This is the first part of a series of articles featuring Q&A sessions with Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson. He sat down with CBJ radio host Bob McElligott to discuss the team's upcoming training camp, the status of the locker room, the 'it factory' with Zach Werenski and more. Part two of this series is coming soon.
McElligott: Last year was the team's first full season with John Tortorella, he held the training camp, they went through it, (and) they were better for it. What do you expect with (the team) coming back, the majority of them, with a second year of his training camp?
Davidson: I think they'll know what to expect. I think some trained differently last summer, and it didn't help, some trained, and it really helped. I think there's going to be adjustments there. It's also the first full summer under Nelson Ayotte, who's a strength and conditioning specialist. A quick story; Boone Jenner had been working out this spring at home in Ontario, and he came down and then worked out with Nelson right over there in a room, and he goes, 'Whoa. This is a little different from what I've been doing up there.' He decided to stick around for a while because it's tough, it's hard. And you have to do it, otherwise we won't get better. Jenner realized it, and he's a hard working guy. He just put his nose to the grindstone and away they went. Torts knows what to expect from the players, and the players know what to expect from Torts. It's a good room. Torts is the boss of the room, but the players govern the room, so it's a good relationship. And if there's any questions, there's some leadership that march down the hall to Torts's office, and they have a little discussion and figure things out. Which is just like families, only it's a big, different family and it's the best - our room right now is the best it's been since I've been here, and that's a hard thing to change. But once you get there again, it's something that you don't even - two, three years ago you'd lay in bed at three in the morning with your eyes wide open going, 'How am I going to get this room to change? How? They're good people, they're hard working players….' Nick Foligno became captain and he's done a really good job at learning about that. The young players, the Werenskis, these are young people who really get it. Quick story about him, the end of July into early August there's a tournament called a Five Nations Tournament in Plymouth, which is in Michigan, about a three hour drive from here. Canada, Finland, Sweden, U.S. and Czechs or somebody else, they come in and play a tournament. Dubois will be there, a kid we drafted by the name of Peeke will play for the US team, a defenseman and a really good prospect, so we go there. There's good crowds, but most of them are scouts from all over the leagues, teams send five or six amateur scouts to all these tournaments. I look over and there's Zach Werenski. I go, 'Oh, hi Zach. How are you doing?' and Werenski goes 'Oh I had to show up and just see my guys.' He wanted to support the guys that had been drafted by our club. I know he doesn't live too far from there, but you don't have to do that. That's just the type of kid this kid is, and it was just great to see him.
McElligott: It's funny you say that because as I watched him last year, I can't even say I watched him mature because he was mature the day he stepped through the door, and you just get that sense that somewhere down the line he's got that 'it factor,' he can be that leader. Did you get that sense early?
Davidson: Absolutely I do. Even the Memorial Cup, it's a junior championship (where) most of the teams are in Canada, it was played in Windsor, Ontario this spring, he went over there because a couple of guys were playing in it that belong to us. He wanted to support the Blue Jacket players. That's just the type of kid this kid is and a lot of it, family upbringing means so much when you really get into it. It's character, and it's character and it's character. And one thing about athletes or anybody - I keep telling people, I tell my children this, character doesn't slump. You may, as a hockey player, have a bad week or a bad couple of games, when you're a goalie like I was with the world's largest five hole, but if you have character you fight through things. You may slump but character doesn't. You get out of these slumps quicker if you have character; that 'it factor' that you're talking about. Zach's got it.