In order for the Columbus Blue Jackets to get back on the winning track, the team must end the drama

It started before the puck dropped on the Columbus Blue Jackets 2020-21 season. Pierre-Luc Dubois publicly asked for a trade. He then proceeded to go out and give half hearted efforts until he was eventually dealt for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. From there the drama piled up and did not relent. In order for the team to regain it’s focus, they must rid themselves of any and all distractions.

Max Domi’s healthy scratch, Mikko Koivu retires, Nick Foligno and David Savard get traded, John Tortorella decides not to return as coach and now rumors of former team President, John Davidson returning to Columbus. That is just a small sample of the drama that engulfed the Blue Jackets both during and after the season ended.

Patrik Laine, who is a scoring machine said he liked playing in Columbus, but his body language and on ice energy suggested different. Laine scored goals in his first three games as a Blue Jacket and then was benched in just his fourth game.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 04: Elvis Merzlikins #90 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during training camping held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on January 4, 2021. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Now it seems as though the Blue Jackets are sifting through which goalie they will keep and which will be traded. Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins, both have shown they can hold down the top spot between the pipes. Both want to be the starter.

The team needs to begin to look for a new head coach after John Tortorella and the team parted ways after the season. It all adds up and creates undue stress on players who should be focused on games and not internal struggles.

Oh another bit of drama, the Columbus Blue Jackets need a top six center. They currently do not have one on the roster. If general manager Jarmo Kekalainen elects to sign Patrik Laine to an extension and not trade him, then finding a center that can match his play is critical, regardless the team still needs a center.

COLUMBUS, OH – MARCH 3: General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches as his team warms up prior to the start of the game against the Colorado Avalanche on March 3, 2013 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Kekalainen have a lot of work to do this offseason starting with getting rid of drama.

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen knows what he wants in a head coach

Exit John Tortorella. The winningest coach in Columbus Blue Jackets history. During Tortorella’a six year run as Blue Jackets head coach he guided the team to a 447-227-166- .568 record and took the Blue Jackets to the playoffs four times. Tortorella was also brutally honest and had a short leash for any and all players who messed up during games. Many big named players were benched for long periods of time when they drew Tortorella’s ire. After the 2020-21 Blue Jackets season, John Tortorella and the team mutually agreed to part ways.

TORONTO, ONTARIO – AUGUST 11: Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets handles bench duties during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 11, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

What is next for the Columbus Blue Jackets and a new head coach? GM Jarmo Kekalainen gave a strong look into what he is looking for in the next bench boss. “I think it’s important the coach sets the standard, I think that’s why Torts was so good. He set the standard every day of how we work here and what we do and how we go about our business. I think that’s really important, how you go about it. There are different personalities, but I think strong values and the standard, that’s the key to the selection process that we have here.”

Kekalainen met for hours with Blue Jacket players. He said it was an honest meeting in which he asked what the players want in the next head coach. From the difficult to work with Tortorella, players would like a more player friendly coach.

That does not mean push-over! It means a coach who will coach in games and not bench for a simple mistake made.  That seems reasonable. John Tortorella showed the Blue Jackets what it takes to win. That should never be lost. In spite of a bad season the Blue Jackets still have a very good hockey team and should rebound with the right coach.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 2: Assistant Coach Brad Shaw of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches his team play against the San Jose Sharks on February 2, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Defensive coach Brad Shaw is also leaving the Blue Jackets so he is not a candidate to take over as head coach and will not receive an interview. I have a hard time believing assistant coach Brad Larsen will be named coach. Larsen oversaw the Blue Jackets power play for years. A unit that was near the bottom of the NHL on a regular basis.

Who will succeed John Tortorella? That remains a mystery only Kekalainen can answer. An answer that may not be made public until after the playoffs.

How badly did the Columbus Blue Jackets miss Gustav Nyquist? More than you think

The Columbus Blue Jackets had a bad season. The team still has plenty of talent, enough to climb back into playoff contention next season. During the disappointing 2020-21 campaign the Blue Jackets were with a player who as it turned out was more important than perhaps thought. Gustav (Gus) Nyquist.

Before the season began Gus Nyquist had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Nyquist had been dealing with the injury for the past few seasons. The reason for the surgery was a cyst had grown causing further irritation to the shoulder.

