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Cannon Blasts: Training camp begins with a familiar drama

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That and more of this week’s links

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Play me out

Wait, isn’t this always at the end?

Yes, but what should be a beginning this week (a new season) feels more like the beginning of the end (of Pierre-Luc Dubois’ time in Columbus. More on that below). As a result, this song popped into my head this weekend. The lyrics seem to apply to this franchise:

I just don’t want to be back in this place again,
I mean, I done cried a little
Tried a little
Failed a little

I don’t wanna do it again
Do you feel me?

I mean, I’ve already been!
I came and went
I washed my hands with it
I don’t wanna do it again

History repeats and we defeat ourselves come on everybody one more time again
History repeats and we defeat ourselves come on everybody one more time again

The week that was

Breaking news on the morning of New Year’s Eve that Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out of Columbus was followed just hours later by the news that Dubois had finally signed his new contract, just days before players reported to training camp. Any joy or relief was short-lived, however, as it was reported by Aaron Portzline, Pierre LeBrun, and others that Dubois still preferred to play elsewhere. From Porty:

As a restricted free agent, Dubois was allowed to speak with other NHL franchises since free agency began on Oct. 9. Dubois did not sign an offer sheet, but the Blue Jackets were extremely wary of one, which is why they traded defensemen Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara at liquidation prices on the eve of free agency.

It was in these discussions with other clubs, apparently, that Dubois’ desire to leave Columbus was made clear.

The Blue Jackets, of course, can only hope Dubois will have a change of heart now that the difficulty of the contract negotiation is behind him.

If it’s true that Dubois and other teams were discussing an offer sheet, then it appears to validate Jarmo’s strategy of freeing up cap space to be able to match any sheet. Teams would be wary of signing that offer sheet if they knew there was no chance they’d get their player. That being said, if no team was willing to take it that far this off-season, how much would those teams be willing to pay now to acquire him via a trade? We know from the 2018-19 season that Jarmo won’t trade a player just because he wants out. The return has to be right. Dubois will only be traded for another impact player — like Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones, Brandon Saad for Artemi Panarin, or Josh Anderson for Max Domi.

That list of names reminds us that this sort of drama during training camp has become all too common in the Jarmo Kekalainen era.

2014: Ryan Johansen — an RFA coming off his ELC — misses all of training camp and pre-season before signing his new contract.
2017: Josh Anderson — an RFA coming off his ELC — misses all of training camp and pre-season before signing his new contract.
2018: Sergei Bobrovsky arrives at camp as news leaks that he is unwilling to negotiate an extension to his expiring contract. This comes just two months after similar news broke about Artemi Panarin.

Johansen was traded in the second year of his three year contract. Anderson’s RFA rights were traded when his contract expired. Bobrovsky and Panarin were each retained for a successful playoff push in 2019, then signed elsewhere that summer as UFAs.

Why does this keep happening? Does blame fall on Jarmo Kekalainen and the front office, John Tortorella and the coaching staff, or the Columbus market itself?

Jarmo: The GM has a reputation for being stingy with players coming off their entry level contracts. This is when NHL teams have the most leverage, and he makes the most of that. On one hand you want to see the best players be paid fairly. On the other hand, young stars on team-friendly ELCs and RFA contracts are a invaluable assets in a hard cap league.

I don’t see why PLD would have an issue with how these negotiations went. Both he and the team wanted to get it done before camp, and they achieved that. He got a healthy raise, and is set up for an even bigger one in two years (at which point league revenue should be way up). The team was willing to make an eight year deal, but PLD turned that down. From Portzline again:

Kekäläinen insists that negotiations with Brisson on Dubois’ new deal were always professional and amicable and that nothing about the process was likely to anger Dubois. Brisson concurred, saying “I don’t have anything negative to say about the negotiations,” and “the (Blue Jackets) are very professional.”

Torts: There have been rumors going back to the summer that PLD was upset with the defensive focus of the Torts system, and that it was holding him back offensively. Some fans speculated that this was a factor in Panarin leaving as well. It is true that the scheme last season focused on defense at the expense of offense. But Torts has been consistent this off-season in emphasizing that more goal-scoring was needed and the PLD and Domi lines would have more freedom to be aggressive on offense.

People also assume that PLD bristles at Torts’ confrontational style. In Game 2 of the Toronto series, Torts was seen yelling at PLD on the bench. But PLD says that he likes playing for a coach that pushes him. In the next game after that episode, PLD scored a hat trick. I think it’s fair to give Torts credit for making PLD a two-way player.

Columbus: There’s no proof that PLD dislikes the city, but it’s possible there’s another team he would prefer to play with during his prime. Perhaps Montreal? If this is the biggest factor, it’s the hardest for us to take, as fans. If Jarmo or Torts are the problem, they can be replaced (and to be clear, if they are the reason, then it is time to move on). But if it’s the city, there’s no changing that. It’s no secret that Columbus is not a hockey destination. We couldn’t match the music scene of Nashville for Matt Duchene, or the bright lights of New York City and the ample garages of Greenwich, Connecticut for Panarin.

Here is PLD’s session with the media from yesterday, so you can hear from him yourself. Can anyone here translate what the question and answer in French say?

He says all the right things, but he has the familiar look of a player who is not happy to be here. Hopefully he can continue to play well as long as he is a Blue Jacket. It’s worth noting that Johansen, Anderson, and Panarin all put up improved numbers after their off-season conflicts.

As for the other 40 players at camp, Jeff Svoboda at BlueJackets.com provides the full list, with information you need to know about each one.

Elaine provided more details about this season’s schedule.

The Cannon Cast discussed the schedule, COVID protocols, signing Michael Del Zotto to a PTO, and New Year’s Resolutions.

Taylor Baird over at Dallas site Defending Big D has organized a division-wide preview series, with one site each day writing about what you need to know about their team. I’ll pin these articles to the front page so be sure to check back each day. Winging It In Motown went first with their Detroit Red Wings preview.

Do you want to pick a NWHL team to follow when their bubble starts on January 23? Well, The Ice Garden has you covered.

Ice-skating puppy? Ice-skating puppy. LOOKIT HOW HAPPY HE HAS TO CARRY THE BAG

Ohio Sports Update

Pretty good weekend for football in Ohio. First, the 11th best team in the country blew out Clemson thanks to six touchdowns from Justin Fields. The Buckeyes face Alabama for the national championship a week from today.

Then, the Cleveland Browns defeated the short-handed Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season. The first round matchup on Sunday night is a rematch with the Steelers in Pittsburgh. As a 36 year old Browns fan, I’ve literally been waiting half my life for this. I just wanted an 8-8 season, so finishing 11-5 and making the playoffs is already a win. I don’t need (or expect) a win but I’m going to enjoy the game regardless and hope it’s the start of continued success next season.