John Tortorella's Focus Has Narrowed As The NHL's Return To Play, Training Camps Are On The Horizon

By Rob Mixer on July 5, 2020 at 8:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) checks Vegas Golden Knights left wing William Carrier (28) during the first period at T-Mobile Arena

It's about time for things to get going.

The Blue Jackets have had players in town – with more arriving each week – for Phase 2 group skates leading up to Phase 3, which is the schedule opening of training camps (now July 13). Once that begins, it's all systems go for the 24 teams in the NHL's Return To Play tournament.

Once the agreement is finalized, the NHL and NHLPA are expected to announce that Edmonton and Toronto will be the two hub cities, each hosting 12 teams. The Blue Jackets will play a "road" series in the best-of-five qualifying around against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and you better believe John Tortorella is itching to play.

During his weekly appearance on 97.1 FM with Anthony Rothman and Bobby Carpenter, the Blue Jackets head coach said preparation is going to separate contenders from teams who only hang around a few days.

"If I have to run with some guys, I will. I'm not going to sit there and wait for guys to get going. The series is over in a week," Tortorella said.

"You lose that first're behind the 8-ball really quickly. Just the intensity that comes with fans being in the building and that not being there, how is the team going to handle that? The team that best adjusts to that and gets into that competitive mindset quicker than the other team is going to have a major advantage in Game 1. That's where I think it's really important to get used to this (environment) as quickly as possible and get to the competing, and just concentrating on that."

While there are a lot of unknowns about the environment, the bubble, the in-game atmosphere and more, Tortorella said the Blue Jackets' focus must be on eliminating as much guesswork and noise as possible.

If they can do that, odds are they'll have a leg up on the other teams.

"I think teams just want to play," Tortorella said. "I don't think teams care where they play. The biggest advantage that a team has they handle distractions. That's a really important thing for us; we just have to come to work every day, because it could change while we're working."