directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Slam Sports: Blue Jackets open camp Thursday

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Slam Sports: Blue Jackets open camp Thursday

Slam Sports has an interesting read up regarding the Jackets opening camp on Thursday. Here are some snippets from the article:

"Both Hitch and I have an urgency to get better and get better now but we want to be patient with our younger players," Howson told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.

Veteran centre Michael Peca was the lone notable addition to a roster the Jackets hope can stay healthy and get rebound years from several players.

It starts with star winger Rick Nash (pictured above right), who has gone backwards since his scintillating 41-goal 2003-04 campaign, dropping to 31 goals in an injury-plagued 2005-06 season and then down to 27 last year.

"The challenge for Rick is to play the way he did in the last two and half months last season and through the world championships," Hitchcock said Tuesday. "If he does that, I think he's going to be a dominant player in the National Hockey League."

"He's a young pup in the league," said Hitchcock. "Everybody talks about a frustrating year that he had - he still scored 27 goals.

"He did a lot of damage in games towards the end where he really started to become a leader on this team."

"We're asking a lot of him, we're asking him to be a good player, we're asking him to be a good leader, and I think he's ready to meet that challenge," added Hitchcock.

"In order to get good players to play well, you have to build relationships with them," said Hitchcock. "We're trying to do that right now, we're trying to build a good relationship with Nicky so that he feels comfortable to go out and perform.

"At the end of the day, he's going to have to play better than he did last year - in all aspects."
Which means also improving on a team-worst minus-19 rating (tied with Ron Hainsey).

"He's come back here in a great frame of mind," said Hitchcock. "He came back to North America early, he trained in Ottawa, he came here a couple of days ago, he's really engaged with everybody.

"He was embarrassed by the way he played last year and he wants to make amends."

In goal, meanwhile, the No. 1 job is up for grabs between Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena. Hitchcock barely got to see Leclaire play after the 24-year-old suffered a knee injury last season.

"I can tell you one thing, he's shown up, he's healthy, he's in tremendous shape, he's had all kinds of time to condition himself and he feels like it's his turn and his time," said Hitchcock.

"The competition we're going to have for the starting position is going to be terrific.

"We're just going to let it sort out. It might take two months, it might take six months, we don't know, but we're hoping we got 1 and 1A here."

Some great quotes in this article regarding some key parts of this team....but once again they pan the Jackets chances. It really will be fun to see some of these writers backpedal if, or better yet, when (IMO), they are a very competitive team this year.


No comments: