The last time Blue Jackets fans saw Brian Gibbons (or at least, remember him vividly), he single-handedly gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-0 lead in Game 2.
Remember that? It seems ages ago now, and at the time, those two first-period goals felt ancient by the time Columbus had mounted a comeback to win the game and even the series. Gibbons, who had been up and down between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre (AHL) during the regular season, found a spot in the Penguins' lineup as the playoffs began and immediately made an impact.
After the Penguins' season ended, Gibbons went back to Wilkes-Barre for a Calder Cup playoff run. He scored one of the great goals of the year upon his return, but the Baby Pens' postseason ended prematurely, as well.
And then came the uncertainty. It became apparent that Gibbons would be allowed to test the waters of unrestricted free agency on July 1, and one of the interested teams caught his attention right away.
It was the team he quickly learned to despise only a few weeks earlier: the Blue Jackets. They had just undergone some roster changes in the bottom six, and let Gibbons know there would be an opportunity to compete for a spot during training camp.
|Brian Gibbons signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent on July 1. |
He decided that, all things considered, Columbus was the "best fit" to begin the next chapter of his pro career.
"I think I can bring some things to the table that they were looking for, and I was really excited to sign with Columbus," Gibbons told BlueJackets.com. "They seemed interested right away and I definitely wanted to be part of this organization, so it was a good fit both ways and one that I'm really excited for.
"Before I signed, we talked about them having a couple open spots in their lineup. There are a bunch of guys in the mix for those spots who are looking to go into training camp and compete for one, and I'm one of them. I'm going to compete my hardest and do whatever I can to win one of those spots."
One of the pluses for Gibbons was that he was already quite familiar with his new employer; the Penguins and Blue Jackets played 11 times in 2013-14 (five regular season and six playoff games) and he often saw the Springfield Falcons while playing in Wilkes-Barre.
Given what he brings to the table and what the Blue Jackets were looking for in free agency - speed, two-way ability and an element of skill to play on their third and fourth lines - it just felt right to sign on the dotted line.
"What I learned about the Blue Jackets is the character -- it was really apparent," Gibbons said. "You look at the playoffs and the comebacks they had...Pittsburgh had them on the ropes a couple of times and they kept pushing back. They were such a determined team, they never quit and that told me they have a really strong leadership group in that room.
"Columbus is a team that plays really hard and it gets under the skin of opponents. It creates exciting games, more bad blood, and with the playoff series it made for an intense rivalry. The games with Pittsburgh were close, the overtimes were great and the rivalry is only going to get better, I think."