2013 NHL PREVIEW: CENTRAL DIVISION

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Finally, after months and months of everyone involved being morons, causing 113 days, 625 games, and the biggest outdoor hockey game in history to be cancelled, hockey fans can finally say “Game On!”  The NHL has a new 10-year labor agreement, and is set to start the shortened, 48 game 2013 season on Saturday, January 19.  Find out what you need to know about every team in the NHL for the upcoming season, this time featuring the Central Division.  Continue after the jump to find out where your team will finish.

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Columbus trading Rick Nash: it’s complicated!

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It’s expected that the Columbus Blue Jackets will trade their only true All-Star player and face of the franchise Rick Nash on or before the upcoming NHL Entry Draft on June 22nd.  Rumored trade discussions and speculated trading partners have been flying almost as quickly as trying to keep the hottest of DVDs on a Blockbuster ™store shelf.

And while some pundits and local observers believe this long-speculated trade of Nash is a forgone conclusion and will go down before the draft, I believe that doing so is a lot more complicated than that and I’ll explain why.

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Who’s to Blame For Columbus Blue Jackets Mess Part 2

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When I wrote Part 1 of my 2-part article outlining the ills that plague the Columbus Blue Jackets, they possessed the worst record in the National Hockey League (NHL) with a record of 0-6-1.  Since Part 1 was written, the Blue Jackets have descended to even lower depths, with a record of 2-12-1.  While the Blue Jackets did win two games since that point, more recently they have been pummeled by their opponents by a cumulative score of 19-6 over their last three games.

The Blue Jackets are a team in disrepair.  They are a team with no identity, no direction and no grit, a fragile team who shows no signs of turning around the malaise, this for a team with the 5th highest payroll in the National Hockey League (NHL).

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Columbus Blue Jackets 2nd QTR Report Card

Earlier in the season, I provided a first quarter assessment of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That was a quite easy task as the Blue Jackets stormed out of the gate to a franchise best 14-6-0 record.

But ever since the Jackets’ historic start, they have gone 6-11-3 through the next 20 games and have fallen to 13th in the Western Conference

I tried to be optimistic that a repeat of last season’s debacle under former head coach Ken Hitchock wouldn’t happen again, but I’m sad to report that while not a free-fall to that level, the Blue Jackets have once again struggled into the halfway point of their regular season under current head coach Scott Arniel.

In a manner similar to last quarter’s assessment, I offer my insights both for the season, to date, as well as how the Blue Jackets have fared during their most recent 20 games of the season (Games 21-40). And while their overall mark is better than at this time last season, the ghosts of late-November’s, December’s and early January’s have resurfaced once again.

By Ed Cmar

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Columbus Blue Jackets: How to Guide to Stopping the Swoon

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During the 2009-2010 regular season, the Columbus Blue Jackets opened the season with a franchise-best record of 12-6-2. However, what followed was a horrible 3-14-7 tailspin which not only took the Blue Jackets out of any chance of returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it also cost their head coach, Ken Hitchcock, his job.

After last season’s terrific start, the next 12 games set the tempo for what was to follow, as the Blue Jackets posted a 2-6-4 record. Analyzing how this could have happened really wasn’t that difficult, as the Blue Jackets, while winning, were doing so by the narrowest of margins. When they lost, it was usually of the blowout variety.

Specifically, the Blue Jackets abandoned Hitchcock’s tight-checking, defense-first, attack the neutral zone only when a fail-safe situation occurred. This resulted in the Blue Jackets giving up several odd-man rushes on defense. And although their morbid power play rate skyrocketed from one of the worst in the NHL, it also resulted in giving up an inordinate amount of shorthanded goals.

By Ed Cmar

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Is it time for the Blue Jackets to Bench Steve Mason?

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At the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, I wrote an article which asked whether Steve Mason’s contract extension, particularly coming off of a horrid season—known also as the sophomore jinx—was good or bad

Well, after another dreadful Mason performance, one in which he was blistered early and often by the upstart Edmonton Oilers, it now begs another question:

Is it time to pull the plug?

By Ed Cmar

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Columbus Blue Jackets Unfortunately Reverting Back to Familiar Form

Grading Blue Jackets Coach Scott Arniel

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During the offseason, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, after being informed that his leading head coaching candidate, Guy Boucher, turned down his offer to coach the Blue Jackets (Boucher took the Tampa Bay Lightning head coaching position, instead) offered the position to Scott Arniel, previously an assistant to Lindy Ruff with the Buffalo Sabres and the head coach of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Many in Columbus viewed the offer rejection as a snub and a slap in the face to the state of the organization and perception of Columbus in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Further, it was believed that Arniel might have been a case of settling for second best.

Well, although at only 19 games into the season and while Boucher is doing a fine job in coaching the Lightning, it’s looking more and more like the Arniel selection was the right choice, after all.

By Ed Cmar

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Columbus Blue Jackets 1st Qtr. Report Card

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At this time last season, the Blue Jackets were beginning to show chinks in their competitive armor, even while bolting out to a 12-6-2 record.

What followed after that was a free fall of epic proportions: A dizzying 3-14-7 debacle, one which lead to the firing of their head coach, Ken Hitchcock, and the team finishing 14th out of 15 teams in the NHL’s Western Conference.

And although it’s very early to determine their fate for the rest of the season, it’s pretty safe to say that, barring a major injury or two, the 2010-2011 Blue Jackets are a much improved team.

With that, I’d like to offer my view of how things have gone so far for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

By Ed Cmar

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