Jack Roslovic needed a turning point in his season. His offensive numbers were down from last season. He’s still learning the defensive side of the game. Thanks to some questioning his effort and compete level coupled with a drop in ice time, Roslovic’s name started to appear in major trade rumors.
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Then the game in Calgary happened. With the Blue Jackets trailing only 2-1 in the second period, Roslovic made a game-changing mistake. His turnover lead to a Flames’ goal. From that point forward, the game was out of reach.
Roslovic’s backhand pass up the middle was unnecessary. It was promptly picked off. It resulted in a two-on-one for the Flames. This was an ugly play. It only seemed to reinforce those trade rumors.
Larsen Explains Roslovic’s Breaking Point
As it turned out, this play became the catalyst for Roslovic to make major changes to his game. Head coach Brad Larsen opened up on Saturday about the conversation he had with Roslovic after this game.
“His last game where I felt like it kind of hit a tipping point was that turnover in Calgary,” Larsen said. “It was a one-goal game. It was a very lazy kind of turnover. Him and I talked about it. He was unhappy with it. Certainly I was too. I felt like that was almost a breaking point for him of trying to understand what we’re trying to do to grow him as a player.”
“We talked about putting a stretch of games together to build trust. Don’t be nonchalant. Make sure you are focused. And he did that. He’s done it for a long stretch. You look back from that game on the last month, he’s really improved in that area.”
While Boone Jenner’s injury has factored into Roslovic getting top-line center minutes, his promotion wasn’t just about Jenner’s injury. It’s a result of the work Roslovic has put in since that conversation with his head coach.
“Jack’s game improved a month ago. It’s not because Boone left here a couple games ago and he moved up…There are going to be some turnovers. But understanding the time to score, who you’re out against. As long as you’re not casual about it. I think that’s been his biggest change.”
“I think he’s made some great reads in his D-zone. He’s tracking pucks harder. I think he’s understanding the importance of time and score, beginning of the period, end of the period, all these different things and especially who he’s playing against. He earned that through the last several weeks. It wasn’t just over a couple of games. So for him there’s been big improvement for at least four or five weeks here.”
Roslovic’s linemate Gus Nyquist has taken notice of the overall improvement too. He says the best is yet to come for Roslovic.
“Rosie is a great player,” Nyquist said. “He can really skate well with the puck. He sees the ice well. And he’s still young. Playing center is a tough position in this league and he’s still learning. He’s improved a lot. He’s going to improve and get even better.”
Roslovic Talks About His Struggles & More
For Roslovic, his confidence has never been higher for himself than it is now. It’s clear his mindset has changed since that night in Calgary. He’s playing the role of a number-one center while making noticeable strides in his game.
Roslovic realizes too that this promotion is earned and as a direct result of the work he’s put in. Here’s our conversation about his current opportunity, overcoming struggles, gaining confidence, the trade deadline and more. On being a 1C:
“It’s been nice. It sucks to see guys get hurt,” Roslovic said. “It’s good to see guys step up. It’s good to see guys come up in the lineup. The opportunity I’ve been given has been earned in some ways. It’s been because of the improvement. It’s nice to have that confidence as a player to know that it isn’t just because of one reason. It’s great.”
On Saturday night, Roslovic saw a lot of St. Louis Blues’ star Ryan O’Reilly. While it’s clear there’s an adjustment to consistently playing against the best, you can see strides. Roslovic says there’s a learning experience to be had.
“I could probably talk to everyone about this and they’d have the same answer. When you play against top guys like that, your game definitely elevates. You just realize who you are out there against. Maybe that’s a learning thing too is trying to keep that intensity throughout the whole game no matter who you’re playing.”
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Roslovic then opened up about his experience in Calgary. While it was certainly a dark moment then, it has propelled him to a good place now. Let him explain.
“Confidence in a lot of ways comes with production for a skilled player. But I’ve learned to get confidence from different areas of the game. Yeah the Calgary game sucked for me. I hated that game. So I think it was a good switch that led me to learning to be more patient with the game, making the right plays, not making the pretty play, the play that could have been pretty but leads to a goal against. When a play does come, it will be obvious.”
That’s a big sign of growth for a young player. When they start to understand the importance of patience in the game, they’ll start to take off. That also comes with getting more opportunities.
Recently, Larsen added Roslovic to the penalty kill. That has been good for the team as much as it’s been good for the player.
“He’s earned that too,” Larsen said. “And that was one of those things that I talked with Pascal (Vincent) about. He had him in the minors in Manitoba. And he said he used him and did a good job. I felt like there was an opportunity to get him some more ice time and maybe it could help him. I feel like he did. He’s done an excellent job.”
“He’s got tremendous feet. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s got a great stick. He’s really added to our penalty kill. I think that it’s giving him a little more confidence. And that’s a defending situation. It’s one less so you have to be smart. It shows he has the mind for it. It’s just applying himself and he has been.”
Roslovic loves being on the penalty kill. For him, one reason sticks out.
“I love penalty killing. It goes back to the whole intensity aspect of the game and what’s going on in the game and keeping you on the ice while keeping you into it (the game.)”
The Trade Deadline
We are getting close to Monday’s 3 P.M. eastern deadline. It’s only natural to wonder what the players are thinking and if significant changes are forthcoming based on their position in the standings. Roslovic was honest when we asked him if the team discusses the topic much and how they try to keep that out of the locker room.
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“Honesty no,” Roslovic said about the team discussing the deadline in the locker room. “But I have been traded before. Individually it’s always in the back of your head. With the way that our season has gone and some of the players that we have with contract status, you look and there’s some inevitable (things.) That’s the weird thing about getting traded too is you never know until the deal is done. I think that’s one thing everyone is pretty professional with. Everyone lives in the moment. I think everyone is still positive and wants to be a part of everything here and try to keep on forming that identity.”
Finishing the Season Strong
With the Blue Jackets 5-3 win over the Blues on Saturday night, just 19 games remain in the season. While the playoffs seem like they’re out of reach this season, there’s still plenty this team can accomplish in this season that could propel them in future seasons. Roslovic believes there’s one thing they really want to get right in these last games.
“I think there’s a lot of things. The thing that comes to my mind is keeping intensity and keep on trying to find the identity. You have a lot of young guys. As of now nobody’s been moved. You’re going to have a lot of the same guys. So we’re able to keep that intensity high and keep that identity rock solid and the way that the Columbus Blue Jackets way of playing hockey and instilling it in the young guys and everyone around the team.”
The Blue Jackets are still trying to forge their identity. After their loss to the Capitals on Thursday night, it was fair to wonder if the energy and compete would not be there after such a crushing defeat. But as Roslovic said, intensity in every game is a main focus for them. That helped them to an impressive win against a strong Blues’ team.
If there’s any good news the Blue Jackets can take from these last couple of months, it’s that there’s clear evidence of Roslovic’s maturity. He’s handled difficult moments well and is showing why the team wanted him in the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade from last season.
Roslovic has certainly been inconsistent at times this season. But thanks to a game-changing turnover on a weekday night in Calgary, he has turned his season around in a big way and is a major contributor on a nightly basis. He’s more confident. He’s making better decisions. He’s not focused on being offensive on every single play.
Roslovic has embraced change. His play is clearly better as a result.