After a broken jaw and a serious knee injury within the span of a year, Corey Tropp welcomed a new opportunity with open arms.
He began the 2013-14 season with the Buffalo Sabres, the team that drafted him back in 2007 at Nationwide Arena, and the season veered off-course early for both Tropp and the team. The Sabres replaced coach Ron Rolston with veteran Ted Nolan early in the season and later fired longtime GM Darcy Regier, and in the middle of the early season shuffle, they tried to send Tropp to their AHL affiliate in Rochester.
One problem: he had to clear waivers.
Looking for bottom-six help and an infusion of speed, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen made a claim on Tropp and hoped he’d land in Columbus.
The move was official on Thanksgiving Day, and Tropp quickly packed up and made the six-hour drive to central Ohio.
Almost immediately, Tropp seemed to fit what the Blue Jackets and coach Todd Richards were looking for. He found a home on the fourth line with Mark Letestu, Blake Comeau, Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll serving as line mates, and was a menace on the forecheck – which, as we know, became the Jackets’ bread and butter as the season went on.
“Coming off two injuries, to be honest, I don’t know if they knew what to expect or if I knew what to expect from myself,” Tropp told BlueJackets.com. “I came in with the mindset of getting back my game back on track, and getting back to the level I know I can play at because I didn’t feel like I’d been at that level. I hadn’t played much hockey in a year and a half because of injury, and my goal coming in here was to try and earn a regular spot.
|Corey Tropp (right) signed a new two-year contract with the Jackets last week. |
“As the season continued, I felt better and better on the ice. I’ve had a healthy summer and I’m really looking forward to this season. I’m excited to see how this next season can go, because last season was kind of a roller coaster. I’ll be coming to training camp healthy and ready to rock.”
He’ll also head to training camp with a new two-year extension signed last week, a one-way deal that’s the product of solid, responsible play during his abbreviated stay in Columbus.
Tropp fit with the Blue Jackets’ hard forechecking, uptempo style right from the get-go, but that was just the on-ice part of joining a new team; off the ice, his new teammates made the transition as seamless as he could have expected.
“I can’t thank them enough, because the family atmosphere they create in there made me feel welcome right away,” Tropp said. “I came in here in the middle of the season, and we were right in the thick of the playoff race. It’s definitely something I wanted to continue to be part of; coming over mid-season, I realized early on that there are special things going on here.
“I definitely know what my role is, but I think I can expand on it this year. I might have a little more offense than I showed last season, but at the same time, it’s more about playing a hard and responsible two-way game.”
The Blue Jackets think there's another level for Tropp, as well, and at only 24 years old, he hasn't yet reached his career prime years. And whether he stays on the fourth line with familiar line mates or shifts around, they know what to expect - at the very least - from one of their most energetic players.
"We play with a lot of energy and we can also make plays," Tropp said. "We’re not just going into the corners to hit guys without rhyme or reason; the objective is to have a good forecheck and that gave us a lot of success last year. Sure, we try to score goals as a fourth line but we also don’t want to give up any – we’re out there to create energy, be hard to play against and chip in offensively if we can."
And much like his teammates, Tropp was excited by the team's success in 2013-14 but was left wanting more.
"Our fans were awesome and the building was unbelievable," Tropp said. "I’m excited to stay here and keep building on that, because I think it can be even better."