Do you think Umberger is going to remember to keep his head up when Campbell is on the ice from now on?

Brian Campbell had the setup of a lifetime for that hit. He took it, and did his damage. I think Umberger has learned his lesson.

How good could Leclaire be if he had a better defense in front of him?

You saw what he can do with a seive for a backline. This year, the defense is supposed to be better. If he stays injury-free and plays 60-75% of the games, I say he has a shot to compete for the Vezina.

I've actually spent a good amount of time in Columbus though I never got out to a hockey game. The area around the arena seemed pretty lively though. Is (or has?) Columbus going to fully embrace the Jackets, or is it always going to play a distant second to the buckeyes?

Yes, Columbus has fully embraced the Jackets, and yes, they will always play second fiddle to the Buckeyes. There are plenty of people in this town who love hockey, and plenty for whom the Buckeyes hold no quarter. But if you poll every person in this town, you'll find that support for the Buckeyes outweighs support for the Blue Jackets. You can't put a franchise in place for eight years and expect it to be as relevant to the public as a school that's played football for over 100 years (and for most of that time, had no major pro sports in town to compete against). Not going to happen. They can coexist, and if the Jackets can find a way to win and be competitive, the rest of the world will see this, too.

Last question as always - how do you see the division playing out? Who finishes where?

Based on no research whatsoever: Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis

Thanks Drew

Also, it looks like Sean from St. Louis Game Time was dead wrong in his answer to my question about Erik Johnson - his shoulder may be 100%, or 110% but the young star is out for the a good portion of the year after a freak gasoline fight accident golf carting mishap

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