We are just a little more than a month away from the start of the 2021-22 regular season. With that, we are slowly starting to transition into season preview mode.
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, they have a lot of intriguing storylines to follow and questions to answer. Over the next month leading up to opening night, we will help you get ready for what’s sure to be an interesting year on a lot of fronts.
The Next Ambassadors
But for now, let’s start with a question. Think back over the last few years of Blue Jackets’ hockey. Who comes to your mind when it comes to being a Blue Jackets’ ambassador?
There are a couple of obvious answers here, right? Nick Foligno certainly comes to mind. Cam Atkinson was and still is a community giant and gave everything he had to Columbus. Someone like David Savard comes to mind as well. Seth Jones at times certainly did his part before deciding to move on.
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But the time has come for others to step into that ambassador role on the Blue Jackets. Boone Jenner belongs in that group. He loves Columbus and reiterated that point by signing an extension to stay.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is developing into a leader before our eyes and is certainly a candidate to step into an ambassador role as we move along. He too signed a contract extension recently to stay with the Blue Jackets.
By definition, an ambassador is someone who acts as a representative or promotor of a specified activity. One Blue Jacket in particular seems destined for that role given how the offseason played out. He now has an opportunity to be not only an ambassador for the Blue Jackets but also a future face of the franchise. As soon as Zach Werenski put pen to paper on his new contract, it signified the start of his ascent to the role of ambassador.
Bucking the Recent Trend
Werenski’s extension helped temporarily put to rest the narrative that stars didn’t want to stay with the Blue Jackets. While that’s a good thing to see from their perspective, him signing the new contract signaled a new era of hockey in Columbus.
As we’ve discussed before in this space, the Blue Jackets will be turning to a new core of leaders starting this season. The aforementioned names have moved on. The time has come for others to lead the way. Starting with his press conference after signing his new deal, Werenski showed a glimpse of what kind of ambassador he will eventually be.
“Well first and foremost, I love Columbus,” Werenski said at the beginning. There was just something different about the way he spoke that day. It gave the impression of someone saying “I want to be here. It’s really good here. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I want to commit my life here.” Sounds like something an ambassador would say, doesn’t it?
How different is this compared to what has happened in recent memory for the Blue Jackets? Artemi Panarin said no to a huge deal to stay. Pierre-Luc Dubois didn’t want to stay at all. That’s just two painful examples of several which reinforced the notion about stars not wanting to stay.
But now we have Werenski choosing to stay. That’s a player who believes in where the team is going and showing it with their words and actions. This is the player you want being the lead voice for the team. Not only are we going to get that in due time but think of the opportunities he and the team have to show how great the Blue Jackets can be.
The NHL Media Tour
This upcoming week, the NHL will be hosting players in Chicago for their annual Media Tour. This is an event that Seth Jones has taken part in before.
This season, it will be Werenski representing the Blue Jackets in Chicago. He will get to meet with national and international media along with other major North American media to discuss the upcoming season and much more.
This will give Werenski an opportunity to be the Blue Jackets’ ambassador for the two days he will be in Chicago. The event is scheduled for Sep 15 and 16. But this will be just the beginning for him.
Whether it’s getting involved more around town or even a chance to appear on TV commercials, the Blue Jackets have an opportunity to really market him and some of his teammates. If there’s anyone on the Blue Jackets that deserve to be marketed, certainly Elvis Merzlikins should be considered. But it should focus on Werenski. Maybe one day we’ll see him on the draft stage announcing a Blue Jackets’ draft pick like Jones did in 2018.
Werenski Just Has “It”
Werenski has grown into a major leadership role on this team while having the attributes you want to see in someone who will be one of the faces of this franchise. He has that “it” factor. You know it’s there when you see it. But it’s hard to describe what it is because of what all he has to offer.
Leaders lead by example. Werenski’s actions on and off the ice demonstrate that he is more than ready to take on this important role. Whether it’s practice habits or how to handle game situations or even talking to someone about the benefits of Columbus, Werenski is ready to advocate for the Blue Jackets and the city.
Preparing For a New Role
Werenski will be interesting to follow not only because of the ambassador role but also the new role he will have on the ice. With Jones gone, this is Werenski’s blueline now. He is their number-one defenseman. Who will he play with to start? How will he lead the group now that newcomers Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean are here? How will he do without Jones?
We’ll see eventually how that works out. For now though, the story is the initiative Werenski has taken in committing to this team and helping to lead it. He bucked a major negative trend. That isn’t a small deal. He’s saying: “Follow me. I will help lead this team to where they want to go.”
As the 2021-22 season gets going, pay attention to Werenski especially off the ice. Don’t be surprised if you see him at the front of marketing and promotional opportunities as they come up. He’s willing to step up and take on that role. He also clearly believes in this team and its vision.
That’s why when you add it all up, Werenski truly makes for a perfect Blue Jackets’ ambassador. He was made for it.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.