Better Know An Affiliate: Columbus Blue Jackets

AHL: Cleveland Monsters (37-29-8-2, 4th in North, lost in second round)
TEAM LINEAGE: As one of the new kids, the Jackets don’t have much of a lineage for their primary affiliates. While it took forever to get the Monsters on board, it only makes sense to keep the prospect within reasonable distance. Prior to Cleveland, the Springfield Falcons served as the Jackets’ affiliate for five seasons and before that, the Syracuse Crunch were the Jackets first affiliate and lasted 10 years with the Jackets.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Jackets will give Eric Robinson every chance to make the team this season, but his size could be the only real upside, as his offensive output in his first pro season didn’t set the world on fire. Another inconsistent big-man is Kevin Stenlund, who had 15 goals in his first North American season, but couldn’t balance his defense, as well as not finding consistency finding any spark offensively.

ECHL: The Blue Jackets don’t have an ECHL affiliate and having had one since the end of the 2015-16 season when they had the Kalamazoo Wings as their secondary affiliate. The Jackets have been all over the map for secondary affiliates with the Evansville IceMen, Chicago Express, Fort Wayne Komets, Gwinnett Gladiators, Johnstown Chiefs, Elmira Jackals, and Dayton Bombers.

NHL Playoffs 2019: Round Two

Photo via the NHL Media Website

All the top seeds are out. The NHL scurried to get a “Second Chance” bracket thing to make people more engaged. Here’s my picks after going two for eight in the first round….so bet against me.

BOSTON vs. COLUMBUS
Prediction: Boston in 7
Reason: The long layoff will help Columbus, while the old guard will hinder Boston to start. The Bruins may get another life in the middle of the series, especially if Brad Marchand can keep his pace up, while also hoping Patrice Bergeron can find some scoring touch and Zdeno Chara can not break. The Blue Jackets are driven and it’s interesting to see what John Tortorella does to keep his team rolling, but I think the Bruins could be a bit much for them.

NY ISLANDERS vs. CAROLINA
Prediction: Islanders in 6
Reason: Another team with a long layoff, but it could help the Islanders focus more and be able to breakdown what the Canes did to beat the Caps, especially with Barry Trotz at the helm. Robin Lehner needs to have a repeat of the first round, while the Canes will need to find an extra gear in their quick turnaround. This will be the series with the worst ice conditions, though.

DALLAS vs. ST. LOUIS
Prediction: Dallas in 5
Reason: Much like Johan Hedberg before him, the rookie sensation that is Jordan Binnington is primed for a falling and with the Stars looking like world beaters and a healthy Ben Bishop in net, it could be quick work for the Stars moving forward.

SAN JOSE vs. COLORADO
Prediction: Colorado in 6
Reason: As great as the comeback of the Sharks were, you could see there were cracks. With that, it just gives more time for Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and the crew to rest. Though it’ll come down to which Martin Jones shows up for the Sharks and if Philipp Grubauer can keep it going for Colorado.

Lightning Crashes

Yeah I used a 1994 song title for this blog in 2019, big whoop.

The point is that it’s over for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With 62 wins in an 82 game season, they have yet to record a win in three games to the last seed in the Eastern Conference. Since the first period of Game One, they have only mustered two goals in the next 160 minutes.

Before I go any further– full marks to John Tortorella for amping up his team to go out and take it to the top seed in hockey. There were many questions about if this team would even make it to the playoffs after going all-in at the Trade Deadline, but now it’s looking like it’s finally paying off. The fact they are a win away from completing one of the biggest upsets in playoff history shows this is a team who somehow found chemistry in the last month of the season.

But now to the Lightning– who in the previous four post-seasons have been to the Conference Finals three times and the Stanley Cup Final once. They have had one of the most potent offenses in the league and developed some low-key players– like Brayden Point– into a diamond in the rough. Hell, they just re-signed Jon Cooper to a multi-year extension at the end of March.

How much are they rethinking this after the Bolts developed a case of the Presidents Trophy flu??

But let’s not just use the coach as a scapegoat. No, let’s look at the scoring for the Bolts…or lackthereof. Steven Stamkos– zero points. Victor Hedman– zero points. Nikita Kucherov– no points and was suspended. The aforementioned Point– zero points. Defensively hasn’t been much better with Andrei Vasilevskiy being either bored or tired or both– sporting a GAA around four and a save percentage of .866.

Maybe, just maybe the window for a Cup has been shuttered down. Maybe, this team is just a really good regular season team and then playoffs they morph into the proverbial pumpkin at midnight. Sure does sound like the Caps before last season, this much I know.

Yet, is this a team with the chops to counterattack the possible biggest upset ever with the possible biggest comeback ever?? Well, Vasilevskiy switched pads, so who knows?? But it’s up to Jon Cooper to rally the troops and make it happen. It seems that, however, once they hit the easy button after those first 20 minutes of the series, the team is in a funk it can’t snap out of. You’d think that first game would be a wake-up call to maybe dial into that higher gear they were able to find in the regular season.

