Hey there, everybody. I’m Adam Burke, your new Columbus Blue Jackets, and Buffalo Sabres, writer. Odd combination, eh? Well, for some quick background on myself, yes, there will be a test at the end of this piece, I’m a Cleveland, OH native so my allegiance lies with the home-state team. I became a Sabres fan when my local cable provider was Adelphia and I got to hear the sweet sounds of Rick Jeanneret on Empire Sports Network. Since then, I’ve still kept up with the Sabres, even though the Rigas debacle changed my cable and I no longer got the network. In any event, I’m still a fan of the sport as a whole more than any individual team, though these are the two I pay the most attention to. That’s what I love most about the game. I can watch two teams I don’t care about and still enjoy it. The only time it’s like that in any other sport is if I bet on someone.
So, now that the small bio is out of the way, let’s get to the news at hand. The Jackets blazed out to a 5-1 start to the season, before tarnishing that by losing five of six at the end of the month. November went better, with points in 10 of 14, despite a 1-3-1 road trip at month’s end.
In the past, many have rolled their eyes, and sometimes criticized, Rostislav Klesla. My own personal nickname for him is “China Doll”. No one was rolling their eyes last night as 97 writhed around in gut-wrenching pain after sustaining a torn groin from a Barret Jackman hit. Just reading that makes men cringe. Klesla will be out 4-6 weeks according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.
What does life without Klesla mean for Columbus? It means a lot right now. The team’s defensive zone coverage has come under heavy scrutiny all season long from Coach Ken Hitchcock, the media, and fans. It gets worse with the loss of Klesla. Keep in mind that with Klesla, the Jackets lost just two of their final 11 games last season in regulation with 97 in the lineup. Anyone who watches the games will easily see the difference with Rusty in the game.
Now, the Jackets are forced to give more minutes to Kris Russell (fantasy tidbit, pick up Russell in deep leagues) and the often-fatigued Mike Commodore. Mathieu Roy has been recalled from Syracuse, and though he played well at the start of the year when injuries ravaged the blue line, Klesla he is not. Hejda will pair up with Commodore, with probably Russell and Tyutin and finally Methot/Roy and Stralman. Hitchcock has tinkered with the lines all year long, so any combination of the bottom four is possible.
Naturally, life without Klesla begins against the best team in hockey tonight at the United Center in Chicago. (betting tip, Blackhawks -1.5) It will be interesting to see who gets vaulted to top pair minutes with Hejda if Commodore’s fatigue problems come back in to form. Anton Stralman has been a solid contributor to the powerplay, but is fairly weak at even strength. Methot and Russell are not ready for the prime time yet. The Jackets options from below are thin, and the trade market really has not formed yet. GM Scott Howson will likely be reluctant to trade picks from now until the trade deadline, so the Jackets will likely go with what they have in-house.
I would just like to end my first column sending out thanks to Ryan Campbell and Matt Bennett for hooking me up with this writing gig and giving my unemployed, recent college grad backside something to do in between perusing Monster, Craigslist, CareerBoard, and whatever the heck else is out there.