Figure we haven’t done one of these in….nine years? Let’s talk why not?
1) I feel pretty good actually. I’ve spent my time in my ‘being bent out of shape about everything’ phase (which if you follow our twitter –whiiiiich according to our number of followers you likely don’t – was admittedly pretty intense for a while) but for the last few weeks I’ve been in a place where I just wanted a definitive answer. It wouldn’t have been all that crushing if there was no hockey as the idea of no season felt quite normal after three months of there being no season. If there was indeed to be hockey, great, because I love NHL hockey and am glad to see that Alfie didn’t have to retire like that.
One thing that was tough to deal with for me was watching Erik Karlsson tear it up in another team’s uniform. It’s been quite some time since Ottawa had a young player who was a force and to see him using those skills on another team (THAT LITERALLY DRESS LIKE CLOWNS) was really irritating for me. Particularly after having had locked him down with a new contract in the off season. Welcome Back To Our Karlsson Years (oh boy, did you miss how awful I am).
If I were to give it an out-of-10 rating I would say I am actually at about a 7 at this point. Probably a 7.5 in two weeks time when the season starts. But like Varada pointed out, I was 10/10 excited pre-lockout and that dulled considerably. Life went on. Now the NHL’s coming back and I’m up for some hockey, why not. My performance expectations are pretty low and I think it will be fun to see how it all plays out for better or worse. I’ll likely be in the cheap seats at the home opener…alone.
2) I predict an entertaining and competitive season that falls just short of a playoff berth. I am not quite as cautiously pessimistic about every element of the team as tends to be convention in these discussions. Last season was educational like that. Sure a lot of things went right but credit where it’s due. Suffice to say, defence has people legitimately pretty worried. People talk about Gonchar like he’s the worst player on the team but will no one give him credit for putting up 37 points in 74 games last season? I get that he makes too much money but he’s been playing and playing well overseas and I think that’s promising. Cowen and Kuba will be missed but I don’t know if a Methot-Karlsson, Phillips-Gonchar top four and a Borowecki – Wiercioch / Benoit / eventually Lundin as bottom pairing will necessarily destroy the team. Methot is clearly the wild card as who is an authority on anything Blue Jackets related. What I see is a Norris winner paired with what’s supposed to be a fast shut down guy, two past their prime but still very serviceable guys and, yes, a green 3rd pairing but at least it’s the third pairing. Sub standard overall but could potentially get the job done. I could be wrong but remember, as of right now, our divisional rivals in Montreal, Toronto and Buffalo have not improved hence my prediction of competitiveness and entertainment. That said, given the sword of Damocles that is injury, the team’s competitiveness could unravel quickly. There will be little room for error in this short, half assed season and it would be foolish to think that Ottawa’s game will be free of such error. I give Ottawa an up and down, fun to watch 10th place in the East finish.
3) Breakout season: NikitaFilatov.com Just………joking. Turris is the logical answer but after putting up 29 points in 49 games with Ottawa combined with his handsome new contract to me Turris done broke out already. He will continue to be a solid top 6 contributor and put up a similar rate of numbers, I think. My true breakout prediction goes to Jakub Silfverberg. Anyone who has witnessed his post-getting used to the North American game majesty in Binghamton knows he looks like a guy playing in a league below his skill level. I don’t expect him to dominate but I think he will crack the top 6, possibly top 3 and stick for the short season. I think if Colin Greening could quietly have a 17 goal rookie season hanging on the first line I am confident that Silfverberg will be able to perform similarly. Unlike Greening though fans will actually notice how impressive that is. A silfver lining (ugh, booooo, me) of the lockout is that Jakub got to adjust his game away from the scrutiny of the Ottawa Sun comment section types and will arrive at camp in a better mindset than if he was just thrown into the pool back in October. I think essentially it’s like Silfverberg has had a 3 month training camp and will hopefully be able to capitalize on that warm up this season. I’m trying to think of what constitutes a break out season in 48 games, hmmm…I guess 9 or 10 goals.
Goat of the year in the Year of the Goat: Have we simply entered an age where Phillips is just basically permanently on the fans’ bad side? Since he signed that deal after a brutal campaign on a brutal team fans seemed to have decided to just hate the guy. Damned if you do damned if you don’t. Like Kuba before him: “Play a good game, go unnoticed, play a bad game and get torn apart.” I predict Big Rig will take on Kubinian amounts of blame this season. He’s not the same guy he used to be but, like Gonchar, in my opinion, he’s not exactly losing the team games but not winning them either. With a weaker D squad look for Philips to be run out of town when the going gets tough. That was basically the case last year and that was on a playoff team.
4) I am excited about two things and they are quite divergent. First, just could not be more excited to see Erik Karlsson play again. Norris win and point avalanche definitely a contributor but not necessarily the sole reason for excitement. With Kuba gone and if Methot indeed pairs with him we should expect a lower rate of production from EK but goddamn do I miss how fun it is to watch that kid skate like the wind and launch bombs from the point. Though I didn’t get to watch him play, his point totals indicate that he didn’t seem to miss a step in Finland and how can you not be pumped to watch the team’s best young player. The second (and admittedly very, very weird) thing I’m excited about seeing is what Guillaume Latendresse is. This guy is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an awful goatee. Case in point, I didn’t even know he spent the vast majority of last season injured (ALREADY EXCITING!!!). I have no idea what to expect. Aside from tearing it up for a while after being traded to Minnesota from the Habs this guy has always seemed to have a rep as a guy with good top 6 potential who couldn’t really put it together. From what I gather, this is his last kick at the can in terms of being re-signed in the NHL. I like the idea of him being in direct competition with Peter Regin who from what I gather is being given his last kick at the can in terms of being re-signed in the NHL. Am I expecting something huge from I already hate spelling his first name Latendresse? No, I am just very interested to see how that story line plays out. Look for him to become a goat if things don’t pan out.