Gary Agnew once told me: "Boone Jenner is the kind of player you want on the ice in every crucial situation. He's a special player."
The former Blue Jackets assistant coach stepped in last year as head coach of the Oshawa Generals, Jenner's junior club in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). There wasn't much to be optimistic about early on, as the club had been struggling and Agnew was getting to know his new team.
But it didn't take him long to realize he had a unique player in Jenner, who unfortunately missed parts of the Generals' season due to both injury and participation in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Oshawa rebounded, though, and managed to scrape its way into the OHL playoffs before bowing out in the first round to Niagara.
Starting this year, there's a new attitude around General Motors Centre and it begins with a new bench boss. Agnew's contract was not renewed, opening the door for D.J. Smith to leave his post as assistant coach with the Windsor Spitfires after seven seasons -- and two Memorial Cup championships.
The 35-year-old was a rugged, no-nonsense player, and that's how he wants his teams to play. Given Jenner's workmanlike demeanor on and off the ice, the partnership between he and the new coach only seems like a natural fit.
And though the Generals (at least on paper) figure to be an aggressive team that plays on its toes, there's a fair amount of NHL talent on the roster. Scott Laughton, a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012, returns for his third season in Oshawa. Laughton is very much in the "Mike Richards" mold, and has drawn comparisons to Jenner's style of play.
Jenner and Laughton have tended to lead the way for their teammates, though on occasion last year they seemed to be the only players engaged. Both players are good for 20-plus goals and a helping of penalty minutes, and as a first-year head coach, Smith has two solid leaders to keep the team honest. At the end of the day, you could do a lot worse than having two guys like Jenner and Laughton at the head of the pack.
One key addition to the Generals this year is Tyler Biggs, the former Miami (Ohio) power forward who was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2011. Scouts love his frame and his physical game, but Biggs didn't put up stellar offensive numbers in Oxford last year (nine goals in 37 games).
It's possible that Jenner could center a line with Biggs on his right side to start the season. I would pay to watch them, without question.
From Naete Sager at Yahoo!'s "Buzzing the Net" blog: The Generals have been called a "big, chippy team" during the preseason. They have been among the top three most penalized teams for the past two seasons, so that it isn't a surprise. It's all in the attitude, though. Smith was part of those successful Windsor Spitfires teams which needed to have extra fabric in the jerseys to accommodate having chips on both shoulders, but never strayed too far into being undisciplined. The Generals' leaders up front are Jenner and Laughton, who were prized by their NHL organizations for being grim, give-no-quarter players.