Three Takes is a column that explores the world of the Columbus Blue Jackets and offers strong insights into the team and what to watch for. Have a strong take to share? Feel free to leave your comments below or tweet me anytime @THWMark.
Take One: Columbus Blue Jackets – Treat (Buy Low)
It wasn’t the talent that left the room. It was the confidence that did.
“Could there have been a deeper issue in play besides the confidence?”, I asked captain Nick Foligno in trying to assess the state of the Columbus Blue Jackets locker room.
“Maybe we thought we were the team that everyone was talking about before that was really the case.”, Foligno replied. What team is he referring to? He’s referring to the team that many had as dark horse Stanley Cup contenders. “Sometimes you have to go through that (losing) and understand that there’s still a long ways to go.”
Yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets were overconfident. Many experts had them doing well for good reason. But you still have to play the game. You have to win the games. For the first eight games, they did none of that.
Instead, they had one of the worst starts in NHL history. Nothing worked. Every shred of confidence the team had faded into a distant memory.
Enter John Tortorella. I asked Foligno what is the biggest difference he is noticing with Tortorella now on the bench.
“What’s he’s really good about is empowering us.”, Foligno told me.
That’s exactly what the Blue Jackets missed during the 0-8-0 start. They needed someone who could empower them to gain their confidence back. One look at the Todd Richards’ led team after losing their eighth game showed us that a change was needed. Tortorella could get what Richards couldn’t get from this group. That is more.
For these reasons, this is why the Blue Jackets are a buy low. They’re 2-8-0, but you’d think they’d be 8-2-0 given the attitude in the locker room. It was a festive and fun atmosphere for a team who just last week had no answers.
The team is still a work in progress. Tortorella is still getting used to the players. He’s trying to find out what works for them. He’s mixing and matching lines. He’s benching players not performing. But the talent is still there.
This team is good enough to win 15 of 16, as demonstrated last season. If they get it all figured out, they’re still a dangerous team. This is about the lowest point you can buy them. The arrows are pointing upwards from here.
Take Two – Islanders & Canucks Are Tricks (Sell High)
I had serious questions about both teams coming into the season. Both are off to decent starts. I just don’t see how this will last for each team.
For the Islanders, they are winning games, against good competition. But at least at the start, they have been games in which they have low shot totals. They were limited to just 19 shots in their last home game against Carolina, an overtime loss.
Outside John Tavares, who on this team gives you fear? They have good players, but nobody that’s gonna scare you at night. When the team struggles, it’s because their offense went dry. If they are going to attempt a deep playoff run, they must consistently show us that they’ll get contributions from throughout their lineup. I buy them as a playoff team. I don’t buy them as a Cup contender.
Same goes with Vancouver. They have a mix of veterans and really young talent. Can they sustain this over the course of a season? Ryan Miller will win games and can steal a few. But until Vancouver can consistently score goals (in games other than the Montreal game), I’m selling them.
Take Three: Penguins & Senators Are Treats (Buy Low)
What in the world has happened to the Penguins offense? A team with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and others can light a scoreboard at any moment.
The problem is they haven’t with consistency yet.
Given the immense talent they carry, that consistency will show up sooner than later. Their defense is brutal, but the reason they are a buy low is because of Marc-Andre Fleury. He is playing some of the best hockey of his career. He can help ease some of the pressure on the backend. He’s had to do that already.
The good news is, it’s not a fluke. Fleury is playing at a level that I don’t recall seeing him play at. He’s in place to make tough saves. He covers up what the defense has let through, which is a lot.
Could the Penguin’s season go down in a hurry? Yes. But if Fleury plays like this all season, the offense will eventually wake up. They’ll finish with among the most goals in the NHL. The arrow (for now) is pointing up for Pittsburgh.
Ottawa is a good team. Although young, they have a nice balance of veterans to complement them. They’re generating a lot of scoring chances. They’ve been a little unlucky at the beginning of the season. That should even itself out moving forward. Their scoring should increase if the shots stay where they’re at.
Your turn now. Who are the tricks and treats of the NHL? Feel free to leave your comments below. Happy Halloween!