Since donning the sweater of the team that drafted him in the fourth round (101st overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Jared Boll has gone on to become the longest-tenured player on the Blue Jackets roster. He made his debut in the 2007-08 season, playing the role of an up-and-coming enforcer who has never been one to shy away from dropping the gloves.
In this, his seventh year in the league, he has grown into a player that plays a smart game. Although he’ll never be a prolific goal-scorer, he brings an attitude that fits in well with the hard-working ethos of this club.
With three games to play in the regular season, and the club on the cusp of their second-ever appearance in the postseason, he is a mere three minutes shy of breaking the Blue Jackets all-time penalty minutes record of 1,025 that is held by Jody Shelley.
He is one of only two players on the current roster that played in the Blue Jackets first playoff appearance in 2008-09, RJ Umberger being the other. After recently coming back from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle, he said it’s exciting to be back on the ice in the midst of a push to make the playoffs.
"It’s awesome," he said. "I really couldn’t ask for a better time to come back, when the games are so important. These are fun games to play in. It’s like our playoffs have already started."
He has grown as a player that has evolved his game from that of an enforcer-type to an energy guy that makes smart plays with the puck. With him back in the lineup, his presence tends to keep other teams honest. That was evident last Thursday in Philadelphia, as the Flyers are known from not shying away from taking liberties with opposing players.
"I think so," said Boll, "especially in an environment like Philly has, at home they try to play the ‘bully’ role and push teams out of their building. I thought our whole team responded well. We emphasize team confidence before the game, everyone sticking together. I thought we did that well."
In the recent 4-0 rout of the New York Islanders, the entire team was playing with an edge. Boll ended up dropping the gloves with the Isles Matt Carkner, after teammate Matt Calvert had a bit of a tussle with Carkner.
"They were coming hard and we knew we had to match it. We were pretty much protecting ourselves and matching their intensity."
It comes as no surprise to Boll to see Matt Calvert stick up for himself or a teammate, the same Calvert who decided to drop the gloves with the New York Rangers Rick Nash. Size difference doesn’t seem to matter.
"That’s how he plays," said Boll of Calvert. "He’s an ‘in your face’ kind of guy and won’t back down from anyone."
After Boll had the fight with Carkner, does he now feel like he’s all the way back after the injury?
"If you mean getting punched in the face, then yeah," he said with a chuckle. "It’s what we preach in here. It’s team toughness and sticking together. When something happens like that, it just felt like it was time to step up and we needed it."
Having had a taste of the postseason, in which he played one game, he knows how important making the playoffs is this year, not only for the team, but also for a fan base that has endured just one playoff appearance in the club’s history.
"I think it’s huge," he said. "Obviously, I’ve been here for awhile and only been in the playoffs once. And, that was to get swept (by the Detroit Red Wings). I think the city is obviously deserving of a playoff run. Not only to make the playoffs, but to do well in the playoffs, win games and be successful."
"This is huge for our team and it’s huge for the city. We just have to make sure that we get in the playoffs and then anything can happen."
Columbus can clinch their spot in the playoffs with a win (regulation/overtime/shootout) tonight in Dallas, a postponed make-up game that will start with the Blue Jackets holding a 1-0 lead. They have overcome adversity for most of the season and for them, nothing seems to come easy. They’ve had to fight for everything they’ve gotten. Does Boll think this makes them a dangerous team going into the playoffs?
"I think you have to look at us like that," he said. "I don’t think it matters who we play. Once we’re in the playoffs, like I said, anything can happen. Especially with the team that we have, we roll four lines and just keep coming. I think in a seven-game series, we’re tough to play against.
"Our goaltending (Sergei Bobrovsky) is really good right now. If you get a hot goalie in the playoffs, you never know what could happen. Obviously, our first goal is to get in and then we’ll go from there."
Jared Boll is an integral part of the team and one of the bricks upon which the foundation was laid when John Davidson came on board. His drive to be a better player and a leader has seen him play his entire career to this point with the club that drafted him. He may not always make a splash, but you know that he’s here.