Columbus, Ohio – Two days after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2, the Blue Jackets were back on the ice for Monday morning practice. With 11 days remaining until they host the New York Rangers for the season opener, they were refining their systems play as de rigueur dictates.
Beyond having a healthy team on the ice, the team is doing its best to integrate and familiarize Brandon Saad and Gregory Campbell with Todd Richards’ systems. The drills may seem repetitive, but this only serves to enhance the learning curve of the two players and reinforce the systems work that the Blue Jackets already know.
“I like the fact the coaching staff is repetitive in practice,” Campbell said, “to reiterate what the systems are. I know a couple of the things are new to the guys that have been here for a while, so it’s going to take a little time to adjust. There’s video every day pounding into our brains.”
Campbell, brought in to fill the void left on the fourth-line center position with the departure of Mark Letestu, has quietly gone about meshing with his new teammates. While the systems have a few new twists, he’s picking up on the lunch-pail attitude and workman-like play of the Blue Jackets.
“I was on the same system for five years (Boston), so there will be a little bit of an adjustment period. For the most part, I feel good. I like what they’re preaching here. We’re playing fast and playing aggressive, and it’s coming along.”
Campbell has fit-in with Matt Calvert on one wing and David Clarkson on the other. It’s a line that has speed and grit, while being opportunistic scorers. Campbell also logs special teams’ time on the penalty kill alongside Calvert.
“There are no issues with him learning the system,” said Richards. “My impression right now is when you watch him through drills, he does the drills right (because) he’s got good habits. He’s a good pro. There was a reason why he was a leader in Boston and part of the reason why Boston was successful; it was because they had guys like him that practiced the right way and played the right way.”
The practice today was robust with just one group, making it easier on both players and coaches. The repetitive nature of the drills does serve a purpose for Richards and the players, living under the mantra of ‘practice like you play.’
“For me, it always comes down to practicing; when you’re details are right and you go out and execute. A lot of these drills are new and the way we talk may be similar, but it might not be explained the same way it was in Boston. Right now, it’s just a matter of getting repetition and getting used to his new teammates.”
Initially, Richards wanted to have his veteran guys play in five preseason games. With back-to-back games beginning on Friday to finish the preseason schedule, that means some players might only see action in four games, as Richards doesn’t want to tempt Murphy and his ‘Law’ into showing up before the puck drops on the regular season.
Rene Bourque was the only regular player missing from practice today. Todd Richards said that he was banged-up and day-to-day. Richards seemed to stress that this was not “back” related, harkening back to last spring when Bourque injured his back.
Richards won’t tell
The Blue Jackets will travel north to Cleveland next week and practice in Strongsville, OH (a suburb of Cleveland) on October 6-7. Todd Richards said that he’s got something planned in addition to the practices, but good-naturedly refused to elaborate. When asked if it involved wet suits and surfing in Lake Erie, Richards chuckled and said, “I don’t surf.”
Forwards: Saad / Johansen / Foligno
Jenner / Dubinsky / Clarkson
Hartnell / Wennberg / Atkinson
Calvert / Campbell / Boll
Defense: Tyutin / Johnson
Savard / Murray
Connauton / Prout and Goloubef / Falk
Goal: Bobrovsky / McElhinney