25 Columbus Blue Jackets A pumped-up young forward and amped-up intensity are steps in the right direction

October 12, 2003

Rick Nash, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft, spent his first NHL
off-season at home in Brampton, Ont., taking in movies (among his
favorites: American Wedding and Old School); sitting down to
meals with his family; and, most noticeably, growing larger. The
Blue Jackets left wing weight-trained for three hours a day and
came into camp at 6'4", 209 pounds, a solid 20 pounds heavier
than last year. Jokes defenseman Luke Richardson, "I lost five
pounds over the summer, and I know where they went. Nash has
them."

A Calder Trophy finalist last season, Nash hopes that his new
bulk will enable him to muscle in goals around the net and do
anything else to help turn around a team that limped to a Western
Conference-worst 69 points. Columbus lost its top point-scorer
when former captain Ray Whitney signed with Detroit, but his exit
opened a spot for Nash on the second line. He will skate
alongside speedy center Todd Marchant, who had career highs in
goals (20) and assists (40) with Edmonton last year. "It's an
honor to play with him," says Nash, who scored 17 goals as a
rookie playing on the third line. "I grew up watching him and
pretending I was him."

Besides signing free agents Marchant and checking forward Trevor
Letowski, the Blue Jackets also upgraded a dismal blue line by
acquiring Darryl Sydor, who had a +22 rating with Dallas last
season. Sydor, a veteran two-way player, should boost the power
play while helping Columbus cut down on its 3.21 goals allowed
per game, the second worst in the league.

"We've always had decent talent, but I haven't always liked our
team," says general manager and coach Doug MacLean. "Last year's
team wasn't a team. I'm excited that the pieces are different."

Under MacLean, who took over behind the bench for Dave King last
January, "the dressing room is a lot more intense," says Nash.
"[MacLean] told us right away, 'If you're not here to make the
playoffs, then we don't want you here.'" Nash is ready to take on
that challenge--and carry the burden on his broader
shoulders. --A.W.

COLOR PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: JOHN ULAN/AP (NASH) RICK NASH

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 26
DEFENSE 22
GOALTENDING 29
POWER PLAY 18
PENALTY KILLING 8
G.M. AND COACH 13

INSIDER

This fourth-year team is fast, well-coached and going in the
right direction, but it is still too small to be a playoff
contender. They get run out of the rink by more physical
clubs.... G Marc Denis must be better focused early in games and
keep the offensively mediocre Jackets from having to play from
behind.... New D Darryl Sydor is an excellent veteran pickup, but
can he be a No. 1 guy on the blueline? He wasn't able to do that
in previous stops in Dallas and Los Angeles.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)