Cody Golobeuf had just skated in his second-ever NHL game. Unfortunately for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was a home loss to the L.A. Kings. But the youngster had held his own, going +1 in 15:37 minutes of play, with a shot on goal. Did it matter that it was the defending champs who were on the other side of the red line for his 2013 debut?
“No, I didn’t really think about it,” said the Blue Jackets second-round pick in 2008. “The NHL is the NHL to me, and any team is going to be good. Everybody has their superstars, so I wasn’t really looking at the names on the back, just more or less the black jerseys coming at us.”
So many times when young guys get the call to the big club, they play tentatively, hoping not to make mistakes. Ironically, that can be the biggest mistake of all, because that approach means those players aren’t playing to their strengths. It’s hard to impress NHL head coaches when you’re not showcasing your best attributes.
Golobeuf was focused on making sure that wasn’t the case with him. He wanted to keep it simple, yes, but he also wanted to make sure he was playing his game and playing to his skill set.
“Yeah, I just try to utilize my skating,” he explained. “I feel if my feet are moving it’s the best I can do to help myself succeed. Just play strong and move my feet, and that kind of takes care of itself, the rest of it.”
The 23-year-old defenseman felt more confidence coming into the NHL this time, a byproduct of the success he and the Springfield Falcons have been enjoying this season in the American Hockey League. Any hockey development expert will tell you it’s always better to develop a young player in a winning environment, and Golobeuf’s confidence level has benefitted from Springfield’s strong year.
“You know, I think it was good,” he noted. “Nolan Pratt (Springfield asst. coach) does a lot of one-on-one video stuff with us, and he really focuses on paying attention to detail. I felt I was ready to make the jump, and it does help a lot when your mindset is that you’re ready to go, and you think you’re ready, it helps a lot when you’re up here.”
Usually when players make the jump from the AHL, it’s the greater size and speed in the NHL that’s most apparent. But Golobeuf says the greater skill in the NHL can make it easier to adjust.
“It’s quicker, but it’s more controlled at the same time, so it’s not as much chaos,” pointed out the University of Wisconsin product. “Guys aren’t flying around out of position all the time. Everyone stays within the structure, within their guidelines. So it is quicker and you’ve got to make quicker decisions. But at the same time, you know the guy’s going to be there if you need an out, which makes it nice.”
With injuries still plaguing the Columbus Blue Jackets, especially on the back line, Golobeuf had a chance to play in his third NHL game, vs. the Calgary Flames. This time, the Blue Jackets took the game to overtime before falling on an Alex Tanguay blast from the right circle. But even though the result was a little different, Golobeuf’s approach was rock steady. He says it’s the only way he tries to play any game, no matter the level.
“Simplicity and clean,” he said of his style of play. “Just fly under the radar and play hard, jump into the play whenever I get the chance, and make sure I’m making good plays getting out of the zone. I think that’s the biggest thing is not spending too much time in our own zone. So when I have a chance to make a crisp pass or make a play in my own zone, I’m going to look to make that play and move my feet.”
Clean and simple. That’s Golobeuf’s game. Play hard and play to your strengths; no need to change it at this level. On the contrary, that’s most probably his best ticket, or any player’s best ticket, to a full-time job in the NHL.