As Columbus Blue Jackets training camp commenced Sunday at the Ice Haus in front of more than 1,000 cheering fans, there was chatter all around. Chatter about the new faces of the club, the speed of the practice, how the goaltending looks, how good it was to be back and of course, analysis of just who among the 25 might step up to be captain now that Rick Nash, traded last summer, is off with the New York Rangers.
Oh, and dont forget those 30 goals he tossed in last season.
Rick Nash played 25 minutes a night. So theres 25 minutes of ice time for somebody, or a couple guys. The ice has to be distributed somewhere, said Head Coach Todd Richards of the opportunity that now exists for some ambitious Blue Jacket to snag up during this abbreviated season.
The 113-day NHL lockout ended last week. The club will play 48 games in 99 days, starting Saturday in Nashville.
Theres a role (Nash) had on the team being captain. So there are leadership responsibilities that are out there, too, said Richards. So, without question, with him going, there are opportunities for everyone in, really, every facet of our team.
Richards, who led a fast-paced, high-energy, 90-minute practice on Day One, said hes still keeping his eye out for who steps up to take over Nashs responsibilities.
The locker room has a way of working out. Whos taking charge, whos a leader, whos a followeryou need them all, said Richards. You cant have 20 leaders; you cant have 20 followers, theres got to be some balance. That all works itself out.
Richards said this is a certainly a case where a traditional training camp would have really helped the CBJ in feeling out who would be taking over Nashs many roles.
You have more time to assess and see, positionally, where players fit in; but, also from a leadership standpoint, where our players fit in, said Richards, adding that the abbreviated camp is going to require patience from fans, leadership and coaches to see where the chips fall. You have to allow the relationships to start to work themselves together and then what usually happens is they fall into certain categories and spots on their own.
Regardless of where, when or how the pieces all come together, one things for sure: When it comes to Richards expectations for this shortened season, there is only one: Win every game.