Nashâ€™s old minutes and 'C' up for grabs
As Columbus Blue Jackets training camp commenced Sunday at the Ice Haus in front of more than 1,000 cheering fans, there was chatter all around. Chatter about the new faces of the club, the speed of the practice, how the goaltending looks, how good it was to be back and of course, analysis of just who among the 25 might step up to be captain now that Rick Nash, traded last summer, is off with the New York Rangers.
Oh, and don’t forget those 30 goals he tossed in last season.
“Rick Nash played 25 minutes a night. So there’s 25 minutes of ice time for somebody, or a couple guys. The ice has to be distributed somewhere,” said head coach Todd Richards of the opportunity that now exists for some ambitious Blue Jacket to snag up during this abbreviated season.
The 113-day NHL lockout ended last week. The club will play 48 games in 99 days, starting Saturday in Nashville.
“There’s a role (Nash) had on the team being captain. So there are leadership responsibilities that are out there, too,” said Richards. “So, without question, with him going, there are opportunities for everyone in, really, every facet of our team.”
Richards, who led a fast-paced, high-energy, 90-minute practice on Day One, said he’s still keeping his eye out for who steps up to take over Nash’s responsibilities.
“The locker room has a way of working out. Who’s taking charge, who’s a leader, who’s a follower — you need them all,” said Richards. “You can’t have 20 leaders; you can’t have 20 followers, there’s got to be some balance. That all works itself out.”
Richards said this is certainly a case where a traditional training camp would have really helped the team in feeling out who would be taking over Nash’s many roles.
“You have more time to assess and see, positionally, where players fit in; but, also from a leadership standpoint, where our players fit in,” said Richards, adding that the abbreviated camp is going to require patience from fans, leadership and coaches to see where the chips fall. “You have to allow the relationships to start to work themselves together and then what usually happens is they fall into certain categories and spots on their own.”
Regardless of where, when or how the pieces all come together, one thing’s for sure: When it comes to Richard’s expectations for this shortened season, there is only one: “Win every game.”