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Cannon Blasts: New beginnings in Columbus as training camp begins

That and more of this week’s links

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KHL Gagarin Cup Finals, Leg 5: Avangard Omsk vs CSKA Moscow Photo by Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images

This week marks the start of the 2021 Columbus Blue Jackets training camp, with media day tomorrow, fitness tests on Wednesday, and on-ice testing on Thursday. A week from today, the Blue Jackets will head to Pittsburgh for the first of their eight preseason games. Later this week we will dive into the new faces and battles for roster spots at each position, but first let’s look at some changes from the last week:

A new commenting system

First, here at The Cannon things look a little bit different. All of SB Nation’s NHL sites got a new commenting system on Thursday. You can read more about the change here. If you are a reader but haven’t commented, now is a great time to join the conversation! It’s never been easier to share links and embeds. Mobile performance is also improved.

There are some known issues which will be addressed: reply threads will go a few levels deeper; read comments will be tracked by login (currently it only remembers which comments have been read on one device); and you may see double posts if you have comments sorted by “oldest first” (usually the duplicate posts go away if you refresh). If you run into any other bugs, or if you have constructive feedback for other features you’d like, you can email They have made a lot of positive changes to the system since it was first rolled out on NFL sites last fall, and the team is eager to continue improving the commenting experience.

New faces shine in Traverse City

Today at 1 p.m., the Blue Jackets prospects play their final game in the Traverse City prospects tournament (We previewed the roster here and have an open thread here). The baby Blue Jackets have impressed so far with a perfect 3-0 record so far. The tournament leaderboard is filled with Jackets:

Leading the way is surprise 2020 first round pick Yegor Chinakhov, with six goals on 13 shots. This includes a hat trick on Sunday night against Detroit:

Be sure to check out Specmence’s Twitter feed and YouTube channel for more highlights from the tournament.

Chinakhov has played on a line with fellow first round pick Cole Sillinger, as well as rising star Tyler Angle. All three have impressed. Sure, they’re doing this against teams of prospects, many of whom won’t reach the NHL. Still, dominating that level of competition is a great sign.

The big question after this is whether any of these players can use this momentum to earn an NHL roster spot. Chinakhov’s shot could be a very useful weapon to fix the CBJ power play. He won’t get the space in the NHL that he saw in Traverse City, but he’s also shown that the wrister can score through traffic.

Side note: Speaking of the power play, one encouraging sign is the way that Chinakhov was often set up for his goals by cross-ice passes. That’s something we’ve been screaming about for years, but have not seen consistently from the Columbus PP.

For Sillinger, it looks like he may have played his way out of juniors. In order to get top line minutes as a center, Cleveland could be the right fit for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he suits up for Columbus at some point this season as well.

A new assistant coach

Sylvain Lefebvre, we hardly knew ye. Lefebvre was hired earlier this summer to be Bard Larsen’s assistant in charge of defense and the penalty kill. Last Monday, the team announced that he would no longer be coaching the Blue Jackets due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine. NHL protocols require unvaccinated staffers to remain at least 12 feet away from players. As a result, Lefebvre literally could not do his job. It’s certainly his right to choose not to get a vaccine, but he must also live with the consequences of that decision. It’s baffling to me that he’d blow his chance to coach in the NHL over this. Given his track record as an AHL head coach, however, we may have dodged a bullet.

Per Aaron Portzline, 100% of Blue Jackets players are now vaccinated.

In his place, Cleveland Monsters associate coach Steve McCarthy has been promoted. McCarthy was once a teammate with Brad Larsen in Atlanta, and with Zack Werenski, briefly, on the 2016 Lake Erie Monsters. McCarthy has been on the Monsters’ bench for the last five seasons.

It is still yet to be announced who will take over McCarthy’s job in Cleveland. Newly hired development coach Mark Letestu has been coaching defensemen in Traverse City.

More from The Cannon

We revealed the full list and results from our Top 25 Under 25 countdown. We discussed the top of the list on The Cannon Cast, along with a preview of development camp and Traverse City.

Here are storylines to watch as we enter training camp.

In a return to the Jackets 20 series, I wrote about the great Espen Knutsen.

Play me out

I was devastated this week by the death of my favorite comedian, Norm Macdonald. Norm had been privately battling cancer for a decade. He was a unique comic voice who never backed down from doing what he wanted, audience or bosses be damned. Here are some of my favorite Norm highlights: