What a day.
It was a weird day, but a good day.
Just another 24 hours in Blue Jackets Land, eh?
After the Blue Jackets dispatched the Tampa Bay Lightning with an authoritative 5-2 win at Nationwide Arena, you could expect that at least part of the focus was on the events that preceded the game. Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded to the Winnipeg Jets hours before, and it didn't take long to notice the Blue Jackets looked like a team that had the weight of an untenable situation lifted off its shoulders.
Based on their reactions post-game, it's reasonable to conclude that was indeed the case.
"I don't think 'relief' is the right word. It puts the focus back on what matters, and that's winning hockey games," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "(Dubois) would be the first to admit that he didn't have the mindset he needed to have...now that it's behind us, we're looking forward to going (forward) together as a team. We're never going to hold anything against Luc, but we need guys that want to be here and win here, and obviously, that wasn't the case.
"Luc wasn't giving us the brand of hockey that we expect out of every guy. That's the part you can't have. When everyone steps on the ice, they have a job to do. It's not to put it on all on Luc, but it's the reality of how good this league is and how good you have to play when you step on the ice."
Defenseman Zach Werenski, usually one of the more soft-spoken players in the Blue Jackets' room, echoed his captain.
"If someone doesn't want to be here, they don't want to be here. We have 22, 23 guys that want to go out there and win every night," Werenski said.
What was an odyssey of only a few weeks between Dubois' trade request becoming public on New Year's Eve and the consummation of a blockbuster deal did, in fact, feel like years. But that's right on par for how the last year has felt.
The Blue Jackets pride themselves on being a team that deals with its issues out in the open, just as they did with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky two years ago. As coach John Tortorella said after Saturday's game, there is no room for elephants within their walls. They had an honest conversation with Dubois, among the team, before the season started.
It didn't go as they'd hoped; Dubois was a passenger for most of the first five games (yes, he scored a goal in Detroit) and sat for the majority of Thursday's loss to Tampa Bay, which kicked the trade talks into high gear.
Tortorella heaped praise upon GM Jarmo Kekalainen for taking an unenviable situation and turning it into excitement for the team, which now has two exciting offensive talents in Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic joining them in the days ahead.
"I think (Kekalainen) is very good at (finding talent)," Tortorella said. "I don't think he's afraid, bringing in Bread and all that stuff. He got put in a hell of a spot (with Dubois). That's what bothers me the most, the spot he was put in. He stood right in there. We're very happy that he found a way here, and we're really excited about these guys coming to us. Jarmo's not afraid of trying to make his team better and putting his neck out there at times."
Laine, in particular, has piqued the interest of his new head coach.
He's an interesting personality, a great quote, and one of the NHL's top goal scorers since he stepped on the scene four years ago. Laine is now part of a Blue Jackets team that, despite putting up five goals in Saturday's win, needs all the help it can get offensively. He won't be in the lineup in the near term due to an upper-body injury and COVID-19 protocols, but when he does, the expectation for him is clear.
"(Laine) can score. Talking to Jarmo, Jarmo knows him pretty well. He says he can pass the puck, too," Tortorella said. "I watched some of the highlights of his last game. I talked to him on the phone, it was a really good conversation. We're really excited about both of them coming, and the excitement they have is really encouraging for us."
This is a new day for a Blue Jackets team that desperately needed to turn the page. Now, the onus is on them to get their season back on track.