During the COVID shortened 2019-20 season in 70 games played, Gus Nyquist had 15 goals, 42 points with 27 assists. A deeper look shows that with modest numbers that do not necessarily jump off the screen, Nyquist still had tremendous value to the Blue Jackets that are not measured in statistics alone.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 22: Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Winnipeg Jets reaches to knock the puck away from Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period of a game on January 22, 2020 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Gustav Nyquist is very good at puck battles. He is relentless in pursuit of the puck. Nyquist has a habit of fighting hard for the puck and usually comes away with it. Nyquist also may be the best passer on the Blue Jackets roster. If not the best he is one of them.

This past season, the Columbus Blue Jackets missed Nyquist in those two areas. Puck battles and better passes which lead to better shots. Those are areas the Blue Jackets needed rather badly this past season.

Gus Nyquist was never going to play this season due to recovery time from surgery. Even though he started to skate with the team in March. Next season, one the should see a better one ice product from the Blue Jackets they will have Nyquist back. That will help quite a bit.

September 16 2015: Jarmo Kekalainen General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets talking to media during Media Day held by the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen  is going to be busy this offseason. He has player such as Seth Jones and Zach Werenski who need new contracts. Kekalainen also needs to find a top center and either sign one as a free agent or trade for one.

If there is one GM up to the task it is Jarmo Kekalainen.

 

The Detroit Lions have the third most difficult strength of schedule

Even rebuilding teams need to win some games. They need to win for the fans. They need to win in order to build a winning culture. They need to win to show young players the right way to go about their job. For the Detroit Lions, the 2021 NFL schedule is brutal. It is brutal because while the team is rebuilding and has a lot of young players on the roster they have been handed a wickedly tough schedule.

10 of the 14 teams the Detroit Lions face in the upcoming season have made the playoffs at least once in the past two seasons. In fact three of the teams Packers, Raven, Seahawks have made the playoffs both seasons.

The last part of the schedule lightens up a bit as the Lions face three of four non-playoff teams. The Lions face the Chicago Bears yet again ( 3 of the past 4 seasons) on the teams annual Thanksgiving Day game.

As of this moment, with a pretty young roster and still many holes to fill it is difficult to see more than five wins. Even getting to five wins the Detroit Lions are going to have to get some breaks.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 29: Detroit Lions helmet is seen on the field before the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on December 29, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

That could be good if you are a “tank” thinking person. The reality is that the Lions will not have to tank. They simply are not ready to compete for anything other than a high draft pick. Again with holes aplenty in the roster high draft picks are a good asset to have.

Remember the extra first round draft pick the Lions received when they traded quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. While the Rams are most certainly a playoff team and that draft pick is likely to be in the lower half of the draft that is just fine. There is still talent to be had.

Lions general manager could also trade the second first round draft pick and move up as well. Regardless, It will be a long season win wise for the Detroit Lions in 2021. It will be a season to watch the young players develop.

How good is Detroit Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider? Here is a hint, he is fantastic

No, it did not happen during the 2021 NHL season. Moritz Seider, one of the Detroit Red Wings top prospects did not get a call up. That is just fine. No really. Seider continued his development this past season in Sweden, where in 41 games played the young defensemen amassed 7 goals and 21 points yet it was Seider’s growth in the defensive end that really stood out.

Germany’s defender Moritz Seider (L) scores past France’s goalkeeper Florian Hardy during the IIHF Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships Group A match between Germany and France on May 14, 2019 in Kosice, Slovakia. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Moritz Seider is a top line defensive player. Drafted in the sixth overall spot in the first round in 2019, caught many around the NHL off guard. The pick came from Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, who he and the Red Wings scouting department felt confident in Seider.

Before the season many people (myself included) felt this would be the season Moritz Seider would “get his feet wet” with an in season call-up. Yzerman and the Red Wings front office felt another season of development was the right steps to take.

Playing in Sweden, Seider showed his development days are nearly done. Both offensively and defensively. Seider showed considerable growth. His passes were spot on. He was a physical presence at both ends of the ice, although it showed a bit more in the defensive end.

For the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings they can do nothing but benefit from Moritz Seider. He looks like he can even improve a bit more which is downright scary.

Yet, for a young player who is being counted on heavily for the Red Wings organization Seider’s play has been spot on. If he feels pressure, he sure does not let it show. That is a good sign of character. Something Yzerman looks for when scouting and drafting players.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: Moritz Seider, sixth overall pick of the Detroit Red Wings, poses for a portrait during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

I said this last year and say it again. I do think next season, Moritz Seider will at the very least get an in-season call-up. The way his game has grown, he may not be sent back to the minor leagues.

Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has a looming decision on head coach Jeff Blashill

The Detroit Red Wings have finished another losing season. Rebuilds can be brutal. While development of young players is critical, at some point losses must turn into wins. Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill who has been the ire of the Red Wings fans everywhere for sometime now takes center stage for his job security. A short time ago, Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said he would address that quickly.

DETROIT, MI – FEBRUARY 18: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the action from the bench against the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on February 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Canadiens 4-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

There has been some improvement from the Detroit Red Wings play. I pointed this out not long ago. The questions that only Steve Yzerman is faced with are:

  1. Was there enough improvement show to merit bringing Jeff Blashill back for another season or more?
  2. Is Blashill a coach who can get the Red Wings to the next level?

While no one is sure which direction Yzerman is leaning and will go, all eyes are on this situation. If Blashill is relieved of his coaching duties who are some options Steve Yzerman could turn to?

I would have to imagine Yzerman would at the very least would put in a call to his former teammate Gerard Gallant. Gallant has maintained a win percentage of .523 or better and has one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Perhaps, Yzerman could call former Michigan State Spartan hockey player and current head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes Rod Brind’Amour who’s team has this seasons best record and Brind’Amour is 111-63-15  since being named Hurricanes head coach.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 06: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the play from the bench during an NHL, home opening night game against the Dallas Stars at Little Caesars Arena on October 6, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

There are other quality coaches that are out there. Again until Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings announce a press conference it is all just a guess. When the time comes for whatever is going to happen with the head coach it will kick off a very busy offseason for Yzerman ands the Red Wings.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Detroit Tigers prospect Dillon Dingler is off to a solid start

When it comes to Detroit Tigers prospect watching all eyes are on the top dog, Spencer Torkelson. But, at the start of the 2021 minor league season it is 2020’s second round draft pick and #5 ranked prospect Dillon Dingler who has put on a show. Giving the Tigers a promising prospect at the catcher position. In my opinion Dingler is a player who could shoot through the Tigers minor league system.

Scoring the first run of the season for the West Michigan Whitecaps stemming from his first professional home run while picking a runner off at second base, Detroit Tigers catching prospect Dillion Dingler made a rather big first impression.

DETROIT, MI – JULY 04: Dillon Dingler #79 of the Detroit Tigers looks on while waiting to bat during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Dingler was drafted out of Ohio State and now plays in Michigan, teammates and fans let him know. In a fun loving way. Playing both centerfield and catcher for the Buckeyes showcased Dingler’s  athleticism. Now he is catching full-time.

Dillion Dingler would go onto hit another home run and collect a total of 5 hits. Widely viewed as a first round draft pick, Dingler fell to the first pick in the second round where the Detroit Tigers selected him. Catching and catching prospects has been a thorn in the side of the Tigers organization for a while.

With no minor league season last season Dingler was placed at the Tigers Summer Camp with big league players. The Tigers next moved the young catcher to the alternate training site in Toledo, and allowed him to start catching advanced pitchers all summer.

DETROIT, MI – JULY 18: Dillon Dingler #79 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

While it is only a small sample size, it appears the Detroit Tigers may finally have their catcher of the future. In fact MLB scouts were drooling over Dingler’s potential pre-draft.

With plus defense and plus bat, along with plus power, Dillon Dingler  should not have made it out of the first round. The Detroit Tigers are both happy and fortunate he did. Soon Tiger fans will also be happy he did.

Mother’s Day 2021

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

Well another Mother’s Day is upon us, and with it comes hopefully the nearing end of the global pandemic. While I have been able to enjoy some time with my parents it is not the same. The long visits of days gone by are now shortened visits.

But now our family have been vaccinated and with it comes the hope for the return of long visits. Growing up my mom would always be instructing me and giving me advise and helping my dad mold me into the person I am today. For that I am grateful, at the time I was not grateful at times. But that is alright. Not every lesson and piece of advice is pleasant. But it is needed, I see that now.

An Autumn Buncn. After an original work by Francis Edward James (1849-1920). From The Studio Volume 37 [London Offices of the Studio, London, 1906] (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
The Bible tells us we need to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12.

A few years ago I was at a dead stop and rear-ended by a big pickup truck hauling a woodchipper. My car was annihilated, and I was left with severe whiplash and other complications. Pain has set in everyday since the accident.

