American Hockey League

Vincent fulfilling dream with Blue Jackets

How much are you looking forward to getting the season started Thursday?

“We’re very, very excited. When you look at last year, it was a long season for all of us and there was quite a bit of a turnover in the summer for the Blue Jackets. So, we turned the page and we’re excited. We’re healthy, which we weren’t for most of the year, starting from game one, really. Guys showed up for camp in really good shape. It was a hard camp. We tweaked a few of the things we did in the past, but the excitement level is there for sure.”
The circumstances of how you got the job weren’t what you wanted, but how do you view this opportunity?

“I’ve been prepared. I’ve done some interviews all summer (for coaching jobs) and the previous year as well and two years ago. I always saw it as just a matter of time and a matter of I felt prepared. I felt I’m doing everything I can as a person, as a coach to deserve an opportunity. I’ve worked extremely hard. Everybody knows that among the environment I work in, the people I work with, but sometimes it’s the timing. You don’t choose your timing. It was tough week. It was a real tough week for all of us, but now it’s there.”

What was the biggest challenge of taking over four days before the first training camp practices?

“Lack of time.” (Laughs)

What did you do during those days before camp started?

“We went over everything and we made some changes about the camp and the systems, but most of the job was done in the summer. We met quite consistently, so most of the job was done.”

Did you change much of what Babcock had planned for training camp?

“Mike and I, we have very similar views on how the game should be played, so we didn’t have to do many changes. Maybe some terms and the language and the terminology, but as far as the system itself, it’s pretty similar.”

How did the players handle a coaching change so close to the start of camp?

“You know what? Those guys can get traded any time. They know it’s a business. They turn around pretty quick and tomorrow if I get fired, they’ll turn around pretty quick. It’s the nature of the business.”

How would you describe your coaching style?

“I don’t think I have a coaching style. I’m myself, first of all, and the way I see it is I will adjust my coaching style depending on the performance and the way we behaved and the way we practiced. If we are working hard and we’re doing the right things — I’m not talking about wins and losses here — but if we do it right, we’re going to push them, and we have our standards. But if they don’t, then I’m going to have a different approach. The NHL has changed over the years. There’s a switch into the League. It’s younger. It’s faster. So, we need to adapt, we need to evolve. But, really, my coaching style is depending on how the team plays.”

You said you tweaked some things from last season. How much did you change systems-wise?

“We tweaked quite a few things from last year, but from this summer and [Babcock], just a few things.”

In general, what do you want your playing style to be?

“We want pace, we want structure, and we want to play fast.”

There were expectations before Babcock resigned that this team could make a big jump in the standings this season. Are those expectations still there?

“The big jump in the standings, I’m not even concerned about that. I’m concerned about what we’re going to do today, how we’re going to get better tomorrow.”

Other than health, in what area does this team need to improve most to have success?

“With the season we had last year, we have to earn the respect of the League, and that’s on us. And in order to do that, we have to build the confidence that the job can get done. But now we have a very different lineup than we did in the past. The guys believe in themselves now, so we’ll see.”

How has Adam Fantilli, the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, impressed you?

“Really good. Really good. First of all, he doesn’t look like a typical 18-year-old. He’s a driver. He skates hard. Sometimes those guys they come in the League and they’re next to the big boys and they see the veterans and part of it is they’re intimidated, which is normal. But he wasn’t shy at all, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder, so I think he’s going to be a good player for a long time.”

What’s your approach with him in his first NHL season? Do you just let him play? Are there things you have to monitor?

“We have a job to do, but we have such a good room, I know the veterans will take him under their wings as well. But we have to surround him. You see those guys like a diamond. You to take care of it and protect it. Obviously, we’ll see, and he’s such a good player. I see the NHL in different parts: the excitement in training camp early in the season, then there’s a dip around November, December and then it’s the real NHL after the all-star break. That’s when we’re going to have to monitor how he plays and if he hits the wall or not because it could happen.”

Patrik Laine is one of the players who have taken Fantilli under his wing. How beneficial is that?

“Yeah, Patrik is a good teammate and I’m not surprised he’s done it. But we have our captain Boone Jenner and Zach Werenski and (Erik) Gudbranson, our oldest player, they’re all good.”

You’ve seen Laine since your time together in the Jets organization. He’s talked about becoming more of a leader. Have you seen his maturation into that role?

“Yeah, but you know what? You and I, we don’t know how it feels to be a second overall (pick in the 2016 NHL Draft) under pressure. So, I don’t know how he feels when he’s laying down in bed and looking at the ceiling and he’s all by himself, no spotlight or anything like that. And depending on where you are, a Canadian market can sometimes be hard. But he’s a guy that people don’t know because they know the player, but they don’t know the person. That’s the way it should be, but he’s a very humble guy, very generous guy. He’s a great team player. There’s nothing selfish about Patrik. So, the maturity is there as far as how he approaches the game and stuff like that, but he’s always been that kind of person.”

Is Laine a center now?

“A work in progress, but so far he’s pretty impressive.”

He wants to play center. What does that say about him?

“I think it gets him excited. He wants to help the team win. That’s all the wants right now because I told him, ‘Listen Patty, it might affect your points at the end of the year. Maybe, maybe not, but maybe it’s possible.’ And he said, ‘At this stage of my life and my career, I don’t care about that. I just want to help the team win some games.’”

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