During the early part of the 2011-12 season, the now 25-year-old center struggled to find his way into the lineup on a consistent basis and often found himself on the club's fourth line. The team had trouble scoring goals and winning games in what concluded as a trying season on multiple fronts, but among the highlights down the stretch was Brassard's emergence as the potential top-six center they think he can be.
In the 41 games played under Richards last season, Brassard put up nine goals and 20 assists -- a healthy portion of his 41-point total in 74 games. Playing most of his minutes on the Blue Jackets' No. 1 line, he showed flashes of the playmaking and goal-scoring ability that made him a high first-round pick in 2006.
Fast forward seven years later, and Brassard knows the upcoming 2013 season is his most important one to date. With Richards retained as the full-time coach in May, Brassard figures to carry a similar role this year on a team with several talented young players.
“It’s really exciting for me," Brassard told BlueJackets.com today. "I like the way I finished the season last year, and that’s the level I want to be at. I know I can be a big part of this team, making plays and putting up some points for the boys and helping the team win."
Ryan Murray's most prevalent emotion after suffering a season-ending shoulder surgery wasn't anger or bitterness, but disappointment.
There were significant events coming up in his junior hockey career, and months after being selected second overall by the Blue Jackets, he was looking forward to playing on big stages and possibly cracking the NHL roster during training camp.
But those things had to wait in order to do what's best for his career. Murray will have surgery to repair his injured shoulder sometime in the next two weeks, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said yesterday.
And despite the disappointment of missing the World Junior Hockey Championship -- where he was Sharpie-d on to Team Canada's star-studded blueline -- Murray has managed to keep his spirits up and look forward to the challenge of getting back to 100 percent.
John Davidson is as fired up as anyone to get the season started, but he preached patience this morning when discussing plans for the upcoming training camp.
While the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement awaits ratification from both the Board of Governors and the Players Association (expected to be completed by the end of the week), Davidson and the Blue Jackets hockey operations staff have jumped into full-fledged planning mode for what is likely to be a short training camp.
Depending upon the official start of camps -- NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press that the plan is currently for a Sunday start -- teams will have between five days and a week to get into motion for a 48-game regular season.
And though no plans have been finalized by the Blue Jackets, Davidson said the process for making those decisions is well under way.
"We're going to have some meetings (Tuesday) on all that stuff," Davidson said. "Some teams, I'm sure, are going to bring in 30 players and some are going to want their roster at 23 and that's it. That's all going to be discussed."
The sound of skates digging into the ice and pucks clanging off the boards filled the OhioHealth Ice Haus once again today as a few players participated in a morning skate.
Steve Mason has been among nine players to skate the past two days, and for him, the start of the season brings a lot to look forward to, including a battle with Sergei Bobrovsky for the starting goaltender position.
The Blue Jackets acquired Bobrovsky during the offseason in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2012 draft pick and two fourth-round picks in the 2013 draft. The move by GM Scott Howson has set the stage this season for a battle for the No. 1 spot in goal.
Yet, after a summer of hardcore training, Mason is confident he can be the go-to guy in net for the Blue Jackets.
“I’m ready for it. It’s obviously a position I put myself in, but it’s also exciting for me because it’s something to work towards and get back,” Mason said after the skate today.
“I had a really good summer of training to get into really good shape,” said Mason, who played with 20 or so NHL players in the Toronto area to stay in shape during the CBA negotiations.
Mason said that in addition to losing some weight and maintaining a really good training regimen, he has also developed his mental game.
He hasn't been in town for long, but one of the first things Johnson wanted to do was get back together with his teammates -- some of whom he hasn't seen in months nor played a game with since April. The palpable sense of excitement that came with yesterday's maiden skate carried over to this morning, and like the previous session, R.J. Umberger took the informal lead and kept things organized.
Not much changed from yesterday's skate, but there were more "battle" drills and competitive reps that weren't present on Monday. As the number of players on the ice increases (and we expect that to be the case in the next 48 hours), the nature of the practices should change accordingly.
But this morning, Johnson said the highlight was being back where he wants to be.
"It's great...I haven't seen these guys in a while and we've been keeping in touch over the phone," Johnson said. "It kind of makes it more of a reality now that I'm back here skating with the guys and being around the locker room, and moving back into our places."
“It was like Christmas morning walking into the locker room and seeing each other again,” said Nick Foligno, who signed with the team last July as a restricted free agent following a trade from Ottawa.
Joining Foligno today were Blue Jackets veterans James Wisniewski, RJ Umberger, Derick Brassard, Jared Boll, Steve Mason, Derek Mackenzie, Derek Dorsett, along with newcomer Adrian Aucoin. “Coach” Umberger ran the practice, keeping things organized and running drills for the skate that lasted roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. The players joked that Umberger had some coaching expertise from his time spent as a volunteer assistant coach with Ohio State in the past few months.
“He was pretty tough on us today,” Foligno joked about Umberger’s coaching techniques.
Practice wrapped up today with a fun shootout drill, and players came off the ice smiling. No sense of hesitation hung in the air as they welcomed questions from the media afterwards.
When Nick Foligno was traded to the Blue Jackets in July, he had a few short weeks to get everything together and get settled in his new home while trying to meet his new teammates.
A group of players got together for informal skates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus in August before the lockout, and as some looked elsewhere for options to play, the group slowly dwindled and Foligno himself had to find other places to skate.
Now that the team is beginning to reconvene in Columbus in preparation of the 2013 NHL season, Foligno is excited on two levels: one, the thrill of playing NHL hockey is on the horizon, and also, he feels "officially" part of the Blue Jackets after a practice today with eight teammates.
"Yeah, I really do (feel part of the Blue Jackets now)," Foligno told BlueJackets.com. "Now that I know I can go around the locker room and meet everybody again. I'm so happy to be here, and so excited for the season to start and I'm really looking forward to a good season here and having a lot of fun."
The 25-year-old forward was acquired shortly after free agency began in exchange for Marc Methot, and GM Scott Howson was attracted to Foligno's versatility and ability to play all three forward positions. He's coming off a career year with 15 goals and 47 points with the Ottawa Senators, and being in his mid-20s, Howson and the Blue Jackets feel Foligno's best hockey is ahead of him.
After a signing a three-year, $9.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets on July 6, Foligno is anxious to get back into game shape and prepare for what he hopes is a successful debut season in Columbus.
The New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup in June of 1995, with the National Hockey League playing a 48-game regular season that began in mid-January. Circumstances are similar to what the league and its team face now, with the season likely to begin in the next two weeks.
For the Blue Jackets, the season can't come soon enough and nine of them took to the ice this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus in anticipation of things getting under way. More players are expected to arrive in the coming days and more are arriving today pending travel arrangements, but the prevailing emotion of excitement was the theme of the morning.
After a 70-minute or so skate today - which also featured former Ohio State forward Dave Steckel (Toronto Maple Leafs) - the focus shifted toward the re-shaped Blue Jackets and the club's outlook for what figures to be a fast and furious NHL season.
Who has the advantage? What do players and teams need to focus on to stay fresh? There was a variety of thoughts and ideas, which will no doubt be discussed in further detail once formal meetings and practices begin.
"You have to get out to good start, and you have to stay healthy," James Wisniewski told BlueJackets.com. "We can't have a start like we had last year and be 1-7, that just can't happen. If you can start off hot, you're literally sitting pretty."