Welcome to this year's edition of the CBJ blogger roundtable, where we gathered the voices of the Blogging community and asked them to weigh in on the coming season.
Our panel for this year includes Andy Krygier of CBJ Blog, Mike MacLean and Dan P. from right here at The Cannon, Greg May from Full Mental Jackets, Alison Lukan from Heart of A Jacket, J.Martin Poston of Martini Hockey, and Jeff Little of Ten Minute Misconduct.
If you missed last year's edition, here's how this works: I, your handsome and talented moderator, assembled a list of questions which we sent to our panel during the pre-season, and they had until yesterday to write their answers. (In many cases, that means the answers were written before the last round of roster cuts, so please keep that in mind.)
We'll be kicking it off today with the first couple of questions here at The Cannon, then another blog will host part 2 tomorrow, another hosts part three on Wednesday, and so on. We'll have something for you each day this week until the roundtable wraps up on Friday morning, just in time for the regular season.
With all that said, on with the show!
Question #1: Last year, the biggest story of the offseason was the team's ticket woes, and the team's box office struggles were well documented. With all the excitement this offseason, including the likely resolution of the arena issue, will the Blue Jackets see a bump at the box office?
Jeff: "Immediate" is a relative term. There will be a big bloc of skeptics who will want to see quick results in the win/loss column before returning. However, the true hockey fans who have become disenchanted over the past two years will come back fairly quickly.
Alison: The offseason moves have definitely reinvigorated the existing hockey fan base here in Columbus, but it will ultimately come down to winning. I remain hopeful that the team will start strong (even giving Wiz's suspension) because I believe there is a mid-late October window of opportunity: the Buckeye football team is going to lose more than 1 more game. If we have a winning product to dangle infront of the disillusioned OSU bandwagon fan the opportunity to bring some new fans on board will exist. I am hopeful that recent actions (like a CBJ commercial on the scoreboard at the Shoe) show that CBJ ops is hoping for just such luck. Ultimately, I'm hoping for a late October bounce, a late November bounce, and then the true tale of the tape early 2012.
Andy: It's hard to imagine ticket sales taking off much before the new year; game to game fluctuations sure, but long term franchise stabilizing gains can only be made by hanging banners. Let's not forget the last two seasons had hot starts followed by what can only be described as Nickelbackian efforts (that's Canadian for not very good). We heard over the summer that season tickets sales saw a decent bump right after the Carter and Wisniewski acquisitions; I think the real gains will be made by being in playoff contention (that is, being in the top 8 and trying to stay there, not being within striking distance) in January. In the long run, the only way to secure ticket sales is to win. I happen to think they will win this year (I'm sure you're all shocked) so in the long run I think the ticket sales will improve.
Dan: I can't say it would be immediate, but they should see an increase if they don't start the season with a thud. This is a unique set of circumstances in Columbus: the OSU football team is lackluster this year, there will be no NBA basketball to start the season, and right now both the Browns and Bengals are, well, the Browns and Bengals. If the Jackets can come out firing in the early season, and don't experience once of their December swoons, once the NFL season is over in January the people will come back.
Greg: There have been several things to get excited about this off-season even if you are just a casual Blue Jackets fan. Yes, Jeff Carter and The Wiz are marquee talents and acquiring them certainly sold some seats, but probably not as many as they lost over the last two years. The fans have been down this road before. They remember when Adam Foote was going to save the franchise. And they remember Adam Foote high-tailing it out of here first chance he could. The Jackets might see a slight bump in attendance to start the season. But it still comes down to performance. If the Jackets are playing playoff-contention hockey in January and beyond, ticket sales will take care of themselves and sellouts at Nationwide will be routine. If not, they will struggle to sell seats again. It isn't rocket science.
Martin: Immediate... maybe not. Steady... I think so. I don't think fans have necessarily abandoned hope since the CBJ dropped off after the 2009 Playoffs, but a lot of fans have moved themselves to that "on the fence" area. I would say a vast majority of people who call themselves Blue Jackets fans are on board with the arena issue, but they'll want to see good in-ice product before they start hitting the box office.
Mike: I think it will take wins to get Nationwide Arena full on a consistent basis. The core fans, as they have been for the past ten seasons, are still going to games regularly. It's the occasional fan, and his/her friends and/or family that the Jackets need to draw to the arena. The offseason additions certainly created a buzz, but at the end of the day it's a winning record to start the season that will cause a bump at the box office.
Question #2: Scott Arniel is making a point of having two systems - his preferred "high energy" style, and the more conservative, defensively oriented approach for nights with heavy travel, back to backs, etx. Which do you see being more successful with this roster?
Jeff: Sure. All good teams play differing styles, depending upon the situation, the opponent, etc. It's much easier to tell an up-tempo team to be more deliberate than the othe way around -- see Minnesota, New Jersey and the CBJ under Hitchcock. Lower tempo does not mean less skill. Detroit often plays a relatively slow, puck possession style.
Alison: Players need to be well rounded to last in the NHL, however it will require the entire team to transition, not just a couple players. The entire team needs to be in synch, regardless the style of play, to succeed.
Andy: Honestly, I was shocked that we didn't have two or more systems before. My view is that you have to fit a system both to your players and to your opponents. The Blue Jackets may be best suited to play some style but the opponent may be best defended in some other way. The role of the coach is to find the appropriate middle ground - which changes each game - and I'm not certain how well Arniel has done that to this point. I'm probably not giving Arniel enough credit here; I'm sure he has all kinds of wrinkles built in but it sounded pretty bad to me.
Dan: Well, that would be suggesting they have been effective at all doing anything the past two years. I think it's a smart move; there are going to be nights where the boys just don't have it. Tired legs, road trips, we've seen if before. If the Jackets can avoid those nights where they're always chasing, and instead just kind of pack it back in on defense and wait for opportunities, it would serve them well. A lot of whether or not it can be successful depends to me on this new-look blue line. There are certainly some more offensive-minded players, so it will be necessary for them to ratchet it down and play defense every now and again. If they can do that, I don't think there will be a problem playing the two styles.
Greg: The challenge for Arniel will be switching between these two systems "on the fly" as it were, like there is some is kind of iPhone widget on his home screen that he can toggle back and forth. While it would no doubt be very handy for him to have these two types of styles from which to choose, it might also be wishful-thinking. With what looks to be a healthy cadre of rookies on the Opening Night roster, Arniel likely will be pleased if after 20 games he finds his team playing just one of these systems effectively and consistently. And if so, he will find it very difficult to abandon it.
Martin: There's a lot of contrast there, obviously, and it will take a bit of adjustment. I think the Jackets will struggle early when trying to slow it down. Being able to thrive in both styles and stay on the same page night-to-night is a mental game, and comes down to how well the team jells in these first few weeks. We have seen a lot of good things this preseason, but seeing how well this team comes together against NHL competition will determine their success.
Mike: I think it's easy for any team to gear down and settle into a low-tempo system. A defensive game plan requires commitment from the forwards playing a bigger role in the defensive zone, and defensemen who play a no-nonsense style. Forwards like Antoine Vermette, Sammy Pahlsson, Derek Dorsett, R.J. Umberger and Derek MacKenzie are reliable defensively, and would be the go-to players up front if the team needed to settle back into a defense-first game plan. Marc Methot and Radek Martinek-the team's best shutdown blueliners-would see lots of ice time in a lower-tempo scenario.