The Blue Jackets are only three games into a marathon 48-game schedule, but one of their overarching goals was set long before training camp even began.
No one in the Columbus dressing room wanted much to do with finding positives from last year’s 30th-place finish, despite their improved play down the stretch and the emergence of young players into bigger roles.
Once the preparation began for the 2012-13 NHL season, the slate was wiped clean and the first item on their collective agenda was to work toward a new attitude around the club.
After a season of sweeping changes to the roster, including five new acquisitions via trade and/or free agency, the Blue Jackets not only had a new look on paper but a new approach as a group.
Everyone must pull together on the same rope to get to the next level, and as new president of hockey operations John Davidson has told the team, they’re headed north and he’s concerned about what happens from this point forward.
For young players and veterans, the “team first” demeanor is what they’ve worked to cement and make sure it’s a hallmark of their identity.
“The guys we brought in are great characters and they’re a lot of fun around the dressing room,” center Ryan Johansen said. “I think we were still trying to feel each other out in the first couple of games, and I think it really showed in the first (two games) that we didn’t know where each other was as much with new line combinations.
“But every day, we’re trying to get more comfortable with each other and build some chemistry.”
And in the Blue Jackets’ case, the word “chemistry” is not limited to their line combinations and how their power play clicks as a five-man unit. They’re largely unfamiliar with each other and their six-day training camp was good to get everyone acclimated, Johansen said.
There were flashes of cohesion in the season opener against Nashville but a step back against Detroit on opening night at Nationwide Arena, prompting some early-season lineup changes prior to last night's game in Phoenix. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards is looking to find line combinations that give a balance of skill and hard work, and though there's been some inconsistency, he's not afraid to say there has been progress.
But for all the work put in during the offseason and in the season’s first week, the Blue Jackets know they still have a long way to go. Hockey pundits aren’t giving them much credit nor great odds to have a successful season, but the team’s focus has to remain on the ice and not on the day-to-day media circus, Johansen said.
The odds are the odds, and the only thing that can change perception is how the Blue Jackets compete every single night.
“The chip on the shoulder is our team identity,” Johansen told BlueJackets.com. “That’s what we’re working for; we want to be known as the hardworking team that’s in your face and out-battling you every night and every shift. If we’re doing that consistently and play responsible hockey, we’re going to be successful.”