We’ve had a hell of a time talking with many different people directly — and indirectly —associated with the Columbus Blue Jackets. And overall, the game of hockey, no matter the level.
I wanted to take a look back at all of our amazing guests we’ve had through the first 75 episodes of The Cannon Cast. Listening to each of these conversations, then, and now, sheds light on the unique stories and perspectives each person provides.
Elpalito asked about defensive philosophy and Alison gave a really profound answer on the overall team unit of playing defense:
Columbus is a perfect case study because of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. It’s the idea of position-less hockey and I actually asked Brad Shaw about this. It’s pushing the idea that there are five skaters on the ice who are put together as a unit. You're a five-man unit tasked with roles and responsibilities in different areas of the ice to play the way your team wants to play. You are not just a defenseman, you are not just a forward. And I think that when those of us hear, when we write about the team, this is a responsibility for us too, to really listen to what the team is telling us. Because if you listen to John Tortorella, and to the players, they are saying this isn’t just on the defenseman. This is a continuation of that 1-2-2 forecheck that just totally shutdown Tampa Bay in round one. The pressure starts in the offensive zone. Think of Josh Anderson, think of him pushing, sometimes below the goal line to keep the puck from even getting out. It’s also about the forwards coming back on the breakout more for support so that when the defenseman are exiting the zone with the pass, or with a rim, the forwards are where they need to be so that the battle for the puck happens outside the defensive zone and not inside the defensive zone.
Elaine asked Brian how he handles the social media critics when it comes to asking the tough questions:
There’s a time and a place. You just kind of have to develop that feel for when you want to put somebody on the spot. I feel like fans sometimes, they look at this, they get angry when they watch a game or something. ‘I demand to know why Torts [did this or that].’ Here’s how it’s going to go if I ask that question to Torts, the exact same of what they want me to ask, if I go out and say something dumb like that, A) he’s probably not going to answer the question at all. B) He’s just going to walk away, probably shut down the interview, and then probably MF me on the way out. What good does that do anybody, that doesn’t do anybody any good. And the thing that drives me nuts about this topic, is that I do get this, and people say why didn’t you ask this and why didn’t you ask that. To be honest, if you listen to the questions, those questions are getting asked. But they’re just not getting asked like a total jackass.
Then on a follow-up answer, he reiterated the following:
What good does that do you going forward. You gotta cover that team every single day. You’re trying to get information for the fans.
Brian on Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre being with him on Fox Sports Ohio desk for pre and post-game:
It’s been awesome. And here was another big unknown, in terms of how this was going to play out. I knew him, we had him on the show a couple of times, and I’d seen him around the rink and talked to him. But just small talk. I didn’t really know him. And so here we go, with this guy, and right from the start, it was so fun. And we didn’t really get any practice on the air together until the season started. We cut a couple preseason shows in late September and so obviously those weren’t live, those were recorded, and they were in the studio, and almost as soon as we got started, I knew just from talking to him off set, ok this is going to be great. And every day since then it’s just gotten a little bit better.
We asked Dave his thoughts on covering the Buckeyes and Blue Jackets:
I would rather see a Blue Jackets playoff victory at home, in a jam-packed Nationwide Arena, maybe because there’s still a novel aspect to it. Where the fans here are losing their minds, when that happens. Where at Ohio State, it’s kind of expected. For the Blue Jackets, it’s not expected that they win. We all want them to win, but it’s not expected that they are going to play at that level for sustained period of time. So when it happens, it’s just fantastic.
Nationwide Arena is one of the loudest buildings in the National Hockey League. I can attest to that for sure.
Greg Murray on his other job, outside of hockey:
I have a radio and television production company that I own and run with my wife. She does the books and I basically do all the talking because that’s my spiritual gift. I was wired to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. So we work with about 25 Christian radio stations around the country, a handful of main-stream radio stations, and we do a lot of radio commercials and concert tour commercials for the vast majority of the major Christian artists in the country. So this is typically a really busy time because we’re doing concert work.
JL GP talked about the goaltending for the team heading into the season:
That’s the million-dollar question right there. I strongly believe that Jarmo Kekalainen knows he’s got someone special, or he saw something in Korpisalo that he knows that he’s going to be able to step up and do the job this year. Because I believe he would have made a move for a goaltender if he didn't really believe in them. So somebody’s going to come out big or maybe it’s just going to be a 50-50 type case like the Islanders did last year. And obviously that worked out well for them. So who’s going to be named the starter? I think most likely the season is going to start and John Tortorella is going to ride whoever’s hot. If I were to give the edge to someone right now, I give it to Korpisalo just because he has the NHL experience. But you can’t overlook Elvis. From what I heard anyway.
