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What They're Saying

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Monday’s press conference at Nationwide Arena began a new era for the Blue Jackets, as they introduced Todd Richards as the sixth head coach in franchise history. After overseeing an impressive transformation of the club down the stretch as the interim coach, Richards earned the opportunity to guide the team into a new chapter and signed a two-year contract through the 2013-14 season.
The Blue Jackets had a winning record over the final two months of the season and in all home games with Richards at the helm, and the players have talked about the structure and accountability factor that their new head coach brings to the table. We talked to the best source of information on the new bench boss – the players - for reaction to this story and have compiled a sampling below:

JARED BOLL | FORWARD: Perennially one of the NHL’s leaders in fighting majors, Boll has become a fan favorite in Columbus because of his pugnacious attitude and willingness to stand up for his teammates night in and night out.

“Boller” is excited that Richards will be back as the Blue Jackets’ head coach next season. Read his thoughts below:

“I think this is great. When he stepped in he brought a different attitude to our team and we were able to win some games and start moving in the right direction. He made everyone accountable. The guys all bought in and wanted to play well for him.”

DEREK DORSETT | FORWARD: While known around the NHL as one of the premier agitators, Dorsett showed another side to his evolving game in 2011-12. On several occasions, he adorned the alternate captain “A” on his sweater – a sign he is developing into a leader both on the ice and in the locker room. Dorsett scored 12 goals this past season, blowing his previous career-best (4) out of the water and had a knack for scoring clutch goals. Versatility was a big part of Dorsett’s role once Richards took over behind the bench; Richards used Dorsett in a checking role at even strength (and he drew even more minutes once Sammy Pahlsson was traded), in the first two rotations on the penalty kill, and at the front of the net on the power play.

The guy we all know as “Dorse” weighed in on the hiring of Richards:

“This is a really good move for our team. Todd is a smart coach who holds everyone accountable and
pushes guys to play the right way. He is very honest. If you do something wrong, he has a way of telling
you in a positive way how you can be better. He also lets you know if he likes something you did or the way you’re playing. He is very passionate and you know he cares. He instills confidence and trust in you and because of that you feel a responsibility to not let him or the other guys in the room down. He really seems to have an ability to get guys to play better.”

JACK JOHNSON | DEFENSEMAN: The man affectionately known as “JJ” or simply “Jack” by his new adoring fans in Columbus made an impact upon arrival. His upbeat attitude and determined spirit to be part of a winning Blue Jacket club became infectious, and many believe his presence was an immediate jolt (in a positive way) throughout the locker room.

Not only did his off-ice demeanor garner significant attention, but his play on the ice was solid, too: Johnson tallied four goals and 14 points in 21 games with the Blue Jackets and posted a +5 rating. He has been on a tear at the IIHF World Hockey Championship, serving as captain of the red-hot Team USA. He gave us his thoughts on Todd Richards:

“I’m really excited about it. He did the best job I’ve seen in keeping guys loose and having fun, while being demanding at the same time. That is hard to do, but he did it and we started to see the results towards the end of the season. In the short time I’ve been here, I really enjoyed playing for him. He did a great job keeping the team together both on and off the ice. Guys enjoyed coming to the rink and working hard every day and that translates into success. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do over the course of a whole season.”

RICK NASH | FORWARD: The Blue Jackets captain had another solid year, posting a seventh season of 30-plus goals (one of three active NHL players to accomplish the feat) and leading the club in scoring. When Richards took over as the interim coach, he got an invigorated push from the 27-year-old as he tallied three goals in the season’s final weekend and was among the NHL’s leaders in total shots on goal.

Nash shared his thoughts with us regarding the Richards hiring:

“I thought Todd did a great job with a hard situation when he took over the team. The guys liked playing for him and I think he is deserving of the position.”

VINNY PROSPAL | FORWARD: At age 37 – and coming off a knee surgery that caused him to miss most of the previous season – Prospal quickly became one of the most beloved Blue Jackets in 2011-12. He laid it on the line every single night, and was one of two Blue Jackets to play in all 82 games. He was a regular alternate captain and developed a strong relationship with his teammates – including the younger players who raved about Prospal’s ability to demonstrate “the right way” to do things as a professional hockey player.

Prospal picked up his play under Richards and was the club’s second-leading scorer (16 goals, 39 assists) behind captain Rick Nash. Want to know what Vinny thinks about Richards having his interim tag removed this week? Look no further:

“The thing about Richy was he made it very clear what he wanted from us both on and off the ice. He
brought discipline and structure that went from the dressing room to practice to games. We started to play for each other and we became a really good team at the end of the year.”

R.J. UMBERGER | FORWARD: Umberger admitted he wasn’t at all thrilled with his start to the 2011-12 season. As a player who has averaged at least 20 goals in each season he’s played in Columbus, Umberger had to wait until Oct. 25 to record his first marker of the year. It came in the team’s first win, and he was also one of the club’s offensive leaders after the All-Star break. He finished the season with 20 goals and 40 points, and had a hat trick on Mar. 23 vs. the Carolina Hurricanes.
“Umby” is one of the more vocal leaders on the Blue Jackets, and like Richards, he wants to build off what they started at the end of last season and start 2012-13 on a stronger note. Umberger speaks about the hiring of Richards below:

“Todd did a great job of getting us motivated, setting goals and then going out and reaching them. We were all excited about the way we finished and it is great to know he is going to be coaching us moving forward. He brought a level of fun and made it enjoyable to come to the rink every day even though we were having a tough season. He created an environment in which guys wanted to work harder and push each other and that is the type of environment we need to maintain going into next season.”

JAMES WISNIEWSKI | DEFENSEMAN: One half of the defense pairing known as “Controlled Chaos,” Wisniewski came to the Blue Jackets with a reputation as a skilled offensive defenseman who isn’t afraid to mix it up when the occasion calls for it. Despite missing the first eight games of the season due to suspension and a large chunk of the season because of an ankle fracture and concussion-like symptoms, Wisniewski finished among the TOI average leaders in the NHL, often playing over 27 minutes per game. He put up 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 48 games and – especially at the end of the year – fans got to see his wicked one-timer alongside Jack Johnson on the power play.

“Wiz” offered up his thoughts on Todd Richards:

“Todd did a great job and the guys really responded to him. He has a really good demeanor in the room and on the bench. He is assertive and confident and doesn’t get too emotional. He is never too high or too low and always seems completely in control. He is a true professional. We’re a big family here so it is important that everyone enjoys being around each other and works hard for each and pushes each other. Coaches want to hold players accountable but players also want their coaches to be accountable and Todd is. He understands the situation and the task at hand and I think we have a chance to really build something special.”

Let’s keep the conversation going: tweet us @BlueJacketsNHL and give us your thoughts (if you haven’t done so already!) on the new head coach in Columbus.


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