COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Players are rarely thrilled about being sent to the minors, but how they channel that disappointment can either help or hinder them on the road back.
For Ryan Johansen, it was a unique experience but one that he learned from. The Blue Jackets' first pick (fourth overall) in 2010 made his NHL debut in 2011, stayed beyond the nine-game threshold for junior players and showed flashes of the enormous potential that made him a high draft pick.
But it wasn't the same in 2012-2013. Johansen was one of a handful of young Blue Jackets to get a 30-plus game run in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout, and he was locked in as the No. 1 center for the first-place Springfield Falcons, who went on to a franchise record-setting season and advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
He broke camp with the Blue Jackets in January, but managed two assists in 10 games before being assigned to Springfield on Feb. 6. The message: go back to Springfield, find your form from earlier in the season, and make yourself the first guy called back up to Columbus.
When he returned to the Blue Jackets, he found a regular spot between RJ Umberger and Nick Foligno, and became one of the team's best face-off men down the stretch.
For Johansen, it was all about confidence and that's what he is working to maintain this summer.
"I had a great summer," Johansen told BlueJackets.com. "I spent some time back home in Vancouver and also a few weeks here in Columbus before coming back for good. It was great to see some of the guys, and we're all really excited to be back here now. We're skating every day with each other and getting back in the swing of things.
"For me personally, I want to be an impact center and an impact player on this team every single night. I think I'm headed in that direction."
Despite the ups and downs, Johansen was able to make an impact not just in the face-off circle but also on the scoresheet. He scored a third period goal in his first game back upon recall (in Chicago), and tallied what George Matthews called the biggest goal of his NHL career with 1:37 to play in San Jose - a goal that gave Columbus a 4-3 lead and would stand as the game-winner.
Those were two memorable moments in a memorable stretch run for the Blue Jackets, but like so many of his teammates, Johansen admits that those good vibes can't hang around.
"That's the beauty of it - all of that excitement and at the end of the day, we didn't reach our goal," Johansen said. "We put all that work in and didn't make it into the playoffs. It sucked. We want to make the playoffs so bad, and this city has been behind us and supporting us all the way. The bottom line is: we missed the playoffs and that's the only way we can look at it."
But there is one silver lining, he said, and it's a big one: the Blue Jackets went from a hopeful team to a confident team.
"We proved to ourselves and to our fans that we can do it and we can be a consistent, winning team," Johansen said. "But now we have to start over and that's not going to be easy. The key is starting how we finished which is obviously easier said than done, but that has to be our attitude. We know it's not going to be easy, and we're going to have to go out there every night and take care of business.
"That's what I'm preparing for, and that's what we're all preparing for...Oct. 4 against Calgary."