When the Blue Jackets acquired forwards Gregory Campbell and Brandon Saad, they became the only two players on the team with their names etched on the Stanley Cup.
While the Blue Jackets have plenty of young talent, seasoned veterans and solid leadership, the idea is that adding Campbell and Saad’s winning experiences and skills will help take the team to the next level.
“It’s a terribly tough grind when you’re a player to win and bringing that experience here as a young player (like Brandon Saad) is so beneficial,” said John Davidson, the team's president of hockey operations.
“It oozes experience, and then when you look to sign a free agent, with Gregory Campbell, he played in Florida then got traded to Boston, had never played a playoff game in his life. Now he’s a Stanley Cup champion and he knows the whole procedure of how hard it is to win.”
Both Campbell and Saad have experience playing and winning a Stanley Cup with an Original Six team and no shortage of expectations. Campbell won a title with the Boston Bruins back in 2011 when he was in his 20s. Now, the 31-year-old said he is excited to join a comparatively new and young team like the Blue Jackets.
“The organization has surrounded (itself) with great hockey people and great hockey minds,” Campbell said. “I think that’s a huge part of building a winning team is to have the right people in place and work from there, and so you see that the moves have been made and not only recently, but the past year or so and it’s trending towards being a team that can contend.”
Campbell added that he believes the team can not only make the playoffs, but go beyond that.
“I really believe in this team and the opportunity that we have as a group,” Campbell said. “It’s one thing to play for an Original Six team, but it’s also another thing to be a part of a team that has a fresh look and the attitude and the enthusiasm is really on the up and up, and it’s just really exciting to be a part of.”
The 22-year-old Saad won both of his championships with another Original Six team, the Chicago Blackhawks, first in 2013 and again in 2015. The left winger said he is looking forward to playing with a rising team like Columbus.
“I think it’s exciting,” Saad said. “When (the trade) first happened, the emotions are definitely high, but seeing the rink and the facilities and meeting some of the players and the staff, it’s really exciting and it’s sinking in even more.We've still got a couple of months to go, so I need to calm down a little, but it’s pretty awesome being here.”
Both Campbell and Saad noted that they played alongside talented players on their Stanley Cup-winning teams. According to Saad, there's an 'eyes and ears wide open' approach that goes along with that, and it rubs off on young players early in their careers.
“I think being part of a good team is really what makes you a Stanley Cup winner,” Saad said. “We’re both fortunate to be a part of great teams that had success. Even though we’re the only two guys that have the title (of) winning the Stanley Cup, there’s a lot of good players here that are excited and passionate about getting there and achieving that goal.”
“So bringing in the experiences we’ve gone through, it can help, but at the same time, it’s being a part of a great team that’s going to have a tight group and a lot of chemistry out there, which I’ve heard great things about the team, so I’m looking forward to meeting more of them and hopefully pursuing that goal.”
It’s been a reccurring notion throughout the league that, after adding Saad and Campell to the team, the Blue Jackets are now better prepared to achieve their goal of playing deep into the spring.
“In my opinion, there’s a lot of great players on this team and it’s a very fine line that separates you from actually having a Stanley Cup and being a winner,” Campbell said. “Just because you haven’t won, doesn’t mean you’re not a winner, but you get labeled being a winner when you win the Stanley Cup… and for me personally, I hadn’t played a playoff game before I went to Boston, so it was a valuable experience that I gained from those guys that had won and had been there, so that’s I think what we’re hoping to bring to this organization.”