There’s still work to be done, but the Whitecaps are on the cusp of a playoff berth, an MLS club re

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There’s still work to be done, but the Whitecaps are on the cusp of a playoff berth, an MLS club record point haul, with CONCACAF Champions league representation already sewn up. Lance Mccullers Jr. Jersey . And it was all achieved with a younger squad, and without a 22 goal scorer. The great untold story of this campaign has been the recruitment of quality characters who have contributed to a new dressing room culture. It may be the most difficult and risky aspect of building a club because, how do you measure character? There are no analytics for it. It comes down to networks, gut, and trust in the guts of others. And it also requires hours upon hours of cross referencing. Gone are the days when YouTube clips and an agent’s word are good enough to sign someone. The Whitecaps off season recruitment began with the acquisitions of Mehdi Ballouchy and Steven Beitashour. Carl Robinson knew Ballouchy from his time in New York, while Beitashour’s reputation was impeccable. Between them; almost 300 MLS games played. Then came the unheralded signings of Nicholas Mezquida and Sebastien Fernandez, from an obscure club in Uruguay. At the time, many thought these were simply squad signings to improve the club’s overall depth. The quality was evident from day one. The work ethic was infectious. The personalities were magnetic. The most important transactions occurred during the Whitecaps pre-season stint in Portland, where they landed their two DP’s, Mattias Laba and Pedro Morales. If there’s one truth about Major League Soccer it’s that you must get your designated players right. They need to be your best players. They need to justify the designation and they need to be respected by their teammates. The on field contributions were instantly recognizable. But no-one could have expected the off-field roles both Laba and Morales would play. They became the new leaders in the Whitecaps dressing room. The Mauro Rosales trade was a one sided transaction in the maintenance department. Rosales is a consummate professional with an elite class resume and an abundance of MLS moxy. He too became an instant Lieutenant. But it was the signing of Kendall Waston which may have been the coup of the summer. It wasn’t as if Waston was some random pick from the Central American ether. He had a trial with Real Salt Lake, but they ultimately weren’t interested. The background research on Waston’s character was as thorough as all of the previous recruits, but Waston still represented a sizable leap of faith given his patchy form and the league he played in. The club’s technical team wanted to know everything about the player. His background, where he lived, what he ate, going even so far as calling opposition coaches to get their impressions of the strapping Saprissa Centre back. Carl Robinson and Martyn Pert have bird-dogs in virtually every corner of the world, long standing relationships built exclusively on trust. It may be the most important and exciting factor going into the off season, because there are more Wastons and Morales’s scattered around the globe and the Whitecaps know where to find them. Waston’s play of late has already attracted attention from other clubs. It’s just a matter time before the Whitecaps get an offer they can’t refuse for any number of their players. As hard as that may be to understand for the fans, the selling-on of talent is a huge part of the long term building of any club. The trick will be to maximize the value, while ensuring there’s always a pipeline of talent to fill the vacancies. Character is a critical aspect of any successful organization. In a short period of time, the Whitecaps have proven an ability to find players who have it. Now if they can find someone who’s exemplary temperament can match his ability to score, the club could be in for a banner 2015. Cristian Javier Jersey .Y. -- Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff had an opportunity to experience an entire range of emotions in his first trip back to Buffalo to face his former team. Joaquin Andujar Jersey . The Brazilian heads into Saturday afternoons race coming off a close runner-up finish to Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Indianapolis 500. . Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Wild team that has a nice mix of proven veterans along with young, inexpensive talent on the rise. When the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, making a big splash in the summer of 2012, it set the franchise on a path to being more competitive, but a big reason that they have been so competitive is the contributions of young players who still have more to give. NASHVILLE -- Artem Anisimov just keeps scoring for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Anisimov had the only goal of the game with 6:25 remaining in the third period and Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves to lead the Blue Jackets to a 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. It was the sixth goal in the last six games for Anisimov, who also has scored the last four game-winners for Columbus. With the game still scoreless, James Wisniewski sent a pass from the left circle to Anisimov at the left faceoff dot. Anisimov carried the puck to the goal line before cutting toward the Nashville net and sliding a backhander by Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne just inside the far post. "He skated down the ice and he actually made the drop to me," Wisniewski said of Anisimov. "I love when the D-man just stays there because then the forward just skates right around them, make a quick pass, and hes all alone with the goalie. He made a great move and scored." The Predators have lost four in a row and seven of their last eight. They have scored just three goals in their last four games, and it was Bobrovskys third shutout of the season for Columbus, which has won four of five. "Weve been shooting enough pucks, were just not finding the back of the net," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "There are a lot of dry players." Making his third consecutive start after being sidelined since late October with an infection in his hip, Rinne made 35 saves. "I felt confident and I felt comfortable out there tonight," Rinne said. "Hopefully, myself too, I can improve all the time." Rinnne faced just five shots in the first, but with 5:45 remaining in the opening frame, he denied Ryan Johansens wrist shot attempt from the right side off of a 2-on-1 break. Brad Lidge Jersey. Midway through the second, Rinne got his blocker on Boone Jenners shot from the right circle. Nashville dominated the shots on goal in the first period, outshooting the Blue Jackets 14-5. "I though guys did a great job in front of me," Bobrovsky said of his defencemen. "They shot from mostly outside, so they boxed them out. They were great." The tables turned in the middle frame when Columbus put 15 shots on Rinne, and the Predators managed just four on Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets had the shot advantage in the third as well, 16-10. The Predators had a chance to tie late in the third, but Mike Fishers shot from the slot rang off the far post with less than 30 seconds remaining and then Bobrovsky got his glove on an attempt from Colin Wilson. "It is one of those games where you are wondering is anybody going to be able to beat either one of those guys," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Bob came up big at the end when the game was on the line." NOTES: Columbus made their only visit to Nashville for the 2013-14 season. The Blue Jackets and Predators were both members of the Central Division before Columbus moved to the Eastern Conference before the start of this season. ... Nashville was just 1-4-0 on its five-game homestand coming out of the Olympic break. The Predators are on the road for their next three. ... The Predators have not scored a power-play goal in their last four games. ' ' '

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