Blue Jackets tap Nick Foligno as first captain in 3 years
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Like father, like son: Nick Foligno now is an NHL captain just like his dad was.
Foligno, who served as a captain for the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus in January, was introduced Wednesday as the first Blue Jackets player in three years to wear the ''C'' on his jersey.
His dad, Mike, a former captain for the Buffalo Sabres and now an assistant coach in New Jersey, found out about Nick's appointment via a phone call. So did Nick's brother, Marcus, a current Sabres forward.
''Obviously, my dad and brother are really happy for me,'' Nick said. ''My dad's actually been a captain in the league, so it's pretty cool to be able to share that with him. Marcus is really excited for me as well. It's been pretty special.''
The Blue Jackets had been without a captain since Rick Nash was dealt to the New York Rangers in July 2012. Foligno becomes the sixth captain in the franchise's 14 seasons. Previous captains were Lyle Odelein (2000-02), Ray Whitney (2002-03), Luke Richardson (2003-05), Adam Foote (2005-08) and Nash (2008-12).
Foligno was acquired not long after Nash was dealt, with Columbus sending defenseman Marc Methot to Ottawa for him. He is coming off a career year with personal bests of 31 goals, 42 assists and 73 points.
Midway through the year, he signed a six-year, $33-million contract on Dec. 31, 2014.
The left wing came to a team mired near the bottom of the NHL. The club, the youngest in the NHL, made the playoffs in 2014 and just missed this past season despite more than 500 man-games lost to injury.
Fans have called out for a captain the past two years but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said the time wasn't right.
''Did somebody say, `Finally?''' Kekalainen said Wednesday. ''As we said all along, somebody will arise from the group and earn it the right way.''
There were several top candidates on the team, including defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Brandon Dubinsky.
Foligno handled his ceremonial All-Star Game responsibility in January on the Blue Jackets' home ice well. It was a minor trial run for what he'll face with the Blue Jackets.
''Nick, to me, this season took some big steps forward as a leader with our group,'' coach Todd Richards said. ''Lots of adversity (due to the injuries) we faced and usually the leaders become really visible in times like that. Nick has matured as a player and as a leader. And he's ready for this next step.''
With the title comes added responsibility. But Foligno said he feels up to the task. He knows the job description.
''A captain is the guy who has the pulse of the room, and understands what's needed and at what times and how to get the most out of each player,'' he said. ''You need a guy who can read people and can understand what's needed more from the team and try to get the most out of them to help the coaching staff.''
Kekalainen said alternate captains will be selected during training camp.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP