COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After the conclusion of on-ice sessions at Nationwide Arena on Thurs., Sept. 12, Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards met with the media. Here is a transcript of his media session.
Q: What did you want to establish today? Pace?
Todd Richards: “Pace and there were some systematic things that we wanted to cover and I thought we were able to do that. We worked some d-zone and some forecheck and some transition. Things that we really felt as a coaching staff and as an organization was the foundation to our game and our identity as a team. Last year we defended well and we were an aggressive forechecking team. Not a lot changed there, but that’s what we want to establish early on.”
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
Q: When do you determine who is in the lineup for Sunday?
TR: “We have some names written down as far as how we want to set up our guys. What I mean by 'our guys' is I’m talking about the guys who were here last year. You have to have so many veterans in the lineup. I told the guys we have eight exhibition games. I would like to see our guys, the guys who have been here, play five out of eight games. So we might be as far as veterans in the lineup or NHL players who played here last year might be a bit heavy for our games but that’s fine with me because I want us to be ready come Oct. 4. We’re not going to pace ourselves through the exhibition games or through training camp. I want us playing. We’ve got to try combinations out. We’ve got to get powerplay combinations out on the ice. There are some young kids that we’ve got to look at, that we have to see. Some guys have earned opportunities and they deserve those opportunities. There will be guys sprinkled in or mixed in but for me it’s about getting our guys ready for Oct. 4.”
Q: You seem to like Gaborik and Anisimov together. Any idea who the third person might be? Who are the candidates for the spot there?
TR: “I think it’s all of our guys. Matty Calvert, RJ (Umberger), Nick Foligno who is a left handed shot that we have playing the right side. There are lots of things to try. But on the flip side of that, I like the way that certain combinations worked last year. Dubinsky, Calvert, Atkinson and Johanson, Umberger and Foligno because we were successful that way. But we have to find someone on the left side that will complement Gabby (Gaborik) and Arty (Anisimov) and make them a dangerous line.”
Q: Vinny’s old spot?
TR: “Yeah, Vinny’s old spot.”
Q: What are your thoughts of Cam Atkinson this year? How much better can he be if he’s got his ankles and his feet?
TR: “I thought he looked great today. He was one guy to me that stood out. It was a really good day. I thought we had good pace, good intensity, the speed was good. When you’re running practice, a lot of times you miss a lot of things but to me Cam was one guy stood out in a good way today.”
Q: When you look at the depth of what you have here, guys with NHL experience, guys with talent, but if you could think back to two seasons ago, how excited are you? Is this maybe deeper than this team has been in a long time?
TR: “I guess time will tell as far as the depth. I’m excited about the draft picks that we had this summer and obviously adding a guy like Nathan Horton over the summer adds to your depth. When you’re able to add those types of players, Brandon, Gabby, add to the depth. The way we finished was a lot of young guys stepping up last year and having Springfield guys really come and contribute. Looking at the defensemen, the depth you have there, you have Wisniewski, Jack (Johnson), Tyuts (Tyutin), (Nikita) Nikitin, Prouter stepped up. Tim Erixon played well. Now you’ve got David Savard who looks good this camp, condition-wise. Cody Goloubef came up for a few of those games and you’ve got Ryan Murray. Ilari Melart is a guy that’s come in and we’re going to have to take a look and see where he’s at. Whether it’s through the draft, free agency, whether it’s just development of guys, of young players, you’re excited about the depth but I think time will tell just to see how deep we really are and how good some of these young players can be.”
Q: You mentioned Savard. Is he noticeably fitter, stronger, faster?
TR: “He looks better to me. He looks better to me out on the ice, and he looks better to me off the ice.”
Q: Melart? He didn’t seem to be making a lot of friends.
TR: “I asked our guys, I said one thing that we have to do—and I say this every year and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first day of training camp or Dec. 30 and you’re practicing—we have to approach practices with some intensity. Respect your teammates, we’re family out there, but in order for us to get better, we need some intensity in practice. That means going into corners hard, and respectful. He did that and I think he caught a couple of guys off-guard but that’s how you drive practice. That’s what drives practice and gets the intensity going and he’s making himself better but what he’s also doing is making his teammates better too.”