We're now only nine days away from game one of the Blue Jackets best of five playoff series with Toronto. The Jackets, who have been holding training camp at Nationwide Arena for nearly two weeks, will head to the NHL's "Toronto bubble" on Sunday. Their series with the Maple Leafs begins August 2nd.
Former Blue Jackets enforcer Jody Shelley, analyst for the CBJ games on Fox Sports Ohio, visited with Joel Riley and me on Thursday to discuss what he's seen at training camp, the preparations for the series with Toronto and more. Here's some of the interesting tidbits from the interview.
Jody's general take on camp thus far: "I love the excitement down there. On the first day of camp I wasn't sure what the atmosphere was going to be but (the players) were relieved. They were excited to be around each other. They're fired up to be back doing what they love to do. It's been a long haul and I think a lot of them didn't think this was going to happen...but they're almost through 'Phase 3' (of the NHL restart plan) and ready to enter to 'Phase 4' Sunday when they head (to the NHL Eastern Conference bubble) to Toronto and they're getting ready...they're ramping up."
The goalie competition continues to be a major headline at camp. Both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins emerged at different times this season, as legitimate number one options. How they play in camp will determine which player gets the call in game one vs. the Maple Leafs. This week, Korpisalo gave up 13 goals in back-to-back scrimmages. Jody was asked if there is reason for concern over Korpy's performance. "There's a huge adjustment here for the goaltenders. When you think about getting back on the ice and just simply taking shots with pucks flying at you, they haven't done that for a while. Then you throw in a scrimmage atmosphere where you have bodies in front of you, pucks going off your own players, 10 guys in front of you, so no---I would not look at the goals let in by Joonas Korpisalo and be concerned whatsoever."
For the fifth time in his coaching career, John Tortorella is a finalist for NHL coach of the year. It's an award he's won twice. Jody was asked if Tortorella's presence and playoff experience is an advantage for the Blue Jackets in this unusual situation. "I think it's a huge advantage. You know there is great leadership there on the Blue Jackets but you need that voice and someone who sets the tone. This (situation) is right in his wheel house. This team is going to leave Sunday and then is going to be locked down in bubble, it's just the group together, there's not a lot of prognosticators saying anything about the Blue Jackets or what they can do and he loves that."
On the health of defenseman Seth Jones and forward Oliver Bjorkstrand, who are both back after suffering serious ankle injuries before the NHL season was halted. "I think Seth looks pretty good and Oliver looks good. Oliver doesn't even look like he had an ankle injury. We'll see how they progress when we get to live action."
Jody talked much more about the Jackets, the series, his role with Fox Sports Ohio when he'll have to call games from here in Columbus and much more. As usual, it was a great 10 minutes with Jody, filled with good information for Jackets fans. If you missed it, you can check it out by going to Joel's podcast page by clicking here.