New leaders rally stung Jackets

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Regardless of the way the deal went down, the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves without a captain.

One report claims Adam Foote played hardball to escape Ohio at the trade deadline, claiming unless he was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche, he'd be a bad teammate and a distraction to the Jackets as they fight for their first playoff berth since joining the league in 2000.

Foote disputed that, saying he was just looking for an extension to remain in Columbus beyond this season.

Either way, he's now a member of the Avalanche, and the Jackets are without a lettered leader.

Leadership, though, they have in abundance even though no one will don the captain's 'C' until next season.

"We've got a lot of leaders here that have been around a while," said Rick Nash, who currently wears an 'A', but is a strong candidate for an upgrade in the near future.

"In the past, I've always led by example on the ice. I've just got to get a bit more vocal in the dressing room."

A former captain himself, Mike Peca has been through a similar situation. He was with the Buffalo Sabres when Pat LaFontaine was dealt to the New York Rangers in 1996.

"At that point, rather than falling apart -- which would have been easy because he was our leader in a lot of different ways -- it really brought our group closer together than it ever was," said Peca.

"I think that's because everybody knew now they had an opportunity to share in the responsibility, and we were excited about that. I think that's no different than here.

"We're hoping that it helps our group grow and get better."

Head coach Ken Hitchcock says the secondary set of players are taking more active roles -- guys like Ron Hainsey, Rostislav Klesla and Manny Malhotra.

He's happy with the way the team is dealing with the loss of Foote, and fellow veteran Sergei Fedorov, who went to Washington at the deadline.

"It was pretty devastating emotionally, especially for the older guys, when Adam and Sergei went out," said Hitchcock. "I thought our guys have done a great job of regrouping and recreating some chemistry and some enthusiasm."

A lot of that has to do with Nash's leadership on the ice. The 23-year-old is already in his fifth season, and while he isn't outspoken, no one works harder.

"I don't think Rick will be as vocal as a guy like Adam Foote was, or other guys are, but he's certainly a guy who exemplifies leadership," said Peca.

"I really believe he sacrifices a lot of offence to really be more responsible defensively, unlike other guys who have carte blanche to just play offence and deal with the consequences later.

"That type of sacrifice shows leadership qualities for sure."


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