I asked Jeff about the use of analytics in the NHL:
It’s a great question. My short answer is I’ll never be Alison [Lukan]. That is her niche I guess you could say and she’s great at it. I’m an analytics guy, I would say that if you think you can just tell the story of hockey in just goals, assists, and plus-minus, I think you’re missing something. I think there’s so much more that goes into it. But you just have to keep it all in perspective. Obviously, the goal is the most important thing in hockey because that’s what determines who wins and loses, and so you can’t lose sight of how important that is. But at the end the day, there’s so many other stats you can use to measure just how often a team has the puck. Or just how often, if a player is on the ice, or a certain group of players is on the ice, how much time they’re spending attacking the net versus defending, and I think that helps tell the story of how a guy is playing and how a team is playing.
This is our first unofficial podcast episode as I chatted with Shelley at the start of the 2018-19 season. Our conversation covered an array of topics including his thoughts on the club entering contract years for Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, fighting in the NHL, and so much more.
One of the best quotes was his answer to my question about why he chose to retire in Columbus:
First of all my wife is from here and I put down some roots right away. I fell in love with Columbus right away. I sensed the pride that Columbus had for me and I’ve always been proud of Columbus so I think that was right off the bat. My parents live in Northern Alberta which is a tough town sometimes, especially April, May, and June when here the weather is beautiful. I love all the sports in this city. I love that they have a top-ranked college team here, I don’t know if anyone in Canada really knows that we share the same city and I kind of like that. It’s such a sports city. I love that it’s got a blue-collar attitude. I’m always fascinated with people that started their own business and done well or have tried it and there’s a lot of that here. I really identify well with the people here, so for me it was great as an athlete and as a former athlete, it might be even better.
John, Executive Director of CIHC, is currently one of three finalists for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. He told us about what it would mean to him to win the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.
In 1998 I got to meet Willie. It was a truly inspiring moment when I heard that I was nominated to be one of the semi-finalists, and I was nominated by several players and some hockey people from Columbus. So just being named a finalist now is probably one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received. To win would be unimaginable. To me, I believe I really only played a small part in helping build Columbus into a really great inclusive hockey town. I’m proud to be a small part in all of it.
Mike on how hockey has grown in Columbus:
Hockey in Columbus has just exploded. I remember when my kids first started, it was kind of this niche thing that people were trying to figure it out. How do you become better, how do you progress a team. And then, I look at the growth now. When I had this conversation 10 years ago, it wasn’t that many organizations. And then when you look at, they offer travel, and then you look at what AAA has done. It’s just an absolute explosion. And you look across all facets of hockey from high school all the way in to the house programs, and to see the influence, these kids that are playing for multiple organizations. It warms my heart when I look at high school, and you look some of these kids that are doing so well in high school. They’re AAA Blue Jacket alumni. So when you think of what the AAA program has been able to do, when you think of their pipeline, the roots on their tree, that's incredible.
Patrick on the Monsters:
Monsters certainly had their issues at different points. It was a very rough, kind of, skid at the end that really bounced them out of the playoff race for good. There were some bright spots. It was a club that I felt had a little bit of everything, but not enough of any one thing. In net, I think they were pretty solid. But there was definitely some issues in terms of just having that depth. And that’s the key in this league. If you don’t have that depth, it’s really hard, night in and night out, especially with some recalls and the injuries pile up, to really make a go of it. But you look at the club, they were what, 11th on the PK, so that tends to bode well for a club being well-coached and playing hard on a nightly basis. But it’s those other things obviously, where trying to put the puck in the net on a regular basis was definitely a challenge for that club. So it was a little bit of a mixed bag I thought for Cleveland. Kind of been that case the last couple of years, obviously in 2018-19 they had a playoff year. But that whole 2015-16 cup team really cleared out a lot of talent in the Columbus system and it’s taken a few years to start to restock the farm system.
Steph on the Blue Jackets:
Do you want the real answer to that? So, let me just start by saying I was really really impressed by what Columbus did at the trade deadline. I was really impressed with the run that happened in the payoffs. I was excited to see some playoff success, any playoff success, happening in Columbus. I was really, really excited for that. With that being said, we all know what happened in the off-season. And it sucks. It sucks. Period, it sucks. So right now, in Philadelphia, Columbus is kind of looked at, as the team that we don’t expect to replicate playoff success that they just had for the next couple of years. I’m sorry.
Another thing we have in common is we both hate the Pittsburgh Penguins a lot, and I think that we’re both kind of celebrating that they’re not doing so hot this season. We hate those guys.
Sometimes these quotes and excerpts lose the effect that transpired over the actual podcasts, so go back and listen to these awesome interviews. We can’t wait for all the guests and stories the future has to come!