But, part of my recovery has been the lessons I learned from my mom during the formidable years growing up. To enjoy the good days, fight through the bad ones. One lesson has stuck out like a sore thumb through the days, months, years, decades since, if you think you have it bad, someone else has it worse. Other people have greatly helped me as well, for that I am grateful beyond all measures.

This has nothing to do with being macho. It has everything to do to keep pushing through. I have tried to do that. Some days are easier than others. But that is alright. To tend to the things that really matter, my faith, family and friends.

I keep going because Jesus carried the cross. I keep going because I have a mom who gave me the instructions and advise needed for a time such as this.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Defensive back Jeff Okudah has some telling words about former Detroit Lions coaches

To say Jeff Okudah struggled during his rookie season is to say the sun is bright. Okudah struggled with injuries and when healthy he struggled to cover the wide receiver across from him. Yet, Jeff Okudah came out of Ohio State as a top 5 talent, who was widely viewed by NFL and football experts as the top cornerback in last years NFL Draft. Day’s ago during an interview Okudah shed some light on why he struggled so mightily.

Jeff Okudah is good at saying what he means even if it means talking in code. I do not believe Okudah was taking a pot-shot at form Detroit Lions coaches, as much as he was explaining why he struggled despite being top 5 talent.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – SEPTEMBER 27: Cornerback Jeff Okudah #30 of the Detroit Lions in the NFL game Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Lions defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jeff Okudah was recently asked about the new Lions coaching staff specifically new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.

“Within the first couple of meetings, I was just picking up so much things that I thought to myself, ‘It just would have been nice to have these tools in my toolbox in my rookie year, Looking at the film and breaking down how the offense is trying to attack. That’s what I try to do every single day going into the game plan. So just having the tools that (Aubrey Pleasant) has put in my toolbox, it’s like I’m seeing film from a whole new perspective, I’m seeing the game completely different. That’s one thing that has me really excited going into my second year.”

On the surface it is a harmless quote. A deeper look is a rather damning blow to former Lions head coach Matt Patricia and his coaching staff. Okudah in essence pointed out that film study was never part of Lions game day preparation.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 14, 2014: Assistant defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a game winning field goal by kicker Billy Cundiff #8 after a game against the New Orleans Saints on September 14, 2014 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 26-24. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Many NFL experts have singled out Jeff Okudah as a player that will have a bounce-back season. Highly regarded Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn also has faith in Okudah who will be entering his second NFL season.

This is not a finger point at former Detroit Lions coaches! This is just a look at part of what went so wrong during that era of Lions football and how there could be hope with the new Lions coaching staff.

Head coach Jeff Blashill believes the Detroit Red Wings are a better hockey team this season

Last season the Detroit Red Wings had 17 wins and 39 points in the COVID shortened 71 game NHL season. This season the Red Wings are 18 wins and 49 points in another COVID shortened NHL season. With only a one win difference in the two seasons, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill insists his hockey team is better.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the action from the bench against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on October 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Anaheim defeated Detroit 3-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jeff Blashill who’s contract is up when the Detroit Red Wings season concludes Saturday, sees positive steps taken by the Red Wings this season. If you disregard one more win, Blashill’s statement may have some validity. No really.

Jeff Blashill has often been a target of Red Wings fans for a couple years now. But, as the developmental coach for the rebuilding Detroit hockey team, Blashill has seen his team have ups and downs. So is he correct? Are the Red Wings better?

For starters the games the Red Wings have won have come by and large with young players in the lineup. That in and of itself is indeed improved progress . It also lends to hope to the future.

Also, the Red Wings have improved defensively. No really. Last season the Detroit defense was 31st or dead last in the NHL, in a season the unit gave up an inexcusable  3.73 goals per game. This season the defense is ranked 20th allowing 2.98 goals per game.

What has not improved much is the Detroit offense. Last season the Red Wings offense was dead last averaging just 2.00 goals per game. This season the Red Wings offense is you guessed it, dead last at a very slightly better average 2.15 goals per game.

The offense needs to be a focal point for Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman this offseason. While the Red Wings wait for top offensive prospects like Lucas Raymond to develop.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – SEPTEMBER 12: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season at Center Ice Arena on September 12, 2019 in Traverse City, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

In conclusion, Jeff Blashill is correct, the Red Wings are better this season. There is still a lot of work to be done. But in a long rebuild at least the defense has improved. Not to mention the Detroit Red Wings are not in last place for the first time in a couple seasons. That honor goes to the Columbus Blue Jackets.