Blue Jacket First Quarter Findings

By Bill Drake
The first quarter season of Blue Jacket hockey has seen some surprises. Robert Kron finally has scored after an 0-23 game slump. Geoff Sanderson is finally rediscovering his Hartford Whaler scoring touch. Lyle Odelein has been a steadying force and is everything that management expected as the team’s first captain.

Alex Selivanov, Phil Esposito’s streaky-scoring son-in-law, agreed to a contract with Columbus. He has yet to register a point in two games, but will not hit his stride until after the All-Star break.

David Vyborny has played spirited hockey thus far. He has cooled off since the opening ten games, but he 5-5-10 in 24 games and is a +2; only he and Kevyn Adams are +2.

Espen Knutsen, all 5-11 172lbs of him, works well in the corners and creates solid scoring chances for his line mates like Sanderson. This play is something that Anahiem never motivated Knutsen to do.

Petteri Nummelin has played well on the Power Play eventhough he rarely shoots the puck, only 39 shots in 24 games. He lacks a true sniper to set up, although Selivanov could be that man. At even strength he often is pushed around, that is what Fran Kucera is for, but makes good outlet passes and possess good speed.

Marc Denis, current backup goaltender, is a mirror image of the Blue Jackets: streaks of brillance followed by allowing soft goals. Positionally, he is very sound but his glove hand often is a little slow in trapping the puck. Twice against Dallas he allowed goals that hit off the bottom of his glove hand.

In the Minors:

Greg Gardner has been sent to the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL. In 6 games in Syracuse he went 0-4-0 with a 5.92 GAA. More seasoning is required but, assuming that he rebounds, Gardner should still be a solid backup goaltender in three years.

Chris Nielsen, the first Blue Jacket aquired via trade, is having trouble in Syracuse with only one goal and an assist in 16 games. Defensively he is very sound but needs to adjust to the speed of the game before gaining his scoring touch.

Brad Moran has been playing better than Nielsen, 2-4-6 in 17 games, but isn’t scoring at the record pace like in the WHL. Moran’s size has not been a problem in the AHL and he looks like a solid second or third line player in the future.

Martin Spanhel has more PIM this year, 35 then expected and few too many goals to warrant a call-up. Spanhel has had trouble adjusting to the smaller rinks and lack of skill along side him.

Mathieu Darche has proved me wrong. In the beginning of the year I claimed he would be nothing more than a goon at the AHL level. People wrote in saying how way off base I was; I stuck to my guns, but now I must admit I was wrong. As of yesterday Darche is 5-10-15 in 20 games with only 6 PIM. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Darche called up at the end of the season, provided he keeps up his scoring pace.