The Columbus Blue Jackets returned to training camp on Monday, July 13, with a mostly healthy roster - only Josh Anderson was unavailable, still recovering from shoulder surgery that he underwent in March. The team has skated well, and scrimmaged on Thursday with a second intra-squad scrimmage slated for today.
Given that information is even more scarce coming out of the organization during this training camp due to the restrictions in the return to play agreement, we have to rely on nuggets from media and the coaching staff to glean information that informs how the team may look when the series with the Toronto Maple Leafs gets underway on August 2.
So - what information have we learned that we can apply to the team?
Liam Foudy’s Role
Foudy, to little surprise, was included on the Blue Jackets’ group one roster when training camp opened, meaning he was likely to see the ice in the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While players like Nathan Gerbe and Kevin Stenlund filled in admirably during the darkest injury days of December and January. However, neither player boasts the pedigree, raw talent, or speed of Foudy, and against a skilled forward group like the Leafs, Foudy will be a critical component of the Jackets’ attack.
Foudy played two games for the Blue Jackets due to injuries before he was returned to the London Knights, per his obligations. The youngster impressed in his short outing, however, drawing praise from Tortorella who was taken with his speed and acclimation to the game.
Thus far, it looks like Foudy has picked up right where he left off.
Liam Foudy just with a nice top corner snipe past Vehvilainen. It’s a 2-on-0 drill, but still. Veini got him back a second later with a glove snag. #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) July 16, 2020
It is no secret that the Blue Jackets had an anemic offense in the 2019-20 season, finishing 28th in the NHL in goals per game (2.57), ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and Detroit Red Wings.
The hope is that Foudy can provide a jolt to a forward group that desperately needs it with his speed and playmaking ability. For the Blue Jackets to advance past the Leafs, they’ll need Foudy to step up.
The Starting Goaltender Question
It was the focus of our goaltender preview: who will get the start in net in game one, Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins?
Thus far, John Tortorella isn’t tipping his hand. If you need proof:
Hey, cool, I can tweet again. Here's a Torts quote as a return, when asked about if he's been watching goalies (Korpi/Elvis) intently so far in #CBJ camp.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) July 16, 2020
"I've had meetings with Manny, but if I watch them, I don't know what I'm watching. I just want them to stop the puck."
Stray observations seem to show that both goalies have played well, both have allowed some goals in practice, and neither has a clear edge to start game one. We’ll find out in a few weeks who gets the nod for game one.
Will The Power Play Personnel Change?
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ power play was horrible this season, just as it has been for most of the last three years. Connecting at just 16.4%, the Jackets “boasted” the 27th ranked power play in the league. Against a team with the offensive firepower of the Toronto Maple Leafs the Jackets will need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity, much as the team did last season against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On Thursday, fans got some clarity on the power play and how it will line up once play returns.
The first power play unit is extremely intriguing. Seth Jones is a power play dynamo, having excelled on the top unit since he arrived in town, Zach Werenski led all defensemen in goals this season, Oliver Bjorkstrand is a sniper, Gustav Nyquist is one of the better playmakers on the team, and Pierre-Luc Dubois is a power forward that would be hard to move from in front of the net. Extremely intrigued by the options available.
The second unit boasts a passer (Alex Wennberg), two snipers (Emil Bemstrom and Cam Atkinson), as well as Nick Foligno and Ryan Murray. The first unit will likely do the heavy lifting for this roster, and is clearly the more intriguing of the two, especially since the team has reunited Jones and Werenski with the man advantage.
Can the team rediscover its postseason special teams magic? We’ll find out soon enough.
What have you noticed during practice? Are you excited to have hockey back? Share your thoughts below!