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|16 сентября 2007
Rejuvenated: Fedorov, Foote determined to live up to potential with Jackets // THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
By Aaron Portzline
They are two of the most respected players in the NHL and will go down as legends of the game soon after they retire.
But there's no sense sugarcoating it: Defenseman Adam Foote and center Sergei Fedorov have not played up to their standards since they joined the Blue Jackets two seasons ago.
This season could well be their last with the Blue Jackets. Both are in the final years of contracts. Fedorov, 37, will make $6.08 million this season. Foote, 36, will make $4.6 million.
Last week, both acknowledged frustration with their Blue Jackets careers, and they shouldered some of that blame. But in the wake of front-office shuffling in the offseason, Foote and Fedorov vowed that different days lie ahead, both for their own careers and for the Blue Jackets' success on the ice.
"I want to have more fun here," Foote said. "I want to win."
Fedorov put it another way: "I came to training camp excited as hell."
Blue Jackets fans have seen only glimpses of Fedorov's stunning talent since he came to Columbus in a trade with Anaheim early in the 2005-06 season.
Not long ago, Fedorov was the consensus pick as the best player in the NHL.
Last season, he played the last four months with hyperextended elbows. Coach Ken Hitchcock, citing the Blue Jackets' numerous injuries and limited skill on the blue line, switched Fedorov to defense for the final six weeks of the season.
"I did everything I could to stay on the roster and play defense," Fedorov said. "Offensively, I was a second too slow on the ice, and that's a lot of time in hockey."
But there was more to it than his arms.
Fedorov became detached from the leadership aspects of the dressing room midway through the 2005-06 season, insiders say, when he was privately excoriated by Blue Jackets management for offering blunt opinions on the play of young wingers Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev.
Blue Jackets management has since changed. Scott Howson replaced Doug MacLean as general manager. Howson and Hitchcock have reached out to Fedorov, hoping to get him "plugged back in" as a dressing room leader.
The three had lunch last month outside Detroit.
"I felt good after the meeting because I know what was expected of me,"
Fedorov said. "The way I embrace that is, if I'm one of the best players
on the team, I have to live up to my potential. I want to be the best player
on the team."
Foote can probably relate to Fedorov's frustrations.
Before the 2005-06 season, Foote left the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent to sign a three-year contract with the Blue Jackets, who immediately put the captain's "C" on his sweater.
Foote walked into a dressing room that had been gripped by a losing culture. Others before Foote tried to change the culture and failed, and Foote didn't find it easy, either.
"Looking back, yes, there were distractions that I wish I hadn't let come into play," Foote said. "It was not ideal, no."
Again, the tenor under Howson and Hitchcock has been much different. Hitchcock has set up what he calls his "leadership group," working with veteran players to set the agenda, but then giving them the steering wheel in the dressing room.
Foote seems invigorated. That "C" really stands for something now.
"It is different this year," Foote said. "I think I'm refocused. I'm
going to be there for the guys in the room. That's what I did in Colorado.
That leadership will come out of me just being me."
Hitchcock said he feels fortunate to have players such as Foote, Fedorov and Michael Peca on a roster with so many young players.
"I feel very good about our dressing room situation," Hitchcock said. "Very good."
He thinks he can help Foote and Fedorov return to form on the ice, too.
"More than anything else, what needed to happen is a definition of their roles," Hitchcock said. "We can't expect both guys to do everything every night. It's not fair to them and it's not realistic.
"Our responsibility as a coaching staff is to stick to our guns."
Foote likely will be on the second defensive pair and the top penalty kill unit, just as he was with the Avs. He won't get much time on the power play.
Fedorov, ideally, will be the Blue Jackets' second-line center and power-play quarterback. He will not see much time on the penalty kill.
"These two guys have a lot to offer our hockey club," Hitchcock said. "We've overplayed those guys, because our situation has forced us to do it.
"We're not in that position anymore. So I suspect we're going to get a little something different from them this season."