The Blue Jackets took a break from the ice for the fifth day of Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, a move that head coach Todd Richards said was necessary in order to manage the physical and emotional toll of the past week.
“They were long days, long hard days, and I think the emotion, the energy of it too, the excitement of the first day – I think it’s typical of a normal training camp,” Richards said after the team’s team meetings and off-ice workout this morning.
One thing had been clear after yesterday’s 20-minute scrimmage: the intensity of the first couple of days of camp had evaporated. According to Richards, this was typical of training camps not just in Columbus but around the NHL.
“It’s been talked among coaches before that you normally have a letdown after 3-4 days of camp,” Richards said.
This year, the exhaustion was heightened by the shortened camp and acceleration towards the start of the season. For Richards, deciding to give the players a break from on-ice drills was necessary for the coaching staff to make in order to prepare for the emotional escalation heading into the season opener against the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
“It’s going to be revved up, emotions are going to be high," Richards said. "It’s going to be cranked up, the arena’s going to be loud. Our players are going to be excited, their players are gonna be excited, and we have to have our emotions under control.”
Emotions can be a double-edged sword for athletes. On one hand, they fuel the physical intensity of the game and accelerate the body’s reflexes. On the other hand, they lead to instinctual reactions that can lead players to make bad decisions that ultimately hurt the team.
“First couple of shifts, you’re really going to have to really calm yourself down. Everybody’s going to be going a hundred miles an hour and you have to sit back and take a deep breath,” said Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski.
Richards said managing the team’s emotions and knowing when to let up is a key responsibility for a coaching staff.
“To me, it’s that line that you have to be careful of crossing over – emotional line, where I think emotionally, you get so wrapped up in it that your brain shuts down,” Richards said.
“You aren’t thinking about your responsibilities and what you need to do, or maybe, you’re taking some unnecessary penalties because of the emotion.”
Wisniewski said it’s probably going to take a couple of shifts before things settle down for him, but he knows that for him and his teammates, executing and making smart decisions with the puck will be the key to success against the Predators.
“You’re going to use your emotion, you’re going to use your passion of getting back on the ice and playing the sport that we love. And hopefully, we can come out on top.”