NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs throughout the 2018-19 regular season. We talk to key figures in and around the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the most recent news.
The latest edition features Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson.
John Davidson knows the Columbus Blue Jackets are in better shape than he is.
Davidson, the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, is undergoing therapy to recover from back surgery in August. The procedure involved the fusing of five vertebrae, the insertion of two rods with 10 screws and the shaving of a handful of bone spurs by the attending physician.
The list of surgeries Davidson has undergone over the years is a lengthy one, including multiple fingers and both knees. Somehow, it seems the doctors keep finding ways to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
"It almost seems that way, doesn't it?" Davidson said with a laugh at the analogy. "I was going stir crazy at home, but now at least I've been out to see the team including on the road. I'm getting better and so is the team.
"I like what I've seen."
The potential of the Blue Jackets is what motivates Davidson, who has been in the game for more than four decades as a goalie, broadcaster, and now team executive. It's why he enthusiastically keeps his hand in the sport at 65, an age when many people opt for retirement.
"I've been involved in the NHL for about 45 years. What else would I do?" Davidson said. "I like the direction the team is going in. I think we can make an impact and cause some damage in this League. And I want to be around to see that.
"Columbus is a great city to play in, a great city to live in. I think the majority of guys that have come to our team feel that way. If not, that's their prerogative."
Davidson holds no ill-will toward forward Artemi Panarin or goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who can become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and have opted against negotiating extensions with the Blue Jackets during the regular season. A report in the Columbus Dispatch on Nov. 26 said Panarin and agent Dan Milstein will discuss "business" in late January.
"The bottom line is, both have been playing well for us," Davidson said. "A lot of guys have."
Columbus (15-9-2) is currently second in the Metropolitan Division with 32 points, one behind the Washington Capitals.
Here are Five Questions with … John Davidson:
Let's start out with Bobrovsky and Panarin. The Blue Jackets have wanted to discuss extensions with both, but each has decided against it. Where do you go from here? Do you try to trade them or finish out the season?
They're both terrific players. They're both terrific guys. And they're Columbus Blue Jackets until they're not. We'll see what comes. We'll see how it plays out. And then when it comes time to make decisions that are really important for us, we'll make decisions. They've both been playing very well for us right now. They've both been great parts of our club for a long time. [Bobrovsky], in particular, for a long time. Artemi, since he's been here, he's been such a terrific player on that line with Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois. I hope they're Blue Jackets for a long time. Ultimately, that might not be our call. You'll just have to wait and see like the rest of us.
How have you been able to keep their contract situations from distracting the team from being successful on the ice?
I think we've stayed with it and that's been the most significant factor. We had kind of an iffy start. Even now, we've never had a night where everyone has been firing on all cylinders as a group. We're getting there now. The guys in the room genuinely like each other and play for each other.
You got off to a 7-6-1 start to the season. What has been the key to the turnaround?
Seth Jones missed the start of the season (seven games) because of [a knee injury]. That's not helpful. He's a terrific player. I know people get tired of hearing it, but we're young. I think we're the second youngest team in the League after Edmonton. So when you're young and you start a season, you make mistakes. And there were some distractions. But that's all calmed down. We've been getting better and better and better. Line combos, defense, goaltending is all starting to fall into place. It's all getting better, and we're getting better.
You have been a huge supporter of John Tortorella, who has built up the reputation of being one of the most combustible coaches in the NHL. What is there about him that you find so appealing?
It's interesting to hear players talk about Torts. A great example would be Marty St. Louis, who went out of his way to mention Torts in his Hall of Fame speech. You look around this League, the real good players who have played for Torts, there's a huge amount of respect for him. He's done a good job for us. He stays with it yet he's competitive, he's fiery, he pushes the right buttons. He demands a lot, but he gets the most out of players.
How has that fire he brings mixed with general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen, who is one of the most calm and collected personalities in the NHL?
I think our management group has done a great job with all this stuff, starting with Jarmo. He has a calm demeanor for all of this. Torts has a great working relationship with Jarmo and he's got an internal fire that the players really embrace. It's been very good. The common thread is that they both want to win. So do I. That's why I was thankful and appreciative when ownership extended my contact (in September). Like I said, between Torts, Jarmo and our players, I think we can do some damage in this League, and I want to be there for it.