On October 7, 2011, the Columbus Blue Jackets opened their season at home against the division rival Nashville Predators and lost by a score of 3-2. Scott Arniel was the head coach. Scott Howson was the general manager. Rick Nash was the captain and scored a goal. Jeff Carter had two assists in his Columbus debut. Grant Clitsome led all skaters in ice time. Steve Mason saved 28 out of 31 shots faced. Three rookies made their NHL debut: Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, and David Savard.
So much has changed in the nine years since then, but Atkinson and Savard have remained a constant. Savard played 31 games in that first season and just 4 in the lockout season, but since 2013-14 he has averaged 74 game per season, with two complete 82 game seasons and four total with two or fewer games missed. Sort of the anti-Ryan Murray, if you will.
Even as his partners have changed — whether Jack Johnson, Ian Cole, Markus Nutivaara, or now Vladislav Gavrikov — Savard has been a feature of the second pairing, deployed in a shutdown role. He can play 20+ minutes a night, face the opponent’s top lines, and keep their quality chances to a minimum. He was second among CBJ defensemen in high danger shot attempts for (per 60 minutes, at 5v5) and fourth in fewest high danger shot attempts allowed. He was second in the league (behind Edmonton’s Oscar Klefbom) with blocked shots, with 163.
The playoffs were a different story. Against two of the top three offenses in Toronto and Tampa Bay, Savard and Gavrikov found themselves spending a lot of time pinned in their own defensive zone. Savard was on ice for 14 goals against in the postseason ... while the Blue Jackets as a team only gave up 24 total. Savard had the best on-ice shooting percentage among Columbus defensemen in the playoffs (at 5v5) but the worst on-ice save percentage.
David Savard 2019-20 Stats
Games Played: 68
5v5 CF%: 45.8
5v5 FF%: 48.6
Games Played: 10
5v5 CF%: 38.44
5v5 FF%: 41.54
Savard — who turns 30 in October — is entering the final year of a five year contract he signed in September 2015. He will make a salary of $4 million and carry a cap hit of $4.25 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and given his age and the defensive depth, it’s unlikely his tenure in Columbus will last beyond then. As a result, Savard could be a very attractive trade piece, whether this fall or at the trade deadline. It will be hard to say goodbye. That big, bushy beard has become so familiar at Nationwide Arena, and he is a popular figure in the locker room who has mentored young Francophones Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexandre Texier.
Savard didn’t produce much offensively this season, but on October 24 against Carolina he tallied two assists for his only multi-point game of the season. He also had six blocks, tied for his second-most of the year (he blocked seven shots twice in the regular season)
The entire postseason was forgettable, but the toughest game for Savard would have to be the five overtime marathon against the Lightning to open that series. Savard was on ice for all three Lightning goals, and blocked 11 shots while playing 51:49.
How would you grade David Savard this season?
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