Ryan Johansen wasn’t the only member of the Blue Jackets to have his first team practice of the season on Wednesday. And as players bounced around the dressing room with the excitement that only the start of the regular season can bring, it was newly acquired forward Adam Cracknell who was one of the last few players off the ice, dripping sweat and breathing heavy after his first workout.
““It was good, I needed it,” said Cracknell after his first Todd Richards practice. “I’ve had a couple days off and I was definitely excited just to know the guys and get back on a team.”
The Blue Jackets claimed Cracknell off waivers from the LA Kings on Tuesday to add to their forward depth, after Brandon Dubinsky joined the list of wounded Blue Jackets to start the season. It was news that Cracknell received while waiting at the DMV to get his California license plates, and it was a phone call he was excited to get.
“That’s all about being a pro hockey player. It changes in a phone-call like that,” said Cracknell.
“It was a great phone call to get, coming to a team that wants to give me a chance. I’m excited to bring my game here and get off to a good start tomorrow.”
Cracknell’s style of game adds depth to fill the Jackets’ needs on the fourth line. Cracknell rotated with Michael Chaput and Corey Tropp alongside Jared Boll and Jack Skille in practice during line rushes. He has only 65 games of NHL experience over the past four season with the St. Louis Blues, but will be expected to contribue immediately for a banged-up Blue Jackets team.
At 6’2” and weighing 210 pounds, Cracknell has a solid shot and the size to be an effective physical presence. A rough-and-tumble game hasn’t been Cracknell’s trademark in the past, but adding that edge would make him an effective piece fitting the style of last season’s fourth line, where Derek MacKenzie was effective.
Those are all adjustments Cracknell will make as he learns a new system and new teammates, as well as a changing role for a team that has had to do a lot of reshuffling during training camp.
“You definitely need to learn the systems quick and we’ve all played this game long enough that it’ll just adjust itself as we play. I just need to make smart reads.”
Cracknell will need to make those adjustments quickly. Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout said earlier in the week that the team was learning small new wrinkles in the defensive system, but that those changes are significant when you consider how detail specific Richards’ systems are. Cracknell will be learning everything on the fly, and he’ll learn both from film study and from his line mates on the ice.
“I think certain things with your line-mates, but definitely a lot of video. It’s better to watch than to learn the hard way,” said Cracknell. “You can watch what they’re doing and it’ll work its way into your system. Playing with your line mates you make reads off them and it seems to be the right one.”
The learning started this week, and the first test is soon to come. Cracknell will be ready for his new opportunity in Columbus.
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow night. There’s a lot of excitement so I want to get off on the right foot.”