Then in Game Two they got trounced on home-ice.

When you have played this many games in a five-year span, you’d have to think your horses are gassed, regardless of the conditioning. You look at the Pittsburgh Penguins right now and they seem to be feeling that same effect in these playoffs as well.

There was going to be a change in Tampa regardless due to the salary cap issues and four of their defensemen turning into UFAs and Brayden Point being an RFA and will probably command an handsome bank for his regular season efforts. As it stands right now, who knows who will stay and who will go– but this team may have a longer time to stew about it when they get eliminated in the next coming days.

NHL Playoffs 2019: Round One

Since no one asked– here’s my picks and a reason.

TAMPA BAY vs. COLUMBUS
Prediction: Tampa in 5
Reason: As much as I may no believe in the Lightning down the stretch, the Blue Jackets were too hot going into the playoffs to have much left in the tank. Also, Nikita Kucherov will most likely continue to step-up his game in the second season.

BOSTON vs. TORONTO
Prediction: Boston in 6
Reason: We’ve seen this song before and Toronto isn’t that great against Boston in the playoffs. Goaltending is a disaster for the Leafs, while their defense isn’t much better.

WASHINGTON vs. CAROLINA
Prediction: Washington in 6
Reason: Give the Jerks credit, they clawed back to get in this spot. However, the Caps seem to enjoy feasting on the Canes in life. Plus, the Caps want to get back to the Promised Land to hoist the Cup again, so they’ll do whatever it takes to win it again

NY ISLANDERS vs. PITTSBURGH
Prediction: Penguins in 6
Reason: As much as I want to believe in Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss; Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and a somewhat healthy Evgeni Malkin trump that. Only hope is Matt Murray stinking up the joint

CALGARY vs. COLORADO
Prediction: Calgary in 6
Reason: Goaltending aside, the Flames won the Western Conference for a reason. Especially with Mikko Rantanen just coming back from injury– who knows how effective he will be. Though, some pressure may be on Johnny Gaudreau and friends to make an unexpected run.

SAN JOSE vs. VEGAS
Prediction: Vegas in 5
Reason: Playoffs is about defense and as much as the Sharks have Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson to add some punch offensively, Martin Jones hasn’t been great. The Knights enjoyed a nice taste last year and probably want to make people know it wasn’t a fluke.

WINNIPEG vs. ST. LOUIS
Prediction: St. Louis in 7
Reason: I don’t know why, but the Blues could be a sleeper team to make some noise. They weren’t even supposed to be here, but Jordan Binnington decided that he’d show Jake Allen how to play in net. They’ll be a tough out with JB in net.

NASHVILLE vs. DALLAS
Prediction: Nashville in 6
Reason: With the window for the Preds and all their talent, it could be the perfect time for them to run wild in the West. They probably still feel the sting of the lost to Winnipeg and want to make a statement run at the Cup this year.

2018-19 Preview….Kind Of: Eastern Conference Edition

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Okay– time to shake the dust off this thing and get into some NHL previewing. We’ve got 31 teams in four divisions, so the only way to do this right is to do it as half-assed as ever. If you’ve been following me for the last 17 years of writing– you know it’s the only way to go.

First, the Metropolitan Division; the division with the worst name, but boasting the last three Stanley Cup Champions. The Washington Capitals kept the band together, save for Philipp Grubauer. Other than that– the big concern here is the short off-season (which has been seen with the lack of Devante Smith-Pelly), but the hunger to keep the winning going could fuel this team. Alex Ovechkin is back in the best shape of his life part 2, while the rest of the team– despite a subpar preseason– will be looking to keep the good vibes going into this season.

It won’t be easy– the Penguins will want to get some revenge on the Caps since they won the Cup and rekindled a bit of the rivalry. With a longer time to rest, you can bet Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel will be ready– but will Matt Murray be durable or not?? The Columbus Blue Jackets will want revenge on the Caps, but their house is a mess with both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky really not having a great off-season and signalling their tenure in C-bus may be soon over.

The New York/New Jersey area is full of “The hell??” vibes, especially with the Rangers retooling rather than rebuilding, the Islanders losing John Tavares, but gaining Lou Lamoriello, and the Devils being the best team out of the three since they made the playoffs last year. The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them, the Devils will have to rely heavily on Taylor Hall to keep his MVP form, while the Islanders will be…something. They at least have Barry Trotz and a whole slew of….oh, right they sent a lot of their prospects back to Bridgeport. Oh boy.

That leaves Philadelphia and Carolina. The biggest thing for the Flyers this offseason was the introduction of Gritty the Mascot. While James van Riemsdyk is back, that’s not really getting the juices flowing when you don’t know who will end up as your goalie by the Thanksgiving break. The Hurricanes have a revamped everything– new owner, GM, coaches…it’s a new team….minus the same Scott Darling, the same lack of depth scoring, the lack of stable defense. Maybe Dougie Hamilton can change that, but maybe not. A near-perfect preseason gives them some momentum…as much as you can with preseason results.


