Last night, I attended the Town Hall meeting with John Davidson and Todd Richards. Aside from the pomp and circumstance of parading out the new scoreboards (which are amazing as everyone says) and introducing the sales reps, it was down to business.
I think the biggest take away from last evening was that JD is basically asking us to buy in to a new way of building this team – and he’s got the resume to prove he can do it. It’s very clear that JD has a plan and a tagline to go with it: “One Brick at a Time”. The analogy was drawn that bricks are used to lay a foundation – and, if that is done properly, you’ve built something that will last. Last night was hearing more about exactly what that means: this is a process to get the Blue Jackets to a place of sustained greatness and it’s going to take work.
To start at the beginning, John believes that Columbus “now” is better than St. Louis was when he first came in. The CBJ also have the opportunity to jump start their growth with a draft that was termed “gigantic” by Mr. Davidson with the upcoming three first round picks. John and Todd also commented that the loss of Rick Nash has brought us some exciting pieces to compliment the leadership that already exists. Specific players that were mentioned included Jack Johnson who received excessive praise for how he came into Columbus; Brandon Dubinsky whose passion was compared as equal to Jack’s upon joining the boys in Union Blue; and Artem Anisimov also for his enthusiasm. I would be remiss if I didn’t also share that Derek Dorsett was mentioned by Coach Richards as someone who leaves an impression. Todd also commented that when someone like Nash leaves, it really opens a window of opportunity for others to step up and that current players are doing so in word and deed.
The only real place that JD, Todd and the hockey ops team can focus their energy right now is on our prospects and potential draftees and the conversation on current prospects was spirited and enlightening. It was acknowledged that scouting today is “world-wide” and upcoming trips to Russia for the World Juniors was mentioned as an example of being everywhere to find the best.
In looking to our boys in Springfield, in Todd Richards’ words, “the only good thing to come out of the work stoppage is the extra time our young players have had in the AHL.” An interesting observation that partnered with this statement was JD’s musing that because there is no NHL, a lot of young players can’t fight to get into the big league. Thus, they are actually where they should be -the AHL. The AHL is a development league and that is what these boys need – time to learn how to be professionals, get ice time, understand proper nutrition, develop proper training habits. That Springfield is doing quite well at present time is a huge benefit – as many have said before, learning how to win brings immeasurable benefits down the road.
Both men also complimented the coaching staff in Springy for “keeping the foot on the gas pedal” and for bringing strong leadership to the team which only helps young players develop more quickly.
Some specific comments on players included:
- Ryan Murray: a player with a wonderful future ahead of him. JD has no fear that he won’t develop into an elite player. They have confidence that the work ethic he’s displayed will bode well in his recovery from shoulder surgery
- Ryan Johansen: an excellent player whose path will be determined by him. Springfield is good for him because he is getting the kind of ice time he needs. Ultimately, he will be a top six player in the NHL, and the timing to bring him into the NHL depends on when he can get those kind of minutes based on his readiness and the roster spots.
- Tim Erixon: He needs to get physically stronger but a great player.
- Cam Atkinson: An exciting player who always finds a way to be around the puck.
- Dansk and Korpisalo both got positive mentions as strong prospects to watch.
- The Defense: our blue line is a tremendous asset and will bring us great defensive strength as well as valuable pieces that can be used as currency if we ever need to go get players to bolster what the team lacks. (A lot of fancy language to say we can make better trades).
As for our current roster, Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky were cited as strong by JD, and once again the ever present “work ethic” of “Bob” was mentioned as a huge benefit on ice and off. The ”scoring by committee” plan is soundly in place. We’re going to have a lot of young talent and we’re going to focus on power play goals and a lot more back end scoring. The strong shots of our defensive corps were references more than a couple times.
Overall, what is coming to Columbus is a focus on being in the “business of winning”. It was abundantly clear that JD is not going to spend his time apologizing for past mistakes, or dwelling on them. Questions from the crowd on Doug MacLean and the “country club” atmosphere were more or less dismissed as not relevant to what is being built. Past negativity and stigmas are not going to be tolerated. Richards said last year we hoped to win…and we will become a team that expects to win.
JD plans to lead this team to be tolerant, to not give away assets, and to be a team that is never out worked. We’ll focus on building our young players, and ensuring that every player has a strong off season to expedite their development. We’re talking up Columbus because it truly is a great city with great facilities that can draw elite talent. Our goal is to be a good team for a long time.
Ultimately what this means for us fans is – come on board and enjoy the ride. Watch the young guys get better – and respect the process. As Coach Richards said, “when you get up out of your seats, we want you to enjoyed what you saw…win or lose…we want you to be proud of how this team fought.”
Now – if only we could put all this to the test…while the event was a great opportunity to sit in the arena and hear from leadership, the frustration level from everyone there was palpable. Coach Richards mentioned his own frustration as he doesn’t know what to do with all his energy and he is now left to watch videos he had prepared for training camps when he should be coaching. John Davidson also clearly wants the puck to drop, “I wake up every morning and it’s gut wrenching…” Yes, Mr. Davidson, we know how you feel, indeed.