It's day 13 of the Blue Jackets training camp, one head coach John Tortorella calls "the day of reckoning." After almost two weeks of work in Columbus, the first large group of roster reductions occurred after today's practice and five or six more players will be leaving camp after tonight's game versus St. Louis.
A wrinkle that Tortorella and his team added to this year's camp, however, means that just because some players will leave the Jackets camp today. For those who are joining the organization's AHL club in Cleveland, they've already begun the work of preparing for their team's season.
For just under a week, the two skating groups in camp have been divided into players fighting for an NHL spot, and players fighting for an AHL spot.
The division has not only let players know where they are depth-wise in the organization, it's also let each group get a jump start on systems for the two clubs and the connection in between.
"We're way ahead of schedule even in our team concept because we've had our group split so early," Tortorella said. "I'm sure (the Monsters staff) feel the same way."
This is the first year Tortorella has split his groups in this manner. The idea came to him as he looked at how to fit in the necessary work around a preseason schedule that included five games in six nights. He didn't want to lose valuable on-ice time to having game rostered players split off from their projected teams at morning skates.
"It's been nice," Monsters head coach John Madden said. "You can work with your guys when you need to, but they also get a chance to play in some preseason games. That works out great and the team doesn't have to call players down to get a chance to play. it's been a good setup."
The groupings have worked so well that Tortorella plans to use this design for his camp next year.
And there's one other change in how the organization handles days like today, this time it was a brainchild of Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen along with Jackets assistant general manager and Monsters general manager, Bill Zito.
With a large group of players leaving the Jackets camp, meetings today with each can be short and rushed. That's not what the organization wants in order to do right by each player.
After an initial meeting today, players in Cleveland will have another, more in-depth conversation with Zito, coaches, and the development staff to give feedback to each other on where their play stands, and get everyone on the same page.
"It's about making sure the guys know where we see them projected and what they have to do to make the next step," Madden said. "All the players are aware of what's going on. They're communicated to and that's the biggest thing, knowing your important and that, at some point, we all want you to be a part of the organization for the long term."
As the Jackets and Monsters organizations now narrow their focus on their respective teams, it's an exciting time for both. Particularly for Madden who, in his second year as head coach had his first full season to prepare for the upcoming season.
"I'm really excited," Madden said. "We're very prepared, we know exactly what's going to go on in Cleveland, and we know exactly how things will transpire and what our goals and objectives will be. It feels good."
- The following players have been assigned to the Cleveland Monsters: forwards: Paul Bitter, Jordan Maletta. Defensemen: Ryan Collins, Jacob Graves, Blake Siebenaler, Doyle Somerby. Goaltender: Matiss Kivlenieks.
- The following players were put on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Monsters: forwards: Alex Broadhurst. Defenseman, Andre Benoit, Cameron Gaunce.
- The following players were released from the NHL try-out contracts and are expected to join the Monsters: forwards: Carter Camper, Brett Gallant, Miles Koules, Bobby MacIntyre. Defensemen: Scott Savage, Goaltenders: Ivan Kulbakov, Brad Thiessen.
PROJECTED LINEUP VS. STL:
Milano - Thurkauf - Abramov
Dubois - Sedlak - Bjorkstrand
Calvert - Scott - Motte
Hannikainen - Mitchell - Moutrey
Murray - Savard
Kukan - Nutivaara
Harrington - Carlsson