Portrait of an All-Star: Nick Foligno
What does an "All-Star" embody? The definition of the term is simply this: composed wholly or chiefly of stars or of outstanding performers or participants.
Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno was selected to his first NHL All-Star Game on Saturday. And really, it was a "no-brainer." If you look at just his statistics this season, he merits inclusion. In 39 games, he’s posted 18-22-40. In his eighth year in the NHL, the 18 goals ties his career high set last season in 70 games last year. The 40 points he’s accumulated is just seven shy of tying his career high in points, set in 2011-12 with the Ottawa Senators.
But, if you look beyond those numbers, you will find a man that deserves to be there for many other reasons.
"I’m honored by being selected," said Foligno. "I don’t know how else to describe it, really. It’s a great feeling. I think it makes you proud of your game and what you’ve been able to accomplish and also the type of player that I’m hopefully becoming, although there is still room for improvement.
"Any time that you feel like you’re reaching your potential, it’s a great feeling. I’ve said it before in that I was challenged about what type of player I wanted to be and could be. I feel like I’m trying to fill that role and be that player that they, and I, expect to be. It’s worked out really well."
Over the last year, he’s grown as a hockey player and as a husband and father. From the health issues of their daughter Milana that he and his wife Janelle dealt with to being challenged to be a better hockey player by the Blue Jackets, all these events have helped to polish him into an example for many to emulate.
Both his father Mike previously and brother Marcus currently have spent time in the NHL. Yet, neither of them has been selected as an All-Star. Mike Foligno played 15 seasons in the NHL, with his best season recording 41-39-80 (1985-86). Might he, good naturedly of course, rub it in on his brother and father?
"You never know what will happen next, so you never want to get too cocky about it. They’re really happy for me. I think my dad was very deserving back in his day, but it never happened. It’s a nice thing to have and hopefully we’ll all get to share it together. It will be really special, for sure."
He recently signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension that will keep him in Union Blue until 2020-21. He’s involved in the community and has become one of the faces of the franchise.
He is an integral part of an organic "thing" that has become known as "The Hug" with fellow All-Star Sergei Bobrovsky after victories. This is his own way of celebrating a win that has endeared him to the fans. And while he paid homage to his father with the "Foligno Leap" after scoring his first NHL goal, "The Hug" is his own stamp.
If he scores a goal during the All-Star Game, might the fans see the "Foligno Leap" return, at least one time?
"I’ve always said that I was going to do it only on my first NHL goal. I figured that was his (father’s) thing. Hopefully if I score, I’ll think of something good to do. If Bob and I are playing together, I can get that Foligno/Bobrovsky hug going after we win. So that would be pretty special."
Beyond this being his first All-Star selection, there is the possibility that he could be named as one of the captains. From an NHL marketing standpoint, this would be a good thing. He’s comfortable on-camera, charismatic and not shy about talking. The league could do worse by not naming him as a captain.
"I haven’t even thought about it, to be honest with you. This has been a ‘pinch myself’ moment just being named to the All-Star roster. There are so many guys that are so worthy of that. I’m not going to get ahead of myself. I’m just happy to be a part of the team and I’m going to enjoy the festivities as much as I can. But obviously, that would be pretty special."
The last year has been one of challenges for Nick Foligno. At the age of 27, it’s all converging at the same time to shape the person that he has become. He’s been focused on helping the team reach the next level after getting bounced out of the playoffs last year in the first round. So focused is he on the team getting better, that he freely admits to not really thinking about his own accomplishments.
"I really haven’t had much time to think about it because we’re in the thick of playing. I feel very blessed. You put so much emphasis into working hard in the summer and doing things the right way and being professional. It’s nice to be rewarded. It’s nice to feel that hard work is for something. It’s nice seeing your potential being reached, but also knowing you can be better.
"I feel very proud that I can provide a good life for my family. That’s first and foremost. Reaping some of the benefits of all this hard work is nice, but I still feel like there is a lot left to do. My career is not done, by any means. I still have the goal of winning a Stanley Cup, and many more. At the end of my career, I can look back and say, ‘what a career it’s been.’"
Always the consummate professional, Foligno feels his best years are still ahead of him.
"I haven’t reached any certain status. I want more and I’m hungry for more."
The Blue Jackets return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. as they host the Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide Arena. Catch all the action on FOX Sports Ohio beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the pregame show "Blue Jackets LIVE."