Over the past three seasons, nobody has played more games for the Columbus Blue Jackets than David Savard. He, like three of his teammates, did not miss a game in 2018-19 to bring his three-year total to an impressive 258 games of regular season and playoff action. That number speaks to head coach John Tortorella’s belief in the second-pairing d-man and the steady, reliable brand of shutdown hockey he brings to the CBJ. Last season was no exception, as Savard adjusted to several different defensive partners and showed some offensive flair late in the campaign.
Savard blocked 123 shots, second-most on the team behind Seth Jones’s 133. His 122 hits led all CBJ defensemen, and though we know plus-minus is a flawed stat, he ranked third at +19. His 24 points marked the most since 2015-16, and though his penalty minutes went up slightly from last season (36 from 32), it’s part of an overall trend of disciplined play over the past several seasons. With respect to his own career, it’s clear he’s shown marked improvement.
In 2017-18, Savard struggled with Jack Johnson as his partner, but flourished with the acquisition of Ian Cole. With Cole’s (and Johnson’s) departure, Savard’s future partner was an open question. An early and mid-season experiment with Zach Werenski proved unfruitful, so Savard spent most of his time with Scott Harrington and Markus Nutivaara. Tortorella eventually settled on the pairing of Nutivaara and Savard, the most successful duo in terms of score-adjusted shots against/60 (according to HockeyViz.com). Also according to HockeyViz, opposing offenses did better without Savard on the ice, and team’s 5-on-5 unblocked shot rate with Savard on the ice improved noticably from the year before. Not league-elite or even too far above league-average, but better than before.
Apparently, Savard was quite the offensive defenseman as a youngster before settling into a shutdown role as a 28-year-old in the NHL. He closed the season on a tear, posting four goals and five assists in the team’s final 12 games—including a pair of two-assist performances to wrap the regular season.
He shone in the playoffs, too, helping to quiet Tampa Bay’s dangerous attack and even scored a trio of points in 10 games.
Bottom line: after the All-World pairing of Werenski and Jones, there’s no Blue Jackets defenseman more reliable than David Savard.
David Savard 2018-19 Stats
Games played: 82
Time on ice: 19:45
Penalty minutes: 36
Corsi For (Even strength): 49.6%
Games played: 10
Time on ice: 23:42
Penalty minutes: 4
Corsi For (Even strength): 41.62%
The club signed Savard to a five-year deal in September 2015 that will keep him a Blue Jacket through 2020-21 at an average annual value of $4.25 million. The new contract came with a big raise from his $1.3 million RFA deal, and it’s a comparable deal to players like Jake Gardiner and Marco Scandella. It’s a tradeable contract, if it came to that, but Savard has elevated himself to such a dependable workhorse that’s it’s tough to imagine the CBJ willingly parting with Savard at his current level.
Other than the stretch mentioned above, you know what’s coming: the toe-drag around Victor Hedman to score a crucial goal in the team’s Game 1 win over Tampa Bay.
How would you grade David Savard’s 2018-19 season?
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