That’s how long it has been since I joined the Blue Jackets as a senior advisor and it has been a very challenging but rewarding time for me. There have been a lot of changes to the hockey club over the past nine months as a result of a season that was difficult for everyone in our organization and our fans. But as I look at where we are today compared to where we were last December, I am very excited about our team moving forward.
The team really responded to Todd Richards who was able to get more and more guys playing together as the season progressed. He had the team playing a very strong game at the end of the season and the way we finished over the final 20 or so games really gave us a lot of hope for 2012-13. I believe Todd was the main reason for that, which is why I was very happy that he was brought back as head coach.
Since the end of the season, we have improved our team in every area – coaching, forwards, defense and goaltending. Todd’s staff, with the additions of Craig Hartsburg and Keith Acton, is very smart and experienced and will help our players tremendously. Our lineup is much, much stronger, particularly on defense. We already had a strong core at that position and have an even deeper group now. And while you never know where you’ll end up in the standings, I do know we will be very much improved.
When I arrived here I found a club that was in disarray, which can happen very easily when a team goes through the trials that this team did over the first two months of the season. It seemed that anything that could go wrong did and when you experience seasons like that – which I have – it is easy for a team to be torn apart. We obviously didn’t play very well, but it also seemed that every bounce went against us. It is said that you make your own bounces, but I don’t believe that is always the case, and when it isn’t it can really wear on guys.
Part of my excitement about the upcoming season comes from observing our players at the end of last year and what I have seen in the off-season. We have a group of guys who will never let what happened happen again. We also added guys who won’t let something like that happen. That process began with the addition of Jack Johnson, which was incredibly important. It continued with the moves we made this summer.
We showed at the end of last year that when you come to play and compete every night then you have success. That was the mindset we had at the end of the year. Guys that take that approach night in and night out were the types of players we were looking for… and the type of players we found.
Here are my quick thoughts on the new players who have joined the Blue Jackets during the off-season:
While I haven’t seen Sergei play a lot, everyone I talked to said you’re going to love this guy and that he is one of the hardest-working goaltenders they have ever seen. He also has a great personality, is very upbeat, but very competitive.
I really enjoyed meeting Ryan, watching him during our Development Camp and seeing how he handled himself as a number one draft pick. He is a really humble guy who takes pride in his game and carries himself very well on and off the ice. I believe he will be a very good player for us for a long time.
Nick is another player who really fits the type we wanted to bring in. He is a person of high character and is a solid player who wants more responsibility on the ice and in the dressing room. He is a hard-working guy and comes from a hockey family as his father (Mike) was a very good player in the NHL for many years.
He is a quality, quality guy and for our defensemen to see him every day and play with a guy like that will be a huge asset. He has done everything in his career. He has been an offensive defenseman, a shutdown defensive guy, a leader. He is a guy who logged 30-35 minutes a game at times earlier in his career. He has played every role there is for a defenseman to play and is a consummate professional.
I have always been a fan of Brandon’s. I have seen him a lot. The Rangers have brought me in for a number of events and I always appreciated the way he plays. He has a great work ethic, has speed and grittiness. He is just a solid, solid hockey player. He is the real deal and the type of player we need.
I have been really impressed with him. He plays at both ends of the ice, has quick hands and quick instincts. I think he is a real gem. He is a young guy who is still emerging as a player and has tremendous upside.
I started watching Tim during the second half of the season and he is a good, young player. I drafted and signed his dad. (note: In Patrick’s first season as general manger of the New York Rangers, the club selected LW Jan Erixon with their second pick, 30th overall, in the 1981 NHL Draft.) His dad is an awesome guy and from everything I have heard, Tim is the same type.
The makeup of our team is very different from a year ago and I am really looking forward to getting started. I think this team is going to be an exciting one to watch and believe it is going to be a successful year.