Best Foote forward

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Adam Foote finding a new home in Columbus was one of the first major moves of the NHL free-agent frenzy this past summer.

His decision was also one that caught out most observers. It seemed so unlikely that one of the league's premier defenceman would choose to ply his trade with a team so far out of the Stanley Cup picture.

Granted, there were salary-cap issues that played a significant role in Foote leaving the Colorado Avalanche, where he'd spent his entire 13-year career.

But other top-flight teams with fewer monetary concerns than the Avs would have wanted the sturdy rearguard.

"I had a lot of good years in Colorado but it just didn't work out for me at the end and I just moved on," said Foote prior to the Blue Jackets' game against the Oilers last night.

A LITTLE DEEPER

So like Paul Kariya choosing Nashville, Foote headed for an underdeveloped hockey market. But he saw something a little deeper than the Blue Jackets' bank account.

"There's a lot of young talent here and we just have to build. It's a challenge," said Foote. "It's a good team and I knew it was a team that wasn't going to stay under the revenue-sharing number, which was important. Nobody knows how we're going to do this year or next year or the year following but with the young players and the will they have to win, we should be a team that is able to compete.

"I didn't come here to not win, whether it takes time or not. I don't want to put a date on how long it will be before we have it but we are making strides."

Foote complements a blue-line group featuring fellow veterans in Luke Richardson and Bryan Berard and a budding star in Rostislav Klesla - the "other" big-name, first-round pick who's often forgotten in the shadows of Rick Nash.

The 34-year-old, who played his first NHL season in 1991 with the Quebec Nordiques, feels somewhat rejuvenated on a team high on potential.

"It's a great locker-room and an awesome bunch of guys," he said. "We'd like to get more wins under our belt but we've missed a couple of players and had a rough start. Maybe we weren't quite ready but we're starting to play better."

Foote netted a shorthanded game-winner in overtime last week against the Nashville Predators, but his worth to Columbus goes far beyond his point production.

'GREAT LEADER'

"It's his character and background. His experience helps the whole team," said Columbus head coach Gerard Gallant.

"He's a great player and a great leader. Everything I read about him in the past is true."

The Blue Jackets' rave reviews are one thing but another is the fact that even with the depth of defensive talent available, Foote is in line for a third appearance on the Canadian Olympic team come February in Turin with the chance to defend the gold captured in 2002.

"It's nice just to be on the (consideration) list," offered Foote.

"There's a lot of great players out there. All I can do is think of these games and just be ready.

"It's an honour to be on the list and an honour to play for your country. I'd love to be there. To try and do it again would be awesome."


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