You’ve heard the mantra many times: Brick by brick. It’s a reference to the plan Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen have implemented to build the Blue Jackets into a perennial playoff contender. It’s a process, and it almost inevitably takes time. And patience.
And so it is with individual young players trying to build their games on a foundation strong enough to stand the rigors and tests of NHL. It usually takes time. And patience. Yes, it’s a process.
For young Columbus center/winger Boone Jenner, his third NHL game – Saturday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins – was an apparent step forward. He was a physical presence against the Bruins, one of the tougher teams to play against in the NHL. He looks back on that game as a small sign of progress but knows the path to where he really wants to be is long.
“Yeah, I think with each game I get more comfortable, and I guess it slows down a little bit for you,” said the Ontario native. “But there are still areas I want to be better at, and I just try to keep building every game, experience and stuff like that. We have a bunch of games coming up here, and I’m just looking to get better and quicker each game.”
Jenner was a healthy scratch in the Blue Jackets win over the Buffalo Sabres, the team’s third game of the year. His return against Boston Saturday drew the same mixed reviews from his head coach, Todd Richards
“I thought he was OK. There are some things that are still ‘junior’ things, those habits that you have there. You know, he works hard, he’s strong,” Richards noted.
“We’ve got to get him to go to the net harder,” he continued. “And I think sometimes just the speed of the puck and playing fast, you know the way that these guys pass the puck, I’m finding that sometimes pucks are hitting his stick and he’s not able to handle those quick, hard plays.
“It’s always easy when you have a lot of time and get your head up and corral the puck or give a puck. When you’ve got to do it fast; when you’ve got a big guy breathing down your neck, it’s a tough play. So it’s him getting accustomed to the real speed of the game.”
With his size and grit, Boone Jenner will be an extremely valuable piece – brick, if you will – in the Blue Jackets blueprint for long-term success. He can play a “heavy” game and help make Columbus a team that much harder to handle for opponents. The progress he makes in building his personal game to the point he is able to make that kind of consistent contribution to the team effort is one of the intriguing sidebars to this early season.
Pretty much to a man, Blue Jackets players and coaches called last Saturday’s matchup against Boston a measuring stick. Certainly the Bruins have been one of the league’s elite teams the past few years, having won a Stanley Cup and playing in two Stanley Cup Final series in the past three years. How did Todd Richards’ team measure up? According to the coach, the effort was solid, but there are components of the Blue Jackets game that need work.
“Two areas that were pretty glaring to me that we have to get better at and you have to give Boston credit: They pressured us and created some turnovers in our own zone, so our execution has to get better under pressure,” Richards said.
“And the other was just being harder in the battles in our defensive zone,” he added. “Too many times they were able to move out of the corner and make a play. You know it’s never an error-free game, so there were some mistakes, but I thought we played them pretty hard.”