With Game 2 coming tonight, the Wings are in Columbus for a game against the Blue Jackets, a team they're looking up at in the standings. Columbus earned a shootout victory over Nashville on opening night, getting a goal from one of the pieces they got in the Nash Trade and a good performance out of a piece they got in a trade with the Flyers for a goaltender.
In preparation, we're reaching out to our SB Nation brethren covering the Jackets, The Cannon. You can catch their gameday coverage here. Again, remember that participation in their community is governed by their community guidelines. They're pretty cool over there, so there's no reason to anticipate trouble, just be cool and they will.
We also reached out to The Cannon with three questions about the Jackets this season. Dan Parker was kind enough to help:
1. What are expectations for the Jackets like this season? They're still a team in rebuilding, but management is saying they're "going north." How many steps on that trek need to be made this season for it to be a relative success?
It depends on who you ask. For a large section of the fan base (some might say, "the rational part"), there's a belief that there's no way anything can be as bad as last season. What we're looking for is a reshaping of the team's identity. Gone is Rick Nash's offense, but also gone is his leadership which at many times was looked at as suspect. Vinny Prospal was here all of a month last year before publicly questioning how hard this team practiced. With the guys brought in via Nash's trade, as well as guys like Nick Foligno, Jack Johnson, and Adrian Aucoin, the team is trying to forge a new identity. On top of that, hiring John Davidson away from St. Louis is the banner of that new identity: he's only made one promise to the fanbase, and that was that this team would be hard to play against, would work for 60 minutes every night, and would--win or lose--be an engaging team to watch because of that effort. We saw it on Saturday night in Nashville, where an under-skilled team whose franchise had lost 19-of-20 in Nashville went in and twice came back from a one-goal deficit and won in a shoot-out. There's hope that a new day is dawning. Honestly, I think most fans would accept a bad win-loss record if at least that change is evident. Overall, I'd say they're probably another two years away from being legitimately competitive.
2. Rick Nash isn't around anymore to torture the Wings, but Columbus got back some pieces which should help. Tell us a little about how sweet you guys are on Artem Anisimov right now after scoring in the season opener and looking pretty good.
Personally, I would marry and make sweet, sweet love to Anisimov's backhander shots from the other night. He beat one of the best goalies in the world high-glove TWICE with those slick backhanders, and he won 57% of his draws. His goal in the second period was especially nice because he flashed not only skill, but speed and size to get open and fend off a defender while settling the puck and getting the shot off. Safe to say he definitely showed a flash of why the Jackets were so high on him in the trade. Brandon Dubinsky didn't score, but coach Todd Richards cited him in the post game comments as "reliable" with the puck. If the Jackets are going to be that team that's tough to play against, they're going to need nights like that from Dubinsky and Anisimov. Nick Foligno (came from Ottawa for Marc Methot) made his presence felt as well, with one goal on a PP re-direct, and another near miss on the man advantage.
3. Between James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson, who do you think has a better season and why?
For me, I believe it will be Johnson simply based on his career longevity. He's been a guy who hasn't missed a ton of time in his career, and Wiz battled his share of injuries over the past two seasons. Either way, the two of them together have the capability to light up the score sheet while also causing plenty of white-knuckle panic on the other end of the ice. They weren't kidding when they self-nicknamed their pairing "Controlled Chaos".