We were first visited by Ken Daniels, the voice of the Detroit Red Wings, who had some fun stories to share about Scotty Bowman and some favorite memories of Nicklas Lidstrom, but what was perhaps most interesting to Blue Jackets fans was the props he offered John Davidson and the fact that after he was done, he stayed right in the session because “he wanted to hear what (JD) had to say”.
John Davidson is certainly carrying his role as “the face and voice of the franchise” well right now and today was no exception. We’ve heard many of the themes already but JD stayed on point reminding us that what’s in the past is in the past and that he is focused on building a long-lasting successful organization that is built with the right players from the beginning. While there was no “Brick by brick” mention today, JD offered some good nuggets.
Regarding scouting, JD again talked about how it’s global. The organization is currently in the midst of “mid term meetings”. The process will continue to evolve to have a list top players by country and then an overall top players ranking. Tie breakers will come as they dig deeper and deeper into players to see if they are “I – Me” type of guys or “Us – We” players. He mentioned how this comes from looking at a player’s school experience, their family, their character as well as information to help try to know if the player will continue to grow physically and where his skills can go. For the draft, with our three first round picks sitting around, JD shared that the draft lottery process is not yet “entirely” clear based on changes from the CBA. He also said specifically that when it comes to choices in the first round “you want what’s best available first – then you look to replenish what you’re missing.”
When asked what JD sees right now in the Blue Jackets, he said he sees a team with a lot of character that sticks up for one another; however, JD also said in the same breath he sees a team that is definitely challenged offensively. He talked about the team that showed up and played very well against Detroit and Chicago but struggled out west and particularly first period against St. Louis. JD acknowledged that the team had some “heart to heart meetings” yesterday but what I noticed was that the air of “Panic” and “desperation” seemed absent compared to prior years when we heard these types of things. There continues to be an intangible sense of calm with JD around the organization.
One fan asked the pointed question about making moves to supplement the low scoring we’ve suffered to date. This opened the door for JD to remind us of his philosophy once again. Specifically, JD did say that he will “not compromise the future for a quick fix”. His perspective is that we need to think long term in all things, and he was honest in saying that patience will be tested at all levels as this happens. Fans, leadership, players are all going to have to wait out some decisions (or lack thereof) to see longer term goals (and assets?) be what we want them to be. As JD said “you need to keep your senses – be true to your belief. Get to where you want to get the right way”. JD did acknowledge that, particularly in this compressed season, trade calls are being made but it would have to be something that was “the right deal” for us to act.
Regarding a question about the consistency of play by our boys in union blue, again JD was serving hope with a hearty dose of realism. “We were 30th in the league for a reason last year,” he said. But JD is now still assessing the organization, and looking for moves and changes that will get us on the road to recovery. Interestingly, JD pointed out (again) that St. Louis was 30th when he took the helm there 7 years ago and, eerily enough, their first round draft pick suffered a significant injury that year. Specifically to the Blue Jacket’s injury woes with Ryan Murray, JD shared that he had recently been in Columbus for a check up with doctors. He’s returned home for about 6 months of rehab and then he’ll come back to Columbus for “NHL-type” rehab that will help him prepare for the unique demands of being a professional athlete.
While the venom was gone from this session compared to past events, the question was asked “why should we believe this time?” And if there’s one thing we’re learning about JD it’s that the past is the past. He said he understood the pain and said we can learn from it, but he’s not responsible for it. It was fairly clear he doesn’t plan to continue the past either.
Talk turned to specific players, and while JD would not comment specifically on a player’s game (a question was directly pointed towards Brassard‘s play) he did say that when considering a player you look at all things. He reminded the crowd how much easier it is to play well late in the season when the pressure is off. Regarding Oscar Dansk, JD said he liked that he’s playing and getting a lot of work in. He does hope to see one of our goalie prospects rise to the top and show himself. JD (a former goalie himself, remember) had interesting commentary around Steve Mason. JD acknowledged his difficult past and said “I believe in him because I want to believe in him.” We heard again how Mase has worked very hard in the off season and has shown up more focused. JD also shared two “sayings” that go around goalies: “the less you move the better off you are” and “it’s not what you stop, it’s what you let in.” Whether JD is talking him up or truly giving Mase one last chance remains to be seen, but, whatever happens, it’s clear that Mase is trying to make changes and JD is watching – closely.
JD said in response to the question of who he was impressed with right now he named Bobrovsky, Mason, Jack Johnson and Jared Boll (specifically his play in Nashville). He also said he has seen good things from Cam Atkinson and he hopes he’s healthy again soon (so do we, JD!). JD didn’t shy away from saying that our veterans just are not up to the level they should be at right now. All of this led to the question from the group of why there was no named captain and when might it be announced. JD said we’re waiting for the right time and the right player. He said it’s not just about play on the ice – they want someone who has a strong association with the community, is a leader off-ice and on, and also says the right things in the locker room. He also made mention how the right leadership is just one more tool in quickening the development of younger players.
The last question was well positioned and a good one at that. A fan asked about the nagging negative culture that seems to pervade Blue Jacket teams. The fan candidly said he worries that perhaps all the new guys we keep trying to bring in to fix the culture are actually being dragged down and consumed by it as well. JD said that the biggest change that needs to happen is that this team needs to expect to win – particularly with younger players here. He also pointed to the play of Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. JD said the way those two are playing on the ice demonstrate the culture we are trying to build. Not only do they come from a winning culture in New York, but they were there when perhaps that culture still needed some tweaking – so they understand what needs to happen here. Interestingly, Davidson also cited Adrian Aucoin as being a real voice in the locker room about what needs to happen and what needs to change.
Perhaps the ironically most fun part of the conversation was when JD referenced the Chicago game and “the goal that we scored there”. He referenced the rule change that the team may not contact the war room for 48 hours after a controversial call, but he shared that Colin Campbell did contact him within that window to admit that the wrong call was made. Doesn’t change anything…but good to know. I guess.
These Q&A’s have long been a great exercise by the team to give something to the fans and I’ve always found the participants, whoever they may have been to be more than cooperative and generous with their time and answers. As far as takeaways from today? The story hasn’t changed: believe, have patience, we’re building something here – the right way. JD just seems to be the first person who says that with the credibility to back it up. Do I think we have a long road ahead? Absolutely. But, I also believe the next 12 months hold some real indicators for what JD is going to do. Craig Patrick’s touch has always felt more subtle. I think the team we end up with at the end of this season may not necessarily be who we see on the ice right now and the results of this summer’s draft (arguably the deepest since 2003) are going to – finally – start to paint a picture of what this team is going to be all about.