The Blue Jackets hit the ice for training camp in three days with many familiar faces returning from last year’s workouts. As we prepare for a new season, we look back on the storylines of the 2013 camp that produced a playoff caliber team.
In Bob We Trust
Sergei Bobrovsky returned to Columbus last season with a Vezina Trophy to his name and high expectations. As the coaching staff looked to build its roster for the 2013-14 season, starting Bobrovsky between the pipes was one of the more obvious decisions to be made. Bobrovsky did not disappoint, backing up his breakout debut in Columbus with another terrific season, going 32-20-5-5 with a goals-against average of 2.38 and a save percentage of .923.
Here Comes the Boone!
At any training camp for any team, fans are always on the lookout for that one special rookie who can elevate his game to new heights and crack the pro roster. Sometimes when that player is a high first-round pick, that transition is more natural and predictable. For other rookies, winning that first NHL job requires playing at a level that gives coaches no choice but to keep them. That is exactly what Boone Jenner did to earn his spot in Columbus.
Jenner never gave coaches a reason to send him down, and his grit and tenacity never let up across a full season and into the playoffs. It was the same skill set he displayed in camp, and it wasn’t a secret in Columbus.
No Pains for Big Names
A year later, the same concerns exist for a different player. Blue Jackets winger Nathan Horton’s injuries in 2013 were well documented, but fans salivate to think of just how much he can produce offensively with a full season on the Jackets’ top line.
Entering last year, fans were hoping for much the same result if Marian Gaborik could stay in the Columbus lineup. Gaborik had been acquired from the New York Rangers at the end of a disappointing 2013 season, bothered on-and-off by injuries during the previous few years. Fans expected big things from Gaborik, but again injuries limited Gaborik to only 22 games before he was traded away.
In 2014, a healthy Nathan Horton is at the top of everyone’s wish list in Columbus.
Back at Square One
The Jackets finished the 2013 season on a 19-5-4 run, just missing the playoffs in a tie-breaker with Minnesota in the standings. While that run was encouraging for the team, players at the next training camp spoke about staying in the present and having to work hard once again to put themselves in a position to make the playoffs.
That mindset will be even more vital for a team coming off the most successful season in Jackets’ history. Players have already spoken about the thrill of the NHL postseason and how the experience has them motivated to return to the playoffs once again.
The seven-month journey to meaningful April hockey begins on Friday!