In a bit of a surprise scheduling development, the Dark Blue Toddler (who’s really not a toddler anymore, but I have yet to find a better moniker) and I found ourselves at the “open” portion of Columbus Blue Jackets training camp today. I use “open” in quotes because it appears that the team runs the first of the day’s practices in the Nationwide Arena Ice Haus, which is open to the public, and then follows that with the second practice on the main Nationwide Arena ice. The arena ice practice is closed to the public. So here are my thoughts on the hour-plus that I was allowed to witness (and, yes, I really need to get credentialled some day):
- I’ll start by reminding everyone that I’m no hockey genius. I’m a fan like those who read the blog, and I learn more about the sport every day. Still, I’ve been doing this “watching the CBJ” thing for a few years now, so my Spidey-sense is a tad better attuned than it has been when I started. I won’t nail everything, and I’m still rough on details, but still…enjoy the ride.
- The Ice Haus camp practices looked extremely vanilla. The focus seemed to be on individual game skills and a little bit on developing chemistry between line-mates (a good thing, considering all the new faces on the roster). If I had to guess, any rabbits that coach Todd Richards will be pulling out of his hat will come from the practices over on the big ice.
- My viewing position was at one end of the Ice Haus, so I clearly didn’t get to see everything. At the same time, I got to see a lot of new goalie Sergei Bobrovsky up close – and a little of Steve Mason, too. If I had to place a bet of who will be the team’s number one netminder going into the season based off of one hour of practice, it would be Bobrovsky. From my vantage point, Bobrovsky at the beginning of practice looked better than Mason at the end of practice. It might be that Bob’s in game shape from his time backstopping SKA over in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League,..it might be something else. I don’t know, but I saw a sharper goaltender in Bobrovsky.
- I’ve been gently pushing this for a while now, so let me stand up and applaud (and then meekly get back into my chair in case I’m all wet!): The individual talent gaps on the team have been flattened considerably when compared to past years. No longer do you have All-World Rick Nash countered by a number of well-meaning guys who would be better off playing for the AHL Springfield Falcons. Now, it’s (to borrow a line from DBJ blog co-conspirator Morgan) a team with three de facto second lines. Every line appears reasonably talented and capable, but with no obvious standouts. It will be hell on All-Star voting for Columbus to not have a marquee name, but Stanley Cups were never won in the All-Star Game. Anyhoo, this “team of equals” notion will make for some interesting hockey.
- Hunch: Ryan Johansen either finds a new gear or goes back to Springfield. Again, just a hunch. (And don’t be surprised if Boone Jenner nabs the open forward slot. He doesn’t appear to be the most talented, but I think I’m starting to get what I’ve been hearing about the kid’s poise.)
- I ran into FOX Sports Ohio’s Natalie Taylor and new broadcast guy Dan Kamal before practice. Natalie is as nice as the day is long, and Dan clearly is excited about his new gig in covering the Blue Jackets.
- It’s good to see the team back on the ice. This morning went a long way toward losing the bad taste from last season. And games are just a week away!