“I didn’t really know it was coming,” Scott Howson, entering his second year as Blue Jackets GM, told The Spec yesterday.
“But, did I suspect something like this might happen? Yes, I did. That was evident last spring.”
In May, Legein told the Blue Jackets during the American Hockey League playoffs that he would like to return home. He had been called up from Niagara IceDogs and got into only two games with the Syracuse Crunch, the Jackets’ top farm team. It was reported that, not playing much, he wanted to get a head start on his off-season weight program.
But, Howson says, Legein already seemed to be struggling with inspiration.
“He said he didn’t feel like playing, he’d lost his desire,” adds Howson, the longtime GM of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. “So he went home, with our permission. We were back healthy in Syracuse and didn’t need him, so we just told him to get ready for this season. We didn’t have much contact early in the off-season, but then he came to the development camp in Columbus, which was a really good sign, to me.”
Unlike other top Jacket prospects, however, Legein didn’t return to Columbus for the summer to work out with the team’s strength and development co-ordinator. Then, the call came from agent Doug Woods on Tuesday, and Howson thought to himself before answering it that it might be about Legein retiring.
“He had lost his passion for the game and didn’t want to play any more,” says Howson of Legein’s explanation. “The strange thing for me is that, from the way he plays, he’s the last kid you’d expect this from. He’s passionate and always plays with abandon. He’s a Darcy Tucker type.”
“He won’t be attending (Blue Jackets) training camp,” Woods told The Dispatch this afternoon. “He taking time to think things over.
“In my opinion, Stefan just wants to take a break. He’s tired from all the things he’s gone through the last two seasons, all the tournaments, the games, the shoulder injury … all that stuff. He feels like he needs some time and space.”
Woods was adamant that Legein is not suffering from anything other than loss of passion and energy. There are no health issues, he said. There is no family or personal crises. No addictions to anything, either.
“Stefan’s pretty upset, actually, at some of the stuff that’s been thrown around out there on these many blogs,” Woods said. “These are people who don’t know what’s going on, and they’re saying some very inaccurate and hurtful things. It’s not right.
“I’m talking about the unsolicited comments on the blogs, not the (newspaper) articles that have been written. This is a 19 year old kid, all right? He has some maturing to do, but he does not deserve this.”