Forget the chicken and egg question; I can still remember how much my head hurt trying to figure out that puzzler.
That doesnt mean Im not still interested in the whole concept of which comes first, particularly as it applies to something the Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to establish here in Ohios capital: that elusive winning culture.
Weve heard the phrase mentioned many times around the Blue Jackets locker room this early season. Everyone seems focused on planting the seeds of that culture and helping make it grow. But when a colleague asked me what comes first, a winning culture or winning, I have to admit I hesitated. After some head scratching and mindless muttering, I thought Id ask a guy who figures to be instrumental in moving this franchise to the level its hoping to reach.
So, Jack Johnson, what DOES come first, the winning or the winning culture?
Id say winning, because you cant have a winning culture without winning, he explained. You need to start winning, and it grows. It doesnt come overnight; it takes time, unfortunately. The good teams who have that culture, its grown over a long period of time. So you have to start winning to make it an everyday thing.
Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards has addressed the on-ice habits he believes are integral to the building of a winning culture, things like never being outworked, winning one-on-one battles, blocking shots, finishing checks, and tightening up play in the defensive zone.
But what about inside the locker room? What type of mindset and atmosphere in the players home away from home is most conducive to accelerating the consistent winning that leads to the much-sought winning culture? For Johnson, it basically comes down to coming to work with a smile on your face.
I want to see a situation where every guy wakes up in the morning and wants to come to the rink, said the 2005 first-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. You dont view it as work; you view it as something you love to do, and its fun.
And play passionately, he added. Youre supposed to play with passion and love what you do. When you love what youre doing, you work hard, and everything takes care of itself. Every guy in the room has to have that attitude and feel that way and love playing for Columbus.
After the Blue Jackets recent two-game road swing to Phoenix and Denver, a pair of losses in which Columbus was outscored nine to one, Johnson talked about the need for his team to play more confidently and with a little more swagger. He cited the level of talent in the Columbus locker room and called for his teammates to believe in themselves collectively. And he wants the guys wearing Blue Jackets sweaters to be less careful.
We need to play to win; dont be cautious about anything, he said. Theres not enough time to sit back and wait. We need to go after it, especially against teams that are probably going to take us lightly and not expect a lot from us.
Theres too much parity in the league to take any team lightly, Johnson continued. The difference between the top teams and the teams on the bottom is not very much. If we play well every night weve got a great chance to win. We just need to generate more offense and get more scoring opportunities. Scoring one or two goals probably isnt going to do it in this league; you need to score at least three to give yourself a chance.
A chance to win, that is. Call it the chicken, or the egg, but we now know from a very credible source that winning begets a winning culture in the game of hockey. Makes sense. Now its up to the Blue Jackets to make it happen.