Imagine getting this deep into training camp and realizing you’re still here. You really have a chance to make an NHL team. That’s the status for so many players around the league, as teams whittle down to the maximum 23-man roster.
What’s it like? How stressful is it? How do the guys on the bubble deal with it? Jack Skille is no stranger to wondering if he’s sticking with the NHL squad, and he says he’s better able to handle the stress this deep into his pro career.
“This isn’t my first rodeo. It’s been seven years, so I’ve been through quite a few training camps, and I understand now just after the experience of it that those decisions aren’t up to me,” said the Blue Jackets first-year winger. “The only thing I can control as a player, and we can control as players, is how we play on the ice. At the end of the day, that’s all we can do. So those roster decisions and cuts and everything, that comes down to the coaches and management. That’s their job. For me, I’m just trying to focus on playing hockey every day and getting better and trying to help this team win.”
Like Skille, James Wisniewski started his career with the Chicago Blackhawks. Obviously, the Columbus defenseman is an established NHL player now, but he remembers vividly how anxious he was early in his career with the Blackhawks.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I remember even after my first full season in Chicago the next year they didn’t even tell me to find a place until probably the last pre-season game. I mean I played one full year, and still they were hesitant to tell me to find a place. Knowing how that is, it’s tough, not knowing where you’re going to be. This is everybody’s dream, and you can almost feel it in your grasp, but yet you still don’t know if you’re actually going to play here or not.”
The difference between being sent down or making an NHL roster can be a case of mind over matter, according to young Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert.
“It’s a big confidence thing,” he said. “You come in here, you want to be comfortable with the guys you want to show you belong and you can make a difference at this level. Sometimes the game’s more mental than physical, and I think that’s a big thing. You spend all summer getting physically ready, but you’ve got to be mentally ready at the same time. I think the guys that are stronger in that category will be the ones that make it.”
And what about the guy who’s actually going to be coaching this roster? What is he looking for as he tries to decide which guys are in Columbus October 4th? Well, Todd Richards says he’s been looking for guys playing to win those final jobs, as opposed to being careful about not losing their chance.
“I think sometimes players get caught up in a mindset that instead of trying to come in and trying to make the team, they try and make the team by not making any mistakes. And I think that ends up hurting their play and hurting their opportunity to make the team. I recall that myself when I was a player, that mentality of ‘I have to make sure I don’t get beat, make sure I don’t do this, don’t do that.’ Instead, you should be saying, ‘let’s do this let’s do that.’ I think it has affected some of our younger players at this camp, just with that mentality.”
Congratulations to Blue Jackets winger Blake Comeau and his wife Lacey, who delivered the couple’s first child Wednesday night, a girl. As of this posting, she was a baby to be named later.