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.