Review: “Before the Battle” a behind the scenes look at the #CBJ off-season

Late Monday afternoon, the official CBJ twitter account revealed details & a trailer of a “behind the scenes” look into the 2012 CBJ offseason, starting with the NHL draft in June and ending with the Rick Nash trade. The trailer featured clips of closed door CBJ scout meetings and even hints of some Scott Howson footage during the ongoing Rick Nash trade saga. The hype around the show built faster than a Wisniewski slapshot. After two days of waiting, the show aired around 11pm last night. Did it live up to the hype? Yes and no.

Watch the trailer:

For an organization that has a reputation for being very guarded with information, this was a huge step forward. During a time when some fans and media are accusing the Blue Jackets of complacency, this was a message that the team was willing to open their doors to show you what they’ve been working on since the season ended. If you’ve been paying attention it’s impossible to miss the fact that the team is working very hard to change the culture and establish a new identity and this was another major example of that.

As far as the content goes, I absolutely loved the pre-draft round-table discussions between CBJ scouts. I could have watched an entire episode of just them talking about players. While I do wish they would have shared which players they were referring to, I can understand why they might have chosen not to.

Another high point was an inside look at the player interviews leading up to the draft. Despite some minor audio issues, seeing how some of these players interacted with Howson, Patrick and the rest of the front office was pretty cool. Like the scout discussions, I probably could have watched a full episode of just these player interviews. I would have especially loved to see how Nail Yakupov interacted with CBJ management.

My favorite moment was probably during Ryan Murray’s interview when he was asked something along the lines of “do you think you need to add weight to play at the NHL level?” and his response was (totally paraphrasing here) “No, I think I’m good around 190-195. I could gain the weight if I wanted to but I like how I play around 195.” I love that confidence in his game and I’m guessing CBJ management did too.

The biggest disappointment of “Before the Battle” is that it was condensed into a single 30 minute (minus a few short commercials) episode. While the unprecedented level of access was a huge step forward for the Blue Jackets, it fell short of similar & recent behind-the-scenes NHL documentary series. It may be unfair to judge this series up against the likes of HBO’s “24/7” or even NBC Sports “NHL36” but it’s impossible to not draw comparisons.

The potential was there for a 3-4 part series. Part of the let-down is I don’t think the organization or Fox Sports OH made it clear that this was only going to be a one-time episode If they did, I missed it. When it ended, I was left feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I think many, like me, might have been thinking it would be similar to the CBJ Summer Showcase series last year that followed several CBJ players during their offseason preparations. I would have loved to see a four part series broken down like so:

  1. NHL combine through Draft Day 1 (Bobrobsky trade, Murray drafted)
  2. Draft Day 2 through Free Agency (Methot trade, Aucoin Signing)
  3. Development camp through Rick Nash trade
  4. Sit down, intimate interviews with new CBJ players (similar to HBO’s “24/7”)

Another, minor, disappointment was that a few minutes of the show included clips of videos we’d already seen (player interviews, etc). I’m not sure how much footage Fox Sports OH shot or how much they were even allowed to show but I would have loved to have seen more footage of the meetings in Howson’s office, the scout round-table or player interviews instead.

On a scale of 1-10 I would rate this: A really really good start. I would love for them to bring this series back next offseason and ramp it up in a big way.

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