When I arrived at the rink this morning and was told the Blue Jackets would not be holding an on-ice practice, I wrongly assumed this would be a rather uneventful day.
After sensing his team had lost a bit of its edge yesterday, Todd Richards decided to do most of their work in the weight room and the video room today. The Blue Jackets aren't the only team experiencing this, either; several clubs around the NHL have opted to take a day off in the middle of this compacted training camp schedule to preserve the energy.
The prevailing consensus from the players was that today's respite was welcomed, and they expect the energy level to be on an upward tick when practice resumes tomorrow morning at Nationwide Arena. Fully aware that time is of the essence, the sense is that tomorrow's practice will be a "down to business" type with final details being reviewed -- and Richards said this morning that there's still plenty of material to cover.
One big news item from today: it appears the Blue Jackets final roster is set. Boone Jenner and Tim Erixon were the two cuts from Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, with Jenner headed back to the Oshawa Generals (OHL) and Erixon to Springfield. David Savard and John Moore grabbed the last two spots on defense, with Moore the more likely of the two to pair up with Adrian Aucoin on opening night.
Though it's a shortened version, I'm going to empty the notebook after Day 5:
-- Training camp is always chock full of tough decisions, but I think this Jenner move was particularly difficult. Richards admitted that Jenner proved he could play at the NHL level in this camp, but at the end of the day, they made the call that was in the best interest of Jenner's long-term development. He's going to eat up huge minutes in Oshawa and have a chance to play for the Memorial Cup, so it's not all bad for Boone as he heads back.
-- With Erixon, I thought he was solid all week and did enough to earn a spot, but this is also about development. Is it best for him to serve as the seventh defenseman and get in the lineup every now and then, or continue to log top-four minutes with the Falcons and refine his game? The latter sounded like the better option to the Blue Jackets and I think, in the end, it will be a big benefit for Erixon.
-- Still think the bottom six is unsettled even after the roster moves today. With two extra forwards, the Blue Jackets have a handful of combinations they can try on the third and fourth lines. Does Matt Calvert-- who had a great camp -- get a look on the fourth line? Does Mark Letestu end up playing center or wing? These are all moves that still need to be made, and I don't think there will be one concrete method...these could be ever-changing based on performance and need.
-- Cam Atkinson was the only player to skate today, and Richards said there's been no further update to his status other than calling it a "day by day" situation. When asked if Atkinson could miss opening night, Richards said he's not prepared to say yes or no, but they will continue to monitor the "minor lower body" injury when he comes to the rink on Friday.
-- For now, looks like we have the first two lines set (I refuse to refer to them as the first or second line, mainly because either can be used in any situation): Umberger-Brassard-Atkinson, Dubinsky-Anisimov-Dorsett. With Ryan Johansen in the mix to start the season, he should center Nick Foligno and Vinny Prospal much like he's done the past few days.