Jackets' Foligno saw this coming
No, he isn’t Kreskin. But when Nick Foligno was traded to Columbus in July, this is exactly the vision he had for his new franchise. He knew the history here, but he also believed this team was capable of launching a new era for Blue Jackets hockey. The mission certainly isn’t accomplished, but the team is trending in the right direction, and Foligno is extremely pleased about how things have unfolded for him since the trade from Ottawa.
“I think it’s been really beneficial, and I’m really enjoying being here, being part of this team and the turnaround that we’ve caused,” said the Blue Jackets winger. It’s a lot of fun. The guys are great; the organization’s been outstanding. It’s been great to bring a winning atmosphere here and start something a little bit different. It’s been really satisfying and gratifying for me, and I want it to continue.”
Even when the team stumbled badly early in this shortened season, going 5-12-2 in its first 19 games, Foligno was among many Blue Jackets players who insisted the team was better than its record, and it was only a matter of time before the results would reflect the talent in the room. At the time, some might have considered the optimism unfounded, but he says his teammates never stopped believing.
“You know, I think it’s pretty much the guys in this room,” Foligno explained. “We started to believe and realize that – you know what – maybe it’s just our mentality that’s not allowing us to get over the hump. We have a great team in here, the guys are all great players, and we’re showing that now the last half of the season. I think it was just the mentality that we had early on that didn’t allow us to overcome that and to take that next step up and become a great team.
“I think we’ve gotten over that hurdle, that mental block, and it’s allowed us to play some great hockey,” he continued. “Guys have stepped up in certain situations; there have been surprises, and guys have done a great job of just coming in and continuing to play well. And we’ve jelled as a team. I think now you look at the guys on this team and where they fit in; guys have found their roles and understood who the leaders are in this room. And every guy really has taken on his own leadership role, and that says a lot about the character and the guys that are brought in. That’s pretty much been the foundation of why we’re having success, and it’s going to carry us through, hopefully, for a lot of years.”
Foligno says his confidence in this team’s ability to build on its recent success and then sustain it comes from the Blue Jackets’ commitment to playing the game the right way. Columbus has quickly become known around the NHL as a team that plays hard every night, and Foligno thinks that is the key to the team’s fortunes moving forward.
“For sure, I think that’s a style that wins hockey games in this league,” he said. “We enjoy playing that way. It’s a difficult style to play, but when you do, it’s difficult for other teams to play against you. I think we’ve seen that; I think we’ve seen that we’re a relentless group, and we find ways to battle back and to make it a tough night on each team that we’re playing. It’s given us a lot of success, and we want that to continue.”
When he came to Columbus for ex-Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot, Foligno not only thought he and his new teammates could turn the franchise’s fortunes around, but he also relished the chance to be part of the group that would hopefully rewrite history.
“Absolutely, that was my biggest goal, was coming here and becoming part of a winning team,” noted the native of Buffalo. “It’s taken all the guys in this locker room to jell together and achieve that, and I’m so glad to be a piece of the puzzle here and want to be for a lot of years. It’s been great, and I think we just need to continue to do the things that are allowing us to have success. And that’s playing our fast style of game, our gritty style of game, and understanding that’s going to be our makeup for a lot of years, and we need to just continue to play that way, make life difficult on teams, and have a lot of fun.”
As the Blue Jackets continue to reconfigure their identity – and their fortunes – Foligno believes the franchise will become a favored destination for players who have the option to join it. He thinks word about Columbus is spreading, in a very good way.
“I think so. You know one thing in talking to a lot of guys, when they’ve come here – and myself included – you don’t really know what to expect from Columbus, and you’re pleasantly surprised when you get here,” he mentioned. “You know, guys like Marian Gaborik, Blake Comeau, and Michael Leighton who just came in, they couldn’t believe how nice it is here. It’s a great place to play, and now with our organization, from John Davidson, to Jarmo (Kekalainen), to our coaching staff, you know we’re committed to winning here. I think guys are going to start to see that. We’re definitely showing that to a lot of people, and I think it’s going to be a very appealing place to play.”