MIXOLOGY: Hatched and Hungry
NOTE: This is the weekly column of BlueJackets.com writer Rob Mixer. Follow Rob on Twitter by clicking here, and be sure to check out his regular updates on the CBJ Today blog.
Thankfully, I stopped doing the "Gangnam Style" dance at my desk long enough to write this column.
And I hope you now have that horrifying mental image wiped out. My apologies.
In just a few days, the Springfield Falcons are beginning a new chapter.
There is a lot to look forward to. Brad Larsen heads up a young, energized coaching staff that shares a lot of the same beliefs and philosophies as Todd Richards' staff in Columbus. The Falcons coaches have all played in the American Hockey League, and are fully aware of what their players are going to experience on and off the ice.
Blue Jackets fans will be paying close attention to this intriguing group of players, in large part due to the number of familiar names that occupy the roster: Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, John Moore, Matt Calvert, David Savard, and a host of others are going to be key contributors to any success the Falcons enjoy.
This is a pretty deep club, too. Chris MacFarland and the management in Springfield are faced with some difficult decisions as the start of the season looms this weekend. Which defensemen will they have to send off in the next round of roster cuts, and which goaltender is going to step up and take control of the reins in net?
With regard to the second question, it appears as if veteran netminder Curtis McElhinney is going to the No. 1 guy. He got the win in the Falcons' second preseason victory and has looked sharp during training camp. The Blue Jackets signed him in the summer to be the anchor for the AHL club and a swing guy in case the NHL team needs some help -- and he's in position to play a lot of minutes for Springfield.
All that being said, I've compiled a short list of things I will be attentive to in Springfield:
1. The top line: Larsen seems to like the way Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Johansen have paired together, and what's not to like? JAM potted five goals in a two-game span over the weekend and is the club's biggest offensive threat, far and away. Johansen set up him multiple times with some great passes and, being the big center he is, attracts attention from the opposition and opens lanes for JAM.
The next step in the process is getting Atkinson on the right side of that line, which will be electric. Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch reported that we're expected to see some #Camsanity in the lineup this weekend, and BlueJackets.com will be at the MassMutual Center bringing you all the coverage.
2. How the Falcons start the season: MacFarland and Larsen have both spoken along the same lines when it comes to Springfield's early-season schedule -- there are no excuses for a slow start, especially with nine of the first 11 games being played on home ice. They have get off to a quick start and set the pace within their division, as they're one of many skilled clubs in the AHL this season.
3. Can "JAM" take the next step? I think he can, but we all know preseason results aren't always indicative of what will transpire in the regular season. He's been a scorer at every stop, and will be given every opportunity to score goals and make plays for Springfield. Power play, 4-on-4, top line at even strength, you name it - JAM has already been all over the ice looking to create offensve, and I don't think that is going to change anytime soon.
As a reminder, BlueJackets.com is traveling to Springfield this weekend and we will be on-site for opening weekend at The Nest. Keep it locked to the CBJ Today blog, JacketsTV and BlueJackets.com for all the coverage of an exciting time at MassMutual Center.