When you think of the Atlantic Division, you think of two tire-fires and a team who is planning the parade route thanks to a single signing of a local player. First, the Maple Leafs, who have already been given the Stanley Cup by their fans and some pundits due to the John Tavares signing….totally forgetting their defense is suspect at best and Freddy Andersen can only do so much with that suspect defense in front of him. But– it’s Toronto, so hype is always around.

The other Canadian teams in the division are just plain garbage. Ottawa is just bad news all around thanks to the Erik Karlsson deal– which sealed the summer of drama for the team– on top of Eugene Melnyk not getting out of his own way. Montreal, however, traded their captain and a young forward while also naming a guy who has been more injured than not during his Canadiens tenure the captain of the team. Wonder if Carey Price is regretting signing long-term or if he’s just getting his money and not caring about the outcome.

Looking around, the Buffalo Sabres are poised for either a break out year or another disappointing season looking towards the lottery. Rasmus Dahlin aside, the attitude of Jack Eichel seems to be about winning now, Carter Hutton could be a breakout start in a starters role, the the Sabres could just decided to say the hell with it and go balls to the wall in order to win. That or they’ll have to deal with a lot of injuries and then get frustrated and fold up into a shell again.

While Tampa Bay didn’t lose too many big names, the loss of Steve Yzerman could very well hurt in the long-run. Though, Julien BriseBois has been under Yzerman’s learning tree, the moves that Yzerman were able to get may just be the respect factor of the man who is revered in the hockey world. Yet, a team that was one win away from the Cup Final shouldn’t have to do much more than they did, especially in a weak division.

People sleep on Boston a little too much, especially when you think they have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on their offensive side. Tuukka Rask is due for a bounce-back year, though the defense will rely heavily on Charlie McAvoy, especially with Torey Krug out for the start of the season. It will be scoring by committee after the first line in Boston, but Bruce Cassidy seems like he can holster all the firepower he can in order to get this team back to the playoffs.

Florida and Detroit are also in this division. The Panthers keep getting closer and closer then further away, while the Red Wings could be in the midst of a long playoff drought in their new building. Of the two, MAYBE the Panthers could come close to being in the Wild Card discussion, but it’s a very long-shot at that.

Caps By The Numbers: Caps Close Out Jackets

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With two goals, Alex Ovechkin once again help lead the way for their 6-3 victory over Columbus to win the series in six games. Braden Holtby had 35 saves in the winning effort, his and the Caps’ fourth straight. Chandler Stephenson potted a goal and assist for the Caps, as they move on to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third straight year and 11th time overall. Before you get to where the Caps are going, gotta know where they’ve been– so time for #4 to go with the fourth win of the playoffs– Kevin Hatcher.

When it comes to the #4 spot, there hasn’t been many guys who made the mark that Kevin Hatcher did. Say what you will about him later on in his tenure, but the defenseman was crucial to production on the blue-line in the early-90s, as well as being a leader to his peers enough to get the captaincy for two years.

The former first round pick in 1984 for the Caps, Hatcher became a full-time blueliner in 1985-86 and kind of showed off his mixture of offensive talent and aggressive style of play in his own end. Hatcher saw his point-production increase through his first six seasons, peaking in his eighth season with the Caps in 1992-93, which saw Hatcher notch 34 goals and 79 points on the season. That goal total is still currently a Caps record for a season. Hatcher represented the Caps at the All-Star Game three times, while also holding the record for most goals by a defenseman in their career in Washington with 149.

While he did have his tenure marred by a contract holdout before the 1990-91 season, as well as his trade demand that saw him shipped to Dallas; Hatcher’s contributions on the scoresheet and as an imposing force in the line-up is what Caps fans should remember about the Detroit native who filled his role well during his 10 years with the Caps

Caps By The Numbers: Captain Promise Fulfilled, Series Tied

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People thought Alex Ovechkin was odd saying that the Capitals would be going back to DC for Game 5 with the series tied. Thanks to Ovi’s goal and assist, the Caps took Game 2 over Columbus 4-1 to go back to DC with the series tied up 2-2. Thanks to that– we get the #2 on the Caps By The Numbers with Ken Klee.

It had to be Ken Klee for the #2. No past Capital wore the number as long as he did and he continued the ideal of the Capitals by being a defensive minded blueliner, only putting up 111 points in 570 games with the Caps. Klee, while only putting up 43 career goals for the Caps, had 11 game winning goals.

Klee came to the Caps via the Draft in 1990, but rather than go to the Baltimore Skipjacks right away, Klee stuck with Bowling Green State University for three seasons before going pro with the Skipjacks and then the Portland Pirates. Klee was a part of the 1993-94 Calder Cup team, a team that kickstarted the careers of Steve Konowalchuk, Andrew Brunette, Olaf Kolzig among others.

Though he wasn’t a top-pairing guy per se, Klee was a shutdown guy that the Caps always seemed to have in their line-ups at the time. He left following the 2002-03 season for a variety of places, while also getting into coaching for USA Hockey after that. Playing the quiet role, but playing it well– Klee could be the most memorable #2 (for now) in Caps history.