The NHL's return to play plan, including a revised 24-team playoff field was released earlier this week. If all goes well and the league can safely proceed, the Blue Jackets will face Toronto in a best of five qualifying round series that is still likely at least two months away. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella joined Joel Riley and me on 610 WTVN this morning to talk about his plans as he tries to navigate his team through this unprecedented situation. Here are some of the top headlines.
**There's no official timeline, but if there are no setbacks, training camp for the Jackets will start in July, with the series against Toronto later that month or in early August. Coach Tortorella was asked how he'll handle that camp: "My biggest mindset, and I'm already prepared in how I'm going to approach them, is I just don't want to injure anybody. This isn't a camp where they've trained all summer long and there's exhibition season and all that. This is a very precarious situation that none of us have been in so we're going to do it by collaboration. We have an idea of how we want to go about it but each day we're going to bring the players in and have a conversation about the next day. What can we do the next day? How do you feel? They need to be part of the equation and part of the conversation because it's their body."
**On having at least two months to scout and prepare for Toronto: "The way we approach playoffs, and it never really changes, it's always about us, it's always about us executing. In a playoff series we do talk a little bit more about the other team...so we do have a number of weeks here. We have tape already ready as far as just reminders about how we play. We'll throw a few clips in here and there with Toronto about their offense and about their power play and certain tendencies they do have but we're not going to stray too far away from who we are."
**On playing games without fans: "No one knows how it's going to be because we've never done it before. You get excited about (returning) and then I go back to our series against Tampa last year and that elimination game when we beat them. I stopped for a second there when I knew that game was over and we had that series and I looked around that building and saw those people--I get goosebumps now just thinking about it--that's where you want to be. I don't know how the players are going to handle it. I really feel once the competing starts they'll get locked in there but we certainly will miss the fans."
**The Blue Jackets were unique this season in that they had two goalies, Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, who played like No. 1 goalies for long stretches of the season. Tortorella was asked which goalie he'll go with against Toronto. "I have no idea. I don't and that's a very important decision we're going to have to make. In a best three out of five, you don't want to make the wrong decision. I'll tell you this, both of them deserve an opportunity. We'll see how they present themselves when we get on the ice as a team and that's when I'm going to have to make that type of decision."
We got to spend a good 10 minutes with Coach Tortorella. It was a very enjoyable interview with the winningest coach in Jackets history. Thanks to Coach Torts for joining us. You can check it out by clicking here to go to Joel's podcast page.