During one of the quietest weeks on the NHL calendar, Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky found his offseason motivation to start training a little bit earlier than usual.
On July 22, Team USA invited 48 players to its orientation camp in Washington for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Dubinsky, from Alaska, was not on the list.
“It’s a hard thing to swallow,” Dubinsky said. “I’m one of the guys who should have gotten a look. That’s the way things go sometimes. You have to use those things for motivation. Maybe it’s a little extra jam against the (Pittsburgh) Penguins knowing that you’ve got two big players (with USA hockey) running that front office.”
Penguins general manager Ray Shero is the assistant general manager for Team USA, and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will serve as coach. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards will be one of the Bylsma’s assistants, which could help Dubinsky’s cause. Players who have strong NHL seasons could be added to the team ahead of the Games in February.
The regular season doesn’t start until Oct. 4, but Dubinsky has been a dominating player during the preseason. In the final exhibition game last night, won by the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 at Nationwide Arena, Dubinsky was the Blue Jackets’ best forward, playing 20:01 and winning 15 of 22 faceoffs.
Dubinsky played in five of the eight exhibition games, with one goal, six assists and a plus-5 rating.
“Brandon looks motivated,” Richards said. “He looks driven. I think he wants to be a difference-maker on this team. He wants to be a leader by example. I think he’s motivated after two down seasons as far as scoring goals. He’s driven that way.
“There’s also a bigger picture and it effects a lot of players who are targeted by their nations for an Olympic opportunity. He’s a name that could get talked about.”
Dubinsky spent the summer in Columbus, working out with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins and getting to know the city better after last season was such a rush. The snub from Olympic camp got him worked up, but taking on a bigger role with the Blue Jackets, Dubinsky said, is where he plans to start.
“The Olympics is not my first focus; this team is my focus,” Dubinsky said. “I think I can help this team to that next level. That’s my mission. We have a group of guys who think the same way I do, but I’m a leader on this team and I need to lead. I’m going to lead.
“It’s not being vocal in the room. It’s not about saying things to (the media). It’s going out on the ice and doing it every day and night.”
Dubinsky said he’s not campaigning for the Blue Jackets’ captaincy, which has remained vacant since Rick Nash was traded to the New York Rangers 14 months ago. Jack Johnson and Dubinsky seem likely candidates, but Richards has said he’s in no hurry to name one.
“We have a leadership group, a good group of guys,” Dubinsky said. “As long as we’re all pulling in the right direction, that’s how you win hockey games. I’m pretty sure everybody in the room feels that way about it.”