Adopting a New Style of Play and Learning from Mistakes Will Be Essential for the Blue Jackets

By Ben Jandrain on September 13, 2019 at 9:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones skates towards his teammates on the bench to celebrate a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena during the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Joonas Korpisalo has never been the No. 1 goaltender to open a regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Elvis Merzlikins, his competition, has never even started a game in the National Hockey League.

Head coach John Tortorella is well aware of the situation he's facing and talked about how the team's style of play will be different when the new season is underway when speaking to the media on Wednesday afternoon.

"There is some inexperience there (at the goaltending position). We're not gonna hide from that. I think we need to change a bit, our style," Tortorella said. "I think we've got to be above the puck...Be thinking about a little bit more defense, and trying to create our offense out of transition."

Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year contract with the division-rival New York Rangers earlier this summer, but it's important to reminisce for a moment on Columbus' recipe for success prior to him putting on a Blue Jackets sweater. 

During the 2016-17 campaign (the season preceding Panarin's arrival) the Blue Jackets were without the aforementioned Panarin and didn't have Matt Duchene or Pierre-Luc Dubois playing center. Despite a perceived lack of offensive starpower, the club was opportunistic – scoring when they needed to most – with many of those instances coming in transition. And don't forget, that team ended up with a franchise-record 50 wins and 108 points. 

Tortorella didn't hesitate to stress the importance of of transition.

"The game of hockey is transition – that's what the game is. It's just, where do you transition from?" Tortorella said. 

The departure of a couple offensive superstars and reliable goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will make the margin for error even more slim this time around. However, the head coach knows that mistakes are inevitable.

"This league has turned into mistakes. It's a game of mistakes," he said.

Tortorella was asked a follow-up question about mistakes and how he'd deal with them.

It's allowing them to live through it (the mistakes). It's been a very difficult progression for me. Because I used to be that guy that you dot every damn 'i' and 't' and you almost turn them into robots. The puck's here, you're there. The game isn't played that way, especially now. So I think you need to let them, let them go a little bit. And live through some of those mistakes without thinking they're gonna be browbeaten when they come to the bench. And I think players develop quicker when they try to figure it out on their own a little bit. I say again, but if it's constantly the same thing, then that's when we need to step in.

A year ago, Tortorella's patience was tested thanks in large part to knowing Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky didn't feel Columbus was their long-term home in the NHL. The Blue Jackets were the meetings capital of the league, re-setting and level-setting with each other more than they'd probably care to admit.

It's a new approach this time around, and dealing with mistakes along the way that will put Tortorella's patience to the test this season.