Six days ago, just hours after the NHL lockout ended and a few minutes before training camps opened, John Davidson stepped to the middle of the Blue Jackets dressing room to address 25 players gathered for the first time.

Davidson was hired in October to oversee the club's roster, to steer the franchise toward success while soothing a fractured and faithless fan base. Not permitted to speak to players during the lockout, he'd had plenty of time to craft his message — and he wanted it to leave a mark.

"The main message from me was: 'We're going north. I'm not looking south,'?" said Davidson, the Blue Jackets' president of hockey operations. "?'What has gone on here is history. You study history. You learn from it. But I'm going north.' That was one of the messages."Davidson also talked to the team about promises, he said."There are only so many things you can promise people. I've promised people that we're not going to be outworked; I've promised people that we're going to be a heavy, hard-working hockey club.

"I wanted the players to understand that and hear that."

The Blue Jackets will open their 12th season tonight at the Nashville Predators, their one-time Central Division rival. The post-Rick Nash era dawns with at least six new players, as well as new coaches, a newly organized front office, new scouts — even a new scoreboard and an organist at Nationwide Arena.

The organization hasn't been rebuilt so much as resurfaced. Gone is the core of an underperforming, overpaid club — replaced by underappreciated players with a working-class approach.

"It's exciting, and it was necessary," general manager Scott Howson said. "We needed to make significant changes … changes that would really change the face of the club. It's a fresh start in a lot of ways for a lot of people — guys who have been here, and guys who were brought in to help out. And I think that's exciting."