Before the Blue Jackets training camp got underway Thursday, head coach John Tortorella and captain Nick Foligno sat down to have a conversation before the season starts.
"I wanted to know the pulse of what his thoughts were going into camp so I can prepare myself for what he's going to direct us through," Foligno said. "I think that's the biggest thing, the communication between him and I has been amazing."
Tortorella and Foligno have had conversations before, obviously. But going into last season, they had one that challenged the captain's ability to lead. Foligno had a response to that.
The Jackets put together the most successful season in franchise history, and Foligno didn't just score 26 goals and 25 assists in the regular season, he also won the Mark Messier Leadership Award and King Clancy Memorial Trophy in recognition of his work leading his team.
The awards encapsulated the strides this group of players has made not just on the ice, but off the ice as well.
And now, Foligno has seized his role as the player who wears the C. He knows he is a trusted voice for Tortorella. The Buffalo native can take messages or questions to the coaching staff to make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction and towards the same goal.
"I want to continue to learn as a player and as a captain," Foligno said. "There's always room to grow as a player. Now, I need to be even better than I was last year. We need all our players to be better than last year to move forward, so it comes hand-in-hand with my abilities as a leader."
This year as captain, Foligno has goals of continuing to listen more and direct more when necessary, all while not sacrificing the caliber of his play. He's always on the lookout for opportunities that call for him to step up. It's his own specific style of leadership that fits in with all the different personalities on the team.
Video: Nick Foligno details what the team needs to be elite
What's even better than having one good leader? The good news is Foligno doesn't have to do it all by himself. For the Jackets, leadership has become a collective effort.
Tortorella works closely with the leadership group within the team, as does general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. Helping Foligno and other players grow in their ability to lead is something that's important to management as much as seeing them make strides on the ice.
And the seeds of taking on more responsibility to guide the team have caught up and down the Jackets roster. Foligno can name a number of players who've stepped up to help lead the group as a whole. Brandon Dubinsky, Seth Jones, Jack Johnson, Zach Werenski. He lists player after player. That's a good thing.
"The dynamics have shifted in the room," Foligno said. "Younger guys are going to go to different guys for advice. It's amazing how that works, and with everyone doing that for the good of the team, it's going to make us that much better."
A sound leadership core is going to be a key ingredient for the Jackets this season. The team knows they aren't going to take teams by surprise this coming year. As Tortorella says, "we're still in the process." But this is a group that looks to be ready to take whatever gets thrown at them.
"I don't think we have one bit of our concern about our room," president of hockey operations, John Davidson said. "If it gets out of kilter, they straighten it out, and that's how it should be. I used to lose a lot of sleep over this and I don't any more. I feel very comfortable about it."