A few months ago, the Blue jackets didn’t have enough room on the roster to sign forward Jack Skille to a contract extension. The former first round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks (2005) signed a one-year, two-way deal with the New York Islanders on July 1. Three months later, he was back in Columbus.
After one season with the Blue Jackets, playing in 16 games and going 4-0-4 (+2), he found himself looking for a new job due to a roster glut of forwards. Although he gave it his all to make the Islanders team, Columbus still held a special place in his heart. The summer months seemed to take a long time to pass for him.
"You could say that," said Skille. "It was a good summer. I did a good job training, making sure I was in shape for training camp with the Islanders. Obviously, after I signed with them, I was focused on making that team. It didn’t work out.
"I’m just happy that this organization picked me up, as I have a good history with them from last year. I’m really comfortable with this organization and I’m really happy to be here."
When the Blue Jackets claimed him off waivers from the Islanders on Oct. 5, he felt some relief in coming back to a team and city he got to know last year.
"I was really happy," he said. "Not just going to an organization that you know, but going into a locker room that you know… knowing the players in here, knowing the group. It’s a good group with a lot of character in the room. It’s a fun group to be around. I really enjoyed my time last year with them and I’m looking forward to a new chapter here."
During the first round playoff series between Columbus and the Pittsburgh Penguins, he played on the top line with Ryan Johansen. That speaks to the skill and versatility of Skille. He went 0-1-1 (-2), playing in all six games of the playoff series.
He’s coming back into an organization and a locker room with many of the same faces. That familiarity has a positive effect on a player, according to Skille.
"Yeah, you get comfortable with certain guys, and it’s a lot easier to hold each other accountable, I think, when you’re in a group like that. You have high expectations of each other. That’s only going to make the team better.
"I’ve played on teams that were the opposite, where the guys didn’t really know each other or hang out. It’s hard to win in that type of environment.
"This group is pretty tight and a lot of guys hang out off the ice. We enjoy everyone’s company. Like I said, accountability is a big part of winning organizations and I think with the comfort level in here, we have that."
But, knowing he was claimed and staying with the team having a two-way contract, he knows that he needs to continuously improve in order to stay in Columbus. Is he happy with where his game is now?
"No, not necessarily," Skille continued. "I made a lot of good strides and I’ve found a good portion of my game. I had a really good camp on Long Island and it’s unfortunate that I didn’t make that team.
"But, I landed here. I don’t think that anybody is ever satisfied with where their game is. The goal is to get better and continue to be a better player every day. I’m not going to settle for anything, as I’m my biggest critic. I’m going to continue to work hard, get better and not be content."
His attitude and work ethic fit in with the identity that the team has forged over the last few years. He knows that the hard work will be rewarded. The goal this year is to stay healthy and continually improve everything about his game that he can.
"That’s a big part of it, obviously", he said. "Do whatever I can in the weight room for injury prevention to try and play a full season. It’s a daily process."
Jack Skille is very happy to be back wearing the union blue. Last season, he wore No. 5 because of Marian Gaborik claiming the No. 10. With Gaborik in Los Angeles, Skille can now lay claim to No. 10. It’s a new season, when things begin anew. A fresh start is what Skille is hoping for.