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Early Observations

The Jackets have started the season with three straight losses.

Big deal.

The season is 82 games long. The Jackets will have plenty of chances to win games, and it’s not like they are in a huge hole in the standings. The top team in the conference is only at four points. I have taken notice of a few things after the first three games, some relating to the players, coaching, and game ops.

I present some random ramblings on the first 3.66% of the season:

Rick Nash and Jeff Carter are becoming more comfortable with eachother each game.

It’s been a real treat to watch Nash and Carter together so far. They haven’t lit up the scoring charts yet, but in each game you can see them creating more plays together. Interesting plays at that. Nash is used to carrying the puck into the offensive zone solo, turn his butt to the net, looking for a linemate. Now, you’re seeing him skate into the zone with more purpose, playing give-and-go with Carter, and actually getting the puck back for a scoring chance. Nash is also more and more entering the zone and going right to the net- waiting for a pass from his star centerman. It’s refreshing to see him not trying to do it all himself, and the more comfortable he gets with Carter the more the two can display their creativity and start racking up points.

The in-arena music at Nationwide is much better.

I know this isn’t a huge deal, but I’ve noticed that the in-arena music is far more engaging for the fans. There is far more “pump-up” music, and an obvious decrease in cheesy, pop crap. An ill-timed song after a whistle can deflate the excitement of the crowd, and it’s great to see game ops delivering solid tunes. You know what else is really cool? The arena DJ- @CBJ_DJ on twitter, is taking requests. That’s huge.

Grant Clitsome looks like a 10-year veteran.

He hasn’t even played a full NHL season yet, but Clitter (get it out of your system…) looks so steady out there. He has been the definition of poise out there, and he’s making things happen offensively. He’s always getting open for point shots (he leads Columbus defensemen in shots, with 7) and is shutting down the opposition forwards in his defensive zone. Coach Arniel is obviously seeing this as well, as Clitter leads the team in average icetime and shifts per game.

Cam Atkinson is the real deal.

I know it’s only three games, but outside of a couple of positioning gaffes, he’s looked great. He’s making the most of his limited icetime, and if the last game is any indication, he’s developing chemistry with Matt Calvert. Throw Derek MacKenzie on a line with them, and you have three hard-working, energetic players with offensive ability. I can’t think of a better change-of-pace line to compliment the Carter and Vermette trios.

The Jackets are not blessed with speed.

I watch a lot of hockey, not just the Jackets. One thing that I have noticed early on this season, is that the Jackets as a whole aren’t fleet of foot. Yesterday was a good example- the Pens/Panthers game was a showcase of speedy, end-to-end play at times. It’s amazing how many offensive chances are created just based on speed alone. A team like the Jackets that doesn’t possess a lot of speed needs to ensure that they enter the attacking zone cleanly, and they need to maintain possession of the puck.

The Jackets are taking more chances.

This is refreshing, though the turnover risk factor is higher, you are seeing the Jackets take more chances with the puck. There is an obivous attack-first mentality, and this is a direct result of the coaching staff giving the green light. You saw some of this last season, but the team didn’t necessarily have the horses to play this way.

Marc Methot has looked…meh.

Everybody and their dog was expecting Methot to take the next step this season. He finished last year on a high, even getting an invite to play for Team Canada at the Worlds. At times in the first three games he has looked over-confident. I don’t quite know how to quantify this, but he isn’t showing the hustle he was towards the end of last season. He and Russell are the only forwards in the “minus” column, and given the fact he is a shutdown defenseman, he needs to do more to prevent chances (and therefore goals) against.

Mayorov needs more PP time.

I couldn’t tell you where he would get those minutes from, but in the games he has played in he has looked dangerous with the puck. His conversion into a more complete player is still a work in progress, but at times he hasn’t been able to complete offensive plays because his linemates (checkers Sammy Pahlsson and Derek Dorsett) are’nt finishers. He has the offensive talent, and I’m sure if he was given PP time with the big boys he’d be putting up serious numbers.

Radek Martinek

Martinek looked awesome this preseason, but that hasn’t translated to the real games. I’m not sure what it is, but he hasn’t looked steady out there, turning the puck over a team-high four times.

It’s early, but these were just a few of the trends I have noticed. It’s a long season, and with the amount of roster turnover the Jackets went through there is bound to be a transition period. The game tonight against the Avs will be a good test for the Jackets, and I look forward to seeing how the team responds after a day off without travel.