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Blue Jackets go with 'the ultimate leader' as team captain

To hear teammates, coaches tell it, Jenner was the obvious choice to wear the 'C'

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

In the end, the Blue Jackets were left with the easiest and most obvious of answers. 

When it came to replacing Nick Foligno as captain, head coach Brad Larsen said at the start of training camp that he would wait to name a permanent team leader until the time was right.

But as Columbus went through a rugged three weeks of training, it became clear the man for the job was the one they expected all along. 

"Boone is the obvious choice, there's no question about it," Larsen said. 

"I just think everything he has is perfect for what a captain should be," Oliver Bjorkstrand said. 

"I think he's the ultimate leader," Gustav Nyquist added. 

"I think anyone that has been here in this organization and been around Boone kind of knew that was going to happen eventually at some point," Zach Werenski said. 

That point was today, as the Blue Jackets named Jenner the seventh full-time captain in the organization's history. One of the most productive and dependable players in team history -- through eight seasons with the team, he's in the top 10 in franchise annals in games played (530, seventh), goals (121, fourth) and points (240, sixth) -- now has earned hockey's ultimate honor. 

"It's definitely a surreal moment," said Jenner, who inked a four-year contract extension to stay in Columbus this summer. "A lot of feelings going through you. … It's a pretty special moment, and something I'll never forget, to share with my teammates and the guys in the room. It was awesome (to find out)." 

Larsen had said at the start of camp that the Blue Jackets might name a leadership group before the season, but there was no hurry, with the expectation that the answer would work out in the wash. That was especially true as he looked at this year's squad, which has lost such veterans as Foligno, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, David Savard, Riley Nash and Michael Del Zotto from the start of last season and largely replaced those departures with a bevy of new faces. 

But as Larsen looked at it, he felt the youth of the team -- at an average age of 25.71 years old as of Thursday's Opening Night game vs. Arizona, the Blue Jackets are the youngest team in the NHL -- meant the squad needed good veteran leadership. Simply put, it was time for Jenner -- as well as Werenski, Bjorkstrand and Nyquist, all of whom were named alternate captains. 

"I think one of the first questions is, 'Does a team need a captain?' and I felt like it did," Larsen said. "I felt as we went on, we do have a young group. And then you start looking at the guys who we have, and Boone is the obvious guy. He's a guy that just embodies who the Columbus Blue Jackets are and what we want to represent, not just as a player but as an individual.  

"He knows this city inside and out, he knows the team inside and out. I talked to my coaches, I talked to (general manager Jarmo Kekalainen) and those guys. I wanted input, to see what they thought. And it came to the point where he's the guy." 

It will be somewhat of a new role for Jenner, but leadership has been in his blood for most of his hockey career. Jenner served as the captain for two seasons when he was with Oshawa of the OHL -- even before that, he also donned the "C" as an AAA player and with Team Canada's U-17 World Championships squad -- and had worn an "A" as an alternate captain in Columbus for the past six seasons. 

He served as part of the leadership group with Foligno and even sat next to him in the locker room, where the two would often talk about what the team needed. So while the honor of having the sole captaincy will be new, Jenner also has plenty of experience to lean on. 

"I am not going to change," Jenner said. "Obviously it's a bigger role and a bigger responsibility and I know that, but I want to stay true to myself and do what I do best and try to drag guys into the fight and just lead by example and be that example for our team." 

That's exactly what Larsen wants. 

"I've had an experience being named a captain," the first-year head coach said, referring to his days with Hershey of the AHL, where Mike Foligno was head coach. "It was actually Nick Foligno's dad, and I was 21 years old in the American League. The first eight games, I was a hot mess. I thought I had to do everything, and he sat me down and said, 'Look, just be who you are. That's why you were named captain.' I've always shared that experience and tried to just help these guys and go, 'Don't be anything other than who you are. Lead how you feel is the right way.' 

"He's definitely (a lead by) actions type guy, but I'm sure there will be times he's going to have to speak up and challenge his teammates and talk to them, maybe put an arm around one guy and maybe give a kick in the shorts to another guy." 

Previous CBJ captains include Lyle Odelein (2000-02), Ray Whitney (2002-03), Luke Richardson (2003-05), Adam Foote (2005-08), Rick Nash (2008-12) and Foligno (2015-2021). While there was a gap between Nash's departure and the selection of Foligno, Larsen chose not to go that route this time around. 

After all, the choice was obvious. 

"He has the respect of the room," Larsen said. "He really does. Guys were genuinely happy for him when he got named captain. You could just tell. You could feel it." 

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