The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone two seasons without a captain since they traded Rick Nash.
“I’m comfortable (without a captain),” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch in October. He didn’t want to conform to a timetable when it came to making his choice, instead saying that he would hand out the ‘C’ only “when the time is right and if you’ve got the right player and he’s ready at that time.”
In other words, either the timing wasn’t right last season or they didn’t have any player that was ready for the responsibility. Perhaps that’s changed.
Brandon Dubinsky, who came to Columbus in the Nash trade, has emerged as one of the team’s leaders and has made a long-term commitment to the franchise by agreeing to a six-year, $35.1 million contract over the summer.
“Everybody’s anxious to have a captain, but we have a lot of guys who lead,” Dubinsky argued after signing that deal. “Everybody leads in their own way, but collectively we play hard for each other and find a way to get it done. It’s a big honor to be in this position and have this role with this team, but there’s a lot of guys on this team, and it’s much bigger than myself.”
Defenseman Jack Johnson is another contender for the role. He’s got two-plus seasons under his belt with Columbus now and is signed through 2017-18. He’s also one of the biggest workhorses in the league as he ranked 13th in minutes per game in 2013-14.
The Blue Jackets have some other noteworthy veteran leaders locked up to long-term deals like forwards Scott Hartnell and Nathan Horton, but Hartnell is a new addition and Horton has only played in 35 games thus far.
As per multiple reports, Aaron Ekblad practiced with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday.
Good news. That marks another step in the progress he’s made from a neck injury — initially reported to be a concussion — suffered on a hit from Leo Komarov that ultimately ended the defenseman’s experience for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.
Despite supplemental discipline from the league on that specific incident involving Hendricks, Ekblad, a valuable part of a young Panthers team that has increased expectations surrounding it, put the onus on himself to be more aware on the ice.
“When I think about it in the Edmonton game last year, there were a couple of big hits on their guys. I should have expected to someone was going to come after me,” Ekblad told NHL.com.
“Obviously you don’t think that. You think there’s a little bit more respect among players out there. I turned, I saw him. I didn’t think he was going to drive my head into the glass. The Komarov hit there, he got me on the shoulder, not much on the head or anything like that. It was more of the whiplash effect. Again, I’ve got to be more aware. You train your body, you train your brain to do that kind of thing. I do a lot of eye exercises and stuff like that. We’re working on that right now and just trying to be a better hockey player that way.”
The Panthers have a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Ekblad is not in the lineup.
The Dallas Stars have added another defenseman to their group of prospects.
On Thursday, the club signed 18-year-old Czech blue liner Ondrej Vala to a three-year entry-level contract. Vala is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He had four goals and 21 points in 72 games last season — his first with the Blazers.
Having represented the Czech Republic at U-17 and U-18 international events and played for the Stars prospects team at the Traverse City Tournament, Vala is also listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 209 pounds.
He certainly brings size on the blue line, which is a quality the Stars appear to value in him.
“Ondrej has shown a combination of size and physicality along with the ability to play a defensively responsible game at the junior hockey level,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement.
Johansen, the younger brother of NHL center Ryan Johansen, appeared in Monday’s exhibition game for the Capitals, apparently leaving a positive impression on the coaching staff.
Still, Johansen doesn’t turn 19 years old until the middle of November. He also has some growing left to do at six-foot-one-inch tall and just 174 pounds, so sending him back to junior is the logical step.
“So, it’s fun to watch, how he goes about the game. Certainly, I think it’s helped growing up in the family that he has and being around some of the players he’s practiced with. I think he has some special tools, in terms of his ability to slow down the play and see some things that other players don’t. He’s looking like an outstanding draft pick for us and a real great prospect moving forward.”
Shaw suspended three preseason games for boarding Connor Hobbs
The Habs have five more exhibition games remaining before the regular season begins Oct. 13.
Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.
From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.
“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”