Ryan Murray strode through the Nationwide Arena press box last week after an intermission interview on FOX Sports Ohio, bearing a smile but no inhibiting extras on his arm or shoulder.
Perhaps the smile had something to do with the progression of his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury that's caused him to miss the rest of the season with the Everett Silvertips (WHL), an opportunity to represent Team Canada at the World Juniors and possibly a chance to crack the Blue Jackets' roster out of training camp in January.
But while the disappointment was initially tough to get past, Murray's rehab has kept him busy -- and he will be spending the next 4-5 weeks skating in Columbus and working with the club's strength and conditioning staff to inch closer to what he considers normal: playing hockey, taking checks and becoming a better player.
"I'm feeling a lot better," Murray told BlueJackets.com last week. "The shoulder feels good and I'm just taking it one day at a time right now."
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen has been encouraged by Murray's progress and wants him to learn as much as he can while spending time around the Blue Jackets. For the time being, Murray has a locker stall in the main dressing room and gets some regular interaction with the guys on the team.
"I think he can gather a lot and that’s a big part of what being a young player is all about," Kekalainen told BlueJackets.com. "You have to listen a lot, keep your eyes and ears open and try to learn from what the pros do, the guys that have been around the league for a long time.
"Usually, the best young kids have that ability -- they listen a lot and they pay attention. That to me is an important part of his time in Columbus aside from the rehab: soak it in, ask questions and be all-ears.”
An added bonus is that Murray is getting a first-hand look at several young Blue Jackets defensemen (Tim Erixon, Dalton Prout, John Moore, and previously Cody Goloubef and Nick Holden) who have earned the opportunity to contribute at the NHL level to a team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
When asked if Murray can glean something from that, Kekalainen unequivocally agreed.
“Absolutely; you can learn from young players, like he is, and you can learn from the older players," Kekalainen said. "You can learn from the trainers, the coaches, them anagement…everyone. That’s an important part of becoming a pro.”
ON HIS FIRST GM MEETINGS
Kekalainen spent a few days in Toronto last week at the NHL's annual general managers meetings, where several topics - including potential rule changes - were discussed and debated.
A first-time attendee, Kekalainen joked that he wanted to be a good student and let the more seasoned, veteran GMs do most of the talking -- but that didn't stop him from being an active participant in several discussions.
“I think it was a really good experience for me overall," Kekalainen said. "Obviously, everything was new so I did a lot of listening. There were a lot of things on the agenda because it was only a one-day meeting but there was a lot of new stuff and a lot of really good discussions among the group. I was all-ears, soaking it all in.
"There were a lot of interesting ideas on different fronts, and I’m sure everyone will be digesting it a little before be we get together for the next meetings to revisit them.”