Mike Halford

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates with teammates after scoring the game winning goal against the Boston Bruins during a shootout in their preseason game at TD Garden on September 26, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Columbus says it had ‘the hardest camp in the NHL,’ but will it translate to regular-season success?

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In a league where everybody works hard, how much can be gained by working the hardest?

The Columbus Blue Jackets are ready to find out.

Ahead of tonight’s season-opener against Boston, individuals throughout the organization — from GM Jarmo Kekelainen, to head coach John Tortorella, to the players — have all been repeating versions of the club’s apparent:

We’ve worked harder than anybody else, and that’s what will make us successful.

The Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline recently penned a column outlining the club’s mindset. Some key takeaways:

• Tortorella said all this hard work will result the Jackets becoming “the best third-period team in the league.”

Sergei Bobrovsky arrived to camp 17 pounds lighter than last year. Dalton Prout was 11 pounds lighter, captain Nick Foligno seven.

• Folingo said he’s “pretty sure we had the hardest camp in the NHL.”

• Kekalainen said it’s on the club to “earn some respect back,” explaining the Jackets lost it last season.

Sounds good, sure. But there are some concerns.

For starters, the “hardest training camp” thing is entirely subjective. There’s no doubt Columbus worked hard, but how can anybody accurately measure if it’s “harder” than another club? Everybody practices the same amount and (for the most part) plays the same amount of exhibition games.

Then there’s the fitness angle.

Remember Dallas Eakins? The former Edmonton bench boss made no bones about wanting to whip his club into shape — in his introductory presser, he said “I want players to be so fit that a forward, if I ask him to play 26 minutes that night, he’s going to play 26 minutes at a high level.”

Eakins stressed being in tip-top shape was a major key to success.

“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” he said.

In two years behind the bench, Eakins went 36-63-14.

It’s hard to say if fitness played a role in what transpired in Edmonton — Eakins was dealing with a myriad of problems, and had a roster full of holes — but if the Oilers were indeed the fittest team in the league, it didn’t translate to on-ice success.

And this could be why so many are leery about Columbus’ approach.

After last year’s disastrous campaign, many assumed big changes were on the horizon — yet the roster remains largely the same, with hopes pinned on individual players responding to challenges: Be better, work harder, give more.

That’s a fine strategy, if you’ve got the right pieces in place. But the Jackets have a combined losing record over the last two years, largely with this group running the show.

And as Bill Parcells is fond of saying, you are what your record says you are.

Carolina’s six-game road trip to start year ‘not ideal’ says Francis

Ron Francis
AP
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Last year, the ‘Canes played eight of their first 10 games on the road and didn’t fare all that well, going 4-6-0.

Now they’re hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

“I mean, six in a row and eight of the first 10 on the road, with a young team – that’s not an ideal situation for us,” Carolina GM Ron Francis said, per the News & Observer. “But it is what it is. And hopefully we get out there and get a few wins under our belt.

“There’s no sense in complaining about what we face. Let’s go make the most of it.”

The ‘Canes open tonight in Winnipeg, then have a couple nights off before playing in Vancouver on Sunday. From there, it’s Edmonton on Oct. 18, Calgary on Oct. 20, Philly on Oct. 22 and Detroit on Oct. 25.

That means Carolina won’t play its first home games until Friday, Oct. 28 (versus the Rangers) and Sunday, Oct. 30 (versus Philly). And once those are done, the ‘Canes are back out for another pair of road games in Ottawa and Nashville.

Phew.

As Francis mentioned, that kind of schedule can be tough on a young, inexperienced team unfamiliar with the rigors of NHL travel. The ‘Canes certainly are young — the defense is highlighted by four guys under the age of 23 (Noah Hanifin, Roland McKeown, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin), while the forward group includes 19-year-old Sebastian Aho, 21-year-old Elias Lindholm and 22-year-old Teuvo Teravainen.

But if the opening night of the year showed anything, it’s that the game is all about the kids right now. Auston Matthews lit it up for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, and Connor McDavid did the same in Edmonton.

Francis is hopeful his young charges can do something similar.

Related: A ‘very difficult road trip’ is looming for the Ducks

Columbus sends No. 3 overall pick Dubois back to junior

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Pierre-Luc Dubois celebrates after being selected third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Pierre-Luc Dubois‘ stint as a NHLer was brief.

On Wednesday, the Jackets did as expected and returned Dubois — the No. 3 overall pick at this year’s draft — to his junior club in QMJHL Cape Breton.

Yesterday, some eyebrows were raised when Dubois was listed on Columbus’ opening-night roster, only for various outlets to report the move was purely salary cap related. Alex Wennberg, who was sent down to AHL Lake Erie on Tuesday, has since been recalled and will be available for selection when the Jackets take on the Boston in their season-opener tomorrow.

Dubois, 18, was always a longshot to make the Blue Jackets this year, even though he liked his chances. Some of that could’ve been posturing, as Kekalainen and the Jackets surprised many by taking Dubois at the draft ahead of Jesse Puljujarvi, the talented Finnish winger who will make his NHL debut tonight for Edmonton.

At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, Dubois has NHL size and should be in line for a monster season with the Screaming Eagles. He had 42 goals and 99 points in just 62 games last year.

One day after signing, Versteeg on Flames’ No. 1 line with Monahan and Gaudreau

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 19: Kris Versteeg #32 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New Jersey Devils in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 19, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils shutout the Panthers 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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He never left the province of Alberta, but Kris Versteeg has undergone a major change of scenery.

After spending all of training camp and the preseason in Edmonton on a PTO, Versteeg flipped the script on Tuesday by signing a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames.

Today, he found himself on Calgary’s top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, ahead of tonight’s game where he and the Flames will face — yup, the Edmonton Oilers.

The hope is that Versteeg, 30, can become something of a Jiri Hudler 2.0. In Hudler’s first year playing alongside Monahan and Gaudreau, he posted career highs across the board — 31 goals, 76 points — and captured the Lady Byng trophy.

Versteeg certainly has the potential to produce.

A four-time 20-goal scorer, he found the back of the net 15 times last year, split between Los Angeles and Carolina.

Gaudreau sounded excited about his new linemate.

“[Versteeg’s] skilled, he’s smart,” he said, per the Flames’ Twitter account. “Hopefully we can build some chemistry right away.”

Goalie nods: Andersen debuts for Leafs, healthy Allen goes for Blues

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs attends the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Toronto fans will get their first regular season look at their new No. 1 netminder on Wednesday, as Frederik Andersen starts in goal against Ottawa.

Andersen, acquired from Anaheim in June — then immediately signed to a five-year, $25 million deal — had a scare during the offseason, when he suffered an upper-body injury playing for his native Denmark in Olympic qualifying.

The ailment prevented him from playing for Team Europe at the World Cup, but did recover to play in three of the Leafs’ exhibition contests, allowing 11 goals on 68 shots faced.

The 27-year-old is expected to shoulder a heavy workload in Toronto this year, possibly surpassing the carer-high 53 starts he made with the Ducks in ’14-15.

For the Sens, Craig Anderson will get the start in goal.

Allen (leg) ready to face Chicago

There was a bit of concern out of St. Louis over the weekend when Jake Allen‘s leg injury forced the Blues to recall Jordan Binnington from AHL Chicago.

But those concerns have been wiped away.

Allen, now the clear-cut starter after Brian Elliott was dealt to Calgary at the draft, is good to go for tonight’s season opener against the ‘Hawks, with Carter Hutton serving as the backup.

This promises to be a pivotal year for Allen. Armed with a new four-year, $17.4 million extension (that kicks in next season), the 26-year-old is primed to build upon his successful ’15-16 campaign, in which he started 44 times and finished with a .920 save percentage.

It’ll be a pivotal year for the Blues as well. It’s been a long time since the club’s had a clear-cut No. 1 — in fact, you have to go all the way back to 2010-11 to find the last St. Louis netminder to start more than 50 games in a single season (that year, Jaroslav Halak got the nod 57 times).

For Chicago, no surprises tonight. Longtime starter Corey Crawford will be in goal.

Elsewhere…

Cam Talbot will be in goal for the Oilers as they play their first regular-season game at Rogers Place. He’ll be up against Elliott, who’s making his first regular-season start for the Flames.

Martin Jones, coming off a terrific Stanley Cup Final performance, will get the nod for San Jose. No confirmation from L.A. yet, but it’s expected Jonathan Quick will be in goal.