Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards has often compared this year’s team to a car, one that looks good sitting on the lot but has him curious about what’s "under the hood."
This group is, without question, deeper and more talented than previous editions, and higher expectations and pressure are just part of the game. For the first time in three years, they have a captain leading them after Nick Foligno was awarded the “C” on May 20, which then led to questions about who would round out the letter-wearing leadership group.
On this team, there are plenty of candidates and no shortage of guys who younger players can look to for advice, or just simply, leadership by example. Two of the Blue Jackets’ newest additions – Brandon Saad (22) and Gregory Campbell (31) – have three Stanley Cup championships between them and have multitudes of experiences to draw from.
The players who have been in Columbus and part of this group for a while have essentially grown up in the organization as the Blue Jackets began this build in 2012 when John Davidson took over hockey operations. As time has gone on, Davidson, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and coach Todd Richards have had their eyes peeled for natural leaders.
Today, Richards named Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky as the team’s alternate captains to work alongside Foligno.
Jenner, 22, has been a leader at virtually every level whether he's worn a letter or not. Before breaking into the NHL two years ago, Jenner served as captain of the Oshawa Generals (OHL) and was one of the leaders on Canada's 2012 and 2013 World Junior teams.
“He’s one of the hardest workers, and we have a lot of those guys in the room, but he’s been a constant,” Richards said. “You watch him in games – he’s relentless in how he works and how he goes about his business. He’s done it year in and year out, and he’s to an age now where he’s earned that responsibility and that right.”
From the day he arrived in Columbus more than three years ago, Dubinsky asserted himself as one of the leaders on this young team. Now 29 years old and entering his fourth season with the Blue Jackets, Dubinsky (who has worn a letter before here) is one of the team’s engines, an energetic and driven player who drags his teammates into fight.
Because of those characteristics, it was a fairly easy decision to bestow one of the “A”s on Dubinsky’s sweater.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s very passionate and you can see that,” Richards said. “Emotion is a big part of him and it makes him who he is, and that makes him a great leader.
“I’ve talked about the car analogy and talked about what’s under the hood, and those two guys provide a lot of the horsepower for our team. Every day in practice, those two guys are going, and you’re always looking for your leaders to drive.”