Every Tuesday, Dan Parker presents WFNY’s The 5-Hole, bringing you up to date with the goings-on of the CBJ…
The Week That Was
Just after last week’s 5-Hole published, a bomb was dropped: in shocking news, prospect right-winger Stefan Legein announced that he is going to quit playing hockey. According to GM Scott Howson, ”We knew there were issues with Stefan going back to last spring. We’ve talked through it with him and we haven’t had any success.” The Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline describes Legein (or, the “Legein of Doom”), the Blue Jackets’ second-round draft pick (No. 37 overall) in 2007, as: “considered [to be] one of the top prospects in all of hockey, and [...] a well-known player in Canada because of his high-energy, agitating play and his off-ice humor.” Legein had indicated to the Blue Jackets in recent months that he’s lost the desire to play hockey at the professional level. Portzline breaks it down a little deeper here-
The burning question, of course, is what’s going on with Legein?
He helped lead Canada to another World Junior Championship last January, serving as alternate captain. He’s as cocky and gregarious as any player I’ve ever been around, so full of energy and passion for the game. He had such a great skill set, a big-time agitator with hands and feet good enough to play on a third line, maybe a second.
But late last season, after he came back from [a] shoulder injury, Legein wasn’t the same player. That’s what lots of folks in Ontario told me today. He didn’t get along great with his junior club teammates, the Niagara IceDogs, and he left the Syracuse Crunch after only two playoff games, saying he wanted to go back home to start working out and getting ready for 2008-09 season.
Be honest: Have you ever heard of any athlete at any level who would rather work out than play a game?
Legein took part in the Blue Jackets’ development camp, but he was not one of the five or six most noticeable players, as one might expect. Typically, agitator types don’t do well in “camp” settings because those are your teammates you’re going up against. But Legein did not fare well in camp. He wasn’t in great shape, either, apparently.
Agent Doug Woods said, “Look, he’s a kid with an enormous amount of talent and skill. Well, a lot of other people have the skill to be a great doctor, and yet they decide they don’t want to be a doctor anymore. He’s a 19 year old who maybe has to grow up a little bit yet. [...] It’s not a health issue … not as far as I know. [...] He won’t be attending training camp. He’s taking time to think things over. In my opinion, Stefan just wants to take a break. He’s tired from all the things he’s gone through the last two seasons, all the tournaments, the games, the shoulder injury … all that stuff. He feels like he needs some time and space.” Legein’s father wasn’t quite so sure: “When does training camp start, Sept. 19 or 20? Until Sept. 20, he hasn’t quit anything.” Stay tuned, as this story is likely to get wackier as more comes out. As Brett Favre showed us, often-times a player’s first instinct is not always his last one, and when asked if he thought Legein would ever play again, Woods responded: “Absolutely, yes. I think we’re dealing with a case of burnout here. You can’t be filled with that much passion for the sport of hockey and decide, right like that, that you’re done with it. I think he’s going to play again. In fact, I think when the frost hits the ground, he’s going to get the itch.”
While the Jackets may be losing one decent prospect, they’ve (finally) welcomed another into the fold: first-round draft pick Nikita Filatov was finally issued his US work visa this week. This is obviously good news for the club. Expect to see Filatov in Columbus on September 10th, in time for the start of rookie/prospects camp. Filatov’s agent has said the impending ruling by the IIHF (see last week’s 5-Hole for more info…) will have no bearing on Filatov’s arrival in North America. And, in the wake of Jared Boll’s training injury during the off-season, the team has asked Filatov to stop playing in exhibition games with his Russian junior team as a precautionary measure to avoid injury before training camp.
No additional injuries or updates have been reported since last reported.
Quote of the Week
“I can’t say he’s in the process of reconsidering, no. He’s not in the process of anything right now, to be honest with you.”
–Agent Doug Woods, responding to a question about whether or not prospect Stefan Legein might be reconsidering his decision to quit playing hockey.
“I can tell them that we bought the team to have it here in Columbus. We’re dedicated to keeping it in Columbus. But I can’t offer guarantees. I am reasonably comfortable that we’ll be here for a long time. Certainly, every fiber of what we try to do is to fulfill that original thought. My father worked on various sports commissions for probably 35 years to get a pro team for this town. It was one of his dreams. Now, sometimes in life you have to do what you have to do, but I would consider it a personal defeat if we ended up in that situation.”
–Majority owner John P. McConnell (son of the late John H. McConnell, the team’s former majority owner), responding to a question about what assurances he could give fans that the club would not be moved or sold in the future.
Blue Jackets Calendar:
-#1 pick Nikita Filatov is expected to be in North America by September 7th, arriving in Columbus by September 10th
-Rookies and prospects report for physicals and fitness tests on Friday, September 12th
-Prospects’ tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, Saturady September 13th – Wednesday September 17th
-Veterans report for physicals and fitness tests on Friday, September 19th
-First full practice in Columbus on Saturday, September 20th
-First exhibition game on Tuesday, September 23rd in Chicago against the Blackhawks
-First regular season game on Friday, October 10th in Dallas against the Stars
-Home opener on Friday, October 17th against the Nashville Predators