Team's identity will be its biggest strength
Once the Blue Jackets got their feet under them last year, there weren't many secrets about them - and that was a good thing.
Though they missed the Stanley Cup playoffs by a mere tiebreaker to Minnesota and used a 19-5-4 run to put themselves back into the postseason conversation, the Blue Jackets brought the same thing to the table every night: a strong work ethic, a commitment to defending and quality goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky.
A slow start was their undoing, but as the team entered the offseason, John Davidson and his hockey operations staff wanted to add pieces that fit in with what they'd already built and could help them continue on the process they started.
The acquisition of Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline and the addition of Nathan Horton in free agency were geared specifically to boost the Blue Jackets' offense, but both players fit the mold Davidson and the organization envisions: hard-working, two-way players who can score goals and impact a game.
Davidson said he expects the hallmarks of their game from a year ago to be the foundation going forward, and it starts with work ethic.
"We will not be out-worked, and that's the one mandate that will come from upstairs," Davidson said. "We’re not just a hockey team in the NHL, we’re a good hockey team in this league. We know what our identity is and we have to continue with that and win games. It’s going to be a real battle and we have to understand that, and we have to have demands on ourselves.
"We can outwork teams because that’s our M.O., and we also have some talent. I like our chances."
For a player like Gaborik - who arrived during the team's playoff push and didn't have much time to get acclimated - having a full offseason (which included abdominal surgery) to get settled and also a full training camp is nothing but a bonus. Because the Blue Jackets have the majority of last year's roster returning in 2013-14, training camp is less about education and more about getting up to speed for opening night.
Davidson also believes the Blue Jackets will get more offense from their structure and solid defensive game, which didn't get enough credit last season.
"Good strong defense can lead to offense," Davidson said. "Having Gaborik here, knowing our players and how our system’s going to work and going through training camp (will be important). We can look at a number of different areas that should provide more offense than last season, but again, I firmly believe that as an organization our strength is our work habits. That cannot dissipate."