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Q&A: John Tortorella

CBJ's bench boss discusses young players and an aggressive style of play

by Rob Mixer @RobMixer /

The 2016-17 season is merely days away.

To get you adequately prepped, we sat down with John Tortorella to get his insight on this edition of the Blue Jackets: Was September as hectic as it may have seemed for you?

Tortorella: No, it really wasn't. We haven't really stopped since the end of last season. It's been a constant process with the World Cup, and most importantly, preparing for my first camp here in Columbus with the team. The months kind of ran into one another, but I'm really looking forward to getting this season started. What excites you most about the possibilities with this group of players?

JT: I look at what our kids did in the Calder Cup with Cleveland last year, and that's really encouraging stuff. I'm really excited about the competition within all positions throughout the lineup - that's healthy. The biggest thing is that when you bring kids in who have had success - and we're looking at four of five guys (to make the team) - that changes your mindset and it changes the attitude with some of the older guys. The kids bring an enthusiasm; I think it'll be a different feel, which is great because one of the biggest areas where we need to grow is our mindset, our resilience. When you have competition in camp like this, I think it only helps in your approach. You want this team to "inflict" and be one that can take over a game in the third period. Are you starting to see that attitude?

JT: I think so. You want to have some success in those situations, obviously. At times we did that last year as the year went on, but it doesn't carry over (to the next season). You have to go back and draw on it because you had success and, over time, it becomes instinctive. When you've had the experience of coming back and overcoming adversity within a game, it does become an instinct for the club, and that's where I can help as a coach. That's what we're trying to do here. What do you see in Zach Werenski?

JT: I see another gear, a high gear, that a lot of people don't have. I look at his skill…I mean, my god, he's just a kid. The timing worked out great when he left school, went to Cleveland with our minor league team and then became a force on that team. It couldn't have worked out better for his training ground right away coming out of college. I look at him as a very intelligent player. I look at him as a guy that can help our power play - we're gonna give him a whack at it right off the bat here - because it's been one of our weaknesses. The biggest thing, and I've had some conversations with Zach throughout the summer leading up to camp, is to remind him that he's got an extra gear…now it's getting him to understand that you need to play in that gear all the time. It's exciting for us and for him. What do you like most about your group of defensemen?

JT: Our back end is our engine. It's going to allow us to play much quicker than we have before. We want to try and make more offensive plays, we want to get up the ice faster, and be creative. That is our engine, like I said, if we're going to be a successful team. I'm really excited about the youth we have, the skill of that youth, and what it means for our team. When you bring a guy like (Seth Jones) in with his talent, it lends itself to the style of play you want to get to. We want to be much more aggressive offensively, a team that's not as "safe" and when you have a defense that can move the puck like we can, I think we can get there. I want them to take chances offensively. How important is it for these young players to grow together and be part of this together?

JT: That's where organizations find success - you have to develop your own. This is a cap world. It's not about going out and signing everyone else's free agents, it's about staying within yourself, developing youth and bringing them through the system together. That's where I see an opportunity for us to play a little bit differently because of some of the young people we have; these kids are offensive people. The puck follows Bjorkstrand around and he scored some huge goals in the (AHL) playoffs. Josh Anderson is a big kid who's strong on the puck. It's a really big year for the youth to come in and for them to grow together. We're going to be a team that takes more chances, and I think it'll really help them grow. These kids we have aren't off-the-glass kids, they're talented offensive people, and we want to let them play.

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