The Blue Jackets open their season today with a road game against the Predators.
Regardless of the fact that Nashville is 379.88 miles southwest of center ice at Nationwide, new Blue Jackets team president John Davidson believes this trip marks the start of the CBJ’s journey north.
Davidson told the Dispatch that on day one, he delivered this simple directive to the Jackets regarding their direction:
“‘What has gone on here is history. You study history. You learn from it. But I’m going north.’ That was one of the messages.”
Message received, says forward Derick Brassard. “That’s the way everyone feels. We’re going north, and that’s the way we’re playing, too this year. We’re playing north. We’re not going back in our zone ever. We’re playing north and fast.”
Coach Todd Richards concedes that is indeed part of the game plan. “I think it’s more of just a straight line game. The game is so fast now, if you hesitate for a second, if you’re 3-or-4 feet out of position, teams exploit that, and you’re beat.
“There’s a lot to be said for putting pressure by going towards the opponent’s end. John said it best as far as organizationally, we want to go north, and I think it applies to how we want to play the game, too.”
Of course, this is easy enough for anyone who was here last year to say. After you’ve been part of a 29-46-7 season that left you in the basement of–not only your division, not only your conference–but in the entire NHL, there is no place to go but up, right?
Even the more recent acquisitions appear to have bought in, though.
“Absolutely. Absolutely, we’re going to be a team that attacks,” says forward Nick Foligno, who came to Columbus via a trade this offseason.
“We’re going to be a team that plays well defensively, but a team that attacks. I think that goes hand-in-hand with playing north and going north. We’re not going to be a team that sits around and waits around for things to happen. We’re going to initiate it.”
Former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was famous for calling the Nashville Predators “Darth Vader.”
Columbus is 19-39-11 all-time versus Nashville, including 5-24-6 on the road.
Needless to say, there’s a tortured history there, and that’s not news to those new to the CBJ. “The guys have told me there’s a big rivalry there,” says Foligno. “I’m sure the nastiness will continue.”
Foligno is one of several players making his Columbus debut tonight. The others include Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Adrian Aucoin and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Both Blue Jackets goalies “essentially” wear the maximum-size goalie equipment the league allows, says team goaltending coach Ian Clark.
Steve Mason made that change last season. As for Sergei Bobrovsky? “Bob wants as much coverage as the league allows,” says Clark.
Although Bobrovsky is scheduled to get the start tonight, Clark believes Steve Mason is “as sharp as I’ve